Successful Strategies That Kept This Award-winning Hotel Ahead of the Game

From offering world-class dining to providing exceptional service, the newly-appointed General Manager of Conrad Manila Fabio Berto believes in always giving a unique experience.

Barely six months on the job, Fabio Berto, the newly appointed General Manager of Conrad Manila has successfully steered the hotel to the front of the port. Of Italian descent, Berto has 30 years of hotel experience. He started working as a bellboy during summer breaks in his early teens and from there, he became a commis de rang (front waiter) in Switzerland.

This was followed by continued advancements in positions and responsibility across several luxury properties in France and London. “I joined the Hilton London Metropole in 2003 as Director of Sales before moving to Hilton East London Cluster, then Rome Cavalieri in Waldorf Astoria, and Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on The Bund as Commercial Director. Before moving to the Philippines, I held my first General Manager post in Hilton Niseko Village Japan,” recounts Berto.

But why didn’t he try working in another field? “I loved the daily dynamic activities inside the hotel. Early on, I knew that the hospitality industry is where I want to leave my mark. I was drawn to the excitement, hosting events, meeting celebrities and personalities—the luxury lifestyle appealed to me,” he continues animatedly.

In Constant Pursuit of Passion—GM Fabio Berto says an unparalleled guest experience is what makes Conrad Manila the market leader in the luxury hotel category.

Communication, Execution, and Success

Fabio Berto starts his day early. After breakfast, he reads his emails and walks around the grounds.  Then, he meets with all the heads of the departments to get feedback on the previous day’s output and takes note of the company’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). After all, as a hands-on manager, he believes in the ethos of “leading by example.”  

Upon arriving in the country, Berto’s first objective was to get to know his team. “Introducing myself, knowing each person, and effectively communicating our corporate goals are crucial to our collective success,” he reveals.

“Building strong and respectful relationships with them allows me to see clearly where and how I can offer support,” he adds. “Happy employees make effective employees, which translates to good service and repeat guests. A productive team ensures that we are able to deliver on the expectations of our key stakeholders in the business.”

Berto also believes in focused mentorship and being an active partner in the career growth of his people. “As a General Manager, it is my duty to create a healthy and collaborative work environment. We train and equip each person with the proper tools to succeed in his job. The feedback forms are good indicators of who the real performers are. If the guests remember a team member’s name and commend his work, that boosts his chances for career advancement.”

Intuitive and Distinct Architecture—Conrad Manila is owned by SM Hotels and Conventions, a subsidiary of SM Investment Corporation, and managed by Hilton Worldwide. 

Navigating Through the Pandemic

Pre-pandemic, Conrad Manila already invested in digital innovations, which aligned with their paperless campaign. This became handy as the world transitioned to online transactions for everything—from booking a room directly to unlocking their room with a digital key to ordering food delivery, in-room dining, and checking out…all from their smartphone!

In fact, last 2020, Hilton CleanStay was introduced across its properties, which brought an industry-defining standard of cleanliness worldwide.

When the pandemic hit, Conrad Manila implemented the “Recovery, Resilience, and Repurposing” project. With the help of timely promotions, Conrad Manila was able to get this done. This meant no-contact servicing of rooms, minimal supervision upon arrival and departure, and restricted dining.

Despite the new norm, the team was able to deliver unforgettable yet safe and secure guest experiences. Fast forward to today, the hotel is thriving and business is on the uptake. “Providing a safe stay is still foremost in our operations but this goes hand in hand with smart luxurious service,” says Berto.

“People want to go out, take trips, get married, and celebrate. We want to capitalize on these opportunities by making sure that we are on the very top of their list when they choose a venue for all these plans,” he adds.

Ahead of the Game

What does it really mean to be a luxury hotel? With many establishments claiming to provide luxury amenities and services, what sets Conrad Manila apart from the rest? “Luxury, for us, is consistently providing a unique guest experience. Our team is dedicated to rendering service above and beyond what is expected. We train the employees to anticipate the needs of the guests and to deliver on each ask and task the best way possible,” said Berto.

Its prime location, top-rated dining options (Brasserie on 3, China Blue by Jeremy Leung, and C Lounge), global and local recognitions, 24-hour fitness center and spa, two considerably sized state-of-the-art pilar-less ballrooms, and a stunning 2,300 sqm outdoor garden—designed for intimate al fresco events are just a few of the aspects that make Conrad hotel a popular choice among the affluent.

Dining Par Excellence—China Blue by Jereme Leung is a recent recipient of the Haute Grandeur and World Luxury awards.

“The hotel has 347 well-appointed, fully automated rooms with interactive gadgets, an outdoor pool, and the biggest art collection of 766 works by Filipino masters,” Berto says proudly. “All throughout the premises, we indulge our guests with sculptures and paintings. We also have a dedicated wall where we feature the works of a chosen local artist. This changes every 2 ½ months. Each guest is treated to a feast of all the senses if you will. That makes for a distinct and exceptional luxury experience.”

In the past six years of operations, Conrad Manila has earned 132 industry awards and has been included as one of the “Best Hotels in the World” in the 2019 Cone Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards, ranking 1st in the Philippines, 3rd in Asia, and 45th in the world.

Berto also gives equal credit to the people for realizing the company’s vision. “Our team takes hospitality to heart. They live the HILTON values (Hospitality, Integrity, Leadership, Teamwork, Ownership, Now). We also have a strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program that adheres to environmental, social, and government initiatives,” he elaborates further. Meanwhile, diversity, equality, and inclusion among employees and guests are likewise promoted. 

Living in a new country presents challenges as well as opportunities. Fabio Berto says it’s not only important to adjust to his new role business-wise but to adapt to the culture as well. In fact, the General Manager hopes to travel across the Philippines and visit well-renowned resorts and heritage places.

“My work has allowed me to explore the globe,” he ends. “A leader must be creative, effective, and inclusive if he is to succeed. He must also know when to recharge. For me, that means stepping away from the daily grind every now and then so I can bring a fresh perspective and renewed energy back to the job.”