01 Jun 2018

In My Humble Opinion: Be Our Guest

On the level at Marriott
by Julia Hanna


Photo by Theodore Kaye

The son of a diplomat and a veteran of the hospitality industry, Craig Smith (AMP 188, 2015) has lived in 13 countries and territories. “Home,” he says, is defined by the furniture and keepsakes that move with you from place to place. Currently based in Hong Kong as president and managing director of Asia Pacific for Marriott International, Smith worked his way through college at his uncle’s inn in Provo, Utah. After graduation, he volunteered to be the housekeeping manager at a Marriott property in Newport Beach, California. “The guy almost fell out of his chair,” Smith recalls. “I don’t think housekeeping is anybody’s first pick. But I wanted to learn the business from the ground up.”

Smith says that early experience taught him lessons in leadership, management, and execution. After conducting numerous room inspections with a cleaner and her immediate supervisor, Smith realized he couldn’t make much of an impact in a huge hotel. Instead, he began inspecting the cleaners’ supervisors. “I learned that you manage just one level down,” he says. “If you don’t, it takes away the opportunity for your direct reports to learn how to lead.”

Spy vs. spy: “We lived in communist Hungary when I was a kid. Our house was bugged. My father would say, ‘Hey, watch that car behind us. He’ll drop off in two blocks, and another car will pick us up.’ That was kind of fun.”

Joyride: A Ducati Pikes Peak. “It’s a Mona Lisa and a Ferrari all in one. On a motorcycle, you see more and smell everything. I don’t listen to the radio. It’s great thinking time, and a great dad-and-lad experience with my sons.”

Stress buster: Soccer. “When I play, I’m concentrating on the game, get it all out, and come home so much happier. If I’m irritated about something at work, running on the treadmill doesn’t work.”

Favorite non-Marriott property: The Montage in Laguna Beach. “It has that Southern California feel. It’s elegant but not pretentious. I don’t like things that are too foo-foo.”

Best AMP advice: Shake the tree. “Ask your team for their best ideas. When I get into a food fight and start giving my opinion, it changes the dynamics of the entire conversation.”

Golden rule: “In life, 2 percent of people are kind of jerks. In the service industry, that can cause employees to be guarded and a little tough with the other 98 percent. Instead, smile and treat everyone like the 98 percent.”

Crisis management: “I was general manager at the Marriott in Phuket, Thailand, during the 2004 tsunami. We were fortunate enough to be able to set up a triage center to help others in the area. I had nightmares for a couple of weeks afterward.”  

50th birthday party: A movie on the sofa with family, the dog, and a quilt made by his grandmother. “Our oldest son is a chef. He bought Japanese Wagyu beef, ground it, and barbecued it. The best—and probably most expensive—hamburger I’ve had in my life.”

Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of AMP 188

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