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Ms DiplomacyShangri-La Mactan has a new marketing head with 27 hard-earned years under her belt. For this exclusive interview, Agnes Pacis talks about retail therapy, vacations, and why she’s called Ms Diplomacy

Shangri-La Mactan is the ubiquitous hotel chain’s pearl in the southern Philippines.

Behind the luxury resort and spa’s glamor, however, is a customer-satisfaction driven machine that needs to be operating all the time. As the new Sales and Marketing Director for Shang-Mactan, Maria Agnes Pacis knows she’s shouldering a ton of responsibility. Her new gig not only involves a hectic schedule made more challenging by the rigors of the hospitality business, but demands exceptional social skills. How will she cope? Fresh from a conference abroad, the di- rectress takes time off form her demanding workload to share precious insight to China Business.

China Business: As a director of sales and marketing, can you explain the scope of your responsibilities?

I directly manage five Sales and Marketing departments of Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa. These are sales, revenue management, events management, room reservations, and the communications department. A Manila-based DOSM (Director of Sales and Marketing) of our National Sales Office also has a dotted line reporting to me on the meetings and incentive group business from Manila. As DOSM of this resort, the main responsibility is to maximize revenues and yield for all revenue centers of the resort: i.e. rooms, banquets, food and beverage, the spa, sports and recreation, etc. This includes ensuring we are continuing to guard and leverage the brand and our marketing strategies and activities in the key feeder geographical markets are well in place. In this day and age, we make this happen through traditional and new distribution channels.

Are there certain character traits that you consider necessary for anyone in the same line of work as you are?

Perseverance! A competitive spirit also helps. A strategic and creative mind as well. Most importantly, one has to be a ‘people person’ to thrive in this industry. You have to work with people everywhere you turn- whether it is your staff, your colleagues, your customers and your guests.

You are a 20-year veteran of the hotel business. When you just started in the 80s, what was the biggest learning curve you had to overcome?

Thanks for date-stamping me! [Laughs] I started in the Sales and Marketing discipline and the biggest learning curve then was to overcome the fear of ‘networking’ and just approaching people in social settings at work. I have to say, networking is an art in itself that one learns in good time and with experience.

What is a day at work like for you? Is there lots of variety and unexpected circumstances or do you prefer a more routine-driven schedule?

An ideal job for me is one which presents a healthy dose of both predictability and variety. This one, I have to say, has that with some days leaning towards one side or the other which is quite stimulating. Any job that swings more towards one extreme can’t be good in the long run.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Building a winning team is a challenge I enjoy the most. Teaching, coaching, mentoring and seeing members of staff evolve and grow in their roles. When every member of your team gets to a point where they can believe, smell, touch, taste success (it is after all, very contagious!) then I know I have done a very crucial part of my job.

Do people in your position still find the time to relax?

This industry is undeniably very demanding of one’s time. It’s up to the individual to make their own time and brand of relaxation. It could be as simple as reading a book or even meditating. In my case, nothing beats retail therapy—shopping!

You actually worked in Myanmar. What was it like? Where else is Asia would you want to work?

I actually did not work in Myanmar per se. I held the role of Area Director of Sales & Marketing overseeing both Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok and our Traders Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar while being based in our hotel in Bangkok. This role gave me the opportunity to visit our hotel there a couple of times. It’s indeed a very exotic destination and offers visi- tors both cultural richness and diversity. Honestly, I would like to know what it’s like to work in Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan.

Since meeting a broad variety of people is part of your job, how do you rate your interpersonal skills? (For example) Would you make a good ambassador to another country?

I like to think that one of the reasons I have survived this industry is because of my relatively high emotional intelligence. In fact, I think I rate quite high in this department, enough to be named “Ms. Diplomacy” by my previous staff members.

Can you tell us about an aspect of the hospitality industry that the general public doesn’t know?

The public usually just sees the glamor of it all. What most people who have not been bitten by the hospitality bug don’t know is that a lot of hard work and not-so-glam tasks go on behind the scenes in what we fondly call ‘the engine room’ to ensure all goes well ‘on stage.’

What are the secrets behind the breakfast and lunch buffets? Where does all that food come from?

There are really no secrets behind these buffets except that what’s not consumed will not be recycled in view of our very high food safety and hygiene system standards. Whatever you see on our buffet spread are well planned for to ensure quantities are sufficient for the expected business levels, and more importantly, prepared fresh daily.

Is learning a second or third language necessary for someone in marketing in a major hotel chain?

It’s always an added advantage if a person has a few language abilities under their sleeve. It makes for better communication across cultures and increases your opportunities of working in the country of the language you speak. But it’s not a requirement as long as you possess a good command of English.

Are vacations possible for someone who has worked in a luxury hotel and resort?

During holidays I personally have a difficult time detaching myself from hotel-resort life. Whenever I visit another hotel during a holiday I find myself praising (or worse, being highly critical of) the service standards. It is, however, possible to relax once you have come to realize that you just have to let go and enjoy your well earned break.

What are you going to do next after answering these questions?

I’m going home to find that elusive work/life balance and enjoy the company of my husband.

Print ed: 08/11


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