Hospitality

A Glimpse into the Life of a Resort Hotel Manager

Transitioning from a contained environment to a more natural locale sounds like a dream for anyone with an appetite for scenic workspaces, but it also brings unusual challenges that would unnerve even the most experienced hoteliers and managers

Photos by Jilson Tiu (Patsy Abad), Aubrey Porciuncula (Yves Remondeulaz), and Pat Mateo (Joegil Escobar)

You may be surprised to know that the manager of a resort situated in one of the Philippines’ most famous beaches isn’t a local. Despite receiving his degree in Switzerland, Yves Remondeulaz has called the Philippines his home for the past 20 years. He balances his calm exterior—exuding comfort and familiarity with guests—with his diplomatic and decisive behavior as he imparts discipline and responsibility to his staff. It is this equilibrium that sent Remondeulaz hopping from Manila, Pampanga, Pangasinan, La Union, and Tagaytay to Boracay. Astoria Boracay, to be exact.

Young Patsy Abad, who has lived most of her life in Manila, now prefers the tranquility and laid-back lifestyle of Batanes to the fuzziness of the capital city—a choice otherwise lost among others her age who are not so open to trading the cosmopolitan comforts and company of close friends. But as the general manager of Fundacion Pacita’s restaurant Café Du Tukon, the 24-year-old finds solace in herself and her lush surroundings.

She, along with Joegil Escobar, resort manager of Club Paradise Palawan, once a fixture in the aviation industry for 10 years, and Remondeulaz, who has made the Philippines his home, currently face the challenges of managing resorts and restaurants on an island. It’s no easy task, they confess, but it’s not something unmanageable. In fact, the three have become quite adept at it and they credit experience for this ability.

PROBLEMS IN PARADISE
Joegil Escobar

While many assume that the serene view of calm shores and white sand connotes relaxation, managing a resort in buzzing Boracay isn’t always sunshine and blue skies. “The cons would definitely be the additional stress of a typhoon and the weather… [which leads to] stranded guests. Whenever they miss their flights, we manage that. The brownouts have been getting worse. The island has not fully recovered since the Yolanda typhoon and it affects the resort until now,” explains Remondeulaz.

The same dilemma isn’t foreign to Abad, who once had to transport Café Du Tukon’s freezer downtown where there was electricity so that the fresh meats and produce inside would not spoil. From a restaurant that was once reliant on the goods flown in from Manila or even from nearby Tuguegarao, Café Du Tukon is now more prepared to face such challenges by growing produce on its own farm. It doesn’t hurt to have a little creativity too, Abad says. Whenever a typhoon hits the northern island, fishermen can’t provide them with seafood. Thus, she makes do with whatever she and her kitchen team are left with.

“Once you’re on a remote island like ours, logistics are definitely a challenge,” says Escobar. “You have to get all of the stuff here at the proper time, so planning is very important. And of course, you have to take into consideration the cost,” he says. “You have to make a proper forecast of everything, unlike in any other hotel on the mainland where they can just buy stuff from anywhere—like in Manila.”

“Once you’re on a remote island like ours, logistics are definitely a challenge,” says Escobar. “You have to get all of the stuff here at the proper time, so planning is very important. And of course, you have to take into consideration the cost,” he says. “You have to make a proper forecast of everything, unlike in any other hotel on the mainland where they can just buy stuff from anywhere—like in Manila.”

Logistical snags are just the tip of the iceberg for far-flung resorts. Food spoilage is high, which results in equally high food cost. Fuel is central to the island, too, with a resort like Club Paradise running 24/7 Genset to generate its own electricity. Because Club Paradise is stationed a few miles by sea and land travel away from the center of mainland Coron, Escobar carefully maps out a plan to ensure smooth operations, from getting shipments and supplies from Manila and Mindoro to safeguarding food standards for lone dining outlet Ocean Restaurant and preserving a distinct, guest-focused atmosphere—managing around 160 to 170 employees and seasonal peak demands notwithstanding.

Daily hurdles are all in a day’s work, but what strikes immense concern are the surrounding issues. Aside from still being affected by the previous Yolanda typhoon, it cannot be denied that Boracay is taking heat for the alleged ecological damage caused by resorts. But Remondeulaz highlights what many don’t realize: “Of course the more development you have, the more staff you need. Aside from established resorts that have proper staff houses, and proper sewage treatment, there are those that simply [make do by using] bamboo and different methods for their sewage. This is what people don’t realize. It is not the big resorts entirely, it is [also] the small individual businesses [that may be causing this pollution].”

PERSONAL PAINS
Yves Remondeulaz

On top of grave struggles, Remondeulaz doesn’t escape his own set of daily challenges. Living within the resort’s compound may seem like a staycation, but it comes with a 24-hour availability for his role’s demands. That’s why he reiterates that anyone who plans to manage an island resort should escape the office mindset.

Resort and restaurant managers act as a gel for the team, constructing a desirable work relationship among their staff through coaching and training to ultimately deliver impressive service. This doesn’t exempt them from getting to know the guests themselves, and creating a memorable experience with those they encounter.

“Of course the more development you have, the more staff you need. Aside from established resorts that have proper staff houses, and proper sewage treatment, there are those that simply [make do by using] bamboo and different methods for their sewage. This is what people don’t realize. It is not the big resorts entirely, it is [also] the small individual businesses [that may be causing this pollution].”

Although they invest their time in their work, they admit that living in a secluded island can bring about the company of loneliness. “Living here has been the biggest challenge,” admits Abad. “I went through an adjustment period because all my life, I’ve lived in Manila. And I also don’t know the Ivatan language. Sometimes, when you’re stressed and you go home, there’s no one to talk to. You’re left alone.   That was then; now it has become more manageable.”

Remondeulaz went through the same thing. “Yes, it was difficult early on [to adjust] but now, I’ve gotten used to it. My family and friends live in the city but at least every 90 days, I go to Manila for two weeks. Then when I return to Boracay, I’m back to a totally different lifestyle.”

BEAUTY IN MADNESS

Given the challenges, an isolated site’s beauty overshadows the negatives. The great thing about most resort hotels is that they share the success with local formative influences while also tailoring a bespoke signature experience for guests. Much of the success of any resort set in island communities is attributed to the wealth of talent and resources that surrounds it. Club Paradise, for instance, employs as much as 95 percent Cuyonons as a means to integrate locals into Coron’s thriving tourism industry. Fishermen from nearby towns and islands are benefiting from the sustainable codependency system the resort promulgates. “We do buy seafood from the local fishermen; they sell their catch to us,” says Escobar, adding that this habit brings an element of sustainability to the menu, where guests can opt for whatever the catch of the day is. 

Working on an island definitely has its own set of pros and cons, and the sooner hopeful employees realize that there’s more to it than just indulging in the carefree beach lifestyle, the less hurtful reality’s bite will be.

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