Since its inception in September 2009, Hard Rock Hotel Penang is predominantly a family based hotel with an interesting mix of couples both young and older mixed with a bit of MICE. The iconic establishment brings the multicultural Penang to new heights with its authentic Hard Rock experience. John details the market the hotel operates in, but also his position within the company.
“The Penang market is made up of the city hotels located in and around the UNESCO heritage listed area both corporate and boutique, and the beach resorts such as ours are mainly in Batu Ferringhi and Tanjung Bungah. The Penang market is well established in the Singaporean, Australian and UK markets with the Middle East and China business on the rise, together with extremely strong domestic business.

“As opening GM at this property, I have been here 9 years in June of this year with the hotel having been open for 8 years this September. This role is always something that I wanted to be and it’s even more awesome being in a brand such as Hard Rock which gives you the freedom to be yourself. As GM, I am responsible for business performance for all stakeholders, staff welfare, branding, ongoing improvements and changes within the brand requirements.
When discussing the career milestones, John reflects on the steps he has taken that has seen him reach the level.

“Having started my hotel career as a Trainee Manager with Hyatt Hotel in Auckland NZ aged 20, then moving to Australia after that holding positions such as Duty Manager, F & B Manager and Operations Manager mostly in resorts. Following this was my move to London where I managed a large pub for three years. Going back to Australia as Resort Manager of a large property in Cairns. This was purchased by a Japanese hotel chain RIHGA Royal hotels who promoted me to GM of a hotel being developed in Sarawak at age 29. After five years, I moved into the leisure industry as GM of a large integrated resort incorporating a waterpark, hotels, wildlife attractions and large retail operation in peninsular Malaysia. After this I moved back to NZ as GM of a corporate hotel in Wellington, then the opportunity to open Hard Rock Hotel Penang came along. To this day, I have no formal education in hospitality and was probably the last of the group to be able to progress to this level without a degree in Hospitality.

It is no secret that a strong workforce make great quality work, and for the Hard Rock Hotel Penang, John informs us of how he manages staff and the principles that they adhere to.

“One thing that I do is, I try to spend time on the floor and be a lobby GM every day, and treat staff with the respect they deserve.

After all they are the ones rocking the guests every day. Also, I try to stay humble whist driving the business in the right direction. We also make sure to do substantial philanthropic work which is important to our brand and to our staff. It’s an extremely busy hotel but ‘’taking time to be kind’’ is one of our key mottos.”

It is inevitable for a business to face challenges throughout their time, as John explains, hospitality is never an easy industry and is not for everyone.

“Despite the challenges that are faced particularly when working outside of your comfort zone, you can never give up. Raising a family outside of your home country is never easy but I’m lucky to have a family who are up for the challenge, and the international exposure has made my kids what they are today.”

With technology trends and innovative products being at the forefront for many business, John highlights the importance of social media and what makes the Hard Rock Hotel Penang a success.

“Online engagement tools is what keeps us up to speed in real time as to what is being said about the hotel experience allowing us time to react and respond in a positive way. Booking travel patterns are changing all the time and having a good understanding of where things are headed is crucial to keep ahead of the competition, particularly with the trend towards digitalisation. Combining great PR with online marketing opportunities help to keep customers engaged.

“With our brand we have the differentiator of music and we align our offerings, culture and products around that. Some hotel chains try to follow us but at the end of the day its Hard Rock and that authenticity is hard to replicate.”
Looking ahead, John is excited to see what the future holds for the Hard Rock Hotel Penang and lets us in on how he keeps himself positive in order to be successful.

“Luckily in hospitality every day is different so it’s easy to stay positive doing what you love. Working with a group of people that believe in the business and what we do is motivating enough every day.”

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