Known as a “valuable asset” to the AccorHotels corporation, Tony Chisholm is essential to the success of AccorHotels for Southern Vietnam and for the Pullman brand as the Asia Pacific Coordinator. And with his great affection for Vietnam, this gentleman is reaching another peak of success through his unique creativity at the workplace.
The General Manager from New Zealand has arrived in Vietnam for his third visit and he always finds joy in discovering new experiences in this energetic S-shaped land, where he will settle down for at least three years. The laid-back and gently contemplative way of speech from this high-achieving gentleman brings about the impression of a leader who is reliable, demanding but not at all distant – typical of the head of the Lifestyle Hotel brand.
After over 20 years working in the hotel field and having traveled widely, experiencing various cultures, what is it that you find the most interesting about new locations? How do you feel returning to Vietnam?
Maturity! This is definitely the most interesting aspect of traveling across different continents. As you may already know, one advantage of working for an international corporation like AccorHotels is that you get to change your workplace every three years. Setting foot on a stranger place, getting to know people of various characteristics and learning about the local culture just gives me a broader view of the world, not to mention the inspiration to have new ideas at work and the novelties that it brings to my personal life.
The first time I visited Vietnam was in 2003, where I was inspired and motivated by the dynamic energy flow of HCMC, and also where I met my wife. You might say, therefore, that my connection to Vietnam is quite fascinating. Now that I’ve returned here in a position with much potential, I look forward to realizing my ideas and goals in the next three years.
Your goals in this new position must be very interesting. What kind of challenges and expectations are awaiting you this year?
I’d like to share, if you please, a bit about Pullman, one of the fastest growing lifestyle hotel brands in the world. Up until now, there have already been four Accor hotels established in Vietnam alone with a very strong pipeline of new Pullman Hotels to be opened over the next ten years. Currently Pullman Hotels are located in Hanoi, Danang, HCMC and Vung Tau, and two others are under construction in Phu Quoc and Hai Phong. We are also celebrating the 10th anniversary of our young and dynamic brand. What’s more, Pullman Saigon Centre is also the nation’s flagship hotel, which deems everything we do representative of the entire region. Therefore, the biggest challenge at the moment is the “human” factor, that is, gathering a crew that understands the brand’s value and culture, finding associates capable of working in an international environment and coming up with fresh and effective ideas to lead the brand to higher success.
The tourism market seems quite competitive. In what way, then, will Pullman Saigon Centre create a difference from other hotels as well as earning the long-term support from both domestic and foreign guests?
As mentioned before, Pullman is a lifestyle hotel brand, and it is fortunate for us to be the pioneer in this market section. Lifestyle hotels, though designated for business people, are less rigid and more focused on the elements of relaxation, coziness and privacy, i.e. the joy that one feels when going on a holiday. A place of perfect balance and harmony between a business trip and a vacation’s laid-back experience is what we aim to achieve. The service quality and especially the novelties brought about in our cuisine play an essential role in making the difference, food and beverage is a great way to improve one’s mood and bring joy to everybody. What we have is a Burger Bar, a distinct cuisine model that no other five-star hotel has, as well as a Vietnamese style coffee corner and a deluxe restaurant that offers a wide range of culinary styles, from Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican to European… The key here is the fun that connects people and delivers variable culinary experiences through the delightful dishes – an indispensable joy of any vacation. In August of this year, the hotel will open a very innovative new concept called “Mad Cow Wine & Grill” as the newest outlet in Saigon to try amazing grilled steaks or seafood and enjoy great selections of madly priced wines. This is Pullman’s new daring answer to a casual yet cool experience that is far from a normal hotel restaurant.
“As for the drawbacks, I think they only exist in our thoughts. There’s no limitation to being a leader, either male or female, but the challenges that need to be overcome.”
With your 12 years of experience as a General Manager of a five-star hotel, could you share with us the three most important elements that define the success of a hotel brand?
The first thing that comes into my mind is the human element. It is your connections to the people, who accompany you on the path towards your dream, directly affecting your success. It could also be the staff that you train, those who connect the brand’s products to its customers. The right choice of these people helps you bring life to your product and makes them more approachable. The human factor, for me, is integral to making or breaking a brand. The creativity in design is next in line, which will leave a good impression on the customers’ mind. The organization must be austere, impressive yet “characteristic”. And finally, cuisine.
What is the business ideology that you’ve always kept in mind and applied up until now?
“Create or die” is what we often remind ourselves when working at AccorHotels. The effort to innovate and proclaim the distinction in nature has become the criteria of life or death in our business ideology. Besides, I’m also intrigued by a quote from AccorHotels CEO French businessman Sébastien Bazin: “Whatever you do, think of the customers first.” This is especially true when you’re working in the service industry.
Has there been any female associate that has made a remarkable impression to you? If yes, what kind of woman is she?
To be honest, I consider myself quite fortunate to have the opportunity to have worked with many talented women in every nation I set foot in. They are smart, creative, flexible in their work and exceptionally good at bringing people together. I can still recall 2014 when I was working in Singapore, with Louis Dailey, an amazing woman that has earned my admiration. Even in such a high position as Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Asia Pacific, she was more than once found going around the office asking about her staff’s latest weekend vacation. She was brilliant, humble and highly cordial. Everyone enjoyed working with her. What a wonderful woman!
From your point of view, what are the pros and cons of being a businesswoman?
Over 50 percent of our crew of staff is female, and 60% of the board of management comes from the more beautiful gender (Laughs). They are all competent and amicable. I highly appreciate self-improving women who are responsible for their work, acknowledging the difficulty of maintaining balance between work and the duties for their family. As for the drawbacks, I think they only exist in our thoughts. There’s no limitation to being a leader, either male or female, but the challenges that need to be overcome. Over the last two decades, more and more young and talented female leaders have emerged, which is a positive change in society, isn’t it?! I believe that women should be confident with their desire and opt for a favorable career to which they can contribute. They already have everything it takes to succeed.
Creative Director: HIEPLEDUC – Text: DiDi – Photo: Hoàng Vũ
Exclusive interview and photos credit by BusinessWoman Magazine