Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tour and Interview With Zenith Hotel General Manager, Jerina Foong

This morning I had the privilege of meeting the General Manager of the Zenith Hotel, Jerina Foong, along with Assistant Director of Sales, Michelle Wong. Michelle was the first to meet us as we entered Zenith Hotel on this glum morning as the drizzle lightly fell to the earth. She had a very pleasant demeanour and welcomed us warmly as soon as we came through the doors. Before long, the vibrant Jerina joined us as we engaged in refreshing conversation about my promotion of the Zenith Hotel on my blog, which has caught the attention of a number of Zenith Hotel employees, like Jerina and Michelle.

Our guided tour of the Zenith Hotel soon began after I had the opportunity to ask several questions to Jerina about the Zenith Hotel. Luckily I had prepared a few questions and brought along some paper and a pen. I found it very easy to speak with both Jerina and Michelle, and they both gave detailed answers to my queries.

I first asked whether the Zenith Hotel will provide healthy competition with other hotels in Kuantan. Jerina responded that it's not as much 'competition' as it is 'working partners'. This is due to the fact that Zenith Hotel will be attracting a whole new market of people, and not necessarily be 'stealing' customers from other hotels. For the first few months at least, the main market will be local Malaysians. I came to learn from her remarks that the Sultan Ahmad Shah International Convention Centre (SASICC) will play a big role in attracting business to the Zenith Hotel, through various activities such as meetings and weddings.

One of the first questions I asked was the first question that is on most Malaysians lips - Why is the price of rooms so expensive? And how on earth is Zenith Hotel going to fill 500+ rooms at such rates? I discussed this with Michelle earlier, and then Jerina, and they both explained how the prices on the website are merely the published prices which they have to show. The actual prices are likely to be reduced slightly and are subject to continual change according to amount of traffic and seasonal adjustments. I personally feel that when one has walked around Zenith Hotel and appreciated the quality and good service, they will gladly pay whatever the current price stands at.

I asked Jerina about the time scale of the construction of Zenith Hotel. She replied that Zenith Hotel is still as yet, far from finished. It is a great work in progress, with 10 floors expected to be opened and ready for occupancy by the end of January, with a more high-key opening planned for January 1st, 2011. She estimated that the Zenith Hotel will be fully completed by March 2011. I also took this moment to enquire concerning Menara Putra, the office block, and was informed that it will be complete by June 2011.

Today's soft opening is extremely low-key with only a fine dusting of visitors arriving, of which, I'm rather quite proud to say, I was the first! There are no reporters or government officials, which typifies the owner of Zenith Hotel, Dato' Seri Tew, who sat quietly at a distant table with a friend as I conducted my interview with Jerina. He also owns the nearby East Coast Mall.

Another question I asked was concerning the old flats situated behind East Coast Mall and the pink Health Officials Quarters just beside Zenith Hotel. There is nothing they can do about those particular flats, Jerina commented, as they are government property. However, there are plans in the pipeline for the old flats behind East Coast Mall to be demolished and the residents relocated to proper housing.

Jerina Foong, an avid runner, is a very well-spoken lady of 51, who looks more like 31, and speaks immaculate English, as does Michelle Wong, who originates from Kuching, Sarawak. Our conversation turned towards education and the importance of the English language, and my tuition classes here in Kuantan. We both agreed that English grammar is the absolute necessity and foundation of the language but sadly, is the weakest element of English amongst many Malaysians. It was a pleasure for me to be engaged in conversation with two people proficient in the English language, because it is an extremely rare occurrence, and a total delight when it does come!

The one big concern harboured by Jerina was the lack of support from the tourism ministry in promoting and advertising Zenith Hotel. We were both of the same mind that a lot, lot more could and should be done by the government in the way of tourism.

Zenith Hotel will be including a shuttle bus to Teluk Chempedak (TC), the popular beach on the coast of Peninsular Malaysia, a mere 10-15 minute drive from Kuantan town. The shuttle will be arriving on 31st December, 2010 and will drop off passengers at a number of tourist spots including TC, which are still being determined. Jerina understands that visitors don't just want to stay in a hotel during their holidays, but they need to get out and see things, so the shuttle is a way in which Zenith Hotel is fulfilling this need. Other places a little farther away are being considered too, with Sungai Lembing the most appealing of places.

The Zenith Hotel is opening slowly, step-by-step as it continues to work on finishing touches and preparing its staff, which is currently 200, for 5-star performance, which admittedly will take time and follow a trial and error format. However, after seeing the inside of Zenith Hotel for the first time this lunchtime, I have nothing but admiration for its structure and design and I gained a better understanding of its situation and striving to be recognised and profitable. The hotel industry after all, is a very sensitive industry, which can easily be affected by political unrest or health issues, so you can never be quite sure how successful it can be.

Let's all hope for the best and support this new development in Kuantan, which could be the start of a whole new line of hotels. Here are the pictures of my guided tour accompanied by Jerina Foong, General Manager, and Michelle Wong, Assistant Director of Sales

Jerina and Michelle, thank you so much for taking the time to show us around, answer questions, and treat us to lunch! We very much look forward to a free night's stay at Zenith Hotel which you have graciously offered us in January 2011. We are very grateful for your generosity and kindness!

The men's toilet

And the ladies toilet!

The view from a room on the 5th floor - shame about the dismal weather!

Lauren's excited to try out the swimming pool!

Here is the king-sized bed in the room

Flat screen TV, study table. A nice and simple room, yet elegant at the same time

A separate shower and bath tub; much more convenient!

Simple bathroom with a nice protruding wash basin

Me and Lauren in the elevator

The flash elevator controls

The mirrored elevator doors

No pets, durians or mangosteen welcome here!

Jerina gave us a sneak peek inside SASICC. To the left is Exhibition Hall 1

Exhibition Hall 2 is vast!

Viewing the right side, all the furniture is stacked up ready to be sent to the ballrooms

On the left side, portable stages and cutlery from the Middle-East

Work goes on, but a wedding has been booked for this ballroom on 15th January, 2011.

The stairs are brilliantly illuminated in blue, primarily to help people see the steps as they are difficult to detect since they are made from the same marble

Lauren couldn't leave the stairs alone!

Close-up detail of the staircase

Standing at the Christmas Tree - (L-R: Michelle Wong, Jerina Foong, Lauren, Fidelia, Duncan)

Lauren posing at the water feature in the lobby

Close-up of the water feature

Seating in the lobby area

Detail from the window at the seating area

Lines of grain lie in between the glass

Top of the door handle leading to the outside eating area

The lounge bar

View of the dining area

A private room in the dining room

Like Beijing's Bird Nest Stadium, this wall separates the private rooms from the dining room without completely isolating them

Another private section

Dining room wallpaper detail

Metallic motifs of Malaysia's hibiscus flower at the reception desk

More detail behind the reception desk

Taking a rest before lunch

The menu

Hot chocolate

I had to try "The Zenith" Nasi Lemak! It was great and the beef rendang was particularly tender

Fidelia opted for the Seafood Hor Fun. I wonder what Gordon Ramsay would make of these plates?!

Michelle, who accompanied us for lunch, enjoyed the Nasi Goreng Istimewa

Enjoying our lunch at Zenith Hotel

A Fruit Platter went down a treat afterwards

L-R: Jerina Foong, General Manager, Duncan, blogger, Michelle Wong, Assistant Director of Sales, Lauren, cute child, Fidelia, amazing wife and chemical engineering graduate

I will be back at the Zenith Hotel tonight to take some pictures of the hotel in all its nightly glory! Check my blog tomorrow for the pictures!

Please click the +1 button at the bottom of this post if you think it was a worthwhile read. It just takes a second and by doing this, the article will feature higher in Google searches so more people can come across it and discover useful information. Let's see how many times the +1 button can be clicked!


  1. I had a great time with Jerina and Michelle! Love talking Bahasa Sarawak with Michelle. At last I have a friend to talk to in Bahasa Sarawak because my bahasa is going down because no one to talk to. I enjoyed the food. It was lovely. Thank u chef! Look forward to all the plans he has.. :-D all the staff there are friendly. Felt so welcomed.. For sure be going back there if not to stay a night or just for a walk and chit chat

  2. Wow.. Wow.. Wow...
    That hotel looks so stylish and gorgeous..
    How i wish i could stay there.. :) I'd definitely head straight to the pool.

  3. I love your adventures Duncan~ ;)

    Merry Christmas my friend~~

    Jacky chin

  4. Fidelia, it is indeed a lovely and safe place to relax at night in Kuantan. Deedra, you can stay there; come with your parents to visit us! And Jacky, every day is an 'adventure' and I love every moment of my life in Kuantan! Thanks for your continued contributions to my blog!

  5. Thank you for dropping by! It was a great pleasure meeting all three of you and very glad you enjoyed our humble 'la tour de zenith' :) Cheers!

  6. Thanks for your comments Michelle! Zenith Hotel is a lovely place to be and I look forward to dropping by in the future!

  7. Never knew Kuantan is going to have such a nice hotel

  8. Hi Duncan,

    I see that many have read your blog ahead of me - it's been a very busy Christmas with almost all our available rooms taken up even without us announcing our opening. I'm glad to "report" that except for the air-conditioning being too cold in The Dining Room, we've had nothing but very positive comments from our guests.

    Thank you (you, Fidelia and Lauren) for coming by. I thoroughly enjoyed your company. Plus, it gave me a chance to show off what we have kept under wraps for so long. There are more nice surprises coming.

    Meanwhile, Merry Christmas. And see you on New Year's Day if not before. Jerina

  9. Lone Ranger, I wouldn't have expected it myself! Times are definitely changing!

    Jerina, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment or two here; it's much appreciated! It's certainly good to hear that the available rooms have been close to filled - that's a pretty decent start for the first week!

    I look forward to more 'surprises' and I'll definitely be there on New Year's Day once more.

  10. can i work at hotel zenith?

  11. Anonymous, do you have specific qualifications? What can you offer the Zenith Hotel?

  12. Thanks for taking the time to visit and comment. I'll be checking out your blog shortly!

  13. I am really grateful to have the information from this blog. I liked the blog as it has been written,the information i got from here.

  14. hostel hamburg, I'm happy you like my blog! Thanks for coming, hope to see you again!

  15. Hi Duncan

    Stumbled upon your blog while trawling for information on Zenith Hotel.

    I quickly skimmed through some of your other posts and I must say i'm quite impressed with your take on Kuantan.

    Seeing Taman Gelora through lens was very refreshing.

    Kuantan is not such a god forsaken place afterall and I do agree with your opinion that public transportation in Kuantan should be given due & rather long overdue consideration.

    Keep on posting :)

  16. Thanks for your view Dorah. Kuantan is a gorgeous place, of which Taman Gelora is just one of the beautiful destinations.

    Yes, a proper public transportation system would be a welcome addition. Have you been to Kuantan before? Or live here?

  17. Hi Duncan

    Kuantan has been home since 2001 :)

  18. Well Dorah, it's going through a period of development now, with the rise of Putra Square. Let's see if this is just the start of more to come!

  19. Never knew such a wonderful hotel in Kuantan. Beautiful tour of the hotel's facilities with nice pics and details.Should have added few smiling staff members with the pics!!!!


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  21. Thanks Syed, glad you enjoyed it!

    And thanks anonymous, I always do the best I can to provide valuable info for my visitors :)


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