On a recent trip to Rio de Janeiro, I caught up with Philippe Seigle, Area General Manager, Sofitel Rio de Janeiro and Luciano Fontana, Hotel Manager, Sofitel Rio de Janeiro. We sat down together in the Club Lounge on the top floor of the Sofitel overlooking the Copacabana Beach and Sugar Loaf Mountain and enjoyed what is surely one of the best views in the world.
Philippe grew up in Morocco in the family of a diplomat and got used to the excitement of moving frequently, so in many ways, a career in the hotel industry was a logical choice for him.
Phillipe, you can look back on an extraordinary professional career in so many different countries with different traditions and values -Thailand, the Caribbean, Poland, Abu Dhabi, Turkey, Brazil and Mexico. What would be your advice to aspiring young professionals?
The hotel business offers the opportunity to travel and move about, and to learn and experience from other cultures. In all the different places I have worked, I always felt welcomed and appreciated. There are not many professions where you can move places as easily as in our industry. But you have to be flexible and you have to be prepared to accept change, listen and learn, and always be ready for another challenge.
I have loved every place I’ve worked. They were wonderful experiences, but they were not holidays. Our business requires hard work and long hours.
Language-proficiency is an important prerequisite to go to different countries, so I suggest that as part of their professional training, hoteliers with their sights set on international postings should learn at least one or two languages additional languages.
For a successful career path, you should also try to work and gain experience in different hotel segments – resorts, luxury properties, business and tourist hotels. Often these experiences are interchangeable, but they help to gain a greater understanding of the business and to appreciate the diversity of our guests.
During your long professional career, has the business changed?
Of course the digital revolution has brought quite a number of changes, and it has made many things much easier. But I would like to emphasize that the basics have not changed – nor should they! By this, I mean the basics of being a host. Managers should still spend time with guests and not spent most of their time on the computer. They should be most concerned about service delivery and trying to go beyond the expected. It is indeed a big challenge for young hoteliers, but it can be done, and many do get the balance right.
Luciano, you are a young hotel manager. How did you get started in your professional career?
Traveling frequently with my parents got me attracted to the hospitality business, but I was not 100 percent sure that it would be my calling, so I completed a business degree before making my move into hotel operations. I know that is different from the traditional F&B or FO career path.
However, hotels are, at their core, businesses and I feel that my background has assisted me greatly in my career so far. Actually, I have decided to continue my business studies part-time because I enjoy that aspect of the business. I believe that every aspect of the operation is, and should be, guided by the commercial viability and for that, in-depth financial knowledge is important.
It is a career pathway gaining popularity and definitely a good option for business-minded young professionals.
The FIFA World Cup in Brazil was very successful. Was it a “dress rehearsal” for the Olympic Games later this year?
Indeed, we were worried about the progress and timing of the various venues, but as usual, preparations got just completed in time for the World Cup games to start.
Every one made a huge effort and, in general, the Cup was a success – but maybe some Brazilians wouldn’t think so considering their (lack of) achievement on the soccer field!
From the hosting point of view, the hotels were ready to deal with the huge numbers of visitors, and in that sense, it was indeed a good “dress rehearsal” for the Olympic Games. Rio de Janeiro is proud to soon be in the centre of the sporting world again, and we at our hotel look forward to welcoming visitors from all corners of the world in the traditionally exuberant and friendly Brazilian fashion.
Presently a lot of construction work is still being carried out in and around Rio, including an extension of the airport, various public transport projects and adding another 2000 hotel rooms to the 40,000 room inventory of the city.
To be the host country for the Olympic Games is a huge challenge and it requires a massive logistical effort from every hotel.
Sharing experiences is a smart way to assist the tourism industry to improve and cope with the huge global increase in visitors.
I will be pleased to share our experiences during the Olympic Games with the members of eHotelier.
About the author
Fritz Gubler is the President of eHotelier. He has many years of experience across the globe in a wide range of roles in the hospitality industry. Read more about his background in the About Us section of eHotelier.