When Camellia Dinh was just 26, she was already appointed Director of Sales at a 5-star hotel. Not only has she achieved incredible achievements early in her career, she also strives to be involved in many women’s development projects and cultivate herself on the academic path.
In this series “Transform your possibilities”, co-produced by Vietcetera and RMIT University Vietnam, Camellia shares about the hospitality industry, where she has worked for more than 10 years — about the difficulties, opportunities and what people in the industry should do at this moment.
1. Don’t lose hope, even in the most difficult times
Over 10 years in the profession, Camellia considers this to be the most difficult and uncertain period that anyone in the industry has ever experienced. She chooses three words — uncertain, resilient, and hopeful — to describe the status of the hospitality industry during this period.
Everything is now uncertain, and industry insiders have also gradually given up on forecasting during the last two years. Change happens continuously, each quarter does not look the same anymore. However, with vaccination campaigns being widely implemented, she is still very optimistic about the near future when the industry could strive again.
When it comes to “resilience”, people often think of frontline medical staff. But to Camellia, her colleagues are as equally resilient, because they have been trying their best to stay afloat.
Hotels and resorts are the first to provide chargeable quarantine services for experts, investors and foreigners entering Vietnam to work. Recently, with the increasing rate of infections and suspected infections, many hotels also accept guests considered to be F1 cases. It is an opportunity to stay open, but at the same time it can also be a danger as the staff have to come into contact with suspected patients.
With “hope”, hospitality people can maintain their optimistic mindset every day. To Camellia, we have the right to hope for a brighter future as we have tried our best to stay strong in the midst of uncertainty. It can be seen that, despite the difficult period, Vietnam’s economy is still on the rise in recent quarters.
2. Stay afloat by coming up with creative solutions
In the midst of the pandemic with many unpredictable twists and turns, hotel staff are in the middle of a dilemma — closing the business means no revenue, and keeping the business going might not bring them any profit.
Therefore, they constantly come up with many ideas to maintain revenue. For example, instead of serving customers at actual locations like before, now many restaurants (or even the restaurants inside hotels) have shifted the focus on take-away practices.
The hospitality industry also encourages people to try working from hotel/staycation when working from home turns suffocating. The hotels have a daily price for you to work, eat, and enjoy the view of the city. This also is a way to diversify services and retain customers during the pandemic.
In 2020, Camellia had the opportunity to join TUI BLUE Nam Hoi An as the Director of Sales and Marketing. The problem she faced at that time was how to promote a brand new hotel brand in Vietnam during the complicated pandemic.
At that time, Camellia realized that not only the hospitality industry but also many other aspects were affected by the pandemic. She then struggled with the question of how to implement a program that could both benefit the community and maintain the hotel’s operations.
Thus, the program “Arts for Smiles” was introduced in the last few months of 2020. Ten artists from Hanoi were sponsored to come to Quang Nam fishing village for cultural exposure and to interact with the locals. Here, they created paintings and aroused people’s love for arts at the same time.
The paintings were then kept and displayed at many locations of the hotel to promote tourism in Quang Nam province through the lens of art. In December 2020, the hotel cooperated with Operation Smiles to conduct an auction of some selected paintings. The auction proceeds were donated to the surgery fund for less fortunate children with congenital cleft lip and cleft palate.
3. To succeed in a higher position, you need leadership qualities
From the early days in her career, Camellia always thought that having a job was enough, and did not hope to climb up the ladder. All she wanted was to give her best in every task she was assigned to. Little did she know, the opportunity to become Director of Sales even before she could reach 30 was her destiny.
That was when she realized that to succeed in higher positions, you need to possess good leadership qualities. A good leader should be able to influence and persuade people, specifically colleagues, superiors, or partners inside and outside the organization.
To perfect her leadership skills, Camellia decided to pursue a master’s degree in Business Administration at RMIT University, and was the youngest student in the class of that year. Studying for a master’s degree was also a premise to strengthen her knowledge base and enhance her competitive advantage.
The learning experience helped Camellia gain an overview of the market from all angles, from finance, human resources, to marketing, thereby making more in-depth and multi-dimensional decisions.
“At RMIT, I was so immersed in studying the subject of business ethics. Now every time I make a decision, I constantly consider many aspects from people to culture, to make sure what decision will best suit the situation,” shared Camellia.
After studying for nearly three years, Camellia believes that the knowledge she has acquired will support her for many years to come. Besides business ethics, she was especially interested in the subjects related to international business management and establishment of business strategies in the integration period.
These are important foundations for her to continue pursuing her career, and be well-prepared when the tourism industry and other economic sectors are restored post-pandemic.
In addition to the necessary professional skills and soft skills, Camellia also focused on cultivating emotional management skills. To Camellia, if you hold an important position in a team, you need to have “a warm heart and a cool head”.
A “warm heart” can help you maintain your emotions, empathy and understanding of the actions of those around you. With a “cool head”, you will know when to decisively make a decision, when to control emotions so as not to lose yourself. The skill of managing emotions has equipped her with a calm mind to face the unexpected and to limit conflicts at work.
4. The path ahead for hospitality people
Some people often wonder how hospitality people can be so deeply involved in the industry. To Camellia, it’s all about passion and enthusiasm. However, hospitality people also need to look at the situation more realistically, and consider contingency plans for their careers.
Camellia will not quit the industry, for sure. Therefore, she needs to find a new direction for herself in the industry, in order to survive and ensure more development opportunities in the future. One of those plans is to invest time in academia.
In the past, studying for a master’s degree was sometimes dominated by her job as a hotel manager. But now, during the period when all services are temporarily suspended, she devoted herself entirely to her studies. Studying for a master’s degree is also a preparation for Camellia’s dream of becoming a lecturer.
To Camellia, hospitality people always want to share their practical experiences with young people, but some of them haven’t attained the required qualification to teach in classes. It is not correct to say that a degree is just a piece of paper, as academia and practice must always be a parallel process. Practical experience and background knowledge are the keys to a sustainable career.
She also turned to consulting for small and medium projects where she can express her personality the most. She chooses projects that focus on building brand personality, customer experience or destination development projects.
This is an opportunity for Camellia to apply the knowledge she has learned and to unleash her creativity potential based on practical experiences, helping her to maintain motivation in profession and to prepare for the future when the hospitality industry bounces back.
Adapted by Thao Van