Name: Lee-Ng Siew Koon
Position: CEO UMLand Hospitality Division
Company: UMLand Hospitality
With over 40 years of experience in the hospitality business, Lee-Ng Siew Koon, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Hotel & Restaurant Administration from Cornell University, has vast experience in different sectors of the industry.
From 1979 to 1989, she worked for the Mandarin Singapore Group, taking over the F&B and Conventions Division and was later promoted as their Housekeeping Manager. Siew Koon played a pivotal role in the transformation of the Sheraton Towers housekeeping operations. She coordinated with one of Queen Elizabeth’s Butlers, Ivor Spencer, to incorporate new procedures.
Between 2000 and 2010, Siew Koon rendered her services as a consultant for various feasibility studies of ventures and projects.
For the past 5 years, she has spearheaded the creation of the Suasana Suites brand of ground-up serviced apartments and is currently actively involved in making UMLand Hospitality as a renowned brand.
How much has the hospitality industry evolved over the past 40 years?
Back than, there were no computers, mobile phones, or digital keys, and a lot of work was done manually. 3 colour lights indicated the status of each room. Red for occupied, Umber for check out and green is to clean. The Umber & Red lights are switched on by the Front desk and only the green is switched on by the housekeeper at the room itself. Contact was also by pager, where we need to call the operator for messages. Metal keys were also used for individual rooms and we had to bring the key for each room we need to check.
Tell us more about Suasana Suites and UMLand Hospitality
UMLand is in development – building, homes, townships, complexes, hotels and mixed developments. UMLand Hospitality started as a subsidiary to assist UMLand manage the unsold & leaseback units of the condominiums that were built. UMLand’s Suasana Suites is considered a modern living in the heart of the city that combines the warmth and cosiness of home with luxury, facilities and services of a hotel. Our elegantly appointed suites are comfortable, thoughtful and luxurious, especially with a spacious living room and separate bedroom(s), including the latest modern comforts and features and a fully equipped kitchenette. We assure our guests an unforgettable stay experience with all the comforts of home.
What do you think is important in making brands what they are?
A brand’s success relies on the repetitive delivery of a consistent message. It is typically designed to cause immediate recognition by the user, inspiring trust, admiration, loyalty and an implied superiority. Therefore, the most important aspects of creating and building a successful brand can be summarised as – Consistency, Instant Recognition, Desirability and Repetition. Creating and sustaining trust is what branding, above everything else, is all about. The best and most successful brands are completely coherent. Every aspect of what they do and what they are, reinforces everything else.
A successful and consistent brand identity will distinguish and give recognition to your organisation as well as create a ‘desirability’ factor for existing and potential new customers, employees, supporters and stakeholders.
In your opinion, what makes a great hotel, and for growing hotel businesses what can help them become great?
Location is always number 1 and a great hotel has to be customer centric and anticipate guests’ needs. It should be able to provide guests with a carefree and enjoyable experience. It is vital for hotels to invest in both hardware and heart ware. Innovation, creativity and adaptability to the environment is also key.
What are your thoughts on the changing landscape of the hospitality industry in this e-commerce and internet era?
Things are happening so much quicker and people expect fast information and prompt services. Therefore, we need to embrace change and adapt quickly. Kiosks will replace receptionist, social media news spread faster than normal adverts and flyers, and people nowadays want to have quick, hassle free reservation and check in procedures. The new generation looks for “THE EXPERIENCE”, instead of the standard hotel feel. This has also enabled Airbnb concept to thrive and grow. It is likely to be the most preferred model going forward, as it’s also efficient and only need a very lean team to operate.
What are the three most important pieces of advice you can give for a brand to succeed?
Establish a brand mission statement. In essence, you’ll have to craft a clear expression of what your company is most passionate about. Before you can build a brand that your target audience trusts, you need to know what values your business provides. The mission statement basically defines a purpose for existing. Everything from your logo to your tagline, voice, message, and personality should reflect that mission.
Next, outline the key qualities and benefits your brand offers. There will always be brands with bigger budgets and more resources to command their industry. Your products, services, and benefits solely belong to you. Starting a brand that is memorable means you dig deep to figure out what you offer and no one else is offering. Focus on the qualities and benefits that make your company branding unique. Know exactly who your target audience is and give them a reason to choose your brand over another. It’s important to note that this is not just a laundry list of the features of your product or services offered to the customer or client. Think about how you provide value that improves consumers’ lives (outcomes or results that are experienced).
Finally, integrate your brand into every aspect of your business. The brand building process never stops. Your brand should be visible and reflected in everything that your customer can see, read, and hear. If a client walks into your hotel — your brand image should be on display both in the environment and with personal interactions. Anything tangible from business cards to advertisements, to packaging and product, needs the stamp of your logo. On any digital platform, ensure that your brand looks the same everywhere. Use your brand style guide to create consistency with visuals such as colour and logo use, fonts, photography, and etc. Your website is the most important tool for marketing your brand. When you design your website, incorporate your voice, message, and personality into the content. Profile pages for social media networks should be branded visually, and with your chosen voice for engagement or business.
What is one thing that you would rate as most important in the hospitality industry?
For the present moment, with the COVID-19 viruses mutating, the most important aspect is hygiene and cleanliness. We need to provide a safe and clean environment for everyone. A good reputation for cleanliness will go a long way.