MANILA, Philippines – Patrick Schaub, general manager of the EDSA Shangri-La Manila, meticulously eyed the teapot of pure chamomile infusion being served. Then, he asked the lady crew of the Lobby Lounge if it was the right lid covering the teapot. The lady crew noticed and immediately whisked away the teapot, while leaving with a smile.
Then, Patrick looked around at the renovated Lobby Longue, one of the hotel’s dining and entertainment venues. The lounge was teeming with guests on an early Thursday evening. He ran his fingers on the table, seemingly wiping off dust, and turned to this writer, smiled and said, “we have a new team here at the Lobby Lounge.” Less than 10 minutes after, the new serving of pure chamomile infusion arrived, this time, in a dainty white teapot, with the matching lid. The general manager looked pleased, and continued, “we’re refining. But we’re doing well.”
Such refining mark the year since Patrick assumed the general manager post January 2013 in the pioneering hotel resort in Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City. The Basel, Switzerland-born hospitality industry veteran joined the hotel in the middle of a multi-million-peso renovation that started in October 2012—a high time transformation for the first Shangi-La hotel in the Philippines, which opened in August 1992. “From changing the floor tiles to upgrading our facilities and amenities, it’s a big transformation we’re going through,” Patrick said.
Rising through the ranks
Transformation also defines Patrick’s over 18 years of hospitality experience gained from working in Switzerland (starting at Hotel des Bergues, Geneva), US, and Thailand. Patrick was a waiter, bar tender, room attendant, management trainee, among other odd hotel jobs he performed. Earning his Bachelor of Science, Hotel Business degree from the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, Switzerland, the school also sent him to various 5-star luxury properties in the country for an enriching internship experience.
After graduation, he went to New York and became assistant banquet director of The Regent Wall Street Hotel. After 2 years, Asia, specifically, Thailand, charmed its way to Patrick, where he spent close to 12 years of his career: from strengthening further his food and beverage (F&B) expertise as assistant director of F&B at The Peninsula Bangkok and director of F&B at the Westin Grande Sukhumvit Bangkok. He further broadened his hotel operations expertise when he became manager at Plaza Athénée Bangkok, A Royal Méridien Hotel, a position he held for 6 years.
His ascent reached its current pinnacle when he was named general manager of Oriental Residence Bangkok, where Patrick lead the establishment of the 5-star, luxury serviced apartments from piling stage to full operational completion. Here, Patrick excelled on brand positioning and executing strategy while protecting the Thai pride and heritage.
Skippering the ship
Patrick said he is truly comfortable working in Asia. “I had a soft introduction to Asia when we lived in Singapore. I’m Swiss. Switzerland is my home. But I see myself as a global citizen. I have an international family: my wife is Thai-British. My fraternal twins were born in New York; my daughter was born in Thailand. We’re global citizens,” he smiled.
Thus, Patrick is exploring Asia further. His first year in the Philippines has already been hectic. He is immersed in the ongoing renovation, working closely with both local and international project teams. He proudly enumerated the accomplished improvements in the hotel like the Lobby Longue; the Poolside and aqua play; Internet connection upgrade; the events lounge and business center are also renovated; the Health Club upgrade underway; the front desk will be aligned with the lobby and The Bakeshop; among other refurbishments identified with the full growth of the Shangri-La integrated community that includes the hotel, the Shangri-La Plaza shopping mall, and the One Shangri-La Place twin tower condominium.
“A lot of [ongoing] enhancements are also for our people, like we revamped our employee longue and restaurant. It’s really important that the workforce is happy. If our people are happy, they’ll give exceptional results for our guests and make them really welcome and feel they’re at the right place,” Patrick said. The completion (turnover of the final four floors of rooms; the hotel has 632 guestrooms and suites) is expected by end-March 2014, followed by a 3-month transition.
Like a captain of a ship, Patrick is leading the continuous success of EDSA Shangri-La hotel to new heights, exploring new horizons of growth along the way. “I’m looking forward to 2014 as our successful year. Knowing that our guests are appreciating all the enhancements we’re making—that’s definitely rewarding. It should also be rewarding to our overall performance and financial revenue,” he said.
The Shangri-La Asia Limited interim report (posted on its corporate website) showed that its Philippine hotel operations hit 70% room occupancy or US$143 RevPAR (revenue per available room), for the period ending June 2013. The EDSA Shangri-La Manila still firmly captures the local market for weekend staycation and as a venue of choice for both local and foreign business travelers. “We’re opening in London this year. We’re expanding significantly in the different markets. Where there is a need for more hotels and 5-star, luxury accommodations, that’s where Shangri-La goes,” Patrick said.
Patrick said he finds Filipino hospitality exceptionally beautiful and the Filipinos’ English proficiency is, and always will be, the country’s strength, particularly as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gears for the 2015 integration. The integration will see that ASEAN-certified tourism professionals who pass the common competency standards may find employment in member countries in the areas like front office; housekeeping; and F&B for hotel services.
“There are millions of Filipinos working overseas. They’re well-equipped, very experienced, and used to working in different markets. The other countries perhaps are more concerned. Integration means you must somehow have one common language. That’s an important factor to be more competitive. For the Philippines, it would be easier to integrate [with ASEAN] because of the high levels of English proficiency in the country,” he cited.
Sound, modern infrastructure is also needed, like expanding the airport or extending the metro rail system to help increase tourists arrivals, Patrick cited. Asked about the Skyway Stage 3 which aims to decongest EDSA (where the hotel is situated), C-5, and other major thoroughfares in Metro Manila,
Patrick exclaimed, “no pain, no gain!” He added, it’s like our renovation. It’s not easy. [But] once we’ve gone through it, the public will appreciate the improvements.”
Executing to perfection
Those aspiring to join the hospitality industry can truly learn from Patrick’s years of seasoned experience.
Never give up, Patrick advised.” When you become the general manager, you’ll remember all the experiences you’ve went through because you did them yourself. You’d automatically learn and also better understand the guests.”
Learn continuously. “I’ve completed my MBA (Master of Business Administration from the University of Leicester, United Kingdom) and it really helped me understand the concepts. But it’s always different in the real world. Mastering execution is always the challenge,” Patrick cited and added that the hotel is developing its multi-skilled people through cross-trainings. “If you do one task for 10 to 15 years, you’d be very good at it but … we need to be multi-skilled. It’s about how you drive change. The world is constantly changing and we have to get used to change on a daily basis,” Patrick stressed.
Having a backup plan—from B, C, to Z is a must in an operation-driven hospitality business. “Have your strategies in place. The more you prepare, the more you become pro-active and automatically will make you more flexible if things go differently. You’d be able to respond pro-actively,” he said.
Automate until it becomes natural in you. “All these automations have to be drilled until they become natural that you don’t have to think through them anymore. But you also apply common sense to execute exceptionally. Expectations are high. When you provided an exceptional experience, what about the next? You always have to exceed guests’ expectations,” Patrick cited.
Get your feet wet. Patrick said make sure that you’re made for the hospitality industry. “Once you made up your mind, you really have to work hard. Undergo training in a hotel or similar setting prior to taking up a hotel management degree. Getting an experience and having a sense of how hotels work is really important,” he advised.
Join a team sport. Although he works on Saturdays, Patrick still finds time to play tennis, do kickboxing, swimming, or jogging to de-stress. He admits that he is never good at basketball (which has a huge following in the Philippines), but he compares basketball to working in a hotel. “I’m not on my own. I have a strong team. It’s like playing basketball, you attack, defend, rest, speak to the team, the coach gives directions, ensuring that everybody does the right thing at the right time,” he illustrated.
Like dropping a hundred roses from a helicopter, Patrick is no stranger to guests’ unusual requests and expectations. “We’re here to serve. We do what we do best: making the guests happy and providing them the real Shangri-La experience,” Patrick prides. – Rappler.com
For over 11 years now, Lynda C. Corpuz has extensively covered business, finance, personal finance, management systems, arts and culture, health, parenting, and women issues as a journalist and editor, with relevant research, public relations, and management experience. On free occasions, she blogs at lyndaccorpuz.wordpress.com and descovrir.blogspot.com.
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