“For anyone who is ready for some sacrifices, who wants to meet great challenges while climbing the corporate ladder, I’d really like to advise them to dare to go to Vietnam, to Cambodia or to Asia, generally speaking.”
And this is an adventure that Hubert de Murard, who graduated from Vatel Paris and Vatel Los Angeles in 2010 tried for himself. After having worked as Front Desk Manager in Vietnam, since August, 2013, he has been the Rooms Division Manager of the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa in Cambodia and supervises about a hundred employees.
What made you want to attend Vatel and what are some of your memories of your time at school?
When I graduated from high school, I knew what I didn’t want to do: enroll in a general business school or a university. Even better than that, I knew what I did want to do: start working right after studying in a job that would be in a dynamic, international environment and one where I could work in several different companies. The hospitality industry met all of these criteria.
So I then started to gather information about all the different sectors in this field, go to student forums and speak with students present in the stands. And Vatel was the school that convinced me. It wasn’t just a pleasure cruise, but as I really wanted to succeed in this field, I graduated with my Bachelor’s in 2008. The mixture of the classroom followed by practical work in the application restaurant is a fond memory for me; not something that was always easy, but you learned so much from it.
What internships did you do in school? What jobs did you have?
When I was doing my Bachelor’s, I had two internships: the first one was in the Alpes d’Huez in winter, at the three-star Hotel des Grandes Rousses, in the restaurant and at the front desk. And the second one was for four months, also at the front desk, at the Mercure Simson Beach 3* Hotel in the Caribbean. Both internships were in fabulous locations, where I worked to give my best to guests who came to enjoy a good time. Both of these internships played an important role in my professional development and the way I envisaged my future career.
Then I followed my three year degree at Vatel Paris with an MBA at Vatel Los Angeles where I was the Housekeeper at the Santa Monica Shangri-La Hotel. Another experience for me in the accommodations department, which I personally needed to fulfill my objective of managing a hotel one day.
Did you notice any differences between the French way of management and the American way of management?
The year that I spent in Vatel Los Angeles is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Both for professional and for personal reasons. With the professional application courses in hotels, I clearly noted big differences between both management models. French management targets experience, the French type of “excellence” as well as values that gave French hospitality its well-earned reputation.
The American model is more flexible; it challenges itself and the processes are constantly being questioned to be better adapted to market demand. It is much more reactive than the French model, which is has its roots in the tradition of excellence and know-how.
How did you get the job you are currently doing?
I came back from Los Angeles with the firm intention of acquiring a new experience in a well-known hotel, because I wanted to discover how and why a famous hotel actually works. In just a few months I was the Floor Housekeeper in the Hotel de Crillon in Paris.
Then I started sending out resumes in the French Alps and in Asia. I had two offers: Courchevel or Vietnam. I chose the Asian experience in a family-owned Resort, but this didn’t really work out for me. So I started looking for another job while I was there, and was hired as Front Desk Manager at the Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa, a four-star hotel in the Vietnamese mountains. There I was able to use my “know-how” that I learned at Vatel.
Two and a half years later, I was recruited in Siem Reap (Cambodia) to manage the Accommodations department of the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa Hotel. An exciting, though stressful challenge, because of the responsibilities involved.
But I decided, because of the passion and courage I had, and because I did want this job, to meet this challenge, and began working there in August, 2013.
Can you tell us about more about the hotel you are working in and your job?
The Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa is a five-star hotel, just a few miles from the Angkor Temples in Cambodia. It’s a colonial type of Resort with 130 rooms and suites and two restaurants. It is a part of a hotel group. There is one in Cambodia, one in Laos and six in Vietnam and all have a very good reputation for their quality and infrastructures.
As Rooms Division Manager, I’m in charge of the Front Desk, Reservations, Housekeeping and the Spa. And that means about 100 employees. Besides that, I’m responsible for:
- monitoring the rooms budget,
- organizing excursions and transportation,
- preparing investments for rooms,
- rolling out a new IT system, called Opera, plus ISO certification for the Hotel.
With the sales team, I help in drawing up our pricing strategy, new packages and other promotions. My goal is to generate more revenue for the Hotel in two ways: improving the global guest experience and optimization of sales. This requires:
- training employees,
- setting up the new system in order to harmonize customer service,
- knowing our guest very well so we’re always able to offer them the right service at the right price at the right time,
- a very good organization!
This is an exciting job in a very competitive and unique environment!
You’ve been working for five months now in Cambodia. What impressions do you have of South East Asia?
After having spent two and a half years in Vietnam, I feel that Cambodia, though its history and culture are different, is similar to Vietnam in several points. Training is far from being perfect and employees have no career plans at all, something that requires a very good organization and daily work. There are many opportunities in both countries because all large hotel groups are present and they all need qualified managers to coordinate the key departments. You also have to know that if you want to work in South East Asia, you’ll only have one day a week off, and overtime will be expected, as working a 55 hour week is about average.
But outside of that, contracts are generally well written, packages are attractive and you meet so many interesting people. You have a good quality of life and feel like you’re on vacation every day. In any case, for me, this is an exciting and very rewarding adventure. The hardest part will be coming back to France.
What are you short, mid and long-term projects?
Ever since I started school at Vatel, I’ve been working towards one thing. And I’m going to continue: starting out on the bottom, accumulating different experiences step by step, and climbing the corporate ladder. I’ve chosen to work in accommodations, and my long-term goal is to open my own hotel.
In my opinion, to succeed in doing this, I had to have experience in different jobs, work in hotels in different categories and in several countries! After quite a few summer jobs at the Front Desk, both during the day and at night, internships in the restaurant, experience in Housekeeping and another experience at the Hotel de Crillon, working as the Front Desk Manager was a logical progression for me.
Today I’m the Rooms Division Manager in a luxury hotel and I hope to be promoted soon as Resident Manager or Executive Assistant Manager before working as the General Manager. That will allow me to increase my knowledge, to know how to manage a hoard of difficult situations and be ready, in the long-term, to open my own hotel.
Do you have anything else you’d like to say?
I’d like to add that in spite of the difficulties, my Vatel grades which were not always great, and working far away from France, I’m really pleased to be here, where I am today, in a beautiful country, at a magnificent hotel that’s part of a well-managed group, working at an interesting job.
I'm very grateful to my family and friends in France who continue to support me, and to the opportunities that the Victoria Hotels & Resort gave me and my former managers who always urged me to go the extra mile to meet my goals.
And I’d also like to invite other Vateliens to contact me if they need any advice either to prepare for working in South East Asia or if they want to do an internship here.