Fiona Patricia S. Escandor finds out how a hotel trio teams up for the challenges of a new year
IT took a great deal of persuasion to get her on that cover.
She was initially hesitant to pose for the camera. She’s not used to it, she said, having been trained under an old discipline of public relations. This meant working behind the scenes and making all else shine—save for herself.
She was all glammed up and ready for the part anyway, though she had to be talked into striking a pose, on the condition that her colleagues will join her in the spotlight.
Bearing a warm smile and engaging disposition, the new marketing communications manager of Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino was all set as the photographer started clicking away.
Lara Verdan-Agua joined Waterfront in November of 2012, completing the all-female trio that leads the hotel’s sales and marketing team. Alongside her are Antoniette Alburo-Elmido, sales director, and Annie Tiu Uy-Retuya, conventions and events manager.
The three work together in getting the key goals of the hotel done, which, as explained by Annie, are to set the market, retain the brand and translate it into revenue. Working behind the scenes is a good way of putting it indeed. Nevertheless, their involvement goes far in keeping the flagship property of Waterfront Philippines Inc. a cut above the rest.
“We are open to each other’s ideas, which makes work very manageable,” Annie said. “We complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we work as a team.”
“There’s the eye for detail and perfection from conventions and events, the creative touch from marketing and the selling drive from sales,” she said.
The three are graduates of the University of the Philippines Cebu College, where Lara took up mass communication, and Annie and Antoniette studied business management.
Annie joined Waterfront straight out of college eight years ago and Antoniette was briefly with a mutual fund company before following suit. Meanwhile, Lara had dabbled in various industries such as telecom, contact centers and banking, until she eventually found her niche.
“In the hotel industry, everyday there is always something new. Whether we’re dealing with a patron or a new client, everyone always wants something different,” Lara shared.
Lara’s career in public relations took off when she joined Marco Polo Plaza’s pre-opening team, in which she was under the tutelage of its general manager, Hans Hauri, and public relations manager (now director of sales and marketing), Lara Constantino-Scarrow.
That experience, which she described as “crazy busy,” was what honed her and taught her the intricacies of hotel branding.
“He (Hauri) led by example and showed us no one should ever be too proud to engage in manual work,” Lara said. “If the hotel’s general manager can carry a banquet table and move it from one side of the room to the other, who are you to say it’s not in your job description?”
Behind the glamorous lifestyle associated with a hotel career is a grueling responsibility, and it’s certainly not the usual eight-hour day job that many are accustomed to. What keeps them going, they said, is the industry’s dynamism, the trust they received from people they have worked with, and most of all, the personal satisfaction of knowing they did well.
Everything else—rubbing elbows with celebrities for instance—already comes as a bonus.
“A letter of commendation from a client means a lot,” Antoniette said. “But most of the time, a simple text message already makes us happy, as it gives us the reassurance that we are doing the right thing.”
“Competition has been tough,” Lara carefully admitted. “There are small hotels, really large hotels—competition-wise, it’s already very challenging.”
“We are realistic in the sense that we can’t outdo them in every aspect. What we want to outdo them, aside from basic facilities, is in being a conventions hotel. That’s what Waterfront has been known for, and we want to aim to still be on top,” Lara said.
Early in 2012, Waterfront launched its newly renovated grand lobby, as well as a newly
constructed group check-in lounge and a new Casino Filipino wing. Beginning this year will be the second phase of the hotel’s multimillion renovation program, which consists of overhauling the hotel’s function rooms and convention facilities.
“Most importantly, service, as what our general manager, Alfred Portenschlager, has been hammering into us,” Lara added. “He’s right when he says that is what keeps the clients coming back.”
A little camera shy but that’s about it. As Annie, Antoniette and Lara usher in 2013, they stand confident and prepared—coming together as a team that’s more than ready to face whatever challenge the new year brings.