A Day in the Life: Simon Wong
Meet Simon Wong, general manager Radisson Blu Edwardian Heathrow
I usually wake up at 5.15am, have a cup of coffee and a light breakfast and head straight to work. The first job of my day is to examine the exterior of the hotel. I’ve been working in hospitality for my entire career, starting more than 20 years ago with Edwardian Hotels in central London. I’ve always known that I wanted to manage hotels.
Heathrow Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world, and just being a stone’s throw away means that the hotel feels full of energy whatever the time of day. Some guests stay with us before they head on holiday, others may be a delegate at a meeting we’re hosting. However, we’re also extremely proud to play a key role in the community, hosting weddings and other local events.
The first thing that I do when I’m at my desk is check the emails, which includes a handover from the night shift manager.
I prepare for the indoor inspection. As we are one of Europe’s largest conference centres, this usually takes about an hour. However, it’s a great way for me to say ‘good morning’ to guests and staff. Some of our indoor conference spaces can hold up to 700 delegates and we have 459 rooms and suites.
At 10.30am I chair the hotel’s morning meeting – reviewing guest feedback, as well as checking on the status of upcoming conferences. People rightly have high expectations, it is our job to exceed those; with some events booked years in advance.
We live in a connected world and it is our responsibility as a hotel to provide seamless technology and AV throughout. We offer free Wi-Fi with 150Mbps download speed and our ‘virtual host’ chatbot EDWARD is on hand for all meeting delegates to text with any queries if they don’t want to speak to someone face-to-face.
After lunch I meet with the heads of department, and we discuss a range of agenda points from pricing to guest feedback.
We also discuss local news in this meeting. London faces a number of challenges in order to remain a competitive global city, something that our senior leadership team tries to tackle in regular meetings. In the face of airport expansion in the Middle and Far East, London has an upcoming airport capacity problem which needs addressing quickly so that businesses from around the world can continue to access the capital easily.
We’re in the final stages of Crossrail, which will mean guests will be able to access central London from Heathrow faster and smoother than ever before. This network, combined with the late-night tube service puts the city on a par with the likes of Berlin, Copenhagen and New York.
We are an independent, family-run business and we are encouraged to have a stake in the game.
After my meetings, I prefer to stay ‘out and about’ roaming the hotel speaking to guests and staff. The busiest times of the day are 8.00am and 5.00pm, with the hotel lobby full of delegates arriving or departing. I make sure that I’m on hand to help in the lobby during rush hour.
I want staff to feel like their job is as exciting now, with opportunities as well as challenges, as it was when they walked through the door maybe many years ago. I try to spot opportunities that I think they may be interested in; I also encourage entrepreneurship, so people can approach things as they think is best.
I always have a think about how the day went and what has gone well, or what I could have done differently. I still feel energised at the end of the day, but I never have trouble sleeping – I’m not sure many hoteliers really do!