As Samui re-opens under the Samui Plus program, we are finding every opportunity we can to promote our resort and our idyllic destination

Ernesto Osuna has over two decades of experience in hotel management. He started his career at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid in 1997 as a room service operator, waiter and then restaurant supervisor, before swiftly rising to management roles at numerous five-star resorts under the likes of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, and The Excellence Collection.

Spanish-born Ernesto has been with the Spanish brand Meliá for over 7 years and was previously a cluster general manager for two Meliá properties in Zhengzhou, China: Gran Meliá Zhengzhou and INNSiDE by Meliá Zhengzhou.

Today he is making his mark as General Manager at Meliá Koh Samui, under the ownership of the Thai company Asset World Corporation.

What do you like most about being a hotelier?

Managing Meliá Koh Samui is so multifaceted that in all honesty, it’s quite difficult to pinpoint what I like most about being a hotelier. The fact that the general manager’s role comprises so many different elements would have to be one of my favorite aspects about it.

You really are a “jack of all trades” in the sense that you’re overseeing a collection of diverse departments that all work tirelessly to come together to create a seamless guest experience. There is so much to take in and every day presents new opportunities and new challenges. Taking responsibility for so much happening keeps you on your toes; you’re continually learning, and thus growing and developing professionally and personally.

Speaking of the personal, our industry is a “people industry”. I thrive on working with so many different, and talented, people at our resort, with such varied skill sets, and I find it so rewarding seeing team members move from strength to strength with their achievements and careers. It’s also great to meet so many friendly guests.

What do you think will be the next big thing in hospitality?

Given the current times, in the wake of the global pandemic, the next big thing in hospitality is to recover from the devastation Covid-19 has wreaked upon our industry and to come out stronger than ever amid the “new normal”.

As the Covid-19 era has been just so unusual, and so huge a problem, hoteliers have to think outside the box not only to survive but ultimately thrive. There is no magic bullet and we have to rethink all of the things we have learnt previously and reinvent our knowledge.

In this vein of the new normal, I am most interested in ensuring that we keep improving the guest experience while still ensuring we deliver a personalized guest experience in light of social distancing and contactless communication.

What are the key factors in running a successful resort?

A hotel environment is at its optimum when there’s a united team behind it. The entire operation is vulnerable if any section of the whole is not quite up to standard.

Everyone has a significant role to play in the guest experience, from the general manager and heads of department to the rank and file such as waiters, cleaners, and gardeners.

The heads of department and managers have a huge influence on their staff and need to work well with them to promote a strong work culture. It’s also important for your staff to have the right attitude and work well as a team. Contented staff result in contented guests.  

Samui is competitive and challenging as a destination. How do you maximize your marketing activities?

Covid-19 has changed the market dramatically, and with international travel still heavily restricted, the domestic market is currently our key market segment. Thus, we heavily promote our resort’s experiences through as many avenues as we can, and definitely set our pricing to attract Thai customers.

It is also a good time to highlight the sheer beauty of Samui to Thai customers, in light of the island’s popularity with international tourists for so long. With the support of the Thai Government’s “Rao Tiew Duay Kan” (We Travel Together) program, many more Thai people have had the opportunity to experience luxury destinations such as Koh Samui at a much lower price.

As Samui re-opens under the Samui Plus program, we are finding every opportunity we can to promote our resort and our idyllic destination. For example, as Koh Samui is a renowned wellness destination, we are launching a suite of innovative one-, three-, five- and seven-day wellness packages that guests are able to customize according to their needs and interests. Covid-19 has hit home just how precious our health is, and as many of us have a new-found appreciation for our immunity and wellbeing and are looking to travel again, we believe it is fitting for us to launch unique wellness experiences that coincide with Koh Samui’s re-opening.

What is your advice for hospitality students who want to pursue a career in hotel management?

You must have a can-do attitude and be passionate about serving others; it is a privilege to ensure our guests have the best getaway experience possible.

Make the absolute most of your training and absorb everything you can. When tricky and challenging situations emerge, you need to be able to think on your feet and come to the best solutions possible, most often in a team environment.

Hotel management is one of those rare industries that can take you anywhere in the world. If it’s what you really want to do, go for it, give it everything you have, and persist when hurdles arise. It’s such a fulfilling career and the opportunities hotel management offers are boundless.  

Visit  Ernesto Osuna at Meliá Koh Samui