Dato’ Mark Yeoh
Director of YTL Hotels and Resorts
Good hotels are everywhere. The edge is always customer service. You can have gold taps and diamond chandeliers. At the end, what matters in hospitality is always the service.
Scion of the formidable YTL empire, Dato’ Mark Yeoh is the youngest son of the late Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay, a billionaire and philanthropist who founded YTL Corporation. Executive director of YTL Hotels and Resorts, Dato’ Mark Yeoh is also part of YTL Power International’s mergers and acquisitions team involved in the acquisition of ElectraNet SA (Australia), Wessex Water Limited (UK), PT Jawa Power (Indonesia) and PowerSeraya Limited (Singapore).
Born in Klang, young Yeoh grew up in Kuala Selangor with his early education at Pasar Road School before attending Victoria Institution. Completing his A Levels at Brighton College UK, he went on to read law at King’s College London and passed the bar exams at Grace Inn. “I was the only son who was not gainfully employed at that time, therefore was summoned back to help the family. I started the hotel business without knowing a single thing.”
At his first ITB Berlin, the world’s largest tourism trade fair in 1988, Malaysia was unheard of and often confused with Malawi. Dato’ Yeoh took steps to place Malaysia on the map with the help of the Ministry of Tourism which launched many projects to promote Malaysia. Three decades and many welcoming slogans later, YTL Hotels and Malaysia finally established a respectable position on the world tourism barometer. “Competition is very tough now. Vietnam which never used to be a market is now an aggressive player. My first trip to Maldives, there were hardly any resorts, and I still remember the pillows made from coconut husks.”
There is a secret formula that holds YTL Hotels in good stead. “Our tagline ‘treasured moments, treasured places’ means that we are the purveyors of dreams and fantasies. We have every moment count. That’s the mantra we’ve been driving into our staff. Our hotels’ high occupancy rates reflect the popularity of our properties and our abilities to fulfil guests’ wishes.”
Hotel business is like fashion, there is no cookie cutter approach. You need to reinvest and reimage every seven years, to stay relevant and profitable.
For someone who started with not knowing a single thing in the hospitality industry, Dato’ Yeoh certainly has been put through the wringer. Yet he emerged an effective and revered leader and entrepreneur. “We call our staff stars. In most leadership structures the boss is the head of the pyramid. Ours is a reverse pyramid. I’m the most unimportant person in the company because I don’t see the customers. The moment my team wear the uniform when they start work, they are on parade. The show starts and they must smile, greet, be courteous. The challenge is to produce stars who understand our philosophies. That’s why we have the YTL International College of Hotel Management where we invest in training and hotel development programmes. Youth is the future of our business.”
With properties in Asia and UK, Dato’ Yeoh’s brand of management is holistic and immersive. “Working with partners like The Marriot and Hilton allows us to be more focussed, where we can dissect and segmentise our areas of expertise. The universal distribution system in the world is such that the big will get bigger so it’s good to have partnerships with these giants.”
Dato’ Yeoh’s superpowers in the hospitality realm are evident in some of his latest triumphs. One of them the Monkey Island Estate, a centuries-old retreat in Bray-on-Thames, Berkshire that nestles on an island in the River Thames; The Academy, London is a charming collection of five restored Georgian townhouses centrally located in London’s West End and finally the Higashiyama Niseko Village will be opening in December 2020, channelling unparalleled luxury to Japanese skiing in a hand-selected hideaway destination.