9 March 2020

“As a General Manager, you need to have a vision“

Seven of TUI’s passionate female general managers share their stories and learnings on the way to the top

Even in 2020, women remain underrepresented in hotel management functions. But the industry is changing. Including Assistant General Managers, more than 100 women now hold top management positions in TUI’s 280 Signature Hotels*, paving the way for further young talents.

On the occasion of the International Women's Day, seven of our female hotel managers describe their careers and share their experiences in dealing with international guests and colleagues. However different their backgrounds may be, they all share ambitious goals, strong team spirit and their passion as hosts.

Name: Sharon Ay

General Manager since: 2011

Current hotel: TUI Blue Grand Azur

Number of employees: 260

My way to become a GM: I started as an overseas tour operator representative and worked my way up to area manager level for First Choice Holidays. So I made a move from a tour operator background, which is service and sales focused, to the operations management department of a large Turkish Hotel Group. My responsibilities were mainly to liaise between the tour operator and the hotel group, but I quickly started getting involved in the day-to-day operations of running a hotel. I moved from hotel operations to my first hotel as GM after 4 years.

The best part of my job is: Developing and building the hotel team. I am very passionate about getting the right people in the right places and ensuring they are clear what’s expected of them and ensuring they have the tools to do the job. Effective communication and trying to ensure the team know what a work-life balance means is key.

My biggest challenge in my job so far: In the early days, being accepted as female in a position of authority and working within a predominantly male environment. Very quickly I learnt the best way to communicate individually with everyone. A smile and gentle coaching goes a long way.

My advice to future GMs: Work harder than anyone else, be fair, be kind and inclusive. Take time to get to know everyone in the hotel as well as suppliers connected with your business. Be approachable and willing to listen, never be afraid to say you don’t know or understand things, ask for things to be explained so you can learn from your team as well. It goes a long way and earns respect.

Name: Asun Inguanzo Andrés

General Manager since: 2000

Current hotel: Riu Arecas, Tenerife

Number of employees: 185

My way to become a GM: After graduating in tourism and during my studies, I worked in different areas of the sector (hostess, tour guide, receptionist) both in Spain and Germany until I joined the training programme for directors of the Riu hotel chain in April 1998. There I had the opportunity to get to know all the departments of a hotel and thus learn the operational procedures of a hotel. One year later I became Assistant GM and in June 2000 I became General Manager.

The best part of my job is: Without any doubt: the daily contact with the guests. My personal commitment to make their stay as satisfying as possible. To have the certainty that in the future we will be able to welcome them again in one of our hotels is the greatest reward for our daily efforts. 

My biggest challenge in my job so far: The biggest challenge is to adapt to today's rapidly changing customer behaviour patterns. For example, when the Hotel Riu Arecas reopened in 2015, the hotel was modernized and converted into an adults-only hotel. This was a great initiative to attract new guests. The whole team had to adapt to the new hotel concept in order to retain these new customers while also keeping our regular guests.

My advice to future General Managers: I strongly believe in the power of motivation. Among many other qualities, I think it is important to be proactive and adapt to change. Common sense is also important to manage a hotel successfully.

Name: Tina Grünold

General Manager since: 2016

Current club: ROBINSON Club Cala Serena

Number of employees: 220

My way to become a GM: My first club was the ROBINSON Club Camyuva, followed by further assignments in various clubs in different countries (Tulum, Fleesensee, Select Maris, Jandia Playa, Alpenrose Zürs and Athenée Palace, Novilis, back to Camyuva and Cala Serena). After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Tourism, I returned to Mexico in 2005 to work for the Oasis Hoteles & Resorts hotel chain, managing the Grand Oasis Riviera Maya hotel until the end of 2008. I then returned to ROBINSON, serving as Assistant General Manager in various clubs in Turkey and Mallorca. After a short break as a mother of two children, I took over as GM of the Bahia del Este hotel in Cala Millor in Mallorca at the beginning of 2017. At the beginning of September 2018, I finally returned to the ROBINSON Club Cala Serena as General Manager.

The best part of my job is: Constantly being in contact with new personalities – guests or my team members alike – and the creativity that is valued in our company.

My biggest challenge in my job so far: 3 hurricanes within 3 years and the experience of living for one year on a hotel construction site in Mexico.

My advice to future General Managers: Be assertive, ambitious, don’t stop having fun, and believe in yourself.

Name: Ilgin Oya Yavuz

General Manager since: 2008

Current club: TUI MAGIC LIFE Kalawy

Number of employees: 480

My way to become a GM: I started in Guest Services at Magic Life World and then worked in Tunisia as Front Office Manager and in Egypt on the Nile Cruise, as Assistant GM at the Magic Life Sharm El Sheikh. Since the opening of TUI MAGIC LIFE Kalawy in Egypt in 2008, I have been General Manager of the hotel.

The best part of my job is: I love being a host and spoil our guests. We all do our utmost to make our guests feel home. And I love working in an international team. To me, this diversity is a big advantage. Working with people from multiple countries, with different social and cultural background and diverse world views increases creativity and productivity. I believe that it is also very interesting for our guests to get to know people from around the world.

My biggest challenge in my job so far: Club openings are always challenging, but exciting at the same time.

My advice to future GMs: Never lose the focus on guest satisfaction. It is our duty to make their holiday the best time of the year.

Name: Trudi Kreiss

General Manager since: 2015

Current club: ROBINSON Club Pamfilya

Number of employees: 300

My way to become a GM: Sandwich degree course at DHBW Ravensburg with ROBINSON, then promotion to Front Office Manager. In between, I joined TUI (TUI EXPO & TUI Contracting) and subsequently spent 10 years working for the traditional hotel industry in Germany, for example at Radisson Blu, Best Western and Melia. In 2012, I returned to ROBINSON, where I first worked as Assistant GM in Portugal and at Fleesensee, until I finally took over the family resort in Turkey as a General Manager.

The best part of my job is: That something new happens every day and I get to work in a wonderful place.

My biggest challenge in my job so far: I was the first woman in the whole Red Sea District of Egypt in a leading position (Front Office Manager).

My advice to future GMs: Just do it! It doesn't matter if you are a man or a woman, what counts is the quality of the work. Hopefully at some point nobody will care if the applicant is male or female if the qualifications are right.

Name: Stella Manioudaki

General Manager since: 2005

Current hotel: TUI BLUE Insula Alba

Number of employees: 130

My way to become a GM: Since I graduated from Hospitality Management University, I have been working in the hotel industry. I have never considered changing to a different sector, however challenging and pressurised this environment can be. My main mission has always been to get better, working in each department, learning from others and improving my skills and knowledge around this field. After 10 years of professional experience in a senior management position at Maris Hotels Chain, I took over the management of the Insula Alba Resort hotel in the first year of its operation. It is really touching to undertake something from zero and to watch its successful evolution over those 5 years.

The best part of my job is: The feeling of hosting, welcoming, and taking care of someone is the best part. Ensuring that each and every guest receives the luxury experience they deserve is very satisfying. Another aspect I really enjoy is being extremely involved in every aspect of the operations, starting from the guest experience, all the way to the back of house. The key is to have that level of connection with the guests through every aspect.

My biggest challenge in my job so far: To turn a disappointed guest into a happy one and make every guest feel pampered and genuine warmth from my team. Any job that involves customer satisfaction is a daily challenge, since the whole purpose of the industry is to keep them happy. As a General Manager, I should always be looking for new ways to achieve that.

My advice to future GMs: Be able to identify yourself as providing personalized services and have high quality standards, be creative and consider the future development of the industry. You should be focused on truly customizing every stay to suit each of the guests. As a General Manager, you need to have a vision, work hard, always be a fair player and encourage teamwork. But first and foremost, we should not forget ‘passion, passion, passion’ for what you do.

Name: Katharina Doehler

General Manager since: 2010

Current hotel: Riu Plaza New York Times Square

Number of employees: 288

My way to become a GM: Everything started with me staying at Riu Taino as a guest. I fell in love with the brand. And after completing an internship with RIU in the Dom. Rep., it was clear that hospitality was what I wanted to do in my life. While at university, I worked in small hotels in Germany, where I had the chance to gain experience in Front Desk, Housekeeping, Reservation, Catering, Restaurant, Groups and educational supervision of foreign team members. After graduating in Business Administration (Diplom-Betriebswirt BA), I started to work in the opening of Riu Ocho Rios as Assistant General Manager and Host Manager in Jamaica. After several positions in Jamaica, I was promoted to General Manager in Riu Montego Bay in 2010. I returned to Riu Ocho Rios as General Manager, led Riu Plaza Miami Beach, and since 2016 I have been at Riu Plaza New York Times Square. 

The best part of my job is: Seeing the joy in your customers’ eyes when you have been able to fulfil a wish or have given them an experience of their lifetime. Seeing employees being proud of their job and love to come to work. It never gets boring.

My biggest challenge in my job so far: The biggest challenges are the intercultural differences between employees but as well among the guests. Entering a new destination and educating employees about what RIU stands for and the way we work.

My advice to future GMs: Be yourself. Fight for what you stand for and let nobody tell you what you cannot do. And never forget to listen to your gut feeling.