Happy staff equals better services which equals happy customers and which in turn equates to better profits. This is the approach the new general manager of the Grand Pacific Hotel, Peter Gee, is taking.
Mr Gee took up the position on July 6 replacing Eugene Diethelm. A month into his new role, and the Australian has a clear vision set of where he hopes to steer the iconic hotel.
He comes with “many years of experience” in the hotel industry as he puts it and has always worked for hotels.
Originally from Perth, Australia, Mr Gee has worked in hotels and resorts in Australia, New Zealand and even London (UK).
Most recently, he spent nine years in New Zealand as general manager of Stanford Plaza Hotel in Auckland.
He said this is where he came into contact with a very strong multi-cultural workforce which has given him a good understanding of the region.
A light-hearted and jovial Mr Gee seems to have fit in perfectly in the Grand Pacific Hotel with noticeable changes already obvious.
Small changes are already being noted where the staff uniforms have been changed and they no longer need to wear the hat and the strap around the waist.
Changes are also being slowly made in the food and beverage area.
We had an exclusive one-on-one interview with Mr Gee yesterday to hear about his plans to take the hotel forward.
Sun INTERVIEW with Peter Gee:
Why did you decide to apply for the role in Fiji?
Because I was looking for an interesting role. I have got five kids, four married. Youngest daughter is 18 and going to college now. For the first time, I didn’t have to worry about where we were living and about our kids.
So I thought I could look for jobs anywhere. I wanted to go somewhere I could fall in love and use my background. Also if you are working in big chain hotels, you cannot do much.
Here it is interesting and I have a lot of interest in this.
What are your plans for the hotel?
We have this absolutely magnificent hotel. This is probably one of the most interesting hotels architecturally.
I think the current owner and the predecessor have done a marvellous job in bringing this wonderful building back to life.
Now is the time to take the next step. We have been open over a year and we need to do some fine-tuning. We need to take a new direction.
We need to take the next step to make the hotel realise its true potential. I have a very clear vision what that is going to be.
So what exactly is your vision for the hotel?
I think what we need to do and what the board also agrees, is first of all make this place the true pride of Suva. One where all the people who work here, their families, guests (locals and foreign) and all the people of Suva are proud of. That has not been happening.
I also want to make it the symbol of Fiji. There are so many things here which make it special for example – this hotel has risen just like a phoenix out of the ruins.
It has been a rebirth for the hotel. It’s just blossomed. We have something that is very special combined with the colonial history and the warm Fijian culture and heritage.
I cant think of anywhere else in the world where a hotel is on a note and on a postage stamp. This is truly a symbol of Fiji. I want us to become an icon of the South Pacific and I think that is possible.
How will you achieve this?
First of all we are a business and we have got to recognise that. That means we have got to be sensible in the decisions we make. If that means we have to change some of the things that were done, so be it.
More important is how we do it. This is going to be done with respect to everybody. We must treat everybody – the staff and the community with respect, fairness, politeness and courtesy.
These are common principles that we must apply. If we have a problem, then we will handle it with proper due process and fairness.
This is just like a giant ocean liner – we have to change the direction slowly.
What sort of marketing plans are you looking at?
I’m going to be looking at every aspect I do. After one year – some things get overlooked so one year on you have a better idea.
One of the areas is revamping our website. This is a very romantic building and so many wonderful photos you can get.
We have not traded this hotel anywhere near its true glory. The photos don’t do justice. The people of Suva know what it’s like but they are just a tiny portion. People come from all over the world.
We need good marketing and take good pictures and put them on our website.
Will there also be changes to the food and beverage?
I am looking at all of what we are doing with food and beverage. I think we have been looking in the wrong direction.
I want Fijian dishes – fresh fish, iTaukei dishes, Indian dishes – and I want to showcase it. I would ultimately like to see 80 per cent of the produce we use to be local. I know it’s achievable but not easy.
So there will be an overhaul of the food and beverage?
We are walking towards that slowly. But we are walking step by step. We want it to be an evolution and not revolution.
There is got to be a step-by-step approach. I had a pretty good idea when I came. Being here, I have got even stronger on it.
What is the current occupancy like?
It has been very good. Last couple of months, we have started to achieve our budget in terms of occupancy.
What is the potential profitable area you see for the hotel?
I think this hotel will be driven by large conferences and banquets. If we didn’t have this hotel, we would not have attracted such high-level conference as the PIDF (Pacific Islands Development Forum) which includes leaders of all Pacific nations.
This hotel is allowing Fiji to showcase itself. The demand for our conference and banquet area keeps growing.