These days Christopher Robert Park is always seen with a warm smile on his face. He has a hearty laugh and cracks jokes whenever the opportunity arises. Indeed, the hotel that he manages seemed to have imbibed this new vitality and energy infused by its new owners and the people who help manage it. Chris Park is the general manager of the Waterfront Pavilion Hotel and Casino Manila. It is one of the newest acquisitions of the Waterfront Hotels and Casinos, and right now the hotel is undergoing a major transformation to fit right into the standards Waterfront is known for.
“Today is the best this country has ever been in the last 20-plus years in terms of tourism,” explained Park. He said this is so because, “there is a concerted effort by all areas in the industry to progress.” In particular, he said that the service industry has been at the forefront of the action to help fuel the progress of the Philippine economy. Even now that the country has just been struck by Super Typhoon Yolanda, the latest economic figures indicate that the Philippines is still the best-performing economy in the region to date.
Park said that he seen the resiliency of this country that’s been through so much and yet has been able to move forward each time. “There’s something about this country. You can live here for 50 years and you will never really put your finger on it. No matter what happens and how bad things are, people still smile,” he added.
He should know. He’s been a permanent resident of the country for more than 20 years now, and is married to a Filipino-Chinese.
Park recalls he met his wife while attending school in Switzerland, where they eventually came back to the Philippines to marry. He had absolutely no plans of staying here he said, but life does have a way of creating situations that eventually made him stay, and for all of that he is grateful.
When asked how he feels about the hotel’s location which is in Manila, rather than the financial district of Makati, he said that things are looking quite rosy, and that is why they have embarked on this massive renovation of the hotel. This building is going through an evolution he said, as Waterfront Philippines took over a very old hotel, one of the first tallest buildings in the country that is now 46 years old. The difference, he said, is that this is the first time the building is owned and managed by the same people. He also points to the exciting changes the capital of the country is now experiencing in terms of shipping and infrastructure. In particular, Park is excited about the newly built world-class shipping terminal and the prospect of more luxury cruises that will start from the city by the bay.
Waterfront Pavilion’s general manager is also quite excited about the prospects of the new Pagcor City and the other hotel and casinos that will soon be built around it. He explained that there are several types of hotel customers—those that like to stay in casinos and those like a more family oriented one. He said that casinos are altogether a different world, and Manila is envisioned to be the hub of these high-end resorts and casinos in the near future.
Five-star hotel ambience
They’ve already got the foothold in this area, because their hotel currently attracts one of the biggest number of both casino-goers in the country.
“We’re now repositioning it as a four-star hotel with a five-star service,” Park said. This means that when you walk into the hotel, you can expect that same quality and experience as you would in any five-star hotel. Park admitted that the cost was nothing short of astronomical to fix the whole hotel from its electricals and plumbing, all the way to overhauling each room and changing almost everything in it to be at par with Waterfront standards. But the owners are quite happy with how it turned out he said, even as they’re getting ready to do the last finishing touches to make the transformation complete. He expects next year to be a milestone for this historic hotel, as Waterfront completes its project and finally puts out the sign for everyone to see.
For now, the hotel’s lobby is elegantly spruced up in time for the Christmas holidays. There is a happier spirit that fills the air, as the building is abuzz with activities left and right. Amid the hustle and bustle, the hotel management and staff also made sure to remember the plight of the victims of the recent Yolanda, and recently held its Christmas tree lighting ceremony and a “wishing-well””dedicated to the victims.
As for Park, he said that at this time in his life, he feels absolutely blessed. The hotel he runs is slowly but surely on its way to creating a new milestone, and his personal life has truly gotten a second wind. When not working, he said that he plans to spend more quality time with his family, and hopefully traveling to more places in the Philippines, to experience and appreciate first hand the many beautiful things this country has to offer. He is also embarking on more corporate social responsibility projects as a way to give back and show his gratitude to the country that he has learned to love and who in turn embraced him as one of its own.