Riding the hospitality wave in Singapore

Riding the hospitality wave in Singapore

Mention the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel Singapore, and the Singapore River that flows at the luxury hotel's doorstep comes to mind.

However, farther down the promenade, the waterfront area at Clarke Quay appears to have more buzz, especially after the sun sets.

But the newest addition to the management at the hotel owned by City Developments, general manager Winston Reinboth, plans to change that.

"We've got a beautiful river walk here, I think that can certainly be leveraged on," he said.

With a career of nearly 30 years in the hospitality industry, the 57-year-old came from humble beginnings.

Not many would imagine that in the past, the hotel general manager took on part-time jobs waiting tables and managing a bar, while holding a full-time job at the South Australian Government Department of Land, when he first joined the workforce.

"I used to say, 'I go to my full-time job to rest from my part-time jobs,'" he joked.

While working at the government agency, Mr Reinboth found himself helping out at the inquiry desk, even though that was not part of his job description.

That was when he realised how much he loved working with people, and he asked for a department transfer to a South Australian tourism agency.

But it was not a love of travel that prompted his move to hospitality. It was just a genuine passion to work with people, Mr Reinboth said.

"I think you're either born with it, or you aren't," he said. "I love engaging people."

Following the transfer, Mr Reinboth had his big break when renowned hotel chain Hilton International approached him for a role in sales and marketing in Australia. That kickstarted his career in hospitality.

He then spent the next seven years at the Hilton group, rising to become director of sales and marketing.

The stint also taught him the importance of humble beginnings, he said.

"It gives you an appreciation of what needs to be done. Not everyone can be a chief executive, vice- president or general manager. If you don't have an appreciation of how the little things are done, I don't believe you can add to the organisation at the senior level," he added.

The rest of his career took him to far-flung places like Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Tahiti, as he took on senior positions with other top hotel brands such as Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Marriott International and Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts.

While he has worked in many parts of the world, he will never forget the painful events of Islamabad, Pakistan - the site of the 2008 Marriott Hotel bombings.

"It was sad to see such little respect for human life," he said.

If it was not for a subordinate who offered him a lift home from the hotel after his driver had left for the day, Mr Reinboth believes that he would not have made it out alive.

"I know I (narrowly) survived the Marriott bombings because I took a picture of where I (had been) sitting," he said.

In the aftermath, he made daily trips to hospitals with members of the Marriott management team to visit staff injured in the tragedy. "I can still see those pictures, you know. One guy was fighting for his life in the ECU (extended care unit)... He had half his head blown off, one of the legs amputated," recounted Mr Reinboth.

But he still counts his time spent working in Pakistan as a rewarding experience.

"Some people thought I was a real magician, but all I did was share knowledge," he said. "Our business isn't rocket science. I will impart and share guidance and knowledge, and roll my sleeves up."

And this mantra has stayed with him, in his new role here in Singapore.

Speaking fondly of his first day, April 22, at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront, he said he noticed scuff marks on the legs of the chairs in the executive club lounge.

"I shared with the girls here, let's see if we need engineering to fix this. And they had a bottle of Jif and rough cloth, and they got the job done without going to engineering," he recalled.

And he is also mindful to tell the team that while they are relying on him to run the business, in many ways, they know more than he does.

"I think we have good days ahead, and that comes back to the little things that make the difference. Simply said, but not easily done - that's why I need to be there and lead from the front," he said.

"I would like to focus on the overall standards of Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel. By exceeding people's expectations, I hope that both Singaporeans and overseas visitors will view Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel as the riverside hotel of choice."

And when his plans for the waterfront come to fruition, he might just show off a few dance moves to his guests.

A follower of Top 40s music, Mr Reinboth said: "I can dance like Psy, no problem. I'm not shy about going on the dance floor. These are the sort of things that help me relax."

ocheryl@sph.com.sg


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