Just a few weeks after he took up his first GM position at Novotel Hua Hin, I grabbed some time with the very busy and young hotelier, Bernardo de la Garza, to discuss his plans for the property:
TD: What have been your greatest challenges with the new role?
BG: With any new property you go into, the first challenges are understanding the hotel, the story, the market, the team and the strengths in each of these areas. At the beginning, my greatest challenge is how to impart my vision for the team and set the way forward, and how I can convey my goals so that they become the team’s goals too.
The restructuring involves looking at all if the initiatives we have in place and how to develop them further and take the property to the next level. It’s a constant work in progress; hospitality is such a dynamic industry that you have to challenge the norm and try new things – if you don’t, you will get left behind.
What has been the biggest difference you have encountered in the transfer from Bangkok to Hua Hin?
It’s actually very funny, because although it’s only a two hour drive away from Bangkok, you reach a mini-paradise in a very natural environment when you arrive in Hua Hin. There is no hustle and bustle like BKK; it’s just a very leisurely environment with plenty of things to do, whether it’s sightseeing or checking out the phenomenal golf courses and water parks.
It definitely moves at a slower pace than the city but people are here to get away from all that and just want to kick back and relax.
What do you do to ensure your hotel’s attractiveness to the family demographic?
It is who we are. Novotel Hua Hin is a family hotel with great facilities that are some of the favourite aspects of the hotel [for guests]. Our Kids World is huge space full of video games, ping pong and billiards tables.
There are also complimentary arts and crafts workshops children can take part in during their stay. There is an indoor cinema, a bouncy castle and a waterslide which is a favourite for family members of all ages – after all, who doesn’t like a waterslide?!
We are looking at developing this side of the hotel even further with more experiences and activities for kids developing the indoor cinema offering and improving our family product across the board.
What is your own personal favourite part of the hotel and why?
I think the grounds of the hotel are just phenomenal. For a start every room has a sea view – which is quite unique – and each features beautiful panoramic views of the Gulf of Thailand. The rooftop bar is also stunning, especially in the evenings where there are some incredible sunsets – it’s simply breathtaking.
For me, when I do my walkarounds in the hotel, every time I go down to the garden area, I just stand there, taking it all in – it is such a wonderful place
Hua Hin is also very popular as location for weddings, what do you do to make sure you stand out from the crowd?
This is one of my key parts at the hotel and I am currently working to build on our existing wedding market further. There is a massive demand for weddings in Hua Hin – what is important is to ensure all couples are closely listened to and make sure that each event is tailored to make all weddings here unique.
We are currently building our relationships with wedding organisers and researching how best to make sure our weddings are original and not just copy and paste events. Indian weddings are very popular but so are Thai weddings and we are want to make sure we are in that space too.
MICE is an all-important commodity for any hotel and resort; tell me about your meetings and events facilities?
The team work very hard to ensure that, like weddings, these events are as unique as possible and tailormade to each client. We have eight meetings rooms in total, covering over 740 sqm. Four of these rooms can be combined into our ballroom, which can fit up to approximately 400 guests for a sit-down dinner style function.
Obviously, we have all traditional equipment – screens, sounds systems and lights – but, again, we are taking a close look at how we can enhance this equipment and see what else can we provide – and make sure we are keeping up with all the trends of the meetings and events industry.
The beauty of the hotels is the outdoor space and there are plenty of different areas on site, which gives guest an option on the usual ‘meeting in the ballroom, followed by dinner in the ballroom’ as there are so many locations to choose from.
What other plans do you have for the future?
Lots! Firstly we are developing our restaurants; we have a beachfront restaurant so we are busy creating the menus and selecting décor there.
We will also be doing some refurbishment in all areas of the hotel and, as I mentioned, adding more activities to build more some incredible experiences for families. It’s full on at the moment but that is what it takes to make us even more successful than we already are.