“Local travellers should be prioritised even during peak seasons” – Chris Quyn, CEO of Fox Resorts

In his three-decade journey from Steward to the Boardroom, Chris Quyn has worked in almost every area of the hotel business. His passion for grooming the next generation of Hospitality professionals has helped many to become industry leaders. Today, as Chief Executive Officer of Fox Resorts, Chris still thrives on delivering a world-class experience for his guests, and still takes a hands-on approach, drawing on his broad knowledge of the industry to help his team succeed.

As the CEO of FOX Resorts, he oversees the entirety of strategy and operations for the Hospitality arm of the Capital Maharaja Group.

“My first job was as a Bellboy at the Ceylon Intercontinental Hotel. As a newly-minted graduate, I worked in positions ranging from Telephone Operator to Lobby Manager before moving into Sales. I began working at The Lanka Oberoi in 1997 and worked my way up to Resident Manager in 2014. Later in 2017, I was given the task of launching Fox Resorts for the Capital Maharaja Group.”

Explaining how the Hospitality industry can be revitalised in the current climate, Chris stated that hotels must promote local tourism by offering affordable packages to price-sensitive domestic travellers, as FOX Resorts has done.

According to Chris, FOX Jaffna is the only hotel in Sri Lanka’s north that has sprawling lawns, a large swimming pool, and heritage architecture. The hotel includes underground bunkers from the Separatist War that have been converted into an art gallery and a history museum to promote the peninsula’s culture and history.

He went on to say that FOX Kandy is perched atop a cliff in the rolling hills of Hanthana, offering breathtaking views of the mountains. The surrounding mountains and trees have been incorporated into the hotel’s design elements, and the climate is serene.

“Both hotels place a strong emphasis on promoting the best of local cuisine while also providing world-class international cuisine. The surroundings, amenities, food, and staff are what truly set us apart from every other generic hotel chain.

“At Fox, we’ve even made it possible for our guests to travel with their pets, making it even easier for residents to get away from home. While the local market is frequently overlooked for high yielding tourists from the West, I have always believed that locals must always be taken into account, with hotels allocating a number of rooms at slightly lower rates for locals. We must value this segment and design packages for them, even during peak seasons when hotels typically triple their rates, pricing locals out of the market.”

Moreover, Chris said that in order to boost the industry, the government must help with a stronger infrastructure.

““Travellers face challenges with basic national infrastructure such as safe and reliable transportation options. Trains must provide more air-conditioned carriages with clean restrooms. Seaplane and helicopter services must operate on a regular schedule with a transparent rate structure and ferry services must begin. The state must also provide a nightlife structure where tourists can have a fun night out in a safe and responsible manner.  Consistent street lighting, adequate policing by both local and tourist police, and a transparent and systemised process for granting and administering liquor licences are all required.”

When questioned about the global hospitality trends for which Sri Lanka should prepare, the industry expert stated that local hotels must expand its focus on sustainability and eliminate the use of plastic, have carbon neutral goals, source products and food locally, and be actively involved in the community.

“Hotels who do not practice sustainability as an economic and moral obligation will soon be left behind.

“Hand-in-hand with sustainability is true digital transformation. Having the right multifunctional equipment and software platforms to give you a paperless operation with audit trails for accountability and efficiency, end-to-end customer experience tracking, and valuable data to mine so you can enhance your operational delivery ties in with longer term efforts to integrate IoT, virtual reality and other tech will help build a more resilient business model with enhanced personalisation of services.”

Furthermore, Chris mentioned that the digital trends in the Hospitality industry are quite dynamic and ever-evolving as most operations are now digitalised.

“I see an increased use of WhatsApp in Sri Lanka. It is used to make inquiries, book rooms, send confirmations, provide receipts and quotations, and even make international calls. Emails are now hardly used for these purposes.

“Other areas that are rapidly becoming digitised include parking, reputation management via online reviews, and ordering meals, snacks, and drinks via apps. Purchasing, receiving, stock-taking, and even locking up happens on a daily basis using a variety of digital tools.

“Bloggers, vloggers, podcasters, and social media stars supplement, and in some cases, replace, traditional journalists, TV hosts, and traditional media channels.

“These initiatives have undoubtedly improved and streamlined operations, delivering critical data insights and making meetings more productive.

“However, I’m very old school when it comes to speaking with people face to face, especially with my own team, guests, and clients. There is no digital gesture that can replace a firm handshake or an Ayubowan with a smile. No matter how efficient digital solutions are, human contact must never be compromised.”

On a concluding note, the CEO revealed that plans are in place to open two new properties in the South and in the Cultural Triangle, each of which will offer unique and distinctive experiences.

With its wealth of resources and experience, it will also diversify into managing third-party properties and entering the Education sector, with the goal of instilling its approach to hospitality in future tourism professionals and developing the next generation to take the industry to new heights.

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