ALEX Porteous is no stranger to the hospitality industry.
The newly appointed Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur general manager’s exposure to the industry started at a young age.
He recalled how his interest was sparked while accompanying his father to meet a friend who ran a hotel in Harrogate in North Yorkshire, England.
“I was about 13 at the time. My father’s friend, who was the general manager, took us around the hotel.
“He showed us around the kitchen as well as finance and purchasing departments.
“I was taken with it right away. I thought then this was a nice life and it would suit me. It was love at first exposure, ” he said.
But it was not until Porteous was 17 that his journey into the hospitality world truly began.
This was when he took up a management trainee role at a major London hotel chain, where he learnt all the basics by serving in various sections.
“I was a server, a barman and a receptionist before moving on to the engineering department and press office.
“I was also a chef for a year.
“When a managerial position opened up in Japan, I volunteered for it, ” he said.
After seven years at the first hotel, Porteous’ career took on new heights upon joining Four Seasons.
It saw him travelling the globe, lending his skills to the hotel’s chains in Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore, Thailand and Seychelles.
Now with 34 years of experience under his belt and armed with various managerial and public relations skills, he is ready for his new role in Malaysia.
But first, he must navigate his team through the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic that has badly affected the hospitality and tourism sectors.
Porteous said health and safety among employees and guests were top priority as the hotel deal with the new norm.
“Everybody is worried about Covid-19 and rightly so.
“At our hotels, everyone who comes in must wear a face mask, have their temperature taken and register via MySejahtera app.
“At our restaurants, the utensils are sterilised and wrapped for guests. Physical distancing is enforced and tables are separated.
“Our rooms are sterilised between guest departures and arrivals.
“The remote controls and telephones in our rooms are also sterilised and sealed, ” he said, adding that ensuring guests’ comfort was crucial to the business.
“It is all about cultivating loyalty among our clientele and driving revenue, and we do that when our guests come back, ” said Porteous.
He stressed that it was important for the hotel to be flexible in its business approach amid the Covid-19 challenges.
“What has got us here is not going to get us to our next place.
“During the summer months, our marketing team diligently engaged with our local and international clients.
“People are starting to get Covid fatigue. They want to go out and spend time with families, and they can do that in a hotel.
“Here in Malaysia, the Health Ministry has done a remarkable job in striking the right balance between movement control and saving the economy, ” he said.
Porteous knows first-hand what the Malaysian capital has to offer, as he enjoys indulging in his hobby of street photography in Kuala Lumpur, which he notes has plenty to woo tourists.
“Just last week, I walked along the Saloma Link from Ampang and ended up in Kampung Baru.
“I walked around the streets and took some photos. It was lovely to see a traditional Malay village so near to a city.
“And I would love to show our international visitors what a beautiful place Malaysia is, ” he said.