Gwen Dela Cruz achieves a milestone as the first female general manager (GM)of the homegrown chain of business-leisure hotels, Seda. At the helm of the Seda Ayala Center Cebu (ACC), the flagship property of the brand in the Visayas, she is distinguished from other Filipino GMs for her extensive experience in luxury hotels and resorts here and abroad. Her vision is to share her expertise in order to make the 301 room Seda ACC the region’s hotel of choice. In addition to impressive credentials, Dela Cruz was fortunate to work with mentors in prestigious properties in Asia who taught her how to be a Jill-of-all-trades from cleaning bathrooms to keeping rooms and restaurants full and crunching numbers to delighting royalty and discerning guests.
She also welcomed the challenges of being an executive assistant to an international chain’s CEO which allowed her to work with GMs of different nationalities and acquire their insights on the nuances of five-star hospitality and how to be a people’s person. Like most hoteliers, Dela Cruz, an accounting graduate from Ateneo de Zamboanga, started with a modest position as a secretary at a deluxe hotel in Makati. Seeing her assertiveness and her natural leadership qualities, her boss advised her, “Don’t allow yourself to get comfortable in any one position. As soon as you master a role, prepare for a bigger one.”
Dela Cruz has since been promoted to positions dealing with guests and supervising other front liners. Her eight-year experience at a city hotel taught her to balance motivation with humility and developed her people skills. “It made me understand better how building a familial relationship among colleagues is important for a hotelier,” she said. A turning point came when she joined luxury hotel and resort chain, the Shangri-la Group. At the Mactan property, she expanded her knowledge from guest satisfaction and quality standards to revenue management. “I learned how to run the business as revenue goals were set and I have to be accountable for them,” she recalled. Pleased with her savvy in crunching numbers and her energy, the management sent Dela Cruz to Singapore to get a well-rounded training in the operations of a global luxury brand. “To be in the position of director of rooms, you learn by doing the dirty work like cleaning and inspecting rooms and being a waitress. It’s been said that the best hoteliers aren’t afraid of doing the dirty work themselves,” she said.
Dela Cruz counted working in Shangri-la Kuala Lumpur, ranked by Conde Nast Traveller as the Malaysian capital’s No. 1 hotel, as one of the highlights of her career. The stellar hotel was frequently visited by royalty and VIPs and was a favored venue for high-profile events. By then Dela Cruz had acquired not only the business and operations savvy, but also the refinements of the soft side of the business. When she was assigned to Maldives as resident manager, Dela Cruz had already mastered the habits and preferences of discriminating luxury travelers. She was then promoted as executive assistant to the CEO in Hong Kong, the tasks of which ranged from daily operations to managing projects. Last October 2018, she consolidated her long experience by accepting the post as GM of Seda ACC, owned by the Ayala Group. She was impressed with Seda’s international standards infused with genuine Filipino hospitality and its rapid growth of eight hotels since 2012. Dela Cruz was attracted to Seda because of its family-oriented work culture and that it provides its associates a work-life balance. “As in most hotels, it is results-driven, yet everyone truly supports each other and has fun,” she said.