Marina Bay Singapore
Veteran hotelier Melvin Lim is entering exciting times. With a career that has spanned over 30 years across Asia, Lim was appointed general manager of Marina Mandarin in 2016 and was tasked with transforming the hotel both physically and philosophically into Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay. Leading his team through uncharted waters, more exciting adventures lie ahead as the hotel strides into the future ahead of its contemporaries with striking designs and some ambitious eco-friendly game plans. C T talked to this busy GM about the past, present and cigars with sauce.
Photographs by C T
What is your management style?
It is hard to distil management style to any one specific model, I believe we all have to wear different hats at any one point. As a good manager, I feel one must be able to articulate vision and give clear direction, and then be able to step away (to a certain extent) and trust the team to execute and deliver. I personally do not like to take a ‘top-down’ approach. Putting people first and understanding the capabilities, limitations and needs of each team member, and being ready to jump in at any point to offer guidance, expertise or support is crucial.
What is the main difference between Marina Mandarin and Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay?
Both brands are unique and each represents different values and different brand attributes. Marina Mandarin was very much about the Asian values of hospitality and held a certain charm in its approach to service, whereas the Parkroyal Collection focuses on sustainability, iconic design and holistic wellness and lifestyle. The Parkroyal Collection brand is more worldly in outlook and approach.
Was there no nostalgia for the past?
Of course there always will be, when the hotel has been around for over 30 years and become such a household name, and Marina Mandarin previously being under the Meritus Group, there is definitely nostalgia. There are still some elements from the Marina Mandarin days incorporated into our current design for the hotel, such as such as the 2 statues of Li Bai and Confucius by Ju Ming at the ground lobby, and softer elements like the songbirds in the lobby.
Tell me something interesting about the transition of Marina Mandarin to Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay.
On top of incorporating the biophilic elements directly into the design of the hotel, the songbirds birds from Marina Mandarin days are something the hotel decided to save, because of their uniqueness, and also because of the plants. We even moved the birds from level 5 to level 4, where the environment is green and set them amongst the trees (to make them feel more 'at home'). A visitor once managed to release one of the birds, and you can imagine that given the size of the indoor atrium, it was not an easy task to “whisper” the bird down, but we work with an experienced breeder who luckily managed to retrieve the bird safely and without much hassle. The birds are quite tame, but having said that, because they have been domesticated for so long, these birds would never survive on their own in the wild, and will most likely get attacked by wild mynahs, crows and other predators.
Describe that dish from Peach Blossoms that you are supposed to inhale.
The deep-fried ‘Cigar’ Rolls with Truffle, Foie Gras and Prawn is one of our most popular signature dishes served at Peach Blossoms and guests enjoy posing with this dish as much as they do eating it! Foie gras, prawn paste, snow crab and truffles are used in the filling, and shaped with a chocolate and coffee-infused pancake skin into ‘cigar’-like rolls. These are then deep-fried before being served. While the ingredients may sound rich and heavy on the palette, the flavours presented by this dish are delicate and balanced, with the savoury-sweetness of the seafood complementing the rich flavour of foie gras. A definite must-try for any visit to Peach Blossoms!
'The hotel was closed for renovations from March to December 2020, and as you can recall, this was the period when the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was just starting to unfold. The following months was a challenging time in achieving construction milestones and making sure that our partners could keep to the schedule and that we would not need to extend the renovation period. I was glad that despite these challenges we were still able to work around and complete the renovations to re-open as scheduled.'
In the aftermath of the global pandemic, the tourism industry became of the hardest hit industries, and it was especially heartbreaking to have to redeploy hundreds of staff from the hotel to work and help out in other companies in 2020. They did all kinds of jobs, from becoming swabbers or safety distancing ambassadors, to managing dormitories, to helping restock shelves at supermarkets. Almost all of them had to suddenly take up something entirely new and unfamiliar, but they faced it positively, and I am very proud of them for their show of resilience.'
'I am especially proud to be able to lead a property that has truly incorporated environmental sustainability as part of its long-term growth strategy. The hotel industry has a significant impact on the environment, particularly energy and water consumption, and waste. Pan Pacific Hotels Group’s Parkroyal Collection Hotels & Resorts brand was created to champion sustainability and living responsibly. In the rebranding of the hotel, the Group has chosen to rejuvenate the building, eliminating 51,300 tonnes of carbon emissions that would have otherwise been generated from its demolition and reconstruction.'