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Interview with Dr. Jennifer Cronin – Finalist for Corporate Hotelier of the Year

Can you give us a brief insight into your education and career path?

My first full time job in hotels was as a room service attendant after completing a BA majoring in Japanese and economics. My university classmates considered this an unusual and a very modest career beginning.  Nevertheless, I was fortunate to fast track my early hospitality career through restaurant positions to Rooms Division,Front Office and then to Reservations Supervisor in my first 2 years with Parkroyal Brisbane.  I then held a number of operational roles including conventions services before my first sales manager role at Conrad Jupiters Casino, on the Gold Coast. Success in management is definitely attributable to having a strong sense of the operational requirements and I highly recommend this route for future hotel professionals.

In order to take the next leap into sales and marketing leadership and a place on the hotel’s executive committee, I decided to pursue an MBA and studied full time at Bond University, graduating in 1990.  At the time, MBAs were a new phenomenon, but I knew that I could fine tune my entrepreneurial skills and strengthen my skill set for the hospitality business by learning from my classmates, who came from a diverse range of industries and management levels. It gave me an entirely new business outlook and I was then inspired to pursue an international business career.

Whilst having established my career as a hotel marketing professional, my first role as a General Manager was completed with the sale of The Kooralbyn Resort in the Gold Coast hinterland, after a grueling Voluntary Administration transition. This was followed by becoming the opening General Manager of Holiday Inn Hope Island on the Gold Coast, before returning to the sales and marketing stream with Hyatt International.

In 2001, I embarked on my first international assignment in Singapore where my focus was on the growth of intra-regional Asia Pacific travel for Singapore’s luxury hotel market, while working with Grand Hyatt and Ritz-Carlton. After six years in Singapore I then took on my first strategic corporate assignment with the rebranding of Dusit International and its portfolio of brands, based at its head office in Bangkok. It was after four years in Thailand and a series of crises that I was compelled to pursue my PhD research full time at Bond University in the field of crisis leadership. I have since completed the doctorate and have been able to return to the corporate hotel world and apply my research as an industry practitioner, so that I can make a positive difference in a fast changing business environment.  My promotion to President of Marco Polo Hotels from the role of VP Sales & Marketing earlier this year, proves that energy, passion, and going the extra mile, pays off in so many ways!

Can you share with us what you feel has been the most valuable part in your career development to date that has enabled you to get to where you are today?

My life long quest since I can remember is to be the best that I can be in whatever role I was undertaking; ‘if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well’ and ‘life’s short, make the most of it’ are some of my mantras. I have had many great mentors and role models along the way and have learnt from each of them so that I’m constantly improving. I have always thrived on learning and sharing best practices with colleagues.

Continual learning and upgrading your skill levels at every opportunity is vital to achieving movement up the career ladder. Don’t expect the jobs to be handed to you, you need to prepare and plan at every level of your career for the next step. Furthermore, it is important to help, support and develop your colleagues as our industry is a team based one, and you cannot be successful without great teamwork.  I am a true believer in paying it forward in both my personal and work spheres; life is full of many positive and fulfilling experiences and we should share success rather than focus on the negatives.

I have always set goals, such as attaining an MBA, a GM role, and I have been very focused on these milestones. Including completing a PhD – although a deviation from the normal hospitality career, it is one that has re-energised me for the future of our industry.

Congratulations on being a finalist in The BMW Hotelier Awards 2016. How are you planning on leveraging this opportunity to inspire the younger generation to work harder at developing their career in the hospitality scene?

I am truly humbled by this nomination, especially when I know there are so many other successful and deserving hoteliers in this very dynamic region. The BMW Hotelier Awards are a great initiative to show the world that you can achieve your dreams and succeed in this very exciting global village in which we live today.  Having completed my PhD only recently, I am also driven to establish the hotel industry as a professional and valid business career, which up until recent times was not considered as a legitimate profession.

I have undertaken to invest as much of my time to assist the next generation of hoteliers to achieve their goals and as such I am already contributing to the HK Poly University’s School of Hotel & Tourism Management as a member of the Industry Advisory Committee, as well as Project Supervisor for the Capstone Project 2016-2017, in addition to their Professor for a Day programme. At the same time, I am also on the Advisory Board for the Bond Business School, Bond University, and most recently participated in my alma mater, Beenleigh High School’s Paddock to Plate event, encouraging the young hoteliers of the future to pursue their dreams and career success.

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