Get to know Wyndham’s new cluster GM in Ajman, Ravi Santiago

We chat to the hospitality veteran about his new post and his career leading up to it

What inspired you to get into hospitality?
I spent the first ten years of my career in various industries before I got an opportunity to work as a group financial controller for the pre-opening of a hotel in Sri Lanka. When I decided to grab this opportunity, I had to make sure that I had sufficient knowledge to jumpstart my career in what was a new exciting industry for me. I went to different hotels in Sri Lanka to learn about the hotel business and its operations. I met with every department and had an on-site training from grassroots level before I embarked on my hospitality journey.

How have previous roles inspired you to get where you are today?
When I was the financial controller, I did not restrict myself to the finance operations, I also explored all other areas of hotel operations. When the general manager was not on site, I used to take on the role as acting GM, which gave me insight and enthusiasm, and prepared me in taking on a permanent role.

What skills do you have that make you perfect for your new role?
In previous roles I worked closely with general managers, sales and marketing teams, revenue management teams and more. I was particularly involved in the evaluation and implementation of revenue management systems, pre-opening of hotels, and restaurant openings. I consider having a finance background as one of the biggest advantages. Being in R Hotels executive committee for almost ten years, I was fully engaged in handling the commercial aspects and facilitating commercial review meetings with the group’s executive committee.

How will the new role compare to previous ones?
What makes the hospitality industry interesting is that it’s always about people. I’ve always enjoyed guest engagement even though my previous role demanded me to be more at the back of house. With my new role, I am excited to be in the forefront of the operations, meet our partners and interact with the guests.

What challenges await you? And how will you overcome them?
The hospitality industry has been hit hard by the pandemic and, right now, we have to navigate through the new normal in all aspects of our business. As tourism starts to gather steam, we are hoping that our industry will bounce back. On a more specific note, we need to strengthen our relationships and be more flexible in our approaches. The hotel business is all about partnerships, and our properties are fortunate to have established strong relations in the past. This is one aspect that I would like to expand as general manager.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?
At present, assuming the role of general manager is one of the proudest moments of my career. Having a finance background and becoming general manager is not an easy task, and not a usual career path in the hotel industry. I have had comments from people who say they haven’t seen it before, but I take it and use it constructively. The hospitality has changed me for the better and made me more well-rounded as a leader.

What are your favourite things about the properties you look after now?
I love the food and beverage offers and outlets in our hotels, especially the seafood and grill restaurants, which are highly-rated by our guests. I’m also delighted to have been part of a team that has remained strong and resilient over the years, and treated each other as family.

Are you planning on introducing any new initiatives?
Definitely. I am stepping in at an interesting time so, so it’s not entirely by choice that we have to change some aspects of the hotel operations. Apart from this, I plan to have more guest experience and engagement activities as a priority. I also aim to increase our properties’ RevPAR and enhance our F&B offers. It’s not a room or food that we sell, we should sell an experience to every guest. That’s what I think leads to a sustainable success story of any hotel.

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