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Hotel heroes: meet the stand-out SLH staff members

Get to know some of the friendly faces behind these boutique places

Like many other industries, the pandemic hit those working in hospitality hard. After months of lockdowns and social distancing, we’re looking forward to reconnecting with the people who make our hotels some of the most special and sought-after in the world. We’ve shortlisted some of the SLH members of staff from Mexico to the Maldives who go above and beyond to make the guest experience exceptional. These are the hand shakers, the bag takers, the memory makers, and so much more. Not all heroes wear capes, but many of them wear masks, for now…

Miguel Ayala, Head Concierge of Brick Hotel – Mexico

Miguel Ayala, Brick Hotel

Not only does Miguel Ayala oversee all the luxury services of Brick Hotel, a contemporary meets Belle Époque bolthole in the fascinating Roma neighbourhood of Mexico City – this charismatic concierge also happens to be the Principal of the Mexico chapter of the esteemed Les Clefs d’Or (The Golden Keys), an elite organisation of concierges from the best hotels around the world. Miguel’s commitment to providing the very best service begins with his attention to detail, discretion, global network connections, and his magical ability to open any door at any time.

Babu Kuttan, Gardener & Landscaper at Baros Maldives – Maldives

Babu Kuttan, Baros Maldives

One of the most beautiful elements of Baros Maldives is the lush greenery throughout Indian Ocean resort. The generous space given to nature has been cultivated and maintained by the island’s passionate and skilled gardening team. Originally from India, Babu Kuttan joined Baros Maldives in 1990 and has been an invaluable member of the gardening and landscaping team ever since, where he enjoys planting small seedlings and watching them grow into full adult plants and trees.

Baros Maldives

He is one of the most remarkable and loyal gardeners on the island, knowing every corner and plant like no other. Many of the resort’s repeater guests know him by name and make a point of meeting him during their stay, as he is part of the island just like all the many coconut trees and tropical flowers.

Josh Eisenhauer, Restaurant Manager & Sommelier at Villa La Madonna – Italy

Villa La Madonna

Before love brought him to Piedmont eight years ago, Josh Eisenhauer worked in several Michelin-starred restaurants in New York and later in the Barolo region. Now, Josh helps guests at Villa La Madonna raise a glass (or two) amidst the vineyards and verdant hills of the restful Bormida Valley. Thanks to his fountain of knowledge for wines and deep love of food, he can always find, recommend, and pair the perfect wines for connoisseurs as well as for beginners interested in the grape-to-bottle process.

Josh Eisenhauer, Villa La Madonna

One of Josh’s favourite offerings at Villa La Madonna is the hotel’s tasting evenings in the 16th century wine cellar. “We illuminate it by candlelight and invite our guests to experience four local wines over the course of an hour. My focus is as much on storytelling as it is on tasting. In a typical restaurant, a sommelier may only have a few minutes to tell a wine’s story to a guest. With our wine tasting, I get to have an extended one-on-one interaction with a guest and dig into the history and context of the local wines we share with them.”

Villa La Madonna truffles

See Josh and the team in action during truffle season this autumn – go on a hunt for the rare white truffle during your stay at Villa La Madonna, who have a special Autumn Offer for SLH guests this October and November. Arrive on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday and enjoy complimentary breakfast, four-course dinner every evening and sample bottles of the famous Barolo with a wine pairing each dinner.

Conor O’Connell, Concierge at Brooks Hotel – Ireland

Conor O'Connell, Brooks Hotel

This charming member of the Brooks Hotel concierge is about as Irish as they come, and has been welcoming guests to this stylish Dublin retreat for 17 years. Conor O’Connell knows you by name as soon as you enter the hotel, and is brimming with local knowledge and handy tips. As well as all the staff members, you really feel the true spirit of Irish hospitality when you stay here. He is the kind of person who can “make” any business. He makes you feel so welcome and comfortable, appearing to make a point of remembering names of all the guests, even when you return to the hotel days later.

Annarita Aprea, Director of Sales & Marketing at Casa Angelina – Italy

As the Director of Sales and Marketing at Casa Angelina, an elegant Amalfi Coast retreat carved into the cliffside, Sorrento born Annarita Aprea works to ensure partners and guests at Casa Angelina receive top-of-the-line treatment and an exceptional hospitality experience. As an integral part of the hotels operations, Annarita takes pride in creating a welcoming atmosphere for guests, and goes above and beyond to guarantee each guest has the best possible experience throughout their stay at Casa Angelina.

Annarita Aprea, Casa Angelina

When she is not greeting and welcoming guests, or behind the scenes working on business development, you can find Annarita snapping photos of the property, as she also runs the hotel’s social media accounts, @casaangelinalifestyle. With an eye for design and passion for Praiano, Annarita is able to capture everything from the essence and magic of Casa Angelina’s breathtaking views of the Amalfi Coast to exclusive experiences offered such as the Chef on Board private boat ride and dinner for two. While Casa Angelina has no shortage of beautiful spaces, Annarita’s personal favourite spot would be the lemon pergola where guests can lounge by the pool and overlook the water – and is a perfect representation of what makes the Amalfi Coast so special!

Casa Angelina

Annarita also dedicates her time to creating exceptional experiences for guests. As international travellers return to Italy after over a year of restrictions, Annarita is the mastermind behind a new package called Live La Dolce Vita, designed to fully immerse travellers in the destination and its surroundings through their five senses. With this new package, Casa Angelina welcomes guests to see, touch, hear, taste and smell all that Italy has to offer through on and off property programming, including visiting stunning beaches, relaxing spa treatments, live music on property, and of course the flavours and aromas of Italian wine and cuisine through live cooking experiences on Casa Angelina’s rooftop.

Christian Techt, Receptionist at Finca Serena – Mallorca

Christian Techt

Born on Mallorca to French and German parents, polyglot Christian Techt is a young, friendly member of the Finca Serena reservations team who recently graduated from university in World Tourism & Business. Christian always has a smile on his face, and will move mountains to get you where to need to be – from organising your taxis to the beach or a nearby village (which is no easy feat on an island with limited drivers in some of the more rural areas) to recommending local restaurants which he has personally eaten at. Christian’s attentive yet laid-back approach to hosting guests perfectly sets the tone for a relaxing stay at this converted farmhouse.

Laksiri Perera, Lifeguard at The Fortress Resort & Spa – Sri Lanka

Laksiri Perera

Laksiri Perera is a lifeguard and pool supervisor at The Fortress Resort & Spa, an exclusive beach retreat designed in the style of a historic fort. His outstanding and friendly character has won many hearts over the years, making him one of the most popular members at the resort. Guest call him “The Turtle Man”, “The Turtle Whisperer”, “Man who swims with fish”, “The Fortress Pool Captain”, along with many more endearing names.

His daily duties at The Fortress include arranging the sunbeds, handing over pool towels to guests, making sure that the pool area is kept clean at all times, and ensuring the safety of guests when at the pool. Laksiri is also passionate about sea turtles and loves talking about them to anyone and everyone. During the turtle nesting season, he is always on the lookout for sea turtles so that guests can witness these magical and rare creatures who visit The Fortress’ beach every year, where Laksiri also offers snorkelling sessions. By initiating this activity at the resort, guests now have the opportunity to connect more with nature and enjoy time swimming with fish and experience the beautiful corals of Koggala.

The Fortress Resort & Spa

Within the last year alone, Laksiri has saved over a dozen people from drowning in the ocean. Prepared to risk his life, Laksiri always fearlessly dives right into the strong waves to help those in need.

Uffe Sørensen, Head Concierge at Nimb Hotel – Denmark

Uffe Sørensen, Head Concierge at Nimb Hotel and Chairman of the Danish chapter of the association of professional hotel concierges, Les Clefs d’Or, is a can-do man with a passion for his trade. Unlike many of his peers who advanced from front desk jobs to managerial positions, Uffe Sørensen has turned his love of people-pleasing hospitality into an art form, which he generously shares with guests as well as staff members at the Nimb, one of Copenhagen’s most spectacular places to stay in the heart of the Tivoli Gardens.

Uffe Sorensen, Nimb Hotel

“One of the unique things about Nimb is that we all know each other by our first name – staff members and guests alike. This is perhaps a very Danish way to connect with people and build the confidence we seek with our guests. Offering concierge services to guests at Nimb is not all that different from inviting unacquainted guests to your own home. Hospitality is about empathy and straightforward practicality. You need to read people – their personalities, preferences and expectations – in no time. That’s why staff members at Nimb are dedicated to also building mutual trust with each other, and to trust each other’s judgements. We copy each other in all our internal emails. Even the smallest piece of information about our guests can become valuable when ensuring they enjoy an exceptional experience. And we take every request seriously. As I always say, ‘Anything that is legal goes!’”

Panji Wisrawan, Head Mixologist at Viceroy Bali – Indonesia

Crowned the winner of the Campari Bartender Competition 2019 with his signature Campari Cocktail “Jack & Rose”, Panji Wisrawan brings over 10 years experience in delivering creative bar menus to Apéritif at Viceroy Bali, a collection of gravity defying, thatched villas set on the edge of a steep ravine, overlooking the Petanu River gorge in Bali’s mountain foothills.

Panji Wisrawan

Having graduated from Nipaka L’ecole Hoteliere in Denpasar, Panji has worked in various locations in Bali including at the fashionable Da Romeo Italian Restaurant in Canggu and was part of the opening team at La Palma Beach Club. Constantly striving to push the boundaries with his cocktail lists, Panji took to the seas in joining Viking Ocean Cruises spending over two years on water where he would host various events including whiskey tastings and mixology classes for guests. Panji’s favourite cocktail is a Boulevardier because he is a fan of bourbon and negroni. The bold and complex flavour of Boulevardier also represents his personal and career growth in the hospitality industry.

Viceroy Bali

Panji especially enjoys welcoming guests from all corners of the world, sharing travel experiences and sparking memories by creating special cocktails.

Manola Fresta, Senior Director of Sales & Revenue at Lefay Resorts – Italy

Manola Fresta, Lefay Resorts

Manola Fresta has been passionate about luxury travel since her childhood, pursuing a degree in Hospitality & Licensed Retails Management and several prestigious work placements which took her around the world, from the Bahamas to the Indian Ocean. But it was love at first sight in her home country of Italy when Manola joined Lefay Resorts in 2014, an eco-conscious set of hotels in Lake Garda and the Italian Dolomites. She found her place in the world at Lefay Resort & SPA Lago di Garda – “the views, the silence, the wide spaces, the nature that surrounds the resort healed all at once my soul.”

Lefay Resort & SPA Lago di Garda

Then came Lefay Resort & Spa Dolomiti, which in Manola’s words is “authentic, elegant, dynamic, and offers splendid views towards the peaks of the mountains as if nature and light were integrated perfectly with the indoors. The history, the atmosphere, the people here remind  me of my roots, my origins. This place represents my other half and when I am here I finally feel at home.”

Manola’s priority, since the beginning, has been to develop the business of the Lefay brand through the promotional sales activities with the intermediation world. Her main sales contacts have always been tour operators and travel agencies and she strives to make a difference through personal touch so that Lefay is always the guest’s first choice. Manola makes sure that agents have the opportunity to learn how to combine their stay at Lefay Resorts with unique experiences throughout the area, so that not only Lefay Resorts remains in their heart, but also the people, the local products as well as the natural beauty.

Arsenio Pancho, Porter at Claris Hotel & Spa – Spain

Originally from The Bubi tribe of Central Africa, Arsenio Pancho has been welcoming guests on the door of Claris Hotel & Spa, a contemporary hotel in Barcelona celebrating all things artistic, since its opening in 1992.

Claris Hotel & Spa

“My job is the first and last impressions people have when they arrive and when they leave the hotel. Someone who asks, who is informed of how your day has gone when you return to the hotel. That suggests places to go or things to do. Although not everyone appreciates this deal, there are those who prefer that you leave them alone. You have to know how to interpret the signals and feelings of our guests.”