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An interview with General Manager finalist Carlos Monterde

 

We were delighted to catch up with one of Asias General Manager finalists, Carlos Monterde. From his first role as a dishwasher in the UK to becoming the General Manager of Fairmont Jakarta, it has now been 22 years since he took his first hospitality step in Asia. Read on to find out more about his 30-year long career journey.

 

“Being a hotelier is a fantastic way of life, one that I enjoy and one that I dedicate myself to.”

 

Where were you born and brought up?

I was born and brought up in a small city in the north part of Barcelona called Sant Adria del Besos. At the time, it was predominantly an immigrants city where people from other parts of Spain came to live so they could work in Barcelona.

Since a young age, my parents always wanted me to learn languages. At elementary school, French language was a compulsory subject but my parents enrolled me in an extra-activity class to learn English, because they thought it would be beneficial for my future career.

When I was nearing the end of high school, we didnt have a lot of money so I had to work to be able to continue my studies. It was hard for me to find a university and studies that matched my full time working schedule, but one of my friends suggested that I sign up for a private hospitality school with flexibility on the schedules. I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to be able to study, learn English and work at the same time. I joined the CETT School of Tourism and Hospitality in Barcelona where I studied tourism and hotel management.

I began my internship in the front office of a three-star hotel in Barcelona and worked full-time night shifts in order to fund my school fees and gain some experience in the business. My first overseas living experience was in England where I knew I had to move to if I wanted to master my English. I was progressively taking on various operational roles, however I started as a dishwasher in the kitchen of a restaurant. Once my time was up in the UK, I headed back to Spain and started working for a computer company selling PMS for hotels. This experience led to my first role as an international hotelier, where I worked as an Assistant Night Manager at the Intercontinental hotel in Luxemburg. I continued to travel and take on roles in operations, rooms division and F&B, where I eventually became EAM Rooms in Thailand at the Royal Garden Resorts. From Director of Operations to Hotel Manager and now General Manager, it has already been 22 years since I first stepped foot in Thailand, and I havent left Asia since.

Front Office Manager, in Spain.

 

Where and when did your initial interest in hospitality begin?

I always had a genuine interest in learning different languages and cultures; even now I am still learning how to speak the Indonesian language. During my first internship, I realised that working in an international hotel chain provided me with the gateway to the rest of the world. I find it very fascinating to meet people all over the globe, hear their stories and deal with interesting characters and different cultures. I felt like I was in the right place and that I always knew this was something I wanted to do for my career.

 

What opportunities have you experienced that you feel have been the most valuable part of your career development as a hotelier?

I have worked with and connected with many fine professionals during my 30-year career. Through all of them, I have gained precious learnings that I have carried with me throughout my life. Khun Somsak Tanruengsri (then GM at the Royal Garden Pattaya, Thailand) was the first General Manager that I worked with in Asia. He was an inspirational leader who helped me understand the Thai culture and by extension the Asian culture, which was then so unfamiliar to me.

He showed me how to apply a very different approach to be a great leader, and that people are unique, but each individual has a great potential to come alive. Having Thomas Meier as a General Manager at the Raffles Plaza, Singapore was the first time I worked for a person who was younger than me. Despite his age, he had a very mature mentality, logical reasoning and positive thinking, which really shaped the way I began to see certain situations. Even till today we have remained friends and I still like to pick his brains when I am in Bangkok where he resides now. Another important mentor to me was Ian Wilson (then Regional VP FRHI and GM at the Fairmont Singapore) who gave me some of the most valuable advice about leadership, achieving financial results, but more importantly, to take care of our colleagues at work and be there to support the team in times of need. He exemplifies the saying take care of your colleagues because they will take care of your business. I also had the pleasure of working with Tom Meyer (Regional VP Accor Hotels) ever since I lived in Singapore. His creativity brings a different approach to the industry and with his wealth of knowledge and connections, he has helped me to grow into the General Manager I am today, which I am profoundly grateful for.

I believe that having a mentor is one of the most precious things about growing and taking the next step in this vibrant industry. There are a number of other individuals that I have crossed paths with, whom have positively influenced my career journey, please allow me to thank Gerald Etter, Bill Heinecke, Peter Caprez, Aiden McAuley and Heinz Schwander.

 

A photo of me with Gerald Etter, the General Manager of the Intercontinental Luxembourg. He was the first person I heard saying “Do always the right thing, then do the things right”, a very good guiding motto at an early stage of my career.
 

Can you share one particular memory that you have experienced during your time as a hotelier that made you realise this was the right industry for you?

When I started working in hotels, I realised how dynamic and exciting the hotel environment was, and above all I came to realise the importance of hosting. You take care of people who are away, sometimes far from home and often experiencing a very new environment. We have the opportunity to meet and connect with our guests at very different times in their lives, when they are in need of a place to rest or re-energize, whether its only for one night or longer, it is our job as hoteliers, to make them feel at home, to make them feel comfortable and make them feel happy. Being a hotelier is a fantastic way of life, one that I enjoy and one that I dedicate myself to.

 

What attracted you to apply for The Hotelier Awards Asia and what does the platform mean to you and your team?

I have to admit that it was a collective decision together with the other members of the Exco. At Fairmont Jakarta, we have such a great team and we are experiencing fantastic results, so we were on the lookout for ways to celebrate this success. I feel very honoured to be one of the finalist of The Hotelier Awards, but above all I am very proud of my team. They are an amazing group of individuals and hotel professionals that deserve all the credit and praise for the incredible work they do each day. They are the ones that make my success, so to win the General Manager Hotelier of the year, would be an award for the entire hotel.

 

How are you planning on leveraging this opportunity to inspire the younger generation to work harder at developing their career in the hospitality scene?

The most important part of my career is to grow and inspire the younger generation in their career as well as in their private life. I often host talks during job fairs and schools with a very clear message for the younger generation; everyone can start from zero and work their way up to the top of an organisation if they put in their passion and efforts. Hospitality is a wonderful industry, which offers great opportunities for everyone to develop in many ways. There is no doubt that we all work hard in our careers, but it is important that we adapt to the new generations and we begin to work smarter, not always harder. We should be able to work efficiently and deliver extraordinary service by focusing on the areas that have a bigger impact and maximise our time.

 

General Manager of Fairmont Jakarta

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