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Annual Industry Conference.

Panel Discussion 2 - Moderator Mr. Kasun Abeynayaka.


Question 1
We are all in the service industry, would you like to share your views on workplace diversity in
MICE tourism and hospitality industry. How do we work with others in peace, how does that
work?

Thank you for having me here and for the warm Hospitality that I receive every time I attend an
event at the Colombo Academy of Hospitality Management. Coming back to your question, The
tourism industry along with the hospitality industry as a whole has faced a lot of diversification
due to the globalization. I think the multicultural aspect of it that has made it diverse. So you
have the tourism arm where we have people relocating across borders for experience. I think the
hospitality industry takes over from there. Tries to bridge the gap and provides services that meet
peoples expectation. Looking at Diversity from an HR perspective, which is my field. I believe
there to be a misconception about what diversity is. Mostly we try to balance out all aspects of
race and gender to form the composition of the staff in order to make sure we have the right
proportions and percentages. But its also about understanding that people must work with and
understand each other in order to guarantee success. By thinking and working with this kind of
understanding, we can deliver a worthy service to the guest. This is where the 2 aspects merge, a
multicultural society and MICE.
Here there is a lot of competition, however it is not just about the competition but satisfying the
guests. And here a multicultural workforce would help a lot. Due to their previous experience
and cultural background it is very easy for the demands of MICE tourism to be met innovatively.
It is about delivering a promise to the guest. As said before we need a plan to achieve this, but a
plan is no use of you don't have the people to help you achieve this goal. MICE delivery is about
being different. It's about the relationship, about the specialty that separates hotels from each
other. That is what links diversity to MICE in my opinion, as well creating the kind of
impression with the guest that will persuade them to keep coming back to your hotel and not to
any of the others in the area.

Question 2.
MICE tourism require a lot of man power, in your opinion how do we manage such situations
with new strategies and technology?

Thank you CAHM and thank you SLIIT for inviting us here today. With regards to your
question, MICE tourism can be divided into 2 parts. MICE in itself, that has convention centers,
exhibition halls and so on, and the hospitality industry. In 2018 our MICE tourism figures are
expected at 250,000 people. Do we really need people?
Is the market of MICE tourism large enough to attract such a large number or even a large
number of man power?
I've had to rethink my answer after reviewing the information provided to us by the previous
speakers of today. Hypothetically let's assume that business is good and that the demand is there
to have people in the industry. Considering the hospitality industry, we are in need of more
people. Colombo on its own will have 2227 new rooms within the next 2 years. At a very
conservative rate of 1.3 staff members per room, we are looking at 3000 new entrants into the
hospitality industry. Where does this 3000 come from?
As a business entity, looking forward, would we have the luxury of working with students from
the Hospitality schools in Sri Lanka? 27 ago GMs would have been happy with a GOP above
36%. However now 27 years later, we are making a GOP upwards of 46%. The bottom line is
about 48%. We need to control costs in order to maintain the afore mentioned figures for the
hotel. The 2 best places in a hotel to control costs are Energy and Payroll. Therefore it is the
people that suffer the most as in Asian countries payroll is the biggest cost and it where most of
the cost cutting takes place. The strategy is to provide quality and not quantity. The key to
succeeding in the industry is multitasking. We need people that can perform more than one task.
Who process more skills and can do more than one task at a time.
The second solution is outsourcing. A lot of functions in hotels in the modern era are outsourced.
We should focus more on quality than on quantity. Back when i started working fr a hotel in
Switzerland with 85 rooms, a full service restaurant and a banquet hall, the kitchen wash manned
by 5 people. Including the wash up person. We were able to work without a problem. Whereas in
Colombo, we have 2 hotels that are manned by less than one staff member per room. OZO
Colombo and Cinnamon Red. Less numbers , high service charge but it works. Multitasking is
the key. Everybody works.
Also outsourcing can be done. Which means that certain tasks are done by outside parties for the
our hotel. Such are the keys t success in the hospitality industry, Low costs, High quality and low
quantity.

Question 3.
You come from a hotel that has a long legacy. It is a very important aspect to the customers. How
do you make sure that customers are happy with their legacy in the hotel?
I'm from the Galle Face hotel, and as you know it has a rather prominent legacy. It has a heritage
and history of 150 years. People do come back. about 50% of our clientele are repeat guests. So
it is clear that they have some sort of legacy in our hotel. However at the moment most of our
clientele consist of events. Yesterday I was speaking with an event management company and we
are speaking about MICE. We are concentrate mostly on meetings and events. We really can't do
incentives due to the seating capacity.
We actually a large number of weddings, speaking of which my Grandmother's wedding was
actually the first wedding in Galle Face hotel. There is a huge demand for wedding in the Galle
Face hotel even today. People are always very happy when they leave the hotel and compliment
the hotel very highly. This because we offer a very personalized service to our guests. All
wedding ceremonies are tailor made to the requirements presented by the guests. we have kept a
database of all guests in order to make sure we can follow up with guests when it is necessary.
Another reason why wedding are so popular in the Galle Face hotel is because of the beach.
Beach weddings are becoming increasingly popular among people in Sri Lanka. We use our
database to thank our customers after their wedding is over as it gives them a feeling of respect,
when the hotel calls and thanks them for their patronage.

Question 4.
Working as a female director is rather challenging. What challenges have you faced as a female
in the industry? Especially considering the culture in Sri Lanka.

I don't really think the glass ceiling doesn't exist anymore, in terms of equality but i think that
we have more of a social perception which is not the modern generation, but coming from the
Asian background we have culture, we value beliefs and certain behaviors we consider
traditions. This is changing dramatically now and for the females out there now I think there is a
greater horizon and more opportunities than years ago. The industry is still 90% male dominant.
Looking at destinations like Maldives and Mauritius it is different because tourism is looked at in
a different way in those countries.
I think that the female aspect is very important in the hospitality industry. Because it is all about
selling an experience and the touch of a female is plays a very vital role in adding that sense of
finesse to the hospitality industry. In terms of the ambience that we create, it is very important to

get an edge over the competitor. The difference would be the service quality and the experience
we provide. Therefore it is very important for females to be in the industry.
In the industry there no male jobs and female jobs. everyone is capable of doing any job. A
female can follow the same career path as a male and there is no gender bias in the industry. We
have management and GRE's from many nationalities in order to specialize and personalize
service for the customers. This is very important to the MICE industry. That is how we try to
influence the decision making process in terms of HR in order to hire the right staff and get the
best possible performance out of the staff and the hotel as a whole.

Question 5.
Capacity development is very important in the hospitality industry as well as in the MICE
market. What is your opinion towards Human Capital development in the industry?

Two key words here, one of which is Capacity development and the other human capital
development. I am not a very big fan of the word human capital due to that fact that the word
capital refers t commodities. I do not wish for people to be considered assets in the balance
sheets. So to start with, we must respect those in the industry and treating them with dignity. In
terms of capacity development. What we understand by the term capacity development is the
growth of a person over period of time. The process of him gaining experience and knowledge
over those years.
I'd like to elaborate on a paradigm shift in the MICE market. When I say paradigm shift, I mean
the growth of people. We are still the same stereotype hospitality schools. I need to congratulate
on being different from all the other hospitality schools in the country. That is because you are
not concentrating on producing a waiter but a hospitality expert. You don't teach hospitality
service, you teach hospitality. Plated service, Silver service, Gureidon service all being taught
here at CAHM. Just like they do in William Angliss in Australia.
With the paradigm shift in the MICE market, we seriously need to take a look at how we and
what we teach to our younger generations and consider the experience, knowledge and skills that
are being passed down to these students.
If we can do this, we can develop capacity and we can make hence make the industry and the
MICE flourish.

Question 6.
Your hotel is fabulous. You're looking at MICE as your main market. Am I right? How are you
going to manage the competition among other hotels and how are you going to select your target
market and market segment?

It's a great question. As far as MICE market is concerned, we can see that there are very many
fantastic hotels opening up out there. In order to compete with these new hotels what we do is,
try to be as creative as possible. We at Galle Face hotel have a museum and it has the heritage of
the hotel from 1864 onwards. These pictures bring back memories for our repeat guests and they
also show the history of the hotel as well is culture and heritage. We take a picture of any land
mark event that we host and put up in the museum along with all the old pictures.
So we want to stay creative and unique, here at the Galle Face hotel that is exactly what we strive
to do. However when trying to concentrate on MICE events and trying to improve the hotel, we
must look into the safety and the security of our guests and staff. For instance training staff on
how to react and behave during a fire. Contingencies must be taught in order for them to protect
the guests and themselves. The safety aspect is paramount.
We spend so much money on developing and harnessing the skills of the workforce in order to
improve the hotel and the performance of the individuals as well. Thereby allowing us to
improve our performance against that of international hotel chains and local competitors as well.