SUMMIT Hotel Galleria is focused on giving its guests Cebuano hospitality, says its general manager Ariel Banaag.
Ariel recalls experiencing this kind of hospitality himself when he first came to Cebu during his early teens. He recalled that his family, from Mandaluyong, moved to Cebu in 1985 and has stayed here ever since. Initially, he feared that he would be bullied in school (University of San Carlos-Boys High), being new and Tagalog-speaking. To his surprise, everyone was welcoming. It is this kind of experience, he said, that the Summit Hotel Galleria owners, the Gokongweis, would like their hotel guests to experience.
Ariel finished high school in USC-Boys High and started to take up political science at the USC-Main Campus. But he later shifted to business management in the International Academy of Management and Economics, a small school in Metro Manila. He used to be an introvert but his first job in a hotel, namely Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa, changed all that. He found satisfaction in interacting with the guests, particularly with one guest who came to the hotel—an angry foreigner and whose anger simmered down with the way he handled the guest (who, to this day, remains his friend).
In 1997, he found work in Melbourne, Australia, in a small 82-room hotel, where he was a jack of all trades: nursing attendant, gardener, front office receptionist and night auditor. Then, he moved to a bigger hotel still in Melbourne, Crown Towers, where he worked as cage cashier, then bell room attendant, then receptionist, then VIP service coordinator and finally, by 2006, as duty manager.
He came back to Cebu to get married (to Maria Concepcion de Castro) and worked briefly as duty manager in Shangri-La. From there he was part of the opening team of Imperial Palace (now Jpark Hotel Island Resort and Waterpark). In 2009, he moved to Manila and was with Mandarin Hotel, after which, he was part of the opening team of City of Dreams before joining Summit Hotels in November 2016. Now, he is back in Cebu where he considers himself a true Cebuano (even his children prefer to live here than in Manila, he said).
Asked what makes a good hotelier? Ariel answered:
“He must be a people person, must work to satisfy guests of the hotel, must be hospitable and a very hard worker.” And what makes him a good Cebu hotelier? “I can relate to different people like Tagalogs or Visayans. I can handle foreign guests. I can think on my feet to make decisions for the company. I am very direct. The Gokongweis asked me to promote Cebuano culture in the hotel and I am doing that. They love Cebu and they are making a small gallery in the hotel that will feature their growing up years in Cebu. All the furniture in the hotel is made in Cebu.”
Summit Hotel Galleria’s target clientele are both the corporate and traveling public because Cebu is centrally located and he said, “(Summit Hotel Galleria) is one of the leading MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) places. We have one of the biggest ballrooms in the area which can be subdivided into three meeting rooms. Our biggest conference so far was that of BMeg and they occupied all of our 120 rooms. Right now, he explained, “we only have 120 rooms. By November, all 220 rooms will be completed, all done in modern style.”
Ariel added that the hotel restaurant is by the restaurant chain Providore. Though not yet fully functional, the restaurant is open for breakfast. It is tweaking its food offering to make it include Cebuano food and delicacies, to complete the hotel’s thrust of giving its guests Cebuano hospitality. Since he has experienced it himself, Ariel will surely be able to comply with management mandate for Summit Hotel Galleria to offer Cebuano hospitality to its guests.