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Farewell to doyen of Melbourne hotel GMs

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Farewell to doyen of Melbourne hotel GMs
Sofitel Melbourne on Collins’ grand ballroom will be filled with more than 300 friends and business associates of Clive Scott AM on Thursday evening, to celebrate his retirement this week as Melbourne’s longest serving hotel general manager.

At a separate event on Friday, more than 150 current and former hotel staff will celebrate his 18 years at the top of Collins Street and 50 years in the hotel industry.

He sat down with micenet recently to talk about his career and revealed he would not leave the hotel brand entirely, having been asked by Accor to become an arts ambassador for Sofitel across Australasia.  He received his AM in 2021 for “significant service to the hotel industry and the arts”.

Scott’s first job in hospitality almost wasn’t – at the then Melbourne Hilton, now a Pullman. He tells an interesting story about mates convincing him to turn up uninvited to the final recruitment evening at the Hilton. He lined up but HR could not find his name on the list of attendees, so he kept spelling it out until someone wrote it down.

“The GM called me three days later to apologise, saying they were sorry, but they had had lost my application form and photo and would I mind submitting it again,” says Scott. “Well, I rushed down to the pharmacy to get a photo taken, filled in the form and was offered a casual bar job in banquets. Then three days later they made me permanent.”

Scott ended up running HR at Accor for a period in the middle of his career.

He likens the job of GM to an innkeeper or publican in a country town, rather than the boss of a multi-million-dollar enterprise.

“The publican gets involved in the netball club, the football club, the Country Women’s Association. Why? Because he wants all those people to come and drink in the pub. So, he does the morning tea for the ladies and he gets the whole community involved,” says Scott.

“Hotels are meeting places and that is how you create a very vibrant successful hotel…make it a place people want to come and stay,” he says, sounding a warning that “there are hotel people in this town, and business people in this town who never go out and meet anybody”.

“One of the greatest things about this business is meeting people, a whole variety of people. Obviously the worry for the future is that some spend too much time on digital devices…young people have to learn to talk.”

While COVID effectively delayed a wish to retire sooner, Scott says the pandemic did deliver some gains amongst the pain.

“Our industry lost about 30 per cent of staff, they went to construction, logistics, retail…and we have to accept that they are never coming back. But their replacements were people from outside the sector and they have brought a refreshment to hospitality,” he says.

Asked how a GM balances rising costs and changes wrought in Melbourne’s city centre by the pandemic, he says it’s all about service.

“You must deliver service to the level that guests expect, if you don’t deliver the service then you are too expensive. The number one value you can deliver is that the customer has a great time because that’s what they came here for – nobody comes here to sleep or just to have a meal, they come to experience coming to the Sofitel…so you have to make the service meet that.

“Really a lot of that hasn’t changed in a thousand years – having a relationship with a guest. If I see a porter chatting to a guest and there’s baggage to be done, I will go and do the baggage. I don’t stop the conversation…it is much more important,” he says. 

Amongst Scott’s career achievements are working at Hiltons in Sydney Bangkok, Jakarta, Tokyo Bay, Korea, Shanghai, Brussels, London and Vista, New York.  He returned to Australia for Accor and a job at Novotel Twin Waters, then ran HR for Accor across Australia, New Zealand and Japan for three years. He was the regional GM for the Sydey 2000 Olympics hotels at Homebush, before a stint at Sofitel Wentworth in Sydney and wrapping things up at Sofitel Melbourne on Collins, where he has been for the last 18 years.

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