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Rosewood Hotel CEO explains the ‘unique lens’ women leaders bring to hospitality

·3-min read

On a recent episode of "Influencers with Andy Serwer," Sonia Cheng, the CEO of the Rosewood Hotel Group, highlighted one advantage of being a woman in a business dominated by men.

“We can offer a very unique perspective to the hospitality industry,” Cheng told Yahoo Finance’s editor-in-chief. “We have a different lens in the hotel industry, where we can shed a different light that can help evolve the experience in hotels.”

Though men dominate leadership roles in many industries, women are seeing greater representation in the hotel business than they were previously. Women now hold one leadership spot for every 10.3 men, an improvement from one to 11.2 in 2019, according to a report released in January by the Castell Project, a non-profit that supports women in the hotel business.

'Women can provide a really different perspective'

Cheng asserts that women leaders can be a strong asset for the hospitality business. She pointed to her company’s recently revamped children’s play and education program, the Rosewood Explorers Club. At Rosewood Baha Mar in the Bahamas, children learn about the national birds of the Bahamas and even dress up as them. At Rosewood Phuket in Thailand, children collect herbs, learn about their health benefits, and prepare a three-course lunch.

A view shows the Les Ambassadeurs dining room at the Hotel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel in Paris, France June 29, 2017. The Paris's landmark Hotel de Crillon, which was built in 1758, reopens in July after a four-year 200 million euro ($222 million) revamp. Picture taken June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
A view shows the Les Ambassadeurs dining room at the Hotel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel in Paris, France June 29, 2017. The Paris's landmark Hotel de Crillon, which was built in 1758, reopens in July after a four-year 200 million euro ($222 million) revamp. Picture taken June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

“It's a very diverse education experience. And kids love it," Cheng says. “And families are going to be those who care because we have an amazing kids program.”

Cheng affirms that she never would have taken the initiative to improve the children’s program were she not a mother of four.

“I know what is important to children,” she remarked. “I wouldn't have developed that had I not become a mother. So, I think we women can really provide a different perspective to the industry.”

Cheng also cited Asaya, Rosewood’s new wellness concept. Rosewood’s Asaya offers customers treatments ranging from fitness tests to naturopathic treatment sessions, including special treatments for pregnant women.

“When we launched Asaya as a concept, we created a focus group with a lot of women and talked to them about what their needs are, and what they're looking for that it's beyond the traditional spa,” Cheng says. “So those inspirations are very important and critical for our hotel industry to continue to develop and continue to evolve our concept.”

Cheng became CEO of the Rosewood Hotel Group in 2011 at just 30 years old. Her father was Henry Cheng, a Hong Kong executive, and her grandfather was Cheng Yu-tung, a tycoon who founded the conglomerate Chow Tai Fook, which owns Rosewood Hotel Group. When he died, Yu-tung was the third richest person in all of Hong Kong with a net worth of around $12 billion, according to Bloomberg.

“Hospitality has always been my passion. It's been our family blood.” Cheng said.

Rosewood Hotel Group, a privately owned subsidiary, manages five brands including ultra-luxury Rosewood Hotels & Resorts in North America, and Asaya, according to the company website. The company has 41 hotels in 19 countries and nearly 30 new properties under development.

Dylan Croll is a reporter and researcher at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @CrollonPatrol.

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