" The Passport Out flies to the burgeoning city of Kota Kinabalu to sit down with the newest member of the Hilton Kota Kinabalu family, Linda Pecoraro, to talk about the past and the present, and the real essence of being a hotelier. "
You’re new to Hilton Kota Kinabalu, and in the city, where does the relationship with a new property start?
I'm a blank canvas. When you start, not only do you have to get to know your team, or the regular guests, but also the public. It takes a good six months to get to know the way of the people. The Hilton Kota Kinabalu Team has been instrumental in showing me the Sabah way, the who’s who, what to try, so I can immerse myself in the culture.
We’ve looked at the work you’ve done, especially when you were still with Hilton Kuala Lumpur - what do you think are the key components to being a successful hotelier? And how are you still able to infuse the essence of your brand?
Its all about consistency. Every hotelier said that we want to be rated 5-stars or for some properties, 6-stars, and that's great. But you can't ever have a bad day in hospitality; you have to have a great day every day. It might sound easy, but not only do you try to make your guest feel special but your team too so you can give that exceptional service to the guests.
At the same time, I want people to see me as a person, not as a figurehead; it's about building a relationship with the people, your team members - we're relationship builders - from that perspective, I believe my personal brand is to be authentic, and I don't want to be a "stiff" person that people can't relate to. I want to be able to be related to on a level that is comfortable not only to our guests but also to the team members. I want to be real.
(L to R): Hilton Kota Kinabalu's One Bedroom Suite, The property's homey Executive Lounge
Tell us more about your management style.
I try to put myself in people's shoes. I put myself in the guest's shoes, in the team member's shoes. Sometimes, we promise our guests the world, and operationally, sometimes, you can't deliver that. So I try to look at it from both. And what makes it interesting is, you have to be a really really good listener. But for that to work, you have to ask probing questions. Sometimes I ask the same question 5 different ways to really assess the situation!
Decades into the hospitality business, is it easier? has it become more competitive (the bar is higher, etc.)? or has it become trickier?
All of the three! You're dealing with different generations, and you can't be "one person" to all people, you have to be according to the generation, you have to be according to the culture. And as a hotelier, you have to be educated when it comes to these things, otherwise, you can't relate to the people.
Do you think the job description of a hotelier has evolved and changed throughout the years?
Definitely, yes. Not only you're a service ambassador, and a customer experience ambassador, a food and beverage professional, and a design professional, you're also a psychologist, and a friend to the guests - people check-in, they work, almost all guests are away from home, from their families, and they’re always yearning for a friendly face at the end of the day. I take the role of a hotelier incredibly personal, and I take it with great respect and seriousness.