Daniel Alcaraz is the General Manager of DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru who recently joined in late June. Being a ‘newbie’ in the Johorian scene, it is interesting to see his views of the industry and its future for would-be hoteliers from that perspective.
I have 20 years of experience as a hotelier, and had the privilege of seeing the world through this chosen career while absorbing the richness of the different cultures, where I learnt versatility.
I started with the Disneyland Hotel in Paris, and then moved on to developing my hospitality knowledge with several F&B outlets in Madrid and Barcelona in Spain. Later I joined Hotel ARTS (Ritz Carlton) in Barcelona and AC Hotels in Madrid and moved up the ranks as an F&B Manager with Hilton Barcelona in 2007. That was the start of my career with the Hilton Group. As I was keen to explore Asia, I got a transfer to Hilton Namhae Golf and Spa Resort in South Korea, and finally to China where I was assigned to 4 different locations within 6 years. It was an enriching experience where I picked up the Chinese language. Including my current assignment in Johor Bahru, I have been 10 years with the Hilton brand.
What inspired you to enter the hotel industry?
Hospitality was and is in my blood. While my family was running a Restaurant & Bar on the outskirts of Paris, I had worked part time jobs in hotels during my schooling years. Needless to say I had to help out in the family business as well – usually helping behind the bar or washing dishes! To me, it was never a chore. I enjoyed the company of our customers and enjoyed the camaraderie of working with my family.
I also shone in the luxury hotel environment where I was working, and wanted to see the world and travel. I also wanted to challenge myself in chartering into unknown waters with my chosen career and did just that and never looked back.
In what position did you get started?
I started officially as a restaurant waiter and served drinks and took orders at simple casual dining eateries to fine dining serviced restaurants hosted by reputable chefs.
I made my way up through F&B but it was a rough climb. Unlike how it is today, for me it was the traditional hotelier way. Before I was allowed to serve at dinners by my superiors, I had to do a lot of crystal polishing and cleaning, but I enjoyed every minute of it.
In what sections have you worked in within the hotel?
Always in F&B, until I became the Director of Operations. That was the start of my training as a General Manager where I had to venture into other areas such as Finance, HR and most importantly the commercial side of the business. It is about taking care of the business on the overall. That is the wonderful part of the hotel, where many roles exist and it is all very exciting.
What are your strengths?
My key strength is my sense of humour, being creative and resilient. Like the popular Chinese parlance – “When the sky falls on you, treat it like a blanket to cover you.” I also love to share with the team and with my guests.
Relate ONE example of an incident that made you feel that being a hotelier is the right job for you?
During my time in Europe and later in China, I had to perform under great pressure. I told myself that if I could make it happen under those circumstances and still keep a smile on my face, then without a doubt it’s the right job for me. I am proud to say that I managed to achieve some great commercial success. It was a process and not a simple encounter and I grew with the challenge.
What do you see as the future for a career in hospitality and in Johor?
The future is bright! As far as Hilton Worldwide is concerned, we already operate over 4000 hotels and now have the largest number in the pipeline for development in our history.
For every hotel opening we need Managers, Directors and General Managers.
I am excited with the development in Johor and the appeal that we have as a strategic location near Singapore and in the heart of Asia. With the supply of hotel rooms ever on the increase, this will only benefit the region. Johor will become a fantastic destination for both business and leisure.
What are the opportunities open to them within your own hotel?
We are always looking for new talents in our industry. For a start we offer programmes for Management Trainees in which we groom top talents to get to the manager level within 18 months. Joining Hilton in Johor can take you to Bali, Beijing or anywhere in the world if you want to. Under Hilton Worldwide and under the Bright Blue Future programme, we are committed to positively impact 1 million youths worldwide by 2019, providing career opportunities across the world.
What are your personal words of encouragement for new entrants into the industry?
If you are passionate about delivering exceptional guest experiences, then this is the line of business you are looking for. If you are imaginative, spirited, dynamic and hungry for success, this is the job for you. It does not apply only to men but women too are welcome for a leadership role, as Hilton strongly promotes diversity in the workplace.
Finally, I encourage you to choose a company with a real CARE culture. This will make your daily life much more rewarding. I should know. I am the product of one.