Tomás Feier offers key advice for starting a career in luxury hospitality, based on his own career path.
“Stay curious and try everything.”
For this German national, born in Tenerife and living in France now for more than 15 years, “the hotel business is in the family genes,” and from a very young age, he wanted to work in hospitality.
Tomás graduated from the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) in 1991, and soon after he received an offer of employment from InterContinental in Spain. However, he did not accept it as, at that time, his main focus was to “cut the cord” so to speak, and move far away from Europe.
He, therefore, flew to the Dominican Republic where he worked for Occidental Hotels & Resorts for several years. During that time, he was part of the group’s expansion with the opening of several hotels/resorts, until one day InterContinental approached him again and asked him to join their hotel in San Domingo: “It was a fantastic opportunity for me after two years in leisure hotels.”
Two years later, and still with the InterContinental Hotel Group, he moved to Cambodia as Rooms Division Manager, and was involved in the opening of the country’s only 5 star hotel in Phnom Penh. However, the political crisis of 1997 brought his Cambodian adventure to an abrupt end. Tomás Feier then joined the Celtic Manor Resort where he was part of the opening of the 400 rooms resort in Newport, Wales: “Everything needed doing there, from beginning to end.”
Three years later, he received a call from the Walt Disney Company. This unexpected and challenging opportunity happened to coincide with “a desire to live in France and settle down.
They convinced me then, and my decision is reaffirmed every day even after 16 years of working for the Disney Group.”
At Disneyland Paris, he begins his career at Disney’s Newport Bay Club and admits that “working with 1100 rooms and 4000 clients” seemed at the time, “just out of this world.”
“My journey within Disneyland had led me to my current position as Managing Director of the largest 5 star hotel in France, with 496 rooms.”
He has held this post for the last 10 years. He adds enthusiastically:
“It would seem that we are doing things right. Most of our clients are used to Parisian luxury hotels; they are not coming to a Disney hotel but to a 5 star hotel. We had to achieve the standard for 5 stars even though it is more the norm here to have Mickey in the restaurant rather than an umbrella in the room, but we did meet that challenge successfully.”
He is proud to be able to provide a high quality of service in such a busy environment: “When the hotel is full, there are 1700 guests for breakfast.”
Today, Tomás Feier is happy to combine his job as Managing Director of a luxury hotel with the Disney magic on a daily basis: “We are in the luxury business but children are paramount in our relations with our customers. If the children are happy, the parents are happy too.”
What is the main focus of your current post?
To ensure that my colleagues (Cast Members in Disney language) stay motivated; this is my number one priority. There is no other secret. If my colleagues are happy, then my customers are happy. The Cast Members need to be comfortable with what they are doing. They must show initiative and spontaneity whilst maintaining a high level of service for our clients. It’s what I call relaxed elegance.
What would be your key advice for young graduates?
If an opportunity meets your personal and well-being needs, then seize it.
It is important for students to have a rich and varied experience in their first work placement, and benefit from an overview of the hotel business. With this in mind, Tomás has implemented a dedicated work experience programme lasting five to six months which enables students to take up three or four different roles.
What principle guides your professional life?
It is more a state of mind than a motto which motivates passionate and curious Tomás. “I don’t need an alarm clock in the morning; I’m so happy to go to work. I am curious and I always expect my day to be full of new people and lovely moments.”
Author: Anne-Laure Hecquet, Communication & International Development Manager Specialized in communication and recruitment, the Luxury Hospitality Daily (Journal des Palaces in French)