Spencer Han is proud of Singapore’s Naumi Liora hotel, one of two properties he manages, for its design and atmosphere that preserves Singapore’s unique Peranakan culture.
SINGAPORE—Spencer Han, hotel manager at the Naumi Liora, is enjoying his second stint at the Chinatown district hotel in Singapore, after spending 11 months in 2011 and 2012 learning the ropes as assistant guest relations manager.
It is where he feels he belongs.
Han, who graduated with a degree in hospitality and tourism management from Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia, got his start in the hotel industry at the Hard Rock Hotel Singapore.
However, it was never certain that he would enter the hospitality industry.
“It was a choice between the F&B business or a backpacker hostel,” Han said. “I picked a hostel over a café because I thought that running a hostel was like opening up my home to strangers and then making them feel at home. I liked the idea of the human interaction, whilst extending something that was personalized.”
Han was attracted to the fact that, in the hotel industry, no two days are completely alike, he said.
“From an operational perspective, working in a hotel is not a monotonous job. You meet different people with different personalities and idiosyncrasies,” he said. “It is not always plain sailing when handling people, but difficult guests are not an everyday thing, and the satisfaction derived from successfully managing a difficult guest is not something that any job can offer.”
After almost 18 months working as managing director at the Hive Backpackers’ Hotel, and then gaining business experience at a marketing and distribution firm involved in pharmaceutics, Han arrived back at the attractive, traditionally styled, orange-fronted Naumi Liora three years ago.
Today, this Singapore native also manages Naumi Hospitality’s second Singapore property, simply called the Naumi—a glass-sided, boxier asset located across from the famed Raffles Hotel.
The Naumi Liora, which opened in 2012, originally was a series of shops, Han said, and before assuming its current identity, operated as a hotel called The Saff.
The idea always was to maintain the buildings’ unique Peranakan heritage, named for the Chinese immigrants who emigrated to Malaysia and Singapore between the 15th and 17th centuries.
“We retained some of the key features of the shop houses, like the French windows and the heritage feel. The overall interior was to exude a Peranakan vibe, hence the tiles and the wooden lattice design that spreads across the whole hotel,” Han said. “The vibrant pumpkin colors of the façade, carpets and collaterals, together with the sculptures around the hotel, are to facilitate interaction and engagement with guests.”
Han added that the hotel’s design isn’t really influenced by internal culture, but more the neighborhood that it is operating in.
“The only thing that is consistent throughout the properties we owned are the service orientations and design emphasis. Our design must tell stories,” Han said. Naumi Hospitality has two other assets, in Australia and New Zealand, and is looking to grow further, although nothing has been confirmed, he said.
“The hospitality industry has developed into something that caters to different budget segments,” Han said. “There are backpacker hostels, budget hotels, boutique hotels, different types of hotels and also the addition of Airbnb. With so many choices, the need to add value to the guest experience is more important today than before.”
One example of that value is Han’s attention to offering guests as much of his time as possible and extending the welcome mat further than he hopes other GMs do.
“This British couple comes to stay with us during the Christmas period for two weeks every year, and now when they do, my VP and I make sure to bring them to some local enclaves to experience the locals’ way of life,” Han said.
That kindliness extends both ways, which is in its essence the heart of hospitality, he said.
“Occasionally they email us about major events in their lives when they are back home,” he added.