Showcasing Cebuano hospitality

Jenara Regis Newman

MAAYO Hotel in Mandaue City is a home-gown hotel meant to showcase Cebuano hospitality and Karen Fernan Mendoza has proven to be the perfect choice to be its general manager. Karen says that she has worked in the hotel industry for several decades, starting as a front desk receptionist at the Cebu Plaza Hotel when she was a student working her way through college (Business Management, University of San Carlos)

She then worked for a year as an international stewardess with Cathay Pacific Airways but had to quit due to her bad back. She went back to Cebu Plaza as guest relations officer. Then she was part of the opening team of Cebu Midtown Hotel where she was guest relations officer and front office agent. From Midtown, she was with the opening team of Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort as assistant manager/senior guest relations officer/front office supervisor. She was again part of the pre-opening team of Plantation Bay as duty manager. For 10 years she worked at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino, moving up from duty manager to senior duty manager, to front office manager and finally, room division director. From there she was hotel manager of Quest Hotel and Conference Center and at the same time, interim rooms division director of Crimson Resort, Quest’s sister hotel. In December 2016, she was hired as general manager of Maayo Hotels Corp.

To be better equipped for her job, Karen had taken some short courses abroad: Certified Rooms Division Executive at the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute; Hotel Revenue Management, and Managerial Behavior and Team Effectiveness from Cornell University.

She is very busy as manager of Maayo because it is not only the Mandaue hotel she is handling but also Maayo Argao and Maayo San Remigio, and in the coming years, she will be busier with Maayo Badian and Maayo Mactan. She has operations managers in Argao and San Remigio but she visits these resorts at least once a week.

So she lives a very fast-paced life, a life that keeps her on her feet that doesn’t let boredom set in.

Karen describes the job as challenging but, she adds: “I am a believer in servant leadership. I am here to motivate each and everyone in the team. Everyday is a learning experience for me because when you encounter a guest complaint and are able to address it, you learn from it. This business is about people. You have to keep owners, guests and team members happy.”

Karen enjoys being part of a hotel opening team because, she explains: “When you set up a hotel, it gives you a different kind of high. The challenges I welcome. It is part of the job. It gives me a sense of fulfillment.” And Maayo has certainly given her several properties to open. She reveals that “We wanted Maayo to be unique and to stand out so we have to approach with a different theme and make the guests feel happy and satisfied.” She describes Argao Maayo as Moroccan in style with elements inspired by Marrakech with 49 rooms, a banquet facility, two restaurants, 10 family rooms and four villas. San Remigio is a Caribbean-inspired resort with flamboyant colors, surrounded by lush greenery and with 84 rooms, 14 villas, one restaurant, an infinity pool and a banquet facility that can accommodate 350 guests.

Maayo Mandaue she says is a “wellness hotel” with a medical clinic attached to it on the ground floor, an aesthetics center and physical therapy facilities. The hotel has a gym and all room refrigerators carry only fruit juices and healthy snacks. The hotel also showcases Cebu products and furniture (there are Kenneth Cobonpue seats) and food outlets showcase Cebuano cuisine and delicacies.

To de-stress, Karen tends her small garden on weekends (she hopes to have a farm when she retires), occasionally goes to the malls to watch a movie, and cares for her six dogs.

At the end of the interview, Karen said: “I am fortunate that I have a boss, William Christopher Liu Jr., who is a visionary, very innovative and driven. I have to keep up with him. He helped me become a better manager. He wants to promote local culture. He said, ‘We should be proud of our own and we should be able to compete with the international market in terms of services and facilities.’” She adds: “He is the brain behind all of Maayo. Because of him we were able to be where we are right now and that is always to stand out and claim that there’s no better place than Maayo.” And for Maayo, no better general manager than Karen F. Mendoza. (CONTRIBUTED FOTO)