Oakwood brand gets second chance to shineBy Marge C. Enriquez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A large marble jacuzzi with a view of the skyline is the focal point of the elegant living room. For those who want privacy, a whirlpool with a rain shower facing the window graces the master bedroom.
These luxurious amenities are part of the presidential suite of Oakwood Premier at the Joy-Nostalg Center in Ortigas. It’s one of the city’s best-kept secrets that the hotel now wants to make known.
Now on its third year in its new location and with a new name, Oakwood Premier Joy-Nostalg has a new executive team.
Australian general manager Rick Erdos has over 25 years of experience. His vision is to capture both the markets of long-staying guests in service apartments and the short-staying guests in deluxe hotels.
“The Oakwood name and product were well established in Makati. This new product in the Ortigas marketplace holds its own. The facility is five-star and the business is strong. Credit it to the previous management and staff,” Erdos says.
Brian Connelly, who opened the 230-room Oakwood Premier-Joy Nostalg in Ortigas, is now the general manager of Oakwood Residence Hangzhou, China. Another pioneer, Genny Puno, has been promoted to marketing communications manager at Oakwood Asia-Pacific in Singapore.
Erdos’ new team includes Igor Ruge, executive assistant manager whose expertise is in managing food and beverage operations and banquet sales. He has worked in corporate and luxury properties in Germany, the Middle East and Asia.
Anna Maria Fernandez, director of sales and marketing, has over 25 years working here and abroad in various properties of Hyatt, Life-Resorts, Vietnam, Shangri-la and Radisson Blu Cebu.
Jose Badelles, public relations and marketing communications manager, has worked in The Peninsula Manila and Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts as design and communications manager.
“All hotels go through phases to refresh ideas, introduce new concepts in selling and marketing and broaden public relations. The owner decided, while the market is strong, to continue to grow the food and beverage as we try to capture more hotel business. We want to be part of the hotel scene and not just be perceived as a service apartment. We are fortunate to play in both segments. Our property has a range of accommodations from studios to three-bedroom apartments. Many hotels are looking to be part of that long-stay market. But when you have hotel room with no kitchen and laundry, it’s hard to compete,” says the new general manager.
Oakwood Premier-Joy Nostalg’s one-bedroom suites measure from 80 to 95 square meters. Aside from the generous dimensions of the accommodations, the rooms have appliances for cooking and laundry.
“The size [of the establishment with 230 rooms] allows us to get personal with guests, unlike the hotels with 500 rooms. Our structure is like a typical hotel-front office, with 24-hour security, function room, state-of-the-art health club and swimming pool. You get full five-star services at market prices,” Erdos says.
As in a five-star hotel, the establishment also has a guest relations department to establish a more intimate relationship with the guests.
He adds that its product offering has to be up-to-date from the information technology to the food and beverage.
The Oakroom International Restaurant and Bar has also been attracting the local clientele to its lunch buffets, wine buffets at night and theme cocktails and dinners with live music and Sunday brunch.
“Our restaurant has to adapt to the market. The origins of the guests are diverse. F&B has to capture that. There’s a high expectation of service. Our hotel is focused on listening to our guests, showing our initiative and at the same time improving.”
Oakwood Premier’s market consists of corporations; conventions particularly driven by pharmaceutical companies and the leisure market on weekends. Its clientele is composed of Singaporeans, Koreans, Chinese, locals, Americans and Australians, many from businesses related to the neighboring Asian Development Bank or call centers. He hopes to extend its reach to Rockwell Grove and Eastwood.
Erdos began his career as a night manager in Inter-Continental Hotel in Sydney. Then he worked at the Mayfair Inter-Continental Hotel as assistant manager. He served the Radisson group for 20 years.
His experiences as general manager of Radisson’s five-star properties were memorable to him.
Erdos was on top of the deluxe Radisson Plaza Hotel in Sydney. He recalled how, following the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the city experienced a glut of hotels.
“After the Olympics, most cities have too much supply but not much demand. That was a business experience,” he says.
As general manager of the five-star Radisson Hotel Pudong Century Park in Shanghai, Erdos was challenged by the cultural differences.
“It was an interesting exercise, but I enjoyed my stay. Shanghai is progressive,” he says.
His last post was the Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel Residence and Spa Manama in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The hotel has 100 Filipino staffers from middle management to rank-and-file.
“They exude a positive attitude towards their colleagues and guests. Filipinos have a can-do approach,” Erdos says.
Although he enjoyed the Westernized lifestyle of Bahrain, the subprime crisis compelled him to return to Australia. With his new posting in Manila under the Oakwood brand, he is enjoying the Filipino service-oriented culture first-hand.
When asked how Oakwood differed from all the establishments he used to work with, Erdos replied: “All hotel companies have the same vision—they pride themselves in service, and their strong reputation, but every company does it differently.”
He underscores Oakwood’s strategy of consolidating the hotel and apartment business models.
On his management style, Erdos says he lives by transparency.
“I was raised to be honest with myself. I like to share my ideas. I like to ensure that communication is two-way, not one-way. I want to invoke a listening culture because people don’t listen very well. Let people be heard. There’s also room for improvement because we make mistakes. The best people don’t make the same mistake twice. [They] acknowledge the weakness and turn weakness into opportunity.
“My philosophy as a general manager is that we are one team. I’m very hands-on, but I’ve never stood apart from anybody else.All the staff has to be on the same page. It’s an integrated approach.”
Photos by Nelson Matawaran
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