18 May 2015

Michel Serrano, who are you?

Am a French citizen, with Basque roots, in my late 50's. A seasoned hotelier with over 30 years experience in the Hospitality industry, spanning my overseas duties over 10 countries.

What is Odyssea hospitality?

Odyssea Hospitality is a hotel management company recently created to take over the reign from Liberty Hospitality Management and to supervise the operation of the Liberty Hotels and Liberty Central Hotels network.

Explain to us the word HOSPITALITY in terms of hotels industry for ODYSSEA?

Hospitality relate to the business of running hotels. That word encompass somehow an extended etymologies Hospitality is linked closely to the industry looking after travelers and their well-being. So our interest as Management Company is too makes sure that we provide the proper assistance to hotel management but as well we serve as beacon of excellence for the other actors in the industry such as tour & travel and community.

How many hotels Odyssea manage in Vietnam?

Currently 5 hotels in HCM City a soon to open a sixth one in Nha Trang. Some projects are in negotiation stages.

What is for you the Next Generation of Hospitality Professionals?

A generation who understand the market change and the evolution in the hospitality and leisure industry. A generation who is adaptable to quick changes, who embrace new technologies and dynamic positioning. A generation who is pushing the governments and local players to upgrade their standards and their marketing approach. A generation who is multilingual, multi task orientated. But in the same token that next generation shall not forget or underplay the essence of this business which to be at the service to others. So the fundamental are preserved!

How important is a hospitality-related education to become successful in the industry?

Like for any other sector or industry without educated workforce there is no potential for sustainability and growth. Why the European are still consider the best example for hotel management? Because hotel school and university exist in their respective countries for decade. Asia has catched up since the past 10/15 years by opening hotels school branch or have launched new modules, in university, related to hotel management. As example in HCM City, Saigon Tourist runs a hotel & catering school and graduate couple of thousand students every year. But we all know, that unfortunately, there is not enough specialized manpower for this ever growing hospitality industry. Hotels play their own role in training employee in house .But I could urge the government to look at this closely to ensure we could count on more school in the near future.

How do you see the business hospitality in Vietnam in the next future?

The moment a country start to have tourist and foreign arrivals on their soil, and growth continuously over the years, then you realize that this country is becoming a player. This is what is happening in Vietnam today. My view, as I experience before in other countries, is that Vietnam has a great potential to become a top destination in this region. Investments are pouring in, interest is raising. From the private sector there is no doubt that we can see and feel the evolution. It is to the governing bodies to act upon and materialize this by putting services and infrastructure into the right path.

You manage Liberty Hotel, Liberty, Liberty Central, what is the difference between both?

Liberty hotels is the 3 star hotel network. Hotel size varies from 80 to 100 guest rooms. Liberty Central hotels is in the 4 star categories. Hotel size climb up from 140 to over 200 guest rooms.

Can you describe your first impression when you first visited Liberty?

From a guest point of view , great location, loyal clientele, friendly staff. After that first impression my professional side quick in and I saw potential for services improvement, modernism and enhance marketing stands. That is what Odyssea is doing right now.

What was the most challenging issues you had to face on your position regarding Liberty?

As I said in earlier interviews, I had an incommensurable help and assistance for the whole Liberty group and staff to make my venue easier. All along since my arrival mid last year, I could count on the full support but also the right understanding that I was here to bring changes and to enhance professionalism. So basically there was no issue. Just  a platform from which we have already launch numerous new projects, and brought many improvement. The whole idea here was to transform Liberty Hospitality and to transport Odyssea Hospitality into a journey to become the leading Vietnamese hotel management company.

Can you please tell us what were the main changes you have done in Liberty and how theses changes influenced its operations?

To name a few, we start by building a new team, composed today of totally dedicated executives. We relocate our offices to a prime landmark, the Vincom Center, showing off our presence to endure. We create Odyssea brand name, with new corporate values, principles and image. Our new identity is inspired from the Greek origin of Odyssey , a journey into adventure and achievement. We review and update all Standard Operating procedure for the hotel and develop a very ambitious training program. We establish Revenue Management into the center of our commercial strategy. We develop new advertising image campaign for our brands.Very important we have embark in an ambitious plan to become an Employer of Choice (since it's our slogan), offering to future employees a working environment which respect dedication , loyalty and distinguish talent. All of the above has a direct impact of our operation and it shows as the Liberty hotels are leading the field at a staggering  85% in term of occupancy rate.

Is it more challenging today in Vietnam to show what makes a property unique?

It is a constant quest to differentiate yourselves with the rest of the competitors. At Odyssea we have a plan. Although I cannot reveal all aspect of it, you can see with your own eyes what is becoming of the Liberty Central brand for instance. Undoubtedly, it is the best 4 star brand in town offering great comfort at an exceptional values for your spending in regards to the prime location we are offering!

Talk to us about the concept having a cinema in Liberty Central Point ? Is that unique in Vietnam?

Yes indeed is unique in Vietnam, and I believe we may be the only one for a long desirable time. This partnership with CGV is the perfect example how our vision works and how we strive for difference. For our corporate customer at Liberty Central Saigon Citypoint Hotel on Pasteur street, is so great to be able to unwind in the comfort of VIP theater's watching the latest blockbustersºwithout having the leave the hotel premises!

To your opinion theoretical education or practical via experience, which one is the most important?

This is a tricky question! Let me answer my own wayºI am graduated in engineering and now I am in hospitality. Does it mean I was a poor engineer and now a better hotelier !? (ºmaybe so!). The reality, theoretical education is paramount. You must go through and gain proper academic tools. This will conditioned your professional behavior and build your own discipline. Then practices will enrich your experience and nurture your skills. You become a manager, an expert, by holding different functions, and gaining leadership & business acumen along your career path. So success come with studying and working hard!

How would you describe your management style?

I try to use all my own ™6 senses™: sight for attention to detail, voice to communicate, hear to comprehend & understand other, smell for success, feel to anticipate.. Last but not least use my intuition and common sense to close the best deal. With my collaborators am frank but respectful. After so many years in Asia and at my age I understand about the ™ face ™ dimension in relation.

How do you motivated your team or the staff of the hotel you manage?

To start with I try to Smile on Monday's morning!.The mood has to be set for the rest of the week. Is important that your team share the same sense of purpose, which is already a great self-motivator. For the hotel, I believe that your presence has to be felt, in order to counsel when require, but also to compliment as most of the time, our hotel staff are striving to deliver outstanding service. So recognition is a must.

How and until where is your personal involvement?

At Odyssea Hospitality level , I am pretty much involved of a great deal of brainstorming and decision process. We are at the beginning of our company corporate journey so it is my duties to assist the team and participate on new product development. At the hotel level I am dealing directly with the respective GM, on the overall oversight of the operation.The general manager is actually fully responsible to run the hotel under our branding guidelines & operating principle.

How would your partners, GM, employees describe you?

I will leave this answer to their good judgment.

What would be your choice, do the things right, or do  the right things?

By doing the right things you usually end up by doing the things right !

What advice would you give young Vietnamese people entering this industry?

Be bold, be fearless, be passionate, be respectful, be open mind, be willing to learn, no fear to travel. Don't forget that in the world of business is not only about smart phone, smart apps, and virtual chatting. Hospitality in Vietnam will need you. So don't ask what your country will do for you, better ask yourself what you can do for your country!

Thank you! Mr.Serrano

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