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Miguel Afonso dos Santos

MOZAMBIQUE - Tourism

What a Place

General Manager, Polana Serena Hotel

Bio

António Miguel Nobre de Almeida Afonso dos Santos has served as General Manager of the Polana Serena Hotel since July 2012. Previously, he served as Manager of Hotéis Real Portugal for one year, and from 2007 to 2011 managed the Real Palácio, the Real Parque, and the Real Residíªncia Suite Hotels. From 1995 he held a variety of management positions at a number of other establishments, including the Ritz Lisbon. He holds a degree in hotel management from the Escola de Hotelaria e Turismo do Porto, and completed courses in the same at the Centre Internacional de Glion, the Escola de Hotelaria do Estoril, and Cornell University.

How are new investments coming into Mozambique changing the hospitality sector in Maputo? Numerous companies are coming to Maputo and Mozambique, and the offer is growing, which will naturally impact […]

How are new investments coming into Mozambique changing the hospitality sector in Maputo?

Numerous companies are coming to Maputo and Mozambique, and the offer is growing, which will naturally impact the hotel industry. As long as offerings do not outpace demand, there shouldn’t be untoward challenges to contend with. Overall, 2013 was a positive one, and our occupancy rates have matched those of the previous year, while operating expenses have efficiently been reduced. Around 95% of our guests are business travellers, and we are proud to host many government and business meetings. Although only 5% of our visitors are here for leisure, I am quite optimistic about the growth of this segment.

What are you doing to raise weekend occupancy?

Over the past year, we have managed to put together some attractive packages to encourage people to fly for the weekend, not only through various alliances with other entities, but also through the combination of unique experiences. We want to introduce potential guests to our exotic home and provide experiences that will allow them to know not only the city, but also its cuisine and authenticity.

Would you say that Mozambique’s tourism sector is now working more closely together to promote the country as a destination?

There are certainly many opportunities to be realized. There has been an extra effort from both the public and private sectors, and all those willing to invest in Mozambique that truly appreciate this beautiful country. The number of international brands interested in it is rising, and can help position the country as a destination by marketing the variety and quality on offer.

“ Our well-travelled guests are increasingly demanding having had their high expectations of certain standards met in other countries at a uniform level. “

What would you say is the significance of Polana within the Serena brand?

Polana alone is a very strong and well-known brand, not only in Africa, but worldwide, with a 91-year pedigree. Serena stands for quality, with its 40 years history and portfolio of hotels in Africa and the Middle East. The combination of the two is a recipe for perfection.

Polana has a long history in Maputo. Is that one of the factors that distinguishes the hotel?

History makes this hotel very special and brings the proverbial “wow factor” to the experience, to which one might add the generational factor of knowing that parents and grandparents have also enjoyed a stay. The hotel, since its launch in 1922 has become the number one address, having undergone many historical phases, some easier than others, and throughout them all, has always kept its doors open. When Serena arrived in 2003 it added to Polana Serena Hotel a distinguished quality and brand strength, which still further contributed to positioning the hotel. If you have a venue boasting both a name and a history, and that provides exceptional service and complete product offering that features a spa, wireless internet, restaurants, bar, beautiful landscaping, two pools, and a cultural life of its own, then you have a complete package. Our well-travelled guests are increasingly demanding, having had their high expectations of certain standards met in other countries at a uniform level. And, when they arrive at Polana their expectations are higher still when you consider that the hotel is known as the Grand-Dame of Maputo.

Given the human capital challenges that you face, how do you ensure the highest level of service for your guests?

First of all, I think it is matter of getting everybody involved. If you have a team that does not understand its leadership’s goals, something needs to change in terms of communicating core ideals. If we fail to engage our staff and ensure their pride of being a part of not only Polana, but of Polana Serena, the fault lies with us. We need to lead by example, and engaging with the team is key at all times. Continuous training is a must as also is two-way communication, where we understanding our employees’ challenges, while being open to their ideas. Team spirit and continuous engagement are what allow us to know and solve problems immediately.

What are your goals for the hotel in 2014?

For this year, we aim to keep improving our offer and the quality of service to always provide our guests good value for money. Also there is an exciting project for Polana Mar, which I am sure will bring added value to Polana Serena Hotel.

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