FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Women Hoteliers Share Their Stories of Accomplishment in Rising to the Top

by Irene Rawlings

Mar 18, 2024

PHOTO: © STARHOTELS CASTILLE PARIS

March 2024

The hospitality workforce is more than 50 percent female (according to the 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics), but the top tier remains very much male-dominated. The Penn State School of Hospitality Management’s 2023 Women in Hospitality research report finds that for every female chief officer, four men hold that title. Global Traveler had the privilege of speaking with several women in leadership roles to gain their insights and personal stories and to learn what it takes for a woman to reach a top position in hospitality today.

PHOTO: © JOSH TELLES

CONNIE WANG
Managing Director, Hotel Figueroa
Built in Los Angeles in 1926 as a hotel exclusively for women, Hotel Figueroa was originally helmed by the country’s first-ever female managing director, pioneering aviatrix Maude Bouldin. Today the iconic 268-room hotel (in The Unbound Collection by Hyatt) is managed by Connie Wang, who studied at Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and learned her craft by working in every part of hotel operations

What does a woman bring to the role of managing director?
A genuine sense of care; steadfastness in my commitment to my team; and possessing a quiet, steady hand in times of stress — while often considered as more feminine traits — reflect a true sign of strength.

What lessons can you share with young women who aspire to reach your position?
Working in hospitality requires many nights and weekends. Choosing a life partner willing to support you at home will give you a much better chance of reaching your career goals.

PHOTO: © STARHOTELS CASTILLE PARIS

ALESSANDRA BRAGOLI
General Manager, Castille Paris
During a summer working at a seaside hotel owned by family friends, Alessandra Bragoli fell in love with hospitality. She gained experience at several high-end hotel brands before landing at Castille Paris (a 108-room boutique Starhotels Collezione hotel located on the chic Rue Cabon), where she has been general manager for the past eight years.

What is the most challenging part of being a woman general manager?
Historically, the hospitality industry has been male-dominated, and women in leadership positions may face challenges related to gender inequality, such as unequal opportunities in career advancement. However, I’ve also observed women GMs often bring unique perspectives that are particularly beneficial in an industry where guest satisfaction and customer service are paramount.

What lessons can you share with young women who aspire to reach your position?
Work hard. Remain modest but strong. Believe in the fundamentals: respect, equality, integrity and consistency. Develop the ability to create beauty and dreams around you.

PHOTO: © HEATH MOFFATT PHOTO

MANDY FARMER
CEO, Accent Inns and Hotel Zed
Mandy Farmer’s dad opened a hotel in the 1980s. She spent college summers working at different hotels (but never their own, she said), and she, too, was bitten by the hospitality bug. In 2008 she took over the family’s pint-sized hotel chain, based in British Columbia, Canada. In 2021 Accent Inns received recognition as one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures.

What are some advantages of being a woman hotel owner?
I think leading through love and compassion is a superpower I have as a woman and as a mom, and it’s something I’ve been able to bring out of leaders of all genders on my team.

What lessons have you learned along the way?
The only “right” way to lead is to do it authentically. Once I got to know who I was as a person and as a leader, I started wearing my bright, vintage outfits to work instead of trying to blend into a sea of dark suits.

PHOTO: © SAMARA KAROO RESERVE

SARAH TOMPKINS AND DAUGHTER ISABELLE TOMPKINS
Owner, Samara Karoo Reserve
Since 1997 the Tompkins family has been re-wilding former livestock farms in the Great Karoo region of South Africa’s Eastern Cape into what’s now a 67,000-acre reserve, fostering the return of species absent from the land for more than 100 years such as the cheetah, lion, black rhino and elephant. “I truly believe in the power of purpose-driven business to effect change,” said Isabelle Tompkins.

What challenges do you face as women running a wildlife reserve?
The management of wildlife reserves in South Africa remains a male-dominated field, making the task for women seeking to be heard that little bit harder. At a time of global ecological crisis, when society is in dire need of long-term solutions to conserve and restore biodiversity, it seems counterproductive to fail to hear the perspectives of 50 percent of the population.

What would you say to young women aspiring to reach your position?
Sometimes being underestimated can prove your greatest advantage. Keep working away at your passion, and you will find the breakthroughs you seek.

PHOTO: © HOTEL SACHER

ELISABETH GÜRTLER
Hotel Sacher
Elisabeth Gürtler, who holds a master’s degree in business science studies, married into the Hotel Sacher family of Vienna, Austria. After her husband’s death, she became owner of the Sacher Group. She also owns the elegant Alpin Resort Sacher in Tyrol. Her numerous awards include the prestigious Hermes Prize Entrepreneur of the Year 2020.

What are some of the most important aspects of running a legendary hotel?
I pay a lot of attention to small things — well-polished glasses, crisply pressed tablecloths, fresh flowers, a good smell. This attention to detail gives my hotel that private touch that makes it unique. And … I love to give guests the feeling I’m more than happy about their decision to stay with us. I treat repeat guests like personal friends, giving them a lot of recognition.

PHOTO: © SONEVA

KARIN VAN ZYL
General Manager, Soneva Kiri
Karin van Zyl’s career path wended its way through Belize, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Bali and Botswana (Belmond Hotels), and to Amanbagh (Aman Resorts) in India, after which she was tapped to become general manager at Soneva Kiri in Thailand.

Are there differences in the way men and women run a hotel/resort?
Women often adopt a collaborative and empathetic approach, fostering robust relationships with both hosts and guests. Men may lean toward a more direct and assertive style, prioritizing clear instructions and goal- oriented communication. However, I have worked with many wonderful and talented male general managers and male hosts who are inspiring, understanding and collaborative.

How would you describe your leadership style?
Beyond being a manager, I’m a leader engaged with guests, hosts, communities, agents and suppliers. I value learning from everyone, staying visible during guests’ stays, and embracing a hands-on style that appreciates employees’ knowledge.

PHOTO: © GRAND HOTEL SAVOIA CORTINA D’AMPEZZO

ROSANNA CONTI
General Manager, Grand Hotel Savoia Cortina D’Ampezzo
Rosanna Conti boasts 40 years of experience in hospitality. She started her career working in a wide range of hotel departments (from waitress to front office) in resorts and city hotels, in the mountains and by the seaside. The historic (built 1897) Grand Hotel Savoia in the Italian Dolomites, now a Radisson Collection hotel, has hosted princes and presidents and will take center stage during the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

What are some of the advantages of being a woman general manager?
We tend to have our feet on the ground, always having a sense of what is constantly going on within the property and staying ahead of guests’ requests before they ask.

What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way?
In a nutshell, the most important one is resilience to show — day after day — the passion and the will to be part of this beautiful industry. To be honest, I think the spirit to make sacrifices, a curiosity, ambition and leadership are key qualities in every profession.

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Explore Excursions

#globility

Insta Feed
Daily
May 21, 2024

3 Great Last-Minute Travel Booking Deals

The summer travel season is right around the corner. Properties around the world offer last-minute deals for anyone just getting around to planning summer travel.

Fill Your Heart with Ireland

Whether it's the people, the craic (fun) or the coasts, travelers always find something to love about the island of Ireland. What fills your heart?

Destinations
May 21, 2024

3 Resorts with Unique Water Experiences Beyond Swimming

From the clear waters of the Caribbean to the warm seas of the Indian Ocean, these three resorts promise fun and unique experiences beyond swimming. Make this summer one to remember at these properties:

Share Your Travel Preferences with Global Traveler in a Short Survey & Win

Learning more about our readers’ travel habits and preferences ensures Global Traveler delivers the content you desire. As the travel industry has adapted and changed over the last few years, it’s more important than ever to connect. To best meet your short- and long-term travel content needs, please help us!

Daily
May 21, 2024

Philip Johnson’s Wolfhouse Restoration Complete, Now Open to Public

Wolfhouse, a Philip Johnson residence and curatorial center, completed its restoration, featuring a one-of-a-kind collaboration with USM Modular Furniture, a sustainably built kitchen made from recycled and reused USM parts.

Daily
May 17, 2024

InterContinental Dominica Offers Complimentary “Luxperiences”

InterContinental Dominica Cabrits Resort & Spa sets a new standard in luxury travel by offering premium amenities with immersive local experiences. With a demand for more lavish accommodations, hotel guests who book luxury accommodations can participate in unparalleled comfort while exploring Dominica’s vibrant culture.

Tips to Plan a Destination Event Worth the Trip

It's time to shake things up and inject some serious excitement into your next gathering. Whether  planning a corporate conference, black-tie gala or milestone celebration, choosing the right venue can make all the difference. City Winery shares some tips to make your next gathering a rockin' success.

Daily
May 17, 2024

Hilton’s Expansion and Openings in 2024

Hilton will expand its global footprint this year with plans to enter five new markets. The company now has more new rooms under construction than any other hotel company, with approximately one in every five hotel rooms under construction globally slated to join the company’s portfolio.