"Guests stay loyal to the brand not because of the benefits they get, but due more to the quality of service they are provided with on each stay."
When Joanne Golong-Gomez began her career in the hotel industry in 1995, she had no idea that she would remain there for more than two decades.
"Learning every facet of sales, marketing, revenue management and operations, motivated me to go on," says Gomez, who is commercial director of Hilton Manila at Resorts World, Newport City, opposite NAIA Terminal 3. "The challenges I encountered along the way only made me hungry to achieve more, do more and better myself."
Completing the circle
Gomez supervises the marketing, public relations, sales and other related activities that drive revenue for this prestigious, five-star property. She aims to train her team to develop effective marketing and communication strategies. "I want them to understand first the why's — why are they doing it, why do we have to do this, why is it important,' Gomez explains. "When you understand and know the why's, then it becomes easier for them to be better at what they do.
"From there, you will see how passionate the person is towards the work...if they see the purpose or value in what they do...if it has helped them to be better. It doesn't matter how small the task is, what's important is that one is making it and helping to make the circle complete. If along the way, one commits a mistake, try again. You'll be surprised how beautiful the outcome will be.
"As a coach, you should remember that you are only there to enhance the talent and capability that your people already have."
Gomez rose from the ranks, embracing the challenges she encountered in the various hotels she worked at. She says: "I had mentors, who were not easy to work with, and I also had those, who really brought out the best in me. There were times when you lost really good team members to other hotels, so you had to re-train a new set of people, as it is essential in sales that to act immediately, otherwise you lose business to the competition."
Political instability, highlighted by coup attempts and bombing incidents in Metro Manila through the years, also served to undermine local tourism players' efforts. These, of course, have all paled in comparison with the Covid-19 scourge, which continues to affect disparate areas of the economy.
Fortunately, Hilton Manila was not forced to close its doors during the height of the lockdowns last year. But adjustments had to be made. Says Gomez: "We and the Department of Tourism and Department of Foreign Affairs, catered to the expatriates and tourists who needed to leave the country. We also reached out to the different Overseas Filipino Workers, who needed to be quarantined upon arrival in Metro Manila.
"With the drastic change of market and the non-availability of international tourists and MICE [Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions] events, we made a lot of sacrifices in terms of managing and closing down restaurants from time to time. It was the hardest when we said goodbye to some team members, who opted to put up their own businesses to care for and be with their families."
"Aside from implementing all these measures, we looked into innovating our food and beverage products to ensure that we continued to have revenue from that area. We adjusted to the new requirements of the market and devised ways to be attuned to what was new and adapted immediately to those changes."
Gomez was delighted to discover that a number of clients still patronized the hotel despite the unique difficulties Covid-19 presented.
Gomez points out: "Guests stay loyal with the brand, not because of the benefits they get, but due more to the quality of service they are provided with during each stay. If they feel truly welcome and valued, they will continue to stay with you and patronize your brand. It also helps that you continue to be engaged with them even if times are bad."
As a child, Gomez wanted to become a lawyer and follow in the footsteps of her dad Ruperto B. Golong, Jr., retired city prosecutor of Tacloban City, Leyte province. "But I soon realized that it took a lot of patience and a lot of tenacity to be one [a lawyer]," she says. "I've always been impatient. I am happiest when I see immediate results."
Her love for travel led Gomez to take up tourism at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. Five years into work, she landed a master's in business administration from the Ateneo de Manila University in Rockwell, Makati City.
Before Covid-19 put a stop to most activities, Gomez was in Malaysia, attending a regional sales and marketing meeting. She welcomes the gradual start up in hotel activities as market confidence returns with the rise in the numbers of vaccinated travelers. "Going through a difficult situation and still being able to come out of it has been very fulfilling for me," she asserts. "Achieving goals or targets makes it very exciting, and at the same time, helping an organization in optimizing its revenue and generating jobs in the hospitality industry is the ultimate fulfillment I get with my job."
Away from work, Gomez manages to successfully balance her professional and personal worlds. She and her husband Gerardo Gaspar Gomez or "Gerry," whom she describes as a good cook, are parents of 13-year-old Sofia.
"Time management is essential," Gomez says: "When I'm at the hotel, I do my work and ensure that I finish what I need to do for the day. Anything that I can't finish, I'll do the next day. I've always said work will just be there.
"What is important is that you know how to manage and determine what is important and what is needed.
"When I'm at home, I'm a mom and a wife. Work should not have a place on those two days when I am supposed to take care of my family or on the days that I am off for a holiday. However, before a weekend or if I'm away on a long trip, I make sure I have my key people handling the important details and they can decide even if I'm not present.
"Doing nothing for me is literally just lying down, clearing her head, reading a book or just watching Netflix. My daughter loves to talk, so our bonding time is more on talking about anything under the sun."
The corporate executive enjoys nurturing her plants, doing tablescaping — making use of her extensive collection of plates, cutlery and crystals — and adding to her wine store.
Asked to recall a role model, Gomez instantly mentions her father Ruperto, whom she had earlier wished to emulate as a laywer. "The biggest lesson that I learned from him is to never give up in life no matter how difficult it is," she says. "If you have integrity, people will respect you. Keep your strength of character and never ever sacrifice your personal values regardless of the situation.
"Learn to love and forgive and always put God first in everything that you do."