Tomo Kuriyama, Former General Manager, Sheraton Pattaya

  • 7 Dec 2013 11:00 AM
Tomo Kuriyama, Former General Manager, Sheraton Pattaya
Mr. Kuriyama spent total of 13 years learning in hotel operations in which 10 years were at resorts in Hawaii. He started as an intern in the PR department at Sheraton Waikiki, and went on to hold various positions within the Rooms and Food & Beverage Division in different hotels.

Through the early stage of his management experience he was provided with an opportunity of being a 'service promise champion'. In these years the highest score on guest satisfaction was achieved amongst all North America Starwood Hotels, and multiple awards including “Hotel of the Year” were won.

These years taught him the importance of customer expectation and how “personalization” in service can create guest loyalty. His working culture is focused on associate engagement. He implemented many recognition programs in the resort to keep associates involved and motivate with goals, incentives, and promotions.

As the GM, Mr. Kuriyama loves to meet all of the resort guests in the restaurant, the pool areas and beach. He often comments that there is so much valuable available directly from our guests and so it is important for everyone to be on the floor. This has become a culture in the resort and department managers are spending time in front of customers which helps make the resort so much more guest focused.

Previous to joining Sheraton Pattaya Resort as General Manager, Mr. Kuriyama was Hotel Manager at Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, A luxury Collection Hotel. Here's how he see's the future of hotel business: “It will be interesting to see the hotel business evolve with technology. People will utilize digital but still expecting the personal interaction and hotels will need to adjust to find the right balance.” Tomo said. On cultural management: “I believe open communication can overcome cultural difference. Good leaders don’t manage people, but they manage people’s hearts.” Tomo says.

1. What surprised you most about Pattaya when you first came to live here?
It's a destination that caters to all kinds of clientele. Pattaya offers a romantic getaway, it has family excursions, a world famous cabaret show, quality shopping, water sports including amazing scuba diving spots, award winning golf courses, nature and the Elephant Village, cultural attractions like the Big Buddha statue, a fantastic botanical garden, the floating market, and all within 20 min drive. So it’s a very convenient destination, in easy reach from Bangkok, The above are not necessarily as internationally well known, as most people think of Pattaya for beach and nightlife.

2. Friends are in town for just a few days - what must they absolutely see and do?
For first time visit to Thailand I would show them to see the cultural side of Pattaya, the Sanctuary of Truth, and the Tiger Zoo where you can go into he cage with a big cat. I recommend trips to nearby islands, such as Coral Island which is accessible from the hotel’s private beach in around 15 mins by speedboat – it’s what you expect from a paradise style beach destination, clear calm crystal waters.

3. What is your favourite Thai food / word?
Jyai – means heart, used to explain many different aspects of Thai culture, humble + generous + kind, all those and more that are hard to translate directly. Many Thai expressions have the word Jyai in them, it expresses the essence of Thai people, and it’s why local people here are so sensitive and able at giving guests a uniquely high standard of service.

4. What do you miss most from home?
I feel my home is Hawaii, although I was born in Tokyo, Japan. I miss the weather in Hawaii, it only has one season: Spring. The big difference to Thailand is the humidity, back in Hawaii there are some lovely breezes, here there are two seasons, Hot and Hotter.

5. How long have you been an expat, and where have you lived?
Almost 4 years in Thailand, with 8 years in Hawaii beforehand.

6. What is the secret of your success?
Enjoying my job.

7. What career other than yours would you also love to pursue?
I almost became a teacher; during Uni in the US I did private teaching for elementary school kids, where I helped around 10 students in after-school classes. Still today I can use that experience when mentoring people, when setting challenges and giving encouragement and support.

8. Where did you spend your last vacation?
South Korea, I went to Seoul with a few friends from the industry, we went to visit a close contact who works in the Sheraton there. One of the great benefits of the hospitality trade is knowing someone in every country!

9. Where is your dream holiday destination?
Machu Picchu in Peru.

10. What would you say is your personal motto?
As I always say, “Good leaders don’t manage people, they manage people’s heart.” I can also add, “What matters is in the inside”.

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