Insights from a Hotelier: Emil Ekberg
On the 11th of February, the Enderun students had the opportunity to have a conversation about the hotel industry during the webinar, “Standards, Online Reputation Management, Guest Experience, Guest Types with Mr. Emil Ekberg,” hosted by Mr. Jack Tuason. The guest speaker, Mr. Emil Ekberg, who has had over twelve years of experience in the hospitality industry and is currently the Hotel Manager at the Clarion Hotel in Stockholm, had a lot to share about the current state of hotels, his experiences, the future of the hotel industry, and even advice for the freshmen in attendance.
To start, Mr. Ekberg shared some news about the current state of the hotel he currently works for. Clarion Hotel’s occupancy did take quite a beating at the start of the pandemic. With the pre-pandemic occupancy being at 87%, it dropped to 40% at the height of the outbreak. Aside from a drop in customers, the hotel also had to let go of many employees, retaining only a mere 37 out of the original 150. Despite the devastating effects in sales, Mr. Ekberg said that the current students are lucky because last year was the “worst of it” and that the students would not experience something like that once they are part of the hospitality industry. Another positive he shared was that despite the challenges, the hotel has managed to stay open and has maintained high standards when it comes to service.
The first question posed to the speaker was about which types of guests were “harder” to impress. Mr. Ekberg stated that customers that come once in a while are harder to satisfy because they have higher expectations since they do not visit as often as hotel regulars. After that, Mr. Tuason asked how to deal with negative reviews. Mr. Ekberg explained how critical customer and staff reviews are and how they act to build loyalty. When it comes to handling negative reviews, show the dissatisfied customer the other options available that they may like during their next visit–use a “selling response,” as he termed it.
Besides sharing his experiences in the industry during the pandemic, Mr. Ekberg also explained his predictions for the hospitality industry moving forward. He explained that because the pandemic has limited business travel, business hotels might not be as profitable compared to luxury resorts. He also expects that wireless check-ins and general technology would be more present in daily hotel operations over time. However, even with the remote check-ins, there will still be a need to greet the guest at the front desk.
The last half of the webinar was then dedicated to questions from the students. The first of which was “Which kind of hotel would be the best to work for?” In response, Mr. Ekberg said, “A little bit of everything,” meaning working in a variety of establishments would help widen your skillset. He also mentioned if he had to choose one, working for a big luxury hotel would teach you the most and that the skills acquired there will be useful in any hotel you would work for after. The next question asked was, “How to build a relationship with senior staff and not disrespect their authority?” He answered he does not think age is essential in proving capability and that one should respectfully voice their opinion without someone else becoming offended. Other than that, asking questions and letting the senior staff train you also helps foster a good relationship.
Another question posed to Mr. Ekberg was regarding whether education or experience counted more. He answered that in his personal opinion experience would be much more valuable. While obtaining a master’s degree would aid those wanting board member positions in the future, other hotel roles would require people with experience rather than a degree. Having a degree will matter a lot when you apply for some internships, but once you build up a work experience portfolio, those are what are taken into consideration. He also explained that another essential tip would be gaining experience and learning about as many different hotel departments to expand your knowledge and skills.
The last question asked to the speaker would be what mistakes has he made. While stating that he had made many mistakes, one worth mentioning would be that you assume that “You know it all and take on too much by yourself.” Not only is it foolish to think you could know it all, but it stops you from reaching out to others. Mr. Ekberg stressed the importance of reaching out when you need help and that one good trait of a general manager would be the ability to work and get the most out of others.
To sum up, the webinar with Mr. Ekberg was interesting and informative for the students in attendance. With many of the audience members being first year students, it was such a huge learning opportunity to hear lessons and advice from a speaker who had more than a decade of experience in this ever-changing industry. With the pandemic causing fear in the survival of hospitality, it is reassuring to hear that experts like him believe it will rise again and that they continue to innovate solutions that will help provide the same level of service while following the necessary safety guidelines. And while the students will walk away with many lessons learned, one of the key things everyone will definitely remember would be that even with the pandemic, there is a bright future ahead for these aspiring hoteliers.