GM in the Spotlight – Renato W. Chizzola of Constance Halaveli

We recently spoke to Austrian born Renato W. Chizzola, the General Manager of Constance Halaveli in the Maldives

Renato has travelled to 165 destinations worldwide and says that the Maldives is possibly the best of all them when it comes to a beach destination with sun and scenery to match.

He tackles our questions on all aspects of his role as general manager at one of the world’s best hotels– and even name drops a few famous hoteliers he’d love to welcome to the Maldives…

Hi Renato, we'd like to open by asking how did you career begin? I began work as a 12 year old in the kitchen of my father’s restaurant. My parents met in hotel management school so as soon as I was big enough to be in this environment I jumped at the chance. I also began cooking from a young age and by the age of 15 I was offered an apprenticeship at a 5 star hotel in Salzburg, Austria. I’d always wanted to work within hospitality.

How long have you been at Constance Halaveli and what’s the most satisfying part of your job? Approaching one and half years now. We’re currently in the monsoon season here, but its paradise, so warm – and the water is warm too. I’m so lucky as this is such a beautiful part of the world where it’s sunny for 300 days of the year. As a beach destination, I’m not sure it’s gets any better than the Maldives. Maybe somewhere in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia or in certain areas of the South Pacific – but the Maldives really is paradise. As such, our guests arrive with a smile on their face and it’s our job to keep them smiling throughout their stay. Keeping that smile on their face is the most satisfying part of my job, as is ensuring our staff of 300 are happy – as this all contributes to creating the right environment for our guests.

How does your job fit into your family life? I’ve been travelling since 1993, and I’ve hardly been home. I always wanted to be a global traveller. However, I have been married for the past three years and my wife is fully supportive, she works in a similar trade to me, so we make it work and most of the times we are together. When we have holidays, we either go to Spain or Thailand – but mainly Spain is our home.

What’s been the most expensive booking you’ve ever received in your hotel? Here, we had a booking for our amazing Presidential Villa. It was a one month stay which was just short of $500,000. Unfortunately I can’t disclose who it was, as we must retain a high degree of confidentiality.

Most generous tip? Me personally as a manager, it was a long time ago. It was in the mid 90’s when I was a maître d – the huge tip was shared amongst our staff and my portion of it was $10,000. They were an extremely happy and generous group. I immediately invested the money into my house and always think back with a smile.

Who inspires you as a person? I’m not really a man who seeks his inspiration from famous people or celebrities. I think that sometimes we try to look too far when in fact we can get inspiration from closer to home or even at our work environments. Many of my team members inspire me, as do people who are not as lucky as us, whose living conditions are really tough. Seeing 165 countries you see a lot of poverty as well as luxury. I try to be a leader who sees not only a person who works for a living but I also try to learn about their background, I like to take time with people and learn about what inspires them. In return I get my share of inspiration.....

Which one guest to your hotel would make you feel starstruck, who would you really like to see at Constance Halaveli? Horst Schulze, the former President of Ritz-Carlton, or Isadore Sharp, the founder of Four Seasons. These guys who have pioneered the luxury travel industry some 50 years ago. I would be honoured if one of these fine gentlemen would visit our hotel. I would ask for some brainstorming sessions and would invite them to share their feedback, how much better can it get! These men have achieved tremendous things in our industry. This may never happen but I would love to meet those two gentlemen. And when it comes to a celebrity in the sports world, I’d love to welcome Christiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid so he could motivate and inspire our football fans on the island and maybe even attend one of our games.

What advice would you give to somebody who was looking for a room upgrade? There are certain organisations that you work together with, for example if you are member of the Leaders Club from Leading Hotels of the World like we are – a room upgrade is guaranteed if available. I think though that sometimes in life, you find there are people who push the boundaries and always look for something for free. Then there are down to earth, lovely people. This is when a hotelier has to use their judgement. Sometimes I will think ‘I can make a huge difference to this couple’s honeymoon and maybe they will talk about the hotel for years to come’. And then you get customers who are a little abrupt and say ‘I expect an upgrade’. Our guests however are truly lovely people – and we always endeavour to contribute to their happiness wherever possible.

Of all the places you have travelled, what is your favourite hotel? Obviously it is my current hotel at this very moment. However, there is an amazing hotel in Bangkok. It is called the Oriental, and it is run by Mandarin Oriental. I was married here and the hotel will always be close to my heart. The service is just outstanding. There are others too, if you go to an Oberoi in India they are just palatial – amazing hotels. Beauty comes in so many different forms. The diversity is what makes these places great. Whether they are hip or cool and trendy or somewhere traditional like a farmhouse in the Swiss Alps – it’s just a different kind of beauty. It’s important for us to remember that luxury is no longer a ‘one fits all’ proposition but rather a customized and tailor-made experience and it is our goal to find out what each traveller likes.

What’s the most unusual hotel you’ve ever stayed in? I stayed in an igloo in Sweden, made of ice. They were very unique and memorable. And the one that remains in my mind was on the Greek island of Santorini. A hotel which is carved into the cliff side, it is called Katikies. This is an extremely unique and very beautiful place to stay. There are many more........

What is your favourite cuisine? Mediterranean is a place of my passion. I love Mediterranean food. And Asian food – my wife is Asian and so we love to eat Japanese, Thai and Asian food. I’m Austrian and I like a good Austrian dish too. But definitely Spain and Italy produce my most favourite cuisine. Our guests here are diverse and travel from many countries so we have to cater for everyone in resort, bringing together talents from various countries and create a global menu to satisfy all travellers.

Did you ever have a really demanding client who requested something beyond your control? I did have an unusual request from my past, I used to manage the world’s largest and most luxurious mega yacht, which I can give you. Someone wanted fresh berries delivered to Antartica. It was a logistical nightmare but we managed it. Berries are not something easily transported, they have a short shelf life. The last port is in Argentina, so you need either a helicopter or a boat to bring you items that may otherwise be deemed as an emergency. My rule is that if guests have wishes that can be fulfilled, we make every effort to make that happen.

What is the strangest forgotten item left in a guest room? I think we will leave this to the imagination! I don’t know if people didn’t want to take it with them , or if they simply forgot it!

Thank you so much to Renato for his time – and remember you can see Renato and ask him any questions of your own by booking at stay at Constance Halaveli.

For expert travel advice call the Destinology Travel Consultants now on 0800 072 2227 or to enquire online click here
August 29, 2013 15:02 by Destinology
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