Ritz-Carlton GM is cross-training staff, marketing locally

GOSTELOW REPORT—“Singapore’s government, led by (Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong), has demonstrated great proactivity in the fight against COVID-19,” says Peter Mainguy, general manager of the 608-room Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore.

The prime minister has indeed been lauded internationally for his stance (it is well worth looking at his recent YouTube speech). 

Lee has taken such decisive actions as distribution of free masks, contact-tracing of cases and reassuring Singaporeans that food and essential supplies are not in any imminent danger of running out, Mainguy said.

“The prime minister has encouraged Singaporeans to support local businesses (including hotels) during these times, and I certainly hope they will heed that call. His direct and candid personal communication style and televised broadcasts to the nation have been very reassuring,” he said.

Peter Mainguy in The Ritz-Carlton Club at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore
Peter Mainguy in The Ritz-Carlton Club at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore

STR’s latest figures, for February, show Singapore occupancy at 46.4%, down 46.9% from February 2019. Mainguy, who joined The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, in 2008, has always believed in transparency with his staff.

“To help them understand how our business is being impacted by COVID-19, and how we plan on getting through this together, we have monthly townhalls to keep them abreast and to answer any questions they may have.”

How is he keeping them motivated? “We have instituted a job redesign program, which allows training in other skills so that you might see, for example, someone from human resources manning the telephone line, or someone from housekeeping helping out in Colony, the restaurant, as a server.

Things are changing hour by hour. “When Malaysia recently suddenly announced a 14-day lockdown, we offered accommodation to colleagues affected. It is in times like this that we need to take care of our ‘ladies and gentlemen’ more than ever.”

On March 20 at midnight, all Singaporeans, permanent residents, long-term pass holders and short-term visitors entering the city-state were given a 14-day stay-home notice (SHN) regardless of where they may have traveled.

“In addition, with Singaporeans being advised to defer all travel abroad, I anticipate that we will see increasing interest in locals looking to do staycations. We typically see couples celebrating a special occasion — we coined the term ‘world’s sexiest bathroom’ many years ago, and this has become a major social media moment with guests taking unforgettable snaps while in the tub with the stunning Marina view in the background.”

Local families are also a valuable market — Kids Dine Complimentary is so popular it has been extended through May. The range of family-friendly packages includes, too, a game night, with the hotel’s bespoke Monopoly game celebrating Singapore’s main attractions.  

Singaporeans choose The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, because of its facilities and creativity, and also, says Mainguy, because they can count on genuine care and concern.

“In some hotels, checks and travel declaration forms are the first things that greet you before you are even allowed to set foot on property. Of course we are increasing cleaning and disinfecting everywhere, making masks and hand sanitizers available and encouraging good hygiene, but ultimately, we want people to feel safe and reassured, but welcomed at the same time.”

He does not know how long all this will go on, but meanwhile his message to colleagues in the USA and elsewhere is stark, with experience.

“Once things hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up. We will all eventually get through this. Ultimately it will teach us how dynamic and resilient our industry really is.”