Working in Laos: Ng SirLiang, Don Chan Palace

Ng SirLiang Working Laos

Ng SirLiang is a Singaporean expatriate living and working in Vientiane, Laos. He is employed as Assistant Director of Sales and Marketing at Vientiane’s Don Chan Palace Hotel and Convention Centre. SirLiang gives his insight into the Lao hospitality industry and shares his experiences as an expatriate in Laos.

WLL: Before moving to Laos, you graduated in Economics at the National University of Singapore. How did your career progress after graduation and why did you move to Laos?

SirLiang: After graduation my first position was with International Enterprise Singapore, a government body that promotes Singaporean Businesses overseas. After interacting with many other businesspeople, I came to know my previous employer who was opening a few small boutique hotels in Luang Prabang. He offered me a position as Business Development Manager even though I had no prior experience. Despite initial objections by my family, I thought “why not?”. And since I already spoke Thai fairly well, I took the job.

WLL: As a city devoted to tourism, Luang Prabang seems to be the hospitality capital of the country. Can you tell us about your experiences there?

SirLiang: Life in Luang Prabang was enjoyable indeed! It wasn’t smooth sailing from the outset, though, because I came from a big city in which everything is well organized. I do appreciate the “smallness” of the city (Luang Prabang), where everyone knows each other and are willing to help each other any time. I recall having forgotten my keys one time during a storm and my neighbors readily let me into their house to seek shelter before my colleague arrived with replacement keys. This ‘neighborliness’ is probably a trait carried over into the hospitality industry in Luang Prabang, where hospitality staff are quick to take on a service industry mindset. The people of Luang Prabang are generally peaceful and honest and certainly know how to look after the many tourists that come to visit. Though it’s a beautiful town, I believe my fellow Luang Prabang expats would agree it is the people that make the city a lovely place to stay.

WLL: You are now working as Assistant Director of Sales and Marketing at Don Chan Palace Hotel. What are your responsibilities in this position? How many people report to you?

SirLiang: I currently lead a team of eleven. Other than the main functions of generating revenue for the hotel, I also oversee the marketing division and liaise with other departments in generating regular promotions. You may imagine a small team which is easy to manage, however my team are fairly young and inexperienced. They have a great attitude, but I also have to conduct regular training sessions for them to help them develop.

WLL: You have had some pretty big name clients stay at Don Chan Palace over the years. How does the hotel prepare for events such as ASEM?

SirLiang: For large events and any VIP clients coming in, all heads of department will have a few meetings to finalise details regarding the duties of each and every individual.  This is quite a standard procedure, so we are always well prepared when handling such events or clients. The deciding factor to a good outcome ultimately does not depend on just experience itself, but also the ability of every team member to communicate and to work as a team.

WLL: You’ve been living in Laos for 5 years now. Can you identify any major differences in the working culture between Laos and Singapore? How have you adapted your management style in order to work successfully in Laos?

SirLiang: There are plenty of challenges for foreigners working in Laos. Coming from a larger and busier city, the first big difference in working culture that I noticed has been that family commitments seem to be prioritized above work commitments in Laos. Staff often ask for time off on the pretext of running personal errands during work hours, or request last minute leave for the same reason. It took me quite some time to really instill in them the work ethic required of employees of a large hotel, and help them understand how work and personal life should be handled differently. The process was long but finally everyone began to understand the difference between work time and private time.

 As an expatriate working in Laos or anywhere else, I believe that it is necessary to let the staff understand that we are not just their leader, but also their student. Instead of forcing foreign ideas upon them, there should be a mutual exchange and healthy discussion before coming to a decision. Mutual respect is always the key to a well bonded team.

WLL: What challenges do you find specific to the hospitality industry in Laos?

SirLiang: The hospitality industry is a people industry. My colleagues working in the same industry will definitely agree with me that there is a serious lack of experienced staff in Laos. Currently there is an increase in the number of hotels being built, however manpower supply is not meeting demand. In my opinion, this is because, much like in Singapore during its early stages, working in a hotel does not gain as much approval from family members when compared to that of an office job. I hope that this attitude will change in the future.

WLL: Has the industry grown in the time you have lived in Laos? What is your outlook for the future?

SirLiang: Compared to around seven or eight years ago when I first started traveling to Laos, the number of restaurants and hotels has definitely grown a lot, with a wider range made available to suit the growing economy. Laos is definitely growing steadily in this industry despite the current manpower shortage, which I hope will just be a temporary issue.

WLL: What advice do you have for Lao graduates looking to begin a career in the industry?

SirLiang: At Don Chan Palace we are usually on the lookout for good communicators; people who ask questions and are not afraid to speak their mind. Communication skills are one of the essentials in this industry and by asking questions, people will learn faster. My advice to graduates is also not to be afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone. Like me, what they might have studied may not be related to their first job at all, but I encourage them to take up a role that they may be unfamiliar with initially; after all, a good hotel manager needs to understand every department. Lastly and most importantly, candidates must be able to think as a guest and anticipate guests’ wishes. Service oriented staff are the key to ensuring customer satisfaction, and those who do well will go far.

This article is part of our “Working In Laos” series of interviews in collaboration with 108job.

By: Cameron Darke
Translation: Keovisouk Dalasane


??????????????????: Ng SirLiang, Don Chan Palace Hotel

Ng SirLiang Don Chan Palace

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??????? ?????? ???????????????? Assistant Director of Sales and Marketing ??? Don Chan Palace Hotel and Convention Centre.


WLL: ??????????????????????? ?????????????????????????? ????????????????????????????? (National University of Singapore) ???????. ??????? ???????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????

SirLiang:????????????????????????? ??????????????????????? International Enterprise Singapore ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????. ????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??? ???????????????????????????????????????????. ????????????????? ???????????????? ??????????? (Business Development Manager) ??? ????????????????????????????????????? ????????????????. ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????? ????????????????  “?????????????????”. ??????????? ?????????? ??????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????.

WLL: ????????????? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ????????????????????????????? ??? ???????????????????????????????????????

SirLiang: ?????????????????????????! ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????. ?????????????????? ??? ???????? ??????????? (?????????), ??????????????????????? ??? ?????????????????????????????????? ?????????????. ???????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????? ????????????????????????? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????. ?????????????????????????????????????? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????. ????????????????????????? ?????? ??? ?????????????????????????. ?????????????????????, ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????.

WLL: ?????????????????????? Assistant Director of Sales and Marketing ????????? Don Chan Palace. ???????????? ???????????????????????????????

SirLiang: ???????? ??????????????????????. ?????????????????????????????????????????????????, ??????? ??????????????????????????? ??? ?????????????????????????? ?????????? ??????????? ????????. ????????????????? ??????????????????????????? ??????????????????? ??? ??????????? ??? ???????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????.

WLL: ??????????????? Don Chan Palace ?????????????????????????????. ????????????????????? ???????????????????????ASEM?

SirLiang: ??????????????????????????????????????????????, ?????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????. ?????????????????????????????????????. ????????????????? ?????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????? ??? ???????? ??????????????.

WLL: ????????????????????????????????? 5 ??????. ????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????? ?????????? ??? ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????

SirLiang: ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????. ????????????????? ????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????. ??????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????? ?????????????????. ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??? ??????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????. ???????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????.

????????????????????? ?????????????????????????, ??????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??????? ???????????? ????????????????. ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??? ???????????????????? ??? ??????????????????????????????????. ????????????????????? ??????? ??????????????????????????????????????.

WLL: ?????????????????????? ????????????????????????????????????

SirLiang: ???????????????????????????. ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????. ???????? ????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????. ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??? ?????????????????????? ????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????. ?????????????? ????????????????????????????????????.

WLL: ???????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????? ??? ?????????????????

SirLiang: ?????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????, ???????????????????????????? ????????????????????????? ????????????????? ??? ????????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????. ??????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????? ????????????????????? ??? ?????????????????????????? ???????????????????.

WLL: ???????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????

SirLiang: ????????? Don Chan Palace ??????????????????????????????????????????????; ??????????????????? ??? ????????????????????????????. ??????????????? ???????????????????????? ???????????????????? ??????????????????. ????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????. ???????????????, ??????????????????????????????????????????????????. ??????????? ??? ??????????????????????? ?? ????????????????????????????????????????????????? ????????????????????? ???????????????????. ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????, ????????????????? ?????????????????.

?????????????????????? ??? ???????????????????? Work Live Laos ??? ???????????? (108JOB) ????????? “Working In Laos”.

??????: Cameron Darke
?????????: Keovisouk Dalasane