Bangladesh has huge potential in the hospitality industry as the sector has started to follow international standards, said Robin Edwards, the newly appointed general manager of Radisson Blu Chittagong Bay View.
The number of five-star hotels in Bangladesh is still low, as the industry here is on the early stages of growth, he said.
The new hotels that are opening in Dhaka and Chittagong are helping Bangladesh emerge in the international market, he added.
Edwards previously served InterContinental Hotels and Resorts, Starwood Hotels and OCT Hotels for several years and worked in China, Western Asia and the Middle Eastern regions.
A graduate from the University of Leeds in the UK, Edwards has worked in every major department of hotel operations, including food and beverage, engineering, laundry, finance, hotel administration and rooms management.
Being an emerging destination, Chittagong sees rising growth in the hospitality industry, he said.
“I think everything is growing in Chittagong, including infrastructure, new business destinations and export processing zones. I hear, every day, of new investment in Chittagong not only in the hospitality industry but also in a lot of other aspects.”
There are challenges as well, he said. “One of the major challenges for us is not being able to have access to everything we need in the local market. There are products that we cannot source in Bangladesh and the supplies that we need have to be brought from abroad.”
Edwards, however, said he faced these problems in other Asian countries as well. “It's not just the country of Bangladesh or the location. It is central Asia or the Asian market. Unfortunately Asia, as a whole, is not as developed as the Western world.”
Their main customers in Radisson Blu now are Bangladeshi nationals, business travellers from Dhaka and other cities, Bangladeshis returning from abroad, traders from outside and people who deal with companies inside the export processing zones, he said.
“Domestic travel is the biggest source of business for us. Of course we have foreign and expatriate business. But the domestic market is the biggest proportion in the business for us now.”
Edwards said one has to be 'a people person' and should have love for the job to become successful in the career in the hospitality sector.
“No matter what you are, whether you are the general manager or the doorman, it's the same philosophy we serve the guests,” he said.
The environment in the hospitality industry is challenging, he added. “When you are trying to please people, it's like trying to please a child. You can never please a child. When you give him something, he wants some more.
“But we are committed to ensuring total guest satisfaction, and that is what we strive to do.”
He said everybody who works at the hotel -- whether he is a doorman, a waiter or a general manager -- is the ambassador of hospitality.
There are instances that doormen or stewards have become general managers through hard work and determination, he said. “Anybody can be successful in this business.”
Edwards said he never terms the employees as staff members rather associates. His philosophy is to treat the workforce as a family.
People will find soon that the Radisson Blu in Chittagong will stand out probably as the number one innovator in Chittagong and hopefully in Bangladesh, he said.
“Our main goal for this year is to penetrate the market to draw new business and to let people see the standards that we actually have here.”
Edwards believes they have the potential to offer a lot more. However, there are limitations as well. “We can only offer what our customers are willing to pay for,” he said.
“So, we have to look at innovation. Our philosophy is to think outside the box, to look at the bigger picture. We are not looking for profits today or tomorrow. We are looking at long-term investment.”