The emphasis IFT puts on the development of soft skills is one of the distinguishing features of the Institute, and it has contributed to Ms. Athena Wong’s successful career in luxury retail.
Ms. Wong, an IFT alumna, is the Store Director of the Louis Vuitton flagship boutique in Macao, located at the One Central Macau shopping mall. She graduated in 1998 with a Bachelor of Science in Tourism Business Management.
“IFT teaches students how to communicate efficiently and collaborate in a team, how to respect their superiors, empathise with colleagues, and use empathy to counsel and help their fellow-members of a team,” Ms. Wong says. “These interpersonal skills, learned at IFT, still help me today in the performance of my duties.”
Ms. Wong says she opted to study at IFT because it was the first institution of higher education in Macao to offer degrees in hotel-keeping and tourism. “Apart from integrating theory and practice in the teaching, the Institute organised a lot of extracurricular activities, which helped build my confidence in delivering speeches and expressing myself in public,” she says.
After she graduated, Ms. Wong joined a Macao company that represents upmarket fashion brands. The job paved the way to a career in luxury retail.
“After the liberalisation of the gaming industry, the Macao economy began a new chapter, with other industries thriving,” Ms. Wong says. “At that time a lot of foreign brands were entering the Macao retail market. I eventually decided to join Louis Vuitton and have been with the company for 11 years now,” she says.
“I am mainly responsible for team management and development, client and business development, as well as sales and performance management. I lead the team to meet the goals set by the company.”
Ms. Wong says the main difference between luxury retail and mass market retail is the attention luxury retailers pay to customer relations. This attention manifests itself in exceptional, personalised service and a focus on interpersonal communication. Most luxury fashion brands have a unique heritage and culture, and willingly invest in training their staff with an eye on the long term, to align the performance of the staff with the core values of the brand.
IFT graduates win praise in the retailing and hospitality industries for being proactive, for their positive energy and for their well-groomed appearance, Ms. Wong says. They are also considered hard working, flexible and open to learning, she adds.