Mactan resort workers gain new skills in Russian stint-A A +A
Saturday, January 5, 2013
WHEN 38-year-old Renea Sabarre set foot in Vladivostok City last September, she felt like she had stepped into a dream. “I could no
t believe where I was. I felt like I might never have a chance to return to this place because I was dreaming,” she gushed.
She was there with 71 other employees of the Mövenpick Hotel Mactan to help out in Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit in Rusky Island. She left her two children and partner behind for about a month to work at the front desk and call center for delegates.
Though her duties at the Mövenpick are as a masseuse at the spa, she applied for the chance to help out, even if her duties were different from her actual work. “Here, we are trained to multi-task. So even if I work at the spa, I also do reception work when clients come in for treatments,” she explained.
Sabarre has worked at the hotel for nearly seven years, starting out when it was still called the Cebu Hilton. She met many important Filipinos, including members of President Benigno Aquino III’s Cabinet.
Chance to learn
Mövenpick Hotel Mactan general manager Knuth Kiefer told reporters that after they were offered the chance to help out at the Apec Summit, they allowed all employees who were interested to apply, even those in other departments who were not actually doing front desk duties.
He added that it could not have come at a better time, since the hotel was closed for five months due to renovations.
“We wanted to give them an opportunity to experience another country and travel abroad. That was our main drive because they opportunity is rare. We wanted as many people as possible so they could gain the experience,” Keifer said.
Though the employees required were for front office, telephone operators and bell services, Keifer said employees from all departments were accepted. They were made to undergo two-week trainings before they were sent to Russia.
He feels very proud of his team, saying he has gotten positive feedback about their performance. He cited calls he received from guests at the summit who have heaped praise on his team members for their friendliness and professionalism.
He was especially glad of the fact that not one of the employees decided to return early because they got sick or changed their minds about serving there.
Sabarre admitted that her initial thoughts about Russians were that they were strict.
But after spending time with many Muscovites flown in from Moscow to serve at the summit, she felt very appreciated and cared for. She also admires them for their discipline in keeping their streets clean and orderly.
She was also glad to learn basic Russian, as they were taught phrases.
Her colleagues Anthony Saberon and Chona Taghoy were just as enthusiastic about their experience. They shared that they have made friends and are still communicating with some of them. Taghoy, who works in the accounting department, said it was her first time to travel abroad.
“To be bringing the name of the Philippines, of Cebu and our hotel made us so proud.
Some people would ask us where we were from,” she said. Another experience she did not expect was to be interviewed live by a Philippine television network. “The newscaster wanted me to talk in Tagalog. I’m not that good in Tagalog.”
Colleagues could not stop teasing Saberon, who works as the hotel’s leisure and activities supervisor. They implied he had met someone, although all he said was that the Russians were very friendly and that he loves that country.
‘Meant to be’
For Honorary Consul to Russia Armi Garcia, getting the 72 delegates to serve in the Apec Summit was “meant to be”, as it coincided with the hotel’s renovations, which led them to suspend operations then.
Pointing out that Cebu and Vladivostok have been sister-cities since 1996, she felt it was only right that Cebuanos helped them in the hosting of the Apec Summit. Garcia and Consul Vadim Zaytsev presented letters and certificates of appreciation to the hotel and the 72 workers signed by the Russian Federation president’s business administrator Valery Soluyanov, who also headed the Apec 2012’s workgroup for summit venues and location. Zaytsev said their service was held “in highest estimation” by the Russian Government.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 05, 2013.