Thw growth of the local hospitality sector is ever-expanding, evident in the establishment of new hotels across the country.
Quezon City now has Park Inn by Radisson in North Edsa, as the international chain further solidifies its presence in a major market. The upper-midscale hotel is a testament to the global brand’s partnership with the SM Group, becoming the fourth in the Philippines after Park Inn in Davao, Clark and Iloilo. It is also the first in Metro Manila.
While the hotel has already been fully operational for some months already, General Manager (GM) Nils Rothbarth admits finding exhilaration and excitement in all the work that goes into opening a new one.
“It’s the make-or-break phase. Believe it or not: beyond all preparations that go into groundbreaking, it’s actually the securing of paperwork that’s the trickiest part,” Rothbarth intimated.
We wondered if it was just in the Philippine setting, or a normal occurrence in other countries. After all, the German hotelier has the distinction of bringing many hotels into existence, having spent a great deal of his career as a hotel “GM,” from the cities of Europe, to the capitals of a number of African countries and, now, in this side of Southeast Asia.
“Everywhere, it’s the same. When the paperwork is hurdled, then everything else follows.”
Take it from Rothbarth, who shared his being hands-on with his team members. Whenever possible, he personally interviews applicants. He could not emphasize enough the importance of having the right people to develop and empower.
“The selection process during recruitment stage is the most important one. Without the right people, which we consider as our most important asset, we won’t have a successful hotel. I probably interviewed each and every person employed here, in an effort to get to know the person and discover if we have a cultural fit,” Rothbarth explained.
“It is vital that a lot of things are not scripted, and that is the nice thing about the culture of Filipinos: Service comes naturally. You can feel their sincerity,” he added.
Having set foot in the Philippines only this January, the hotelier is already loving every minute of his stay. He may be new to the Philippines, but not to its nationals.
“From my time in the Middle East, I still remember my former colleagues—a lot of whom were Filipinos. I have always kept in touch with them over the years,” Park Inn by Radisson’s GM told this writer.
“So, when the opportunity to move to the Philippines came, there was not a second of doubt to say ‘Yes,’” the GM beamed with pride.
Filipinos, he said, have left quite an impression on him. In his own words, he finds them as “patient, friendly and sincere.”
The Radisson advantage
Apart from manpower, the GM shared the elements that make Park Inn by Radisson stand out from the rest, starting with their company philosophy.
“I believe that what sets us apart is our people, together with our mantra which we call ‘EMMA,’ or ‘Every Moment Matters.’ Everyone has a lapel pin which says, ‘Yes, I can!” It is important for staff members on the floor to be able to make a decision for our guests and colleagues.”
That team members are able to call the shots when needed translates to a high level of enjoyment among guests during their stay which, in turn, gives the GM utmost satisfaction.
The GM also champions diversity, inclusion and women empowerment to enable more female team members to assume leadership roles. “My leaders here are all women, which is fantastic. Needless to say, they are so passionate with their work,” Rothbarth voiced out.
Being the people person that he is, the GM finds himself in the thick of things when it comes to the hotel’s operations. Quite expected that his genuine concern for his staff has allowed him to address rank-and-file employees by name.
From his manpower complement, Rothbarth also acknowledged other aspects of the success of Park Inn by Radisson. One is the partnership with the SM Group.
“Being associated with the SM brand is a definite plus for the hotel. For starters, our guests can avail of exciting rewards if they happen to be SM Advantage cardholders. They can enjoy discounts from hotel establishments, like dining in Casa, our all-day dining outlet. Or, they can opt to save points by enlisting in the Radisson Rewards Program.”
Taking a page from the late great mall magnate Henry Sy’s list of must-haves for a successful undertaking, Park Inn by Radisson, as well as its provincial counterparts, bank on their individual strategic locations to draw “staycationers” and leisure travelers.
Particularly for the neighboring locales of “QC,” this is a definite plus, as the hotel is in the nexus of the northern part of Edsa and the North Luzon Expressway via Mindanao Avenue.
“We, likewise, find ourselves serving a market that is in need of larger conference, function and events venue,” Rothbarth related. “The hotel happens to have one of the biggest ballrooms in its category, which is able to host 500 guests in one setting. Thus, we are able to cater to different branches of government, nongovernment agencies, medical associations and the like.”
Climbing the leadership ladder
Prior to assuming one of the highest leadership positions within his industry, the German GM shared his story of working his way up, starting from the most basic of roles.
“My first job was being a storekeeper. Basically, I ran all the inventory for the hotel. I was responsible in making sure all the goods that the hotel needs: from the most important, such as food and beverages [F&B], to the most trivial, like paper clips, are in stock and never run out,” Rothbarth recalled.
By being exposed to various hotel departments, he grew a liking for the F&B department. It taught him to be detail-oriented, especially during demanding events, such as wedding receptions, when everything is expected to be perfectly executed.
It comes as no surprise then that Rothbarth considers himself as a passionate “hobby cook.” Mussels, he said, are his go-to main ingredient for his signature dishes because of their amazing flavor, as well as versatility to allow for a host of cooking styles.
As a German who knows his kind of beer and enjoys it, Rothbarth delights in sampling domestic brews. As for local dishes, he has grown a craving for good ole sisig.
In order to stay on top of his game, the expat-hotelier keeps his mind sharp and his spirit inspired by picking up nuggets of wisdom from leisure reading. He is currently delving into Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, and a biography on Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg.
For leisure activities, Rothbarth heads out of town to Subic in Zambales, and the beach towns of Batangas. He is looking forward to visit more beautiful dive spots around the country.
To cap off our conversation, we asked the established hotelier for his advice to upstarts who want to establish themselves in the hospitality industry. His straightforward reply: “Get involved, and have fun.”
Image credits: Jimbo Albano