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The power of training for the ultimate guest experience

By Cheryl Chi, Wharf Hotels

There is no denying that training is an incredibly powerful tool to help you achieve success at every level in your career and within any department of your organisation. When you are working in a people-facing business like hospitality, excellence in service delivery is paramount. Guests expect us to anticipate their needs and exceed expectations in all aspects of our service. For this very reason, training is key to ensure a consistent level of service delivery at the highest standards at every guest touchpoint. This also extends to the execution of hospitality loyalty programmes, which have become a significant added value for travellers.

The growth and evolution of Wharf Hotels

As background, Wharf Hotels joined Global Hotel Alliance's DISCOVERY Loyalty programme in 2006 with one brand: Marco Polo Hotels. In 2014, Wharf established a new luxury brand, Niccolo Hotels, and brought it into DISCOVERY in 2015 as part of Ultratravel Collection, a collection of genuinely luxurious and iconic properties in the programme.

Our vision is to be a leading regional hotel group where we focus on sustainable growth and diversification. This vision has led to establishing the Marco Polo Hotels and Niccolo Hotels brands, with seventeen properties in

China, Hong Kong SAR of China and the Philippines, with one more under development.

We are committed to providing a 360-degree integrated hotel management service that creates exceptional value for our business partners and guests. One of the tools to deliver this value is the DISCOVERY Loyalty platform which enables us to recognise and reward our loyal guests.

Why is talent management so important?

Talent management is all about finding and training the best people — vital to our brand’s success. The key to excellence in talent management is a well-crafted and professionally executed training strategy. There is no substitute for state-of-the-art technical skills, finely-honed guest relations’ acumen, or outstanding supervisory talents. In every property, Marco Polo Hotels and Niccolo Hotels develop highly trained professionals who add unique value to the hotel investment. We offer a structured approach to talent management and development and provide a caring and engaging culture where all associates are treated as a priority. Teamwork and growth within the company is a Wharf Hotels’ pillar. Therefore, it is crucial that the organisations we work with share our commitment and focus on training as much as we do, helping us serve our guests and create memories that last a lifetime.

How does GHA train member brands on DISCOVERY Loyalty?

As a member of Global Hotel Alliance, we adopted GHA's "plug-and-play" loyalty platform, DISCOVERY, rewarding our guests for their loyalty through Marco Polo DISCOVERY and Niccolo DISCOVERY. We believe that the key to success within our own hotel company is that GHA believes in training as much as we do, making training for DISCOVERY easily accessible to all of our team members. As I've mentioned before, talent management is vital. Recognising and rewarding our loyal frequent guests only has intrinsic value to our brand if we can execute the DISCOVERY Loyalty programme to the highest standards.

"DISCOVERY in a Box" is our learning and training platform available to any employee in the company. It covers departmental needs from operations to marketing to finance, etc. and offers flexibility to the employees to engage in the training whenever and wherever it is most efficient for them. By doing so, we encourage hotel associates to learn more about the programme and implement it flawlessly on property.

GHA also has a dedicated regional Membership Services team member who guides each member brand through any aspect of the DISCOVERY Loyalty programme.

As the Brand Champion for Marco Polo Hotels and Niccolo Hotels, I participate in bi-annual DISCOVERY Brand Champion meetings. Formerly, these were in person but were replaced with quarterly calls as a result of the pandemic. Additionally, we receive a monthly DISCOVERY Brand Champions newsletter with the latest programme updates and plans.

What does it mean to be a Brand Champion?

I cannot stress enough how important it is for the Brand Champion at each DISCOVERY hotel brand to step up and support the programme within their organisation. GHA provides all of the tools we need — including systems, connectivity, and most importantly, training — to be successful and realise the benefits and rewards that DISCOVERY delivers. Moving forward, when hotels strive to recover from the pandemic, we can leverage DISCOVERY Loyalty to reduce our reliance on third-party providers while benefiting from cross-brand traffic and achieve the incremental revenue that DISCOVERY delivers.

Yet, to be truly successful, we all need to remember that teamwork is critical. The support of the entire organisation - from executives to the engagement of Hotel Champions throughout the brands - will determine the value we receive from DISCOVERY.

I would like to give my sincerest thanks to the colleagues across all hotels that participate in DISCOVERY. They present the programme with pride and excellence, delivering on guest expectations and exceeding them. Together, we are stronger!

Cheryl Chi is Group Director CRM, Loyalty & Partnerships at Wharf Hotels, a member of Global Hotel Alliance.


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