Hospitality with a heart

The Metropolitan Y, managed by the Metropolitan YMCA Singapore (MYMCA), is a hostel that not only provides guests utmost hospitality, but also functions with social conscience in mind. It has constantly changed itself to improve on its reputation of being an affordable and comfortable respite for travelers and staycationers alike.  This 2016, Metropolitan Y will undergo a revamp.  Joey M. Hoehner looks into the culture and values that govern MYMCA and how the association intends to further bolster its avenues so that they can continue to give back to the community.

MYMCA makes serious work of giving back to the community.  Through numerous channels such as MY Manna Program, MYMCA and MY Toy Library, MYMCA provides monthly rations to 115 needy families, and cleans homes of the destitute and disadvantaged, respectively.  From early childhood education provided through its subsidiary MY World Preschool, to Sports and Enrichment Programme, Speech and Drama classes and children camps provided through its Programme Department, MYMCA also makes serious work of building up our young. The Youth Leadership then seeks to nurture and empower youths for positive community transformation, through various Leadership and Mentoring Programmes.  

These, they make possible through profits made from its social enterprises, one of which is The Metropolitan Y.  An affordable but tasteful accommodation, The Metropolitan Y is renown for holding to its promise of delivering an unforgettable stay.  Its 98 hotel-styled guest rooms, available in various categories (Standard, Deluxe and Suite) are especially catered for all types of business, leisure and family travelers.  Guests of Metropolitan Y are also able to enjoy a host of facilities and services such as complimentary WIFI and car park, as well as local tours assistance.  Serving up authentic home-cooked Chinese dishes and Western favourites, its in-house restaurant does well to take care of guests’ gastronomic demands.

How and why MYMCA does the work it does is rooted firmly in the principles governing the association.  Theirs is a value system that is invested in the next generation and in impacting the community positively.  This is why the MYMCA has an interest in the welfare and wellbeing of the young people.  This is also why MYMCA has a mission to nurture and empower the young for social responsibility.  

These values transcend each and every staff member’s area of responsibilities and are regardless of levels of positions held – a rarity in today’s profit-focused hotel industry that is facing a shortage in manpower.  Speaking with General Manager of Hospitality Services Division, Ms Catherine Lee, shares her corporate experience and what MYMCA stands for:  “I started work at Metropolitan YMCA from May 2013 so it’s coming to three years now.  Coming from a very business oriented environment, it was a culture shock in the beginning.  The Y is a very “people” place, and want to start at our own backyard.  Our staff must must first understand what the association’s work is, before their own.”

How do The Metropolitan Y’s duties differ from commercial hospitality work?
In commercial hospitality work, the guest comes first. I have worked in five-star hotels and serviced apartments and maximizing profit is the number one objective. I agree that staff emphasis has grown in importance recently, due to the manpower shortage in the industry. However, it is still profit-focused and can be cutthroat sometimes.

At the Y, our Vision and Mission comes first. Our people are important to us, not because they are “employees”, but because they are “lives”. We want to impact their lives, so that they could go out and impact others.
What is similar is definitely the urge to serve and desire to offer to our guests value-for-money accommodation. We spend a lot of time and attention to give our 4-star luxury, so as to remove the stigma that YMCA is always a student’s dormitory. 

We provide guests with Simmons beautyrest mattresses in the guest room, common in 5-star hotels. Also, in April, we are adding a bedside clock that has 2 USB ports for guests to charge devices without having to worry about forgetting electrical adaptors. 

In 2015, what were some of the milestones the MYMCA has achieved with the aid and support of its social enterprises?
Metropolitan YMCA achieved many milestones in 2015, with the help of not only our social enterprises, but also from funds raised through our flag day and through foundations and donors who gave to our cause. 
In particular, our Youth Leadership and Development Department reached out and impacted close to 3000 young people with an approximate total of 3687 volunteering hours in our 2 platforms. They are YOUTHsync - a platform for student volunteers to serve the community, and MY Mentoring - a youth mentoring programme. Our Community Services grew to serve more needy families in 2015, with the opening of 2 new distribution centres for our MY Manna programme. Our childcare subsidiary, MY World Preschool Ltd, increased from 15 to 26 centres last year. 

With the hospitality industry shifting to a greater automation of services and tapping on more media-based marketing, how is The Metropolitan Y keeping current?
As a non-profit organisation, we are unfortunately unable to tap on the huge grants available for automation. We are however, returning a portion of our proceeds from the social enterprises back into investment for upgrading. This year, we purchased a more comprehensive Property Management System for our hotel, so that our aging staff no longer has to handwrite their reports and could rely on system-generated reports to help them serve our guests better. 

Funds are tight as upgrades to such systems are expensive. We do work with companies/vendors, who bring their prices down for us as they identify with our causes.

We have our own corporate marketing team. They cover media platforms such as our website and Facebook, as well as TripAdvisor and Chope, a restaurant reservations website and app. We are always on the lookout for more ways to remain current.

How is The Metropolitan Y remaining relevant in the face of shifts in travel trends, when travelers are choosing destinations and accommodations based on culture, special offers and coolness?
We find that the travelers nowadays are very IT savvy, and this is why every corner of Metropolitan YMCA, is equipped with strong and free WIFI. This supports our guests’ needs to find fun places to go and things to do.

We also make sure that our staff has a good grasp of public transport systems, as the brand-new Stevens MRT station is within walking distance, and a bus stop is just outside our building. To make things simpler, we have an ez-link card loan system at our Front Office – beating out most hotels.

Looking ahead to 2016, what else can we anticipate from The Metropolitan Y, as well as MYMCA?
2016 is a very exciting year for us as we are celebrating our 70th anniversary. There will be a big bash later this year in November, and we are incorporating this celebration with our annual staff appreciation dinner, honouring our staff for all their hard work.

From May 2016, we will be renovating the ground floor of our HQ building on 60 Stevens Road. The ground floor project this year is the largest and also most critical portion yet, as it has our hotel lobby and reception as well as the Metro-Y restaurant. We hope this renovation will bring about a better stay experience for our guests, and also a pleasurable dining experience for our regular diners.
We will also be updating our façade so that we can blend in better with our neighbours and have good visibility from the road.  At the same time, projecting a more vibrant youth-focused outlook.  

The operations of the hotel remain open during this renovation and we look forward to the revealing of our new lobby and restaurant in October.

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