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International Women’s Day 2020

Meet the women behind our brand

SLH is dedicated to celebrating and sharing the successes of all the women who make up our brand. Women around the globe are uniting together to bring change to the world through equal treatment and equal opportunities for all women, everywhere. We reached out to the many women who make SLH magic, from hotel Owners, General Managers, and our valued brand partners to some of our very own SLH staff. We believe women are a force to be reckoned with, and our team of truly remarkable hoteliers and employees exemplify it. We sat down with a few more of them to get their thoughts on being a woman in the luxury travel industry.

Elounda Gulf Villas & Suites, Greece

Charitini Kadianakis, Owner and Sales & Marketing Director – Anna Papakaliatis-Kadianakis, Owner & Managing Director – Anthi Kadianakis, Owner at Elounda Gulf Villas & Suites in Crete, Greece.

 

 

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…

Anna: Our journey is pretty interesting considering that we were not hoteliers when we first started. Elounda Gulf Villas started 20 years ago when my husband and I designed and constructed the first eight private Pool Villas. In a few years’ time, the small complex expanded to be an exclusive, award-winning boutique Villa-Hotel welcoming guests to its inviting embrace. Passion and hard work were the key elements of our journey back then and still are! Charitini joined our team after her studies. Her enthusiastic character together with her passion for precision and her organisational skills contribute greatly to our team. Later on, having worked in the banking and investment industry for 20 years, Anthi also joined the family business bringing along senior professionalism, extensive selling experience, managerial skills and team work. Despite our different backgrounds, experiences and journeys, the success is that the family (mother and daughters) works as a unified team , happy and full of passion!

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

Anna: Luckily I can say that I have been highly respected by everyone I have worked with; my biggest challenge is maintaining a work-life balance.

Charitini: My biggest challenge was becoming a mother and being able to balance my working life with two children; long working hours, lots of traveling as well as being a mum. We women can do it all (and very well) with a great deal of organisation, hard work, passion and positive attitude!

Anthi: The hospitality industry is above all sector dominated by women! From that perspective, I always felt lucky and confident. However, the interaction with so many different backgrounds, origins and cultures remains the top challenge for me.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

Anna-Anthi-Charitini: Women are well positioned in the luxury travel industry; they should get equal treatment, recognition and respect of what they do, as any other human being deserves. Hence equality is the key!

What motivates you?

Anna-Anthi- Charitini: Being passionate about what we do is what motivates all three of us, together with the drive to serve our guests and accommodate all their expectations.

 

 

Olive Boutique Hotel, Puerto Rico

Loisse Herger, Owner & Manager at Olive Boutique Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…

My aunt owned a beach guest house for 40 years, and when she wanted new blood to run the business, she turned to me. At the time I was doing the brand management for the Italian beer brand Peroni, and my husband was doing development for his family’s hospital business. We decided to do a joint venture and from then on, we’ve dedicated more than a decade to the construction, design and management of boutique hotels.

As a team, the inspiration from our personal travels has translated directly into the design of the hotels. We incorporated pieces we fell in love with from all over the world, giving the hotel a global feel with a personal touch that we think makes it so special. My background in marketing helped us craft a distinct vision for the brand and how we wanted it to be presented.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

As a woman in the hospitality industry, there are challenges at every turn. What I’ve found is that it’s important to face all challenges and frame them as opportunities. The opportunity to stand out, to prove doubters wrong, to use our innate ability to multi-task, to attract the media looking for women who lead, to add the feminine touch and inspire my female work force as well as other women in the industry are all results of what were once presented to me as challenges.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

Women need to seize leading roles. They need to be the President of the company, the CEOs, the decision makers, the ones who inspire. Every single woman I know is the boss at home, so why shouldn’t they be the boss at the office, too?

What motivates you?

So many things: new projects, entrepreneurship, new ventures, new technologies, surpassing my sales numbers, great achievements, excelling at something, and a little recognition.

 

Grand Hotel Majestic, Italy

Mariangela Nieddu, Director of Sales & Marketing at Grand Hotel Majestic in Lake Maggiore, Italy.

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…

After attending university in Venice, I had the chance to work as a Russian language interpreter for La Fenice Theatre and other local institutions for more than 10 years. In 1996 with the burning of the Fenice theatre my career as a Russian language interpreter was over: I lost my job… At that time I was almost 30 years old, and had no other professional competence. I decided to try and work in the hospitality industry, but I had no background in that business and really started from scratch.

Totally by chance a girlfriend suggested to send my CV to a hotel that was recruiting a Russian speaking sales person: I was called for an interview and immediately hired. The hotel aim was to create, promote and sell exclusive travel ideas to exclusive VIP customers, coming from Russia and ex-USSR countries. Nowadays they do travel on business or leisure everywhere and have a strong passion for luxury and customised services, but in those years the Russian market was definitely another story…

This specific working experience gave me the opportunity to mature and brought me a professional, personal and cultural enrichment. In 2001, eager to learn more and more about hotels, I moved from Venice to Cortina D’Ampezzo, in the Dolomites. I spent three years as Hotel Manager in charge of the everyday operations and S&M. The team was very special and motivated and we did a great job together with my colleagues!

In 2003 I fell completely in love with Lake Maggiore and from 2004 I started my last and most exciting experience in hospitality at Grand Hotel Majestic. I spent 15 very important years with a dynamic, friendly, strong team and with two inspirational female hotel owners. In an industry generally dominated by men, it’s a refreshing thing to stumble across two independent female hoteliers.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

I’m a firm believer in the power of women and the opportunity was handed to me on a plate from Signore Zuccari, who can make things happen, create a difference, take risks and overcome challenges. Grand Hotel Majestic is more of a big villa than a traditional hotel: a mansion where sojourners are more than welcome.

Guests usually expect a friendly welcome, but they feel utterly spoiled by thoughtful touches that I do provide personally: such as receiving a gardenia or a peony flower from our English style garden, a book to read, especially if the story takes place on the small island facing the hotel, and unique recommendations to experience for day trips and local activities – imagine being trained daily by the sprint canoeist, winner of gold and silver medals for Olympic and World Championships and good friend of mine, Bebo Bonomi!

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

Education is of paramount importance and my personal challenge is to keep learning every day from guests’ needs, trying to surprise them with small touches, discovering local culture, history and enogastronomy of the Piedmont region.

What motivates you?

Local people and their unique culture are my inspirational source and movers: I’m one of the promoters of the Strega Prize, the most prestigious literary award since 1947, to be held on a permanent basis on Lake Maggiore, starting from June 2020 together with Strega Prize organisers.

Two years ago I also started my cooperation with the Borromeo family staff to promote Lake Maggiore worldwide and I’m definitely very happy to travel around the world with them for sales. And last but not least, in 2019 I had the chance to meet one of the most important living Italian painters: Maurizio Bottoni. He spends long periods in his villa on Lake Maggiore painting and exhibiting his masterpieces. Bottoni’s style is a combination of expressiveness and figuration. His favorite subjects are still life, portraits and landscapes. Our hotel guests last year could visit one of his great temporary exhibitions, and I asked Maurizio from time to time to be the personal guide of my special hotel guests. Every single guest that could experience my unique cultural offering was definitely excited to receive an individual welcome at Villa Giulia from Maurizio and his manager and adorable wife Tiziana, and get a very personalised introduction to his paintings.

I do love my job, but renting rooms can be very boring and impoverishing without broadening my mind through culture: my aim and wish is to build a culturally enriched life all together, seeking sustinability, as everything that we need for our well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

 

The Terrace Club Busena, Japan

Hitomi Aragaki, General Manager at The Terrace Club Busena in Okinawa, Japan.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

There have been many challenges in my career, but I do not consider them as challenges because I am a woman. I always focused on the issue itself, analyse the situation and do not let my emotions get in the way. I think the most important obstacle to overcome as a woman is to not allow your gender stop you from achieving great things. It is important to focus on the business element and strive to achieve the best.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

I am not sure whether or not women have equal opportunities in the hospitality industry around the world; however, I believe it is important to create a work environment which rewards the individuals who deliver results regardless of their gender. If an individual faces challenges along their career, it is important to have a strong mind and the will to overcome the obstacle rather than blame others or use your gender as an excuse. I want men, women and the society as a whole to be less gender conscious and rather empower each other to bring out the best in ourselves.

What motivates you?

Providing a happy and memorable experience for our guests, as well as being part of an organisation where I can improve and promote the Okinawan tourism industry motivates me.

 

 

The Adelphi Hotel, USA

Helen Watson, General Manager at The Adelphi Hotel in Saratoga Springs, USA.

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…

My father was in the hotel and travel industry so I was immersed in that culture from an early age. I was fortunate enough to get a job right out of University with the Four Seasons Hotel chain in Santa Barbara California and found myself surrounded not only by the most beautiful scenic landscape at this property but by people who truly had a passion for hospitality. I learnt through them that it is how you make a person feel and not just what you do for them that sets the luxury hotel industry apart.

After moving around to several properties and other luxury hotels, I was given an incredible opportunity in 2016 to take my 25 years of luxury hotel experience and help open a small independently owned (soon to be) luxury boutique hotel as Director of Rooms. Putting my own stamp on The Adelphi Hotel gave me an immense sense of achievement and pride. Three months after the hotel opened I was asked to step into the role of General Manager and have been able to take the hotel from inception to where it is today.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

I am fortunate enough to have come up in the industry under many strong female managers who have inspired and guided me. The ratio of women to men leaders still has a way to come, but I have seen a shift from a time when there were no female General Managers in my company to now having many women in that role.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

Equal pay for a start. I feel as women move up in their respective industries that they need to take the opportunity and time to inspire and cultivate the next generation of young women into becoming leaders.

What motivates you?

Mentoring and sharing my experience with my staff. Leading by example and setting a tone of sincerity, loyalty and caring to create a culture that motivates people to do their best.

 

Hotel Éclat Taipei, Taiwan

Amy Yu, General Manager at Hotel Éclat Taipei in Taipei, Taiwan.

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…

My motto is: “Success is not about being brilliant. It is about being consistent”. Working in hotels means being part of a very fast, high pressure, never-ending industry. I believe being successful is not what you did very well once. It depends on how we prepare ourselves well, good communication and empowerment to the team as well as good time management.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

As a female hotelier for more than 20 years and having witnessed many ups and downs in the market, we must be very determined in making the right decisions and to act fast to the changes and challenges according to our experience. Some people may be biased on what you have decided. I have to double the effort and show them we are doing it right.

What motivates you?

I am the mother to a 14 year old son, so work life balance is what I am looking for in a busy work schedule. I am lucky that my boy supports me very much and loves listening to my stories from work. This is one of my ways to relieve the work pressure and understand more about him. I encourage all working ladies to be more confident in what they believe and show their abilities to the world – this way, we can make things happen.

 

Villa Geba, Montenegro

Valérie Mansis, General Manager at Villa Geba in Sveti Stefan, Montenegro.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

Not a real challenge as long as I enter this business with passion – then step by step I have been able to manage high end luxury properties. I have no hospitality diploma, but I had the chance to work with two important people who were also not from the hospitality business, and we grew up together to put our hotel at its best in the world hospitality industry. Passion for excellence and elegance, respect and tolerance are part of my ethics and values – to apply this to hospitality was easy for me, for our guests as well as for our team. Once again, I have no degree in the hospitality business, but I definitely think that a woman, managing a hotel, offers more empathy, more elegance and has more knowledge of the savoir-vivre codes. A woman will pay more attention to detail than a man – going through the door of a hotel, I can tell if the manager is a man or a woman.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

At the beginning of my career in the hospitality business, there was definitely a large gap between men and women’s salaries – but women are stronger than men! And now we can see top ranking women at large hotel groups – for sure with much more work. As in all industries, and for different reasons (maternity, children…) women are not recognised financially at the same level as men, and it’s still true. But things are changing with women at top level of companies. A stronger sense of humanity and character permits women to succeed.

“Men’s weaknesses are women’s strength” – Voltaire.

What motivates you?

Every day is a surprise. It’s definitely the least boring job there is! Managing the staff, going beyond the expectations of our guests, having a passion for a profession that more of a pleasure is constantly renewing. And for me the most important thing is to transmit this passion to the next generation by motivating each one with a philosophy of bien recevoir.

 

 

The Chesterfield Hotel, USA

Natalie Le Clerc, General Manager at The Chesterfield Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida, USA.

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…

I have been lucky enough to have been involved directly in the travel and hospitality industry for almost 30 years in a variety of roles, and this has enabled me to identify and enhance the little things which make a travel or hotel experience so memorable – particularly since being part of Red Carnation Hotels, as we are empowered to make each stay extra special for our guests with tiny noticeable touches and a highly personalised service.

My journey with TTC started with Contiki Holidays, the experts in group travel for 18 – 35 year olds as a tour manager, leading groups to over 20 different European countries. From there I was chosen to take part in developing the new Contiki Resorts project and was manager in both Mykonos and Bali before later moving across to become the General Manager of Red Carnation’s prestigious Florida property, The Chesterfield Palm Beach. I’ve been here for the last 7 years, and absolutely love it! I so am proud that we are consistently recognised amongst the top hotels in Florida by the like of Condé Nast Traveler and TripAdvisor.

Throughout the years I have been extremely fortunate in having mentors who have shared not only their skills and knowledge but also their insight into the industry. I have also benefited from working on four continents of the world, embracing different nationalities, cultures, religious and political beliefs, and traditional customs of the area in which I have been based. This has helped me to not only adapt and acclimatise but also to develop a quick and easy rapport with guests, staff members and the wider community – something that cannot be underestimated in this industry.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

While I don’t think we are anywhere near equality in the industry yet, I do believe that I have been lucky to have trailblazer Mrs Tollman as our President and Founder. With her husband Stanley running front of house, she was working behind the scenes running the kitchen of their first property, the Nugget Hotel in Johannesburg. This was in the 1950s when it was unprecedented for a woman, particularly in South Africa.

She went on to develop and run a collection of 20 luxury properties worldwide by teaching herself, listening to her guests and by hard work and determination, so she really paved the way and has been an inspiration for many of us women following behind. As well as learning from pioneers like her, I have just tried to work hard and be myself, and it seems to have paid off so far! From the talent that I see in my team and the rest of Red Carnation Hotels, I know we have so many women on their way to becoming the General Managers and leaders of the future.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

Having a supportive environment that gives you opportunity to develop and flourish – and I think that is what I have found at Red Carnation.

What motivates you?

It’s such a privilege to work in an industry where every day is different. I’m motivated by surprising and delighting our guests by creating new experiences, and I love hearing their response. I’m also motivated by being able to facilitate the professional and personal development of my team – something that is very important at Red Carnation – and I’m inspired by their passion, creativity and dedication every day. I also want to be an integral part of the community in which I live and work and to challenge myself to keep improving not only The Chesterfield Palm Beach as a hotel, but also my own professional skills.

 

Pousadas de Portugal, Portugal

Isabel Froufe, Director of Sales at Pousada de Lisboa in Lisbon, Pousada Palacio de Estoi in Faro, and Pousada Mosteiro de Guimarães in Guimarães, Portugal.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

I started in the hospitality industry at the age of 23 in a Sales Department as a Group and Sales Coordinator. I had to work long work hours, weekends and being geographically mobile. This allowed a progression in my career but I had to postpone my maternity until I was 34. I was at the time Director of Sales and was lucky enough to have my mother available to look after my son. Hospitality requires a high level of availability, and as a woman and mother you need an excellent level of organisation to reach the adequate balance between your personal and work life. Your family must be involved in your career and today my son is very proud of mummy being part of the SLH Community.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

The industry must be less male-dominated at top management level, therefore should have no obstacles in women’s career paths, such as having a certain level of flexibility in their working hours to be able to cope with their family duties, being given equal chances when it comes to promotions, and not suffer from a possible lack of mobility.

What motivates you?

The ability to constantly surprise clients, exceed their expectations, offer an experience that they will always remember. I am customer-centric and a great believer that in the luxury hotel business more than any other we have to  pay attention to all the tiny details. There is no better compliment than being told by a client “we can see that you love what you do!”. I love the human dimension of this business and its personal relationships.

 

Gangtey Lodge, Bhutan

Omar Win, Co-Founder & Owner of Gangtey Lodge in The Phobjikha Valley, Bhutan.

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…

It all started by chance 20 years ago, when I set up a company with my husband, with a purpose to bring sustainable development to remote communities through business. After first launching ‘Balloons over Bagan’, an exploratory white water rafting trip took us to the jungles of Northern Myanmar where we built our first hotel, The Malikha Lodge. An invitation to explore Bhutan to set up a balloon operation there, led to us building our second hotel, together with the local community – The Gangtey Lodge. With no previous experience in ballooning, hotel construction or hotel management, my journey has been one of learning through trial and error, making mistakes and learning from them, taking risks and finding the most amazing people to share our adventure with. I’ve learnt that with sheer passion, a thirst for adventure, a fantastic team and a determination not to give up, almost anything can be achieved!

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

Hospitality is a fantastic industry where women have enormous opportunities. Although I am in the luxury hotel and hot air ballooning business, the technical work is in the aviation and construction industries, where women’s roles often differ to men. However, the obstacles women face reaching senior positions are the same, in varying degrees – overcoming stereotypes and gender bias, the challenges of balancing motherhood and building a business.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

Modern women wear many ‘different hats’ and often face conflicting roles and expectations. We must be committed to our careers as well as to our families, be both passive and assertive etc. Employers need to recognise gender-based challenges and create a corporate culture that encourages women to step up and stay on the ladder to reach the top.

What motivates you?

When I hear from a guest that their journey in Bhutan and their stay with us was a life-changing experience; or when I see the pride and achievement our team and community feel when we launch a new project and bring opportunities to remote regions. It’s hard not to feel motivated when our job in hospitality is to make people happy!

 

 

Alentejo Marmoris Hotel & Spa, Portugal

Susete Alves, Owner & General Manager at Alentejo Marmoris Hotel & Spa in Alentejo, Portugal.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

Being from a country where gender equality still needs attention, I would say that the challenges are not exclusive from this industry but similar to any other area. With the team, the first struggle for me is the fact that I feel that I need to be much more assertive to see them respond to instructions. When it comes to complaints from clients, I sometimes feel the disappointment for not being a man, and also recognise the, “of course, it is being run by a woman”.  Also when negotiating with suppliers, I know that the flexibility is bigger when my purchase accountant is the one making the requests for lower prices, more offers or better payment conditions, and so I play with that in my favour.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

I believe it should start with education, because the generation we are teaching today are the ones who will one day run the companies and have the choice to implement an equality culture within them. On the other hand, governments should create legislation that ensures that there are minimum salaries, and certain percentages of men and women working in the whole company and higher positions.

What motivates you?

What motivates me is that I am lucky that I do what I love. We are a small company so we have a small team, and being able to reach them all personally allows us to better shape the service that is delivered to the customer. Employee satisfaction is also bigger because recognition to them is made personally by the management and owners. I work mostly with my team and selling partners and it is a big pleasure receiving these professional appraisals about our service when they come for site inspections. On the client side, we evaluate this through online platforms which is very stable and consistent. So my bigger motivation is to see that all sides are satisfied with what we do everyday, and being able to thank all my team for the amazing work they do. I’m there to support them, and nothing gives me more pleasure then to support a team that truly works for customer satisfaction.

 

Thalatta Seaside Resort, Greece

Sotiria Argyrpoulou, Sales & Marketing Director at Thalatta Seaside Resort in North Evia, Greece.

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…

Working for years in academic libraries of hospitality institutions, a friend once told me, “I bet you cannot make it in hotels”. So that is how my story goes. I was interviewed by the only hotelier who saw something in me. I joined the Thalatta team 9 years ago, and met two wonderful people who have stood by me and supported me all these years. Working closely with them was enough to understand that I found myself in the shoes I always imagined myself to be in.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

I feel lucky as I have always been respected by my colleagues from my first steps. If one does his/her job well, if he/she doesn’t expect or want an unfair advantage over anyone, he/she will get the recognition.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

We have seen remarkable change and growth for women in the hospitality industry where they have proved that they are just as capable and qualified as men. The hospitality industry has one of the highest numbers of female employment of all industries worldwide. There are lots of inspiring women who have made it to the top. So the history is now behind us. Significant progress has been made and I strongly believe that women and men are treated on an equal basis – the only thing we have to do is to empower and encourage women to dream big. This is important for the next generation to come.

What motivates you?

I think this is a consistent theme – you never know what motivates you. A laughter, a sunset, the music, the sea, the sun, my family, my friends, my team. Also, the work itself is one of the things that motivates me.

 

The Edison George Town, Malaysia

Rina Teoh, Executive Director at The Edison George Town in Penang, Malaysia.

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…

Achieving success in the luxury hotel industry is still a work in progress for me. That being said, my journey began with just a dream – bringing back the romance in a hotel stay experience. Paying attention to the details is an important aspect of any success as with putting together the dream team. Having patience and the passion to fulfil my goals are yet some of the other challenges of my journey.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

Fortunately for me, I have not had to face any opposition or challenges. However, I do realise there are women who feel that they are marginalised in the hospitality industry. I go by these beliefs, attitude over aptitude, remaining true to oneself and rising above preconceived expectations will eventually overcome these negative perceptions.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

Creating the right working environment and the establishment of fair play amongst all employees, irrespective of gender. A good set of work culture and practices to encourage participation by all is also crucial.

What motivates you?

Penang – the energy and excitement surrounding how my city is reinventing herself as a relevant destination for travellers to South East Asia. This can be felt if you view the historical neighbourhoods of George Town filled with beautiful architecture and cultural sites, that is always constantly in a state of change.

 

 

Grand Forest Metsovo, Greece

Ellie Barmpagiannis, Owner of Grand Forest Metsovo in Metsovo, Greece.

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…

Born and raised in a hospitality family business and actively participating in hospitality operations since the age of 14, guest gratification has always been a pleasure and an aim. Ten years later, the opulent operational benchmark was achieved by joining the collective effort of the development of the “Grand Forest”. All hospitality operational knowledge acquired throughout the decade was utilised in hospitality investment strategy consulting. Therefore, my activity in both operations and investment strategy has become pivotal to my professional evolution.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

As a young female leader, I have to reverse the defining pyramid of leadership – i.e. position, competence, relationship – by having to develop the relationship first, in order to be able to communicate competence and ultimately make my position accepted. The challenge is twofold – age and gender – hence requiring that every step and decision is justified. The overall effect is a higher level of complexity, and more energy and time.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

Inner power is critical. When you know yourself, what you want and what you are passionate about, the right conditions are created and opportunities arise. Individual independence and self-trust can manifest one’s goals and desires at a speedier pace than the change of an institutional mindset. No institutional mindset can hinder a holistic professional performance.

What motivates you?

Ethics is the foundation of my motivation, as they define behaviour over myself and other people. Seeking exposure and mental stimulation, by observing people and different environments serve as my creativity source. This in turn inspires me to create new and alternative ideas grounded on simplicity and efficiency. Continuous learning, involvement are core to sustaining myself and my team advancement and competitiveness.

My team is the most valuable asset in achieving the overall objectives of my vision of hospitality. Hospitality involves tangibles but most importantly reliability, assurance, responsiveness and empathy. Team effort and respect for each other is key to our success. Professional appraisal lies within the joint efforts of many.

 

St. James’s Hotel & Club, London

Anjana Pandya, Managing Director at St. James’s Hotel & Club in London, England.

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…

I consider myself to be a numbers person and have always worked in financial positions, including at St. James’s Hotel & Club. After being encouraged to apply for the role of General Manager by the owner, I questioned my own ability; did I have what it takes? I had a lot passion and drive, and really believed in the product and I decided to use my passion for the arts and my background in finance to develop the brand. Throughout my time at St. James’s I have surrounded myself with a supportive team, full of other inspiring women and with my family, who have always supported my ambitions.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

Hospitality still remains a male dominated industry and I believe that there have been times that my abilities have been questioned. I have been very lucky in many of my jobs and I have felt very supported at St. James’s Hotel & Club, as the owners have always treated me equally to my male colleagues.

One of the biggest challenges I faced was working very long hours, while also travelling overseas for work and looking after my children. I am very grateful for my family and friends who helped me.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

I definitely think the introduction of female programs help towards gender equality, along with the support of global schemes such as International Women’s Day. I also believe that raising awareness of such appointments of women in the industry makes people realise that the hotel industry should be made up of an equal gender ratio. I am pleased to be boosting the statistics!

What motivates you?

Our guests are what motivate me. I want to ensure that every guest has an unforgettable experience. I also want to be a role model to other females who aspire to work their way up in the hospitality industry.

 

Castello di Reschio, Italy

Tanja Fabricius, Reservation & Revenue Manager at Castello di Rechio in Umbria, Italy.

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…

I was catapulted into tourism 20 years ago by coincidence, arriving from a typical office job in Denmark to wonderful dreamy Montalcino in Tuscany, Italy. At a particularly difficult time in life my husband facilitated the chance to move from luxury wine to luxury hotels, and I wouldn’t want it any other way today. I have been lucky to work for many wonderful people, almost all men, but I think it is a combination of my positive thinking and curiosity together with a need for learning new things that have been the locomotive for this fabulous voyage. I sometimes have trouble with keeping my mouth shut, but I actually think this might have helped along the way as well…

What motivates you?

People and new opportunities – in my current job I am being given so many new opportunities to do things I would never have thought of doing, and when I say yes I sometimes think, “this is crazy”. But realising that other people believe in me and push me to do things my instinct tells me I will be no good at, and then I succeed, is highly motivating!

 

 

 

MarBella Nido Suite Hotel & Villas, Greece

Amaryllis Pouliezou, Resident Manager at MarBella Nido Suite Hotel & Villas in Corfu, Greece.

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…

I was born and still live on Corfu, a beautiful and unique island in Greece where history and natural beauty make the perfect scenery for tourism. Corfu is a UNESCO protected site and its diversity of natural beauty with beaches, lakes, waterfalls, rocky and sandy beaches needs to be known by the world. With all this inspiration and passion for travelling, of course, I decided to study tourism and graduated from the Glion Institute of Higher Education.

Immediately after college, I left Corfu to gather experience in well-known hotel chains in Crete, which was an experience that helped me to understand the different challenges of the industry. My heart was in Corfu though, so I decided to return and continue in the five-star sector starting from the foundation of hospitality as Front Desk Attendant in MarBella Corfu Hotel – a large resort with 388 rooms. From then on my journey has been with this family hotel in diverse departments as Front Office, Reservations, PR, Rooms Division, Duty Manager, Hotel Manager Assistant, and in 2018 when the company opened MarBella Nido Suite Hotel & Villas I was chosen to take it over as Hotel Manager.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

Being a woman in power generally is still hard in a world dominated by men – however, our company has been very encouraging and supportive of all the challenges and I feel confident that my experience and attitude toward hospitality are very well received by cooperators, my team and clients alike.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

I think that we still have some way to go in terms of equality, however, I also believe the hospitality industry is much more feminine than masculine – our sentiment, attention to detail, and multi-task skills beat theirs. (laughs)

What motivates you?

The smiles of our guests! It is really inspiring to see people enjoying themselves while staying with you. I also like to share our perspectives, hear their feedback and keep improving wherever there is space for improvement.

 

Villa di Piazzano, Italy

Alesandra Wimpole, Owner & General Manager of Villa di Piazzano in Tuscany, Italy.

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…

Hotels have always played a role in my life. As the daughter of a diplomat, hotels were often my home and the place where the school bus would come to pick me up. I was also fascinated by hotels due to our personal family legacy. Both my grandmother in Italy and my grandfather in Australia were hoteliers, so when I concluded my formative studies, going into the hospitality industry felt like the natural progression of my life. My working career led me down a very different path until I was 30. It was then that I came across an enchanting abandoned renaissance villa and was spellbound. A little bit of audacity and determination did the rest. Achieving success in the luxury hotel industry isn’t just about investing money to achieve the coolest product. There has to be a mental process towards understanding the underlying subtleties of what makes a traveller feel at home. As a woman, I feel that we often have that degree of empathy that allows us to capture these subtleties and translate them into reality.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

It would probably be a cliché to say that it is always difficult to juggle the long hours with family commitments, as I presume this is the case for any working woman. What I have found the most challenging is dealing with certain aspects of our profession which, in Italy, are still very much a male prerogative, for example, maintenance and construction issues. When directing skilled workers, I sometimes receive a little resistance from them. And perhaps, it is the very challenge of asserting myself that particularly draws me to this aspect of my work. There is a sense of inner satisfaction when I can sit down with a plumber, electrician or construction worker and demonstrate that I can speak their language.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

There needs to be a paradigm shift in our culture where people need to be judged for their individual talents regardless of their gender. We should therefore make a conscious effort to stop associating jobs with a specific gender and place more trust in women’s ability to be pragmatic and determined team leaders. Not to mention ensuring equal retribution when carrying out equal roles. As women, directing our own independent small hotels, I think that we have the responsibility and opportunity of creating a fair playing field for all those who are part of our own individual hotel communities.

What motivates you?

This profession gives me the privilege of being able to enjoy every moment of the year: the winter time when the property has a seemingly ghostly appearance, with empty halls and covered furniture but with a degree of charming tranquility; the first day of the season, and the first guests who arrive bringing a sense of warmth; nature running its course with all the flowers and trees diligently playing their role in colouring the garden, only to close the season in a triumphant explosion of reds and yellows; the guests sitting on our terrace and having a chat, and a laugh, and a drink and thoroughly enjoying themselves; the returning guests who come back each year, some in the same room, on the same date, expecting everything to be just the same; the team I work with, their ups and downs, but also their great camaraderie and fun times together; the indescribable feeling of satisfaction when you close the day with some element of success, whether it be meeting a happy guest or an event which has turned out particularly well. The list of motivators in this type of business is endless and that’s what makes the hospitality industry so unique.

 

Hotel de la Soledad, Mexico

Leticia Belmonte & Leticia Belmonte, Owners of Hotel de la Soledad in Morelia, Mexico.

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…

It has been a complex, difficult path of constant obstacles that put the project at risk, but above all, a series of personal implications that would determine my life and direction as an entrepreneur in the field of hospitality.

In 2008, together with my family we assumed the great challenge of acquiring the property that houses the Hotel de la Soledad. It was evident and well-known that it presented a deterioration and abandonment that put it at risk as an iconic monument of this city for having a history of more than 300 years.

Just for that, and given this is the city where I was born and that I love deeply, we decided that we had to establish a place that represents the people of Michoacan. For that reason, we gave ourselves the task of dreaming of having a reference site of Morelia, in which its characteristics of infrastructure, luxury and distinction in the service of excellence made it unique and special.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

Initially, the main obstacles were the permits to achieve its restoration. It was then that, despite our lack of experience in the hotel industry, my mother and I decided to give our best efforts, our time and our love to generate a company with very specific characteristics, from our own experience as world travellers who are aware of the needs and expectations that are generated in any leisure trip.

We understood that one of our great challenges was to fight against the lack of credibility and confidence in the female sex, in a macho society where women hardly find a place as an industry leader. For this reason, we decided to imprint our hotel with a unique touch of elegance and mysticism, combined with excellent service, alternating nature and its quarry in each space, without circumventing its history in an eclectic environment, the result of its majestic historical presence , the comfort of the contemporary and the benefits of technology.

As businesswomen we knew that there would be no way to compete with the best hotels in Mexico or the world, or achieve our dream, if we didn’t manage to combine all these elements in an environment of a warm home and excellent food, which only we could give with love and patience.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

I believe that women should increasingly enter into the decision-making political and entrepreneurial groups, hotel associations, urban and social improvement groups, hold legislative, political and executive positions and, above all we must be engaged in being socially responsible businesswomen, in making important and transcendental decisions for our communities, contributing, uniting and enriching with sensitive and inclusive ideas, the day to day of our society.

What motivates you?

My main motivation as a mother is the example of transcendence, work, sacrifice and the realisation of dreams that I can give to my children. In the business environment, as a woman, it is the legacy that we can generate, giving this beautiful city the most beautiful hotel that anyone could ever imagine.

 

 

 

Duval-Leroy, SLH Brand Partner

Carol Duval-Leroy, President of Duval-Leroy Champagne

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury industry…

Our journey in luxury hotels is the fruit of mutual understanding. The same quest for perfection.

Quality
Our wines are blended with a proportion of 1er and grand cru grapes that are out of all proportion to other houses. Duval-Leroy is the only house to offer a range only in Premier and Grand Cru. The aging time of wines is also extended to allow the development of secondary and tertiary aromas. The range of our champagnes meets the most diverse expectations of starred tables in banqueting.

Independence & Family
We are like many member establishments of SLH: independent and have the distinction of being a family house. In Champagne, the decisions you take are often for the long term. The vines are planted for more than 40 years, a vintage remains on average in cellars for 10 years and for some cuvées like Femme de Champagne, we are launching the vintage 2002 this year. It’s not common in a profession to be impacted by choice over such a long time! Being independent and family-owned allows us not to focus on the short term but to always think of the next generation. We make our proverb (taken up by Saint Exupéry) “We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”.

Environment
It is with this vision that I launched the first organic cuvée made by a Champagne house (a long time before it was fashionable) and made the Duval-Leroy vineyard work in a sustainable way. We were among the first to obtain the High Environmental Value and Sustainable Viticulture certification in Champagne because this transition had already been initiated by the house over the past twenty years.

All these qualities and values have helped us to make our mark in luxury hotels and fine dining.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

It’s much simpler today! But almost 30 years ago when I took over the business, women were still sidelined in many trades. Today, even if it is not perfect, it is not the case in many countries. I have known many luxury hotels through their star restaurants. Passionate about gastronomy and cooking (I wanted to have my own Michelin-starred restaurant when I was younger), I often met not a man or a woman but a couple. The women were not as invisible as we imagine and it was often the women who chose the champagnes!

In the hospitality industry, being a woman is not a handicap. On the contrary, women often pay attention to the details that make the little extras so important.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

It is an evolution of society that moves the lines in many countries. This movement is accelerating even if we can always regret that it does not go faster. Equal opportunities exist. Women must also understand that it is possible for them, that a position is not reserved for a man or a woman but for the person who will be considered the most competent.

What motivates you?

I have a job that I am passionate about, so I often don’t feel as if I am working. My goal was to pass the torch to my three children. They have joined me in recent years and I am very happy that I kept this somewhat crazy promise made to my husband almost thirty years ago, to pass this family business on to one more generation – the sixth.

My ambition is still to develop Duval-Leroy, to have our champagnes served in the most exquisite places all over the world.

 

Noble Isle, SLH Brand Partner

Katy Simpson, Founder of Noble Isle

Tell us about your journey achieving success in the luxury industry…

I think there are 3 main aspects which helped us in your journey within the hotel industry.

Firstly, we source all of our extracts from the British Isles. We work with small, celebrated producers from around the British Isles to source ingredients. We promote farmers, charities, conservationists – people doing exceptional things in Britain. Examples of our extracts are Perry Pear from Gloucestershire orchards, Barley from the Balvenie Distillery in Dufftown, Beetroot from Monmouthshire, Elderflower from Cornwall, Samphire from the Irish coastline and forced Rhubarb from The Yorkshire Triangle. Hotels have really resonated with this local concept and we find the hotels buy into the product where the extract is from or close to their county, region, or country. Outside of the UK these stories still translate from a top quality ingredient aspect, not to mention our rooted British heritage.

Secondly, we aligned ourselves with great partners and other British Luxury brands such as Liberty, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Virgin Atlantic, Wimbledon, Bentley. Rigby & Peller, The Fold, Michael Roux restaurants, The Savoy, Omega, BAFTA, Walpole – to name a few.

Lastly, we produce our retail and hotel products in our factory in Chester, ensuring all the same quality is achieved regardless of size, so each customer experience is the same. Many of our competitors have licensed out their hotel amenities and therefore the ingredients and country of origin are not the same as the brand they are buying into. I believe this has made Noble Isle stand out because our fragrances are emotive, evocative and lasting on the skin.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in the hospitality industry?

The hotel industry is a prominently male dominated arena. Having worked in Beauty and Fashion for most of my career, which are both heavily female populated, it has been a change in approach and way of working. Introducing and presenting the brand, the products, the fragrances needs to take a slightly different direction as male and female (broadly speaking here) interests differ in this area.

What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?

Traditionally, there have been stereotypical roles for men and women within the hotel industry but I think this is changing and fast, thankfully. The areas that need readdressing in order to allow this change to happen are internal traditional cultures and preconceptions about roles and job duties. The changes we can make to implement equality are mentoring staff, proactively supporting and encouraging the younger generations coming through the business, remove the gender pay gap, re-evaluate job specification, equality policy updates, and more focus on recruitment, training, promotion and allocation of work and pay.

What motivates you?

I am motivated by all that is around me. Being a creative person, I am visually conscious and am moved by my surroundings. Nature, changing seasons, forests, flowers, landscapes, watching things grow, environments – a beautiful hotel, a restaurant, interior design, colour combinations, all inspire me. Lastly the people in my life who bring love, warmth and positivity into it on a daily basis provides me with great motivation and courage.

 

Hermana Creatives, SLH’s Creative Agency

Gisele Orellano, Co-Founder & Managing Director of Hermana Creatives

What motivates you?

Waking up each day to solve new challenges in an industry I love, other women in leadership positions, and learning from how they balance work and family. As mothers, both Aliana (my sister and Hermana’s Creative Director) and I are also really motivated by our children and the desire to be good role models, showing them good examples in caring for the planet, treating people well, and working hard, but making time to have fun. Read our full interview with Gisele here.

 

 

SLH Vice President of Development EMEA

Read our full interview with Barbara Levedag here.

SLH Head of Social Media

Read our full interview with Abi Tottenham-Smith here.

SLH Senior Vice President of Hotel Services

Read our full interview with Cristina Mallia here.