Salvatore Casarrubia – General Manager of Opera Suite Hotel, Yerevan

Mr. Casarrubia, taking into consideration your experience can you share some advice for managing a successful hotel.
First, to become a successful hotel, it is very important to have a motivated and professional staff. As an example, for an inspiring and motivating manager, we can take Jose Mourinho, a famous football coach. Maybe, he is not the best tactical coach in the world, but in my opinion, he is the best at motivating and making his players feel valued and appreciated. Following the same logic, I demand from myself to motivate my employees and put them in the position where they can do their best every day, and that is the way to help and empower them to grow professionally, to have new experiences every day, of course by providing the necessary conditions.
It is very important to understand that it is bilaterally effective both for the company and the employee. As a hotel, you can have the worst facilities, but if you have a motivated staff, you will have an advantage over your competitors with the quality of service your staff can provide.
Today I am more than happy to share my experience with my employees and colleagues, I am not jealous. I understand that sometimes it can be a little bit challenging, like in any other industry, working in the hotel has its ups and downs, but I am not talking from my side as Salvatore Casarrubia, I am telling it as a person with all this experience. I am asking my employees to trust my experience and when I tell them to do things in a certain way, I ensure that it will run very good.
Let me tell you also another thing. The position of a general manager is very delicate, you have to say when something is wrong and it is not personal. My goal is not to please everyone, that’s why from time to time I have to make decisions that some people will not like, but again as they say “nothing personal, just business”. My goal is to make sure that the company is running as it is supposed to run, also, of course, take care of my staff. But I must be sure that they are giving all the maximum for the company. You must be sure they are doing what you require.

You spoke about how you need to treat your employees and colleagues, tell us more about your views on how to treat customers.
As for the customers, my thought is following; never say no to the customer. I used to say to my employees, don’t reason with your pocket, because you never know who is standing in front of you. For sure when a customer asks for something very special, they know that they must pay. That is self-understanding. We should ensure that whatever is customer demanding, of course within the law, we are doing our best to provide it at the highest level possible.
When I came here, I introduced the Latin expression to my staff. “Vademecum” which means “Come with me”. That gives them guideline how I wish they treat each other and how they treat our guests. I don’t like to use the words customer or client; I prefer using Guest. In the past, there were no clients or customer, everybody was called GUEST. You must treat them as a friend, as someone you are hosting at your house. Hospitality is not only a job, but it is also a culture.
I understand that it is not easy, working as a waiter, barista or receptionist, for example, as you are serving people. But you don’t have to be embarrassed because you are serving someone, you need to understand that you are providing service, which is a different approach and different mentality. I can see some differences comparing Armenia and Italy in that sense. Waiter understands that he or she is not just serving, but they are providing professional service.
Speaking about professionalism and different approaches, what do you think about professional education in this industry in our country?
Taking to account the problems mentioned above I think It should be very interesting to have a hospitality school in Armenia. For example, if we discuss the case of Switzerland (the country where I was born) they have mountains, beautiful nature, agriculture, banks but very little tourism (compared to other industries). But they have the best tourism and hospitality education in the world, they have the best private schools for our industry. In those schools they provide education for general managers, financial managers, revenue managers, restaurant managers, housekeeping managers, chefs. They are to pay for that, and when they finish school, they already have work. Young Armenians should understand and give importance to professional education. They have a lot of opportunities and chances to build their career in your country.
What do you think about new opening hotels in the country and their management and pricing strategies?
Yerevan is a very beautiful and welcoming city, and I am very happy with the new opening hotels, but in the same time, I am worried that new hotels are making damping, not all I mean. Damping is very dangerous and could be damage the market, it needs a long time and it will be very hard to recover that. I am not scared about the opening of new 5-star hotels, I am glad about it. Normally, they should sell higher than me 4-star hotel (smiling). My position in the market could be a little bit less comparing 5-star hotel. I took many challenges in my life. I had some losses and wins of course. Here I have a very beautiful 4-star hotel and very motivated, professional staff. I feel very confident that we will make a difference not with our walls but with our staff and service that we can offer.
Tell us a little bit more about one day at work as a general manager.
As a general manager, I can come even at 10:00 am. But I am I usually arrive around 08:30, I am not here just to sit at my office and check numbers from the previous day. I go up to the breakfast room. I am checking if everything is fine and I am having a walk in the hotel to ensure that everyone is doing their job at the right time. It doesn’t mean that I am some kind of policeman or I am checking on someone. The message is that I am here and I give example to everyone by doing that.
Can you share your work experience?
My previous work was a big hotel with 140 rooms and spacious meeting rooms, we had 1500 sqm ballroom, it was situated close to Bologna. It was old, like many Italian hotels. I understood that this 1500 sqm ballroom, can and must be our advantage. In the case of that hotel, if meeting rooms work, all the services will work as well.
Also, I worked in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, in Florence for 3 years and Toscana as well. And I had a different kind of experience. I managed a business hotel, a thermal hotel with a big spa that operates mainly for the leisure segment.
I have started my career in this field in 1993 with a very important chain: Accor. I worked for many years in this chain and it is a very important background. I grew up as a professional with Novotel. I worked for Novotel Bologna for several years starting from the reception. I had a very good General Manager Mr. Paolo Rier, He was the General Manager of Novotel Hotels in Italy at that time. He gave me the opportunity to grow up until Front Office Manager. I decided to leave the Accor chain and continue my experience by myself.