Interview – Sonia Nastase, General Manager Howard Johnson Grand Plaza
A good hotel manager is, first of all, a passionate of this profession. It is impossible to perform without values compatible with the industry. A good hotel manager is a leader for his team. Technical details can be learned, but working with people requires certain native qualities, or those qualities need to be educated. A good hotel manager knows how to smile. It is said that during jobs’ interviews in the hospitality industry, the preferred candidate is always chosen for his attitude and then will be trained for the job. This is also true for General Managers.
In the fallowing interview we are talking to Sonia Nastase, General Manager of Howard Johnson Grand Plaza, and a well known professional of this industry.
Why the hospitality industry? How do you find your choice after more than 15 years of successful operations in this sector?
I believe everyone has moments which can be considered “turning points” in a professional career. For me, it has been a challenge that I accepted following my intuition and I never regret my choice. It has been in my system for a long time, because along my career I met people who inspired me and trained me for future experiences, and the trust I have been given is honouring me and motivating to surpass my performances all the time. What I am trying to do now is setting a personal example and determining others to have the same positive, success oriented attitude. Hotel industry has a lot of rules, especially technical rules. It is important to make people from the staff – who need to respect a lot of standards in order to run smoothly the whole operation – look natural in front of the guests. This is everybody’s challenge working in this industry, including me.
What were the biggest challenges since you took over Howard Johnson Hotel?
Challenges are omnipresent in our industry. The most visible one now is maintaining the same excellence of service in the case of decreased rates. Operational costs remain at the same level, some of them even increase, meanwhile the rates in 4 and 5 star hotels have reduced over the past few years.
It is only natural for a 5 star hotel to try exceeding the clients’ expectations, to offer that 1% more than what is expected, but many times this 1 % is cost reflecting, which nowadays, becomes a challenge. It is the time for self-improvement and inventiveness. I see these challenges as my chance of finding and developing new solutions to new problems.
What do you particularly like at the hotel you run?
I consider the team I am working with one of the best assets of this hotel. The brand Howard Johnson is built with the team, with its individualities. The value of the brand, and that of the team implicitly, have been and still are the positive attitude, the willingness to make that extra-effort in order to exceed the guest’s expectation and – last, but not least – to be always better as a team. I consider that we have a strong team, which takes over different roles with professionalism, hospitality spirit and this is our key advantage.
What are your plans for this year?
In 2012 we will continue the projects started last year and we will try to offer more, at a competitive price; we will try to be better, even more responsive and innovative in offering our guests the satisfaction of receiving the excellent service they expect from us.
In order to sustain the quality of the product and services offered by HoJo, we will continue investing in training programmes for the staff, in monitoring and evaluating the quality of the services.
We will also continue improving different aspects of the products, meaning improving the facilities in the rooms by re-accessorizing and partially or totally rebuilding the interior design and amenities in the rooms. We have an important project for 2012, i.e. to enlarge the event and conference facilities, by creating a new event- dedicated space on the first floor terrace.