The Hotelier Awards was pleased to interview Ana Gorjão Henriques, who became a finalist for General Manager of the Year 2017. Read on to find out how her passion for throwing family dinner parties paved the way to her becoming a General Manager of a Ritz-Carlton reserve in Asia.
1. Can you give us a brief insight into your background, education and career path?
I was born and raised in Lisbon, Portugal. Growing up, one of my passions was to cook and host dinner parties and events for my closest friends and family. I remember being only twelve years old and preparing a full dinner course to surprise my parents who were returning from a trip abroad. It really was a pleasure for me, I loved being creative and looking out for new and exciting recipes to give my guests that wow factor. This desire to provide experiences continued in to my adult years and I then became known for cooking Portuguese and French inspired dishes and even desserts. As such, my parents suggested that I consider further studies in hospitality, and thus I decided to enrol at the Hotel Management School in Porto. Within my first few days, I could really feel that the hospitality world was where I was meant to be.
Upon graduation, my career began as a cost controller working at a beautiful hotel in Lisbon, a property in which I later became the Director of Sales. I worked for a total of twelve years in Sales and Marketing as a Manager and then as a Director at numerous five-star properties in Portugal. Throughout my time in sales, I remained very close to the guests and the hotel staff, keeping a strong connection and constant eye on the operations to ensure the success of the hotel and that, one day, it would be possible to move into operations, and it was!
After two years working as a Director of Sales and Marketing in Portugal, I was promoted to Hotel Manager and eventually as a General Manager two years later. I was extremely eager to explore The Ritz-Carlton brand and following my experience working in Phulay Bay, I told a senior team member that it was my dream to stay in Asia and to open a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, in which I soon after was given the opportunity to become General Manager of Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve.
2. Can you share with us what you feel has been the most valuable part in your career development to date, that has enabled you to get to where you are today?
I believe that the education and strong foundation centred around honesty, integrity and trust that my parents provided me with, as well as my passion for what I do, has been key to my success.
Hospitality is a “people industry”. You cannot build a success hotel by managing it from behind a computer, or being sat in the office. Meeting new people and making them feel valuable by engaging with them and providing new experiences to last a lifetime, has been a focus of mine in my daily life and probably the bridge for success. If we have happy guests and work amongst happy colleagues, it means we are definitely on the ladder to achieve great things.
Two mentors that have significantly supported me along my career path are Victor Clavell, Vice President Luxury Asia Pacific and Oriol Montal, my last General Manager. Victor has been my VP for over twelve years with the company and has shown me the road to luxury, always challenging me to do better and pushing me to achieve perfection. Oriol, taught me something that has helped me greatly, he taught me how to be more patient with people and team members and to try to understand them better without being so straight forward. Oriol is an important mentor for me, as well as being an immense supporter of my relocation to Asia, he gave me the opportunity to learn and develop in the Operations side after so many years in Sales and Marketing, which has played a huge part in my career advancement.
3. Congratulations on reaching the finalist stage of The Hotelier Awards 2017. How are you planning on leveraging this opportunity to inspire the younger generation to work harder at developing their career in the hospitality scene?
I am honoured to be a finalist at The Hotelier Awards! I hope to be able to continue to guide and coach the younger generation to work hard, with passion and motivation, to overcome obstacles and difficulties and to never take anything for granted. While it might take some time to achieve their goals, I hope to encourage them and teach them that with patience and determination, success will follow. I also hope to continue to inspire our team, to guide them not to be afraid of asking questions and sharing their dreams. With hard work, dedication and passion – I truly believe their wishes will come true.