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Expatriate Network: Thomas Fehlbier

The general manager of AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort talks rebranding a beachside resort, setting and maintaining high levels of service and what itís like to live at the workplace.

by / Published: 17 Feb 2014

Expatriate Network: Thomas Fehlbier
Interview by Ian Johnston | Photo by Amir Rashid
 
The general manager of AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort talks rebranding a beachside resort, setting and maintaining high levels of service and what it’s like to live at the workplace.
 
WHO ARE YOU?
 
Name: Thomas Fehlbier
Nationality: German
Occupation: GM, AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort
Time in Malaysia: One year
 
THOMAS ON...

REBRANDING
It’s always difficult to rebrand a resort that has been operating for three years. We have taken over 100 per cent of the associates and now we want to move to a different level of quality. 
 
I have only worked for some of the best hotels in the world and always in big hotels that are either rebranding or renovating or repositioning themselves so I usually go on a two to three year project—clean up, stabilising, handing over then taking the next problem.
 
KEEPING UP STANDARDS OF SERVICE
We have developed a system called AVANI Dollars. Whenever a member of staff gets mentioned in a guest’s letter or on Trip Advisor as a positive thing, they get awarded with some AVANI Dollars and they can exchange them for concert tickets, for football tickets, for food and drink or whatever else, and it’s a kind of incentive system where there’s an immediate benefit for someone having gone the extra mile. 
 
It’s not the easiest thing to get people to go out of their way but it’s enjoyable.
 
WORKING AT SUCH A BIG RESORT
There’s definitely a challenge to rebrand a resort that runs on such high occupancy with such intensive logistics. I’m living in the resort and from my home to the office I have a 1.6 kilometre cycle! So there’s quite extensive travel within the resort.
 
Many of the other resorts I’ve worked in were already perfect before I arrived so I haven’t had to rebrand them or change them. And the last two hotels I turned around were hotels in capital cities, so this is the first resort style hotel, which is challenging—but enjoyable. I love it.
 
LIVING ON THE JOB
I don’t leave the resort more than twice a month usually. Once a month I go with the family for a long weekend, to Thailand or to Singapore or somewhere, just for shopping and to relax, and then I usually leave the resort to get a haircut every two weeks. And other than that, I love to go out in the evenings and have some guests for dinner. 
 
On the weekend, I love sitting on my balcony, not talking to anyone, not hearing anything besides spending time with the family.
 
REACHING OUT TO THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
We have three orphanages that we’re supporting with our CSR programme. Two months ago we helped and supported and donated a lot of money to the opening of a new home for pregnant teenagers that is supported by the Ray of Hope home that we work with. 
 
This is something I really like about this business—you can get creative and really engage the 500 staff that we have. And from one of our orphanages we already have two boys working with us that come during their school break and will come for permanent work as of the summer.
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