Sheraton Macao: Super Size Me

  • Check-in at the Sheraton Macao is facilitated by 61 reception counters.

    Check-in at the Sheraton Macao is facilitated by 61 reception counters.

  • The Sheraton Macao currently employs a team of 1,600 people, a number that is set to grow with the opening of the Earth Tower. Between them, the multicultural staff speak 19 languages.

    The Sheraton Macao currently employs a team of 1,600 people, a number that is set to grow with the opening of the Earth Tower. Between them, the multicultural staff speak 19 languages.

  • Cooking up a storm in a hotel kitchen.

    Cooking up a storm in a hotel kitchen.

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Behind the scenes at Sheraton Macao Hotel, Cotai Sands—the largest hotel to open in 2012.

By Ron Gluckman
Photographs by David Hartung

Somewhere beyond or below the busy lobby of the Sheraton Macao’s Sky Tower, an army of employees is at work. Some are busy sorting and delivering the 10,500 kilos of laundry processed daily off-site. Others are handling luggage, which arrives in such huge volumes that the hotel tags each piece with a bar code before placing it on a conveyor belt to a central distribution system. Still others are bustling back and forth with food, which amounts to something in the order of 6,000 eggs, 1,600 pieces of bread, 300 kilos of beef, 550 kilos of pork, and dizzying quantities of chicken, lamb, and sundry ingredients consumed every day.

Now consider this: the Sheraton Macao is not the biggest hotel in Macau. But it soon will be. When its 2,067-room Earth Tower comes online in early 2013, it and the adjacent Sky Tower will have a whopping 3,896 guest rooms between them, making this not only the world’s largest Sheraton property, but also the 13th-biggest hotel on the planet. So, just how do you manage such a gargantuan operation?

“Everything in Macau is big, but this is definitely super-sized,” says Vincent Ong, senior director of brand management for Asia-Pacific at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Sheraton’s parent company. “This is a major undertaking for us. A typical Sheraton might be 300 to 380 rooms. So this is like opening 12 or 13 hotels all at once.”

Staffing was a particular challenge. Labor is a scarce resource in Macau, a tiny former Portuguese colony whose population of half a million cannot meet the needs of a surging tourism sector that attracted 28 million visitors in 2011. So Sheraton recruiters scoured the international job-fair circuit in search of employees. Around 10,000 applicants from

20 countries were screened and some 5,000 interviews conducted. The result is a veritable United Nations of languages, cultures, and backgrounds: Nepalese security, Chinese room attendants, Taiwanese waitresses, Filipino concierges, and front-office staff from as far afield as Europe and the Americas.

Prior to September 20 opening, the Sheraton Macao conducted a three-month training program to prepare employees for the big day. More than 50 staff were drafted from Starwood properties all over the world to help train newcomers in groups of 20 to 30 people, kicking things off with a daylong familiarization carnival.

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