I first met Carlo Librea during the soft opening of B Hotel in Quezon City in August last year, when media people were invited to get a “sneak peek” of the new property by The Bellevue Hotels and Resorts Group. In his coat and denims – no tie for the shirt – he looked perfectly at home in the cool, minimalist ambience exuded by the hotel which at the time, was still going through the “finishing touches.”
As the hotel manager, Carlo is tasked with overseeing operations and faces the challenge of hitting the right note to make the hotel distinct from the others – not an easy job considering that the concept of an “industrial hotel” is relatively new. Yet this young hotel manager is not exactly a greenhorn when it comes to building something up from scratch, so to speak.
A Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, major in Export Management graduate from the De La Salle University-College of St. Benilde, Carlo’s first job was with Makati Shangri-La where he was part of the guest services center team when he was 22. This was followed by a stint with the Richmonde Hotel in Ortigas before he gave himself “a chance to practice” what he trained for, going to Paris where he helped open Enertime SAS – a consultancy firm specializing on renewable energy – as the pre-opening administrative manager. After two years however, he had to come back home because he was needed by his family.
“I joined Picasso Boutique serviced residences in Salcedo where I was eventually promoted as supervisor, and then transferred to One Pacific Place serviced residences in the same area as Salcedo, where I worked as a front office manager. I gave myself the chance to broaden my knowledge on hotels and resorts, so from there, I grabbed the opportunity to work with El Nido Resorts (in Palawan), first with Pangulasian and then with Apulit,” he recounts.
Two years later, he found himself back in the city, then applied for the job of manager with B Hotel, directly reporting to managing director Ryan Chan. Working with B Hotel, he says, made him realize that he really likes the challenge of pre-opening hotels, and that his heart is in “operations, administration, finance, basically every aspect of the business,” his experience honed during the time he stayed in Paris to work with a consultancy firm, and his previous work where he practically helped open a couple of hotels.
Opening B Hotel, Carlo admits, has been a challenge as well. With its rugged, unimposing look from outside, onlookers and those passing by Scout Rallos would find the B Hotel a bit “plain.” This impression gets a complete turnaround however once guests step inside the hotel: Striking, artistic, unusual and cool are just some of the adjectives that would run through your head as you take in the concrete walls livened up by splashes of color from paintings, or a corner made inviting by an accent (like a bicycle carrying a basket of garlic by the elevators).
That the hotel has managed to capture its target market, and then some, was evident when we visited towards the latter part of May – not a peak season according to Carlo – with the hotel almost fully booked with guests that include families on weekend staycations as well as local and foreign businessmen. In a manner of speaking, Carlo is using his “export management” training because he is after all helping convey to the target clientele the distinct image and the service offered by B Hotel.
“It was initially planned as a businessman’s hotel but when we opened (officially last December), we saw all sorts of market like families and long staying guests,” affirms Carlo, adding that government agencies, pharma companies and other corporate entities are starting to gravitate towards B Hotel, holding their seminars and conferences in the two function areas (the Ballroom and Intramuros). During our stay, we also observed two private events – a Star Wars themed birthday party and a wedding reception, with a corporate event lined-up on the day we checked out.
In fact, the demand has been such that B Hotel is now constructing a tent at the sixth floor (above the ballroom) while another restaurant (in addition to the Lobby Café, the Pastry Corner and the Mezzanine bar) is also in the pipeline. The young manager admits it was initially difficult to get the public to understand the industrial concept of the hotel, as during the early days, they would get comments like, “Are you already open? How come you don’t have paint?”
“So I had to be there every day to explain the concept, opening doors and welcoming guests,” he laughs, adding that since the B Hotel is unlike traditional hotels with all the glam touches and that soft, wall-papered look, they were going for a very rugged appeal but offering five-star service which the Bellevue brand is known for. “We always incorporate Bellevue as the managing company because Bellevue is five-star and we want to impart the message that the standard of service we provide here is also five-star,” he stresses.
Carlo also takes note of the “aggressive publicity” efforts that the Marketing Communications group has engaged in,as one of the reasons why this early, B Hotel has gained a lot of traction, rated by Tripadvisor as number 2 out of 50 hotels in the metro. Aside from traditional channels like the tri-media, they also opened the doors of the hotel to shoots for teleseryes and movies, to the point that certain areas of the hotel – like the lobby for instance with its attractive, red and yellow plush seats and the metal decors – became recognizable. Facebook and Instagram were also utilized, shares Carlo, adding that a photo uploaded on Facebook and Instagram would generate a lot of “likes,” which told them that their target market is looking at their page.
Asked about the challenges of the job, he smiles. “Our staff are mostly millennials so we always have to keep them motivated,” he says. “They are very aggressive but if you challenge them the right way. They live up to expectations."
As for that aspect about the hotel that he takes most pride in, it takes him a few seconds to answer. “The teamwork. Because let’s face it, I cannot do this alone. I cannot man the front office and serve coffee at the same time. I cannot clean the roof or swipe the floor. Basically it’s the team. If you see our team at work during our Saturday cleanup, I’d be scrubbing the floor to set an example to millennials that even with my position, I am one of them.”
Talking to Carlo Librea, one leaves convinced that the latest baby under the Bellevue Hotels and Resorts Group is also poised for growth and success, because the way it is being managed reflects the philosophy articulated by managing director Ryan Chan: That there is more to being a great hotel than just outward beauty and attractive features, as the focus should be on guest experience and satisfaction.
“Anyone with capital can build a structure and put in all the amenities, but if the service is awful, you forget about amenities or facilities, and guests leave with a heavy heart. Every staff knows they have to provide excellent service for the guests to appreciate the hotel and its concept so that when visitors leave, they have nothing to say but positive things about their experience at B Hotel,” Carlo concludes.
The B Hotel is located at #14 Scout Rallos, Barangay Laging Handa, Quezon City. For inquiries and reservations, call (02) 990-500 or visit www.thebellevue.com/b-hotel-qc.