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Career Path

The heart of hospitality

by Rachel Sproston

Andres Castillejos, general manager
The Luxe Manor
Photo: Edde Ngan

For many experienced hoteliers, bigger is considered better when it comes to the size of the organisation they represent. Indeed, it is easy to see the positive aspects of running a renowned establishment in the heart of a major cosmopolitan city, supported by international backing with offices worldwide.

This was the world Andres Castillejos, general manager, the Luxe Manor was introduced to at a tender age when he regularly visited his sisters and aunt to deliver their lunch because they were busy working in international hotels.

Attracted by the constant buzz around him whenever he visited large hotels, after graduation Mr Castillejos decided to take up a position as a front office assistant at the Regent Hotel, and quickly discovered his affinity for people.

Realising he felt perfectly at home in hotels, back in 1983 Mr Castillejos moved on to the operations side of the now Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel and worked his way up until 1996 when his experience and obvious adeptness gave him the confidence to consider an overseas posting. "There was an opening at Melbourne Crown Towers in Australia so I took it," he recalls.

New pastures

During his stint in Melbourne though, he got itchy feet. Similar to most people who have worked in only one industry, Mr Castillejos realised it was high time he delved into another profession to test the water. "I joined an advertising company in Shanghai just when the city was on the cusp of its period of incredible expansion," he adds. To give an idea of the pace of life, he recounts one particularly busy week when he was involved with two TV commercials simultaneously, and his team did not sleep for five days.

Mr Castillejos' epiphany came when he reflected on his time in advertising and recognised deep down that his heart was still a hotelier's. The Marco Polo beckoned him back to Hong Kong and he started as front office manager, and became group marketing manager responsible for 10 of the group's hotels in 2003. Following this, he took on the director of operations role and was finally promoted to hotel manager of the Marco Polo Gateway.


"Try to avoid overtime because you will arrive at work stressed and fatigued the next day"

He points out that his perspective of the hotel business altered during his spell in advertising and this has proved most useful since. "The ability to integrate marketing and operations is key," he says, adding that marketing departments often devise some fabulous plans which operations departments find hard to fully grasp. "My job was to liaise," he notes.

For many hoteliers, running a large international hotel would have been their career zenith, but not Mr Castillejos. When approached by The Luxe Manor in 2006 and given the proposal to lead an exciting team of vivacious people in the new boutique hotel in the heart of Tsim Tsa Tsui, he didn't hesitate.

Close up

Perhaps his enthusiasm to join The Luxe Manor boiled down to the facilities incorporated into its design because Mr Castillejos is aware that fulfilled guests are happy guests, who in turn make the manager's job a pleasure. A sense of serendipity is immediately apparent upon arrival in the surreal lobby and no corners have been cut to ensure guests leave with a lasting impression of a truly exceptional sojourn.

"Visitors are looking for something unique, something extraordinary which typical large-scale luxury hotels do not offer because of standardisation policies. Here The Luxe Manor has the edge because its smaller scale allows staff to make inimitable touches which truly strike home with guests," Mr Castillejos says.

Michelin starred chef Roland Schuller rules the roost at the enchanting Aspasia restaurant and offers the palate an unsurpassed culinary encounter which includes his signature Italian menus complemented by an abundance of superior old world wines. The dining delights of Eden, Heaven and Hell are set to open this autumn and promise patrons gastronomic delights to match their namesakes.

Two years since opening it is now apparent that Mr Castillejos made the right career move. The Luxe Manor was recently voted in the top one per cent of hotels in the world by Expedia in the "Expedia Insiders' Select 2008" and in November 2007, the hotel joined Small Luxury Hotels of the World, which includes 440 independent hotels in more than 70 countries which offer "exceptional experiences".

His motto is all about mindset. "Be sincere, committed and focused and then everything is possible," he advises. "Try to avoid overtime because you will arrive at work stressed and fatigued the next day," he adds. Regarding team efficiency, he recommends young people consider joining the boutique hotel industry because in such an environment, dynamic input is valued irrespective of an employee's age or rank. This in turn leads to a real sense of professional ownership.


Taken from Career Times 15 August 2008, p. B16

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