The veteran hotelier on her career highlights
Rainy Chan, The Peninsula Hotel Group‘s regional vice president for Hong Kong and Thailand and general manager of The Peninsula, Hong Kong speaks to Robb Report about how gracious Asian hospitality continues to be a cornerstone of the chain’s legendary reputation.
When I was working as the front office manager of The Peninsula Hong Kong in the 90s, I received a call from one of our regular guests asking whether I could keep his daughter company while he delivered the tragic news to her that his wife, her mother, was in a critical medical condition. That evening, I looked after her and we shared food, tears, and many anecdotes to help the reality sink in in a less painful way. At first, I was taken by surprise that this guest, of all the candidates he could have called upon, bestowed such a heavy responsibility on a front office manager of a hotel, but I felt extremely honoured to be entrusted with this important role.
That was the defining moment of my career that made me realise I was offering much more than exceptional service or a warm welcome. I have the privilege to be part of our guests’ unforgettable moments, and I have the ability to bring them happiness and joy through my job.
It is a privilege to manage a hotel with such a distinguished history and time-honoured traditions. The biggest challenge for me is to on one hand uphold our traditions, while on the other hand move with the times in terms of our service, hardware and technology. As a company, we do an excellent job at striking that balance. While preserving our much-loved heritage, we are fully committed to bringing the most advanced and personalised technology to our guest rooms.
I think as long as you make modernity accessible, thoughtful and easy to use, it can merge beautifully with tradition and actually become part of the experience that makes the guest walk away feeling pampered and well looked after.
Looking back at my tenure at The Peninsula Bangkok, the most unforgettable moment took place just three months after my appointment as general manager. The tragic tsunami hit Thailand in December 2004, which sent shockwaves around the world. I was deeply touched by the Thai people’s incredible sense of empathy and kindness that shone through their culture. Some of my staff even volunteered their personal time to escort our guests who needed help from the embassy, and offered translation services to them.
The Peninsula Hotels offers welcoming hospitality delivered by passionate people, who are committed to providing gracious service, and are proud to be part of The Peninsula family. In addition to the technical training, we focus on inspirational training and team building, so that our staff understands that they are not merely performing tasks when they serve our guests. These are gestures that need to be delivered with passion, commitment and graciousness.
I was planning a major celebration just before I turned 50. Then one evening, I had dinner with a good friend in Bangkok, who told me that one of the hill tribes she was helping was looking for sponsorship to hire a teacher for children in the community. They would otherwise have no means of receiving any form of education since they lived too far away from any schools.
Instead of the big party I originally envisioned, I decided to raise funds to provide five years of education to 31 children of the Red Lahu community. I have come to realise that the best gift in life is to give the gift of hope, opportunity and choice, and with education comes all three. In the end, I was able to raise enough funds to pay for not just one, but two teachers for these children who lived on the peak of a mountain at 1,000 metres in Baan Huay Kub Kab, Thailand.
I lived in Thailand for two years and I fell in love with the country, its people and their culture. My heart will always be in Thailand, and to be able to contribute to the next generation is something I find extremely rewarding.
I love the Chao Phraya River! I was fortunate to have lived and worked close to the river. Not many cities in the world can offer such a beautiful, scenic channel that serves such practical purposes too! This will always make Bangkok one of the most exotic, modern cities in the world.