AccomNews caught up with Nicolas Souto, the 2019 winner of the TIA Executive Housekeeper of the Year Award, sponsored by Vendella.
Nicolas, from Millbrook Resort in Queenstown, was the recipient of this prestigious award at the recent New Zealand Hotel Industry Awards.
For 12 years this conference and awards event has recognised the most talented individuals in the business; those who deliver incredible guest experiences.
Nicolas stood out among the 39 finalists from hotels throughout New Zealand attending the awards, held at the Cordis hotel in Auckland in June, where 13 winners were selected.
His employer, Queenstown’s luxury accommodation provider, Millbrook Resort, was proud to have a total of four employees nominated, with Nicolas being one of their winners on the night.
Nicolas said: “It was a pleasure to be nominated and winning the award made me feel very humbled. It has probably changed the way I view work on daily basis, as sometimes we can lose perception of how good or bad we perform.”
Brian Howie, director of operations at Millbrook Resort stated: “All of Millbrook Resort’s talented finalists have made a significant contribution to the resort.
“Nicolas manages and mentors both of our housekeeping and laundry teams, he is responsible for the housekeeping satisfaction of each hotel guest and manages regular cleaning jobs for many of Millbrook’s permanent residents.
“Nicolas brings a wealth of hotel knowledge and an excellent understanding of daily operations with the ability to view challenges from multiple departments’ perspectives resulting in quick problem-solving, making him a fantastic asset to our business.”
With his positive attitude and loyal nature Nicolas constantly demonstrates a remarkable commitment to this industry and guests love his friendly personality, aptitude for problem solving and his ability to anticipate their needs.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nicolas made New Zealand his home over six years ago and his daughter was born here.
He told us: “After my studies, I worked at the InterContinental Buenos Aires as a night porter but due to a big social-economic crisis in Argentina, I decided to look for different horizons.
“I went to Dominican Republic for what was supposed to be three months, but it became a two-year chapter in my personal and professional life and an amazing experience.”
“I moved back to Argentina where I worked for over a year as housekeeping supervisor at the Emperador Hotel in Buenos Aires and I learned about the other face of the hotel operation and developed an eye for detail and the ‘arts of housekeeping’.
“However, with the ‘travel bug’ still inside me I moved again, to work at the renowned The Little Nell Hotel in Aspen, Colorado. It was an opportunity to work in other departments to expand my knowledge and I did as many hours as I could because I wanted to learn as much as possible and get as much experience across all areas.
“In 2008 I arrived in NZ for first time holding a working holiday visa and I travelled around this beautiful country, ending in Queenstown where I got a job as concierge at Sofitel Queenstown. I returned to Argentina for four years where I worked in the family business as commercial property manager but once again left the city life and came back to Queenstown with my partner. I returned to the Sofitel Queenstown as concierge and was promoted to guest experience manager.
“Then Millbrook Resort opened its doors to me, where I was employed as a front office manager but always looking for a different challenge outside my comfort zone, I accepted the role of property manager working with housekeeping.
So, here I am now, and so far it’s been a very interesting journey.”
Why housekeeping, and what inspires you?
“I really enjoy solving problems/challenges and hard work – the harder the challenge, the more I am inspired. At Millbrook the logistics of covering 650 acres puts me to the test on daily basis making sure that I keep learning and trying to be better, every day.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
“In my current role, it’s finding stability within our team by creating an amazing and healthy work environment.
“This role helped me develop as a manager and keeps me looking for new ideas and ways to reach goals.”
What are your views on leadership?
In my view, a leader is the person most capable of getting the best from people. Leaders inspire respect by leading by example, showing that there are no ‘bad days’ and sometimes pushing boundaries to take people out of the comfort zone.”
Do you have any tips about doing your job well?
“I’m still learning! Be honest to others and yourself, work hard, and don’t look for shortcuts, be positive and fair, have empathy for others and do not lose your sense of humour.”
What do you enjoy most and what makes your job easier?
“I have to confess that it took me a lot of time to trust the concept of ‘trying to be better every day is better than try to be the best’. In my humble opinion, I’ve applied this concept to both my personal and professional life and I’ve noticed some really positive results.
“I enjoy looking for ways to be better every day, no matter what life throws at me.”
What does your accommodation do best?
I believe our staff engagement with guests. It’s real. When you read the reviews about Millbrook, a great number of them highlight how friendly our staff were during their stay. A positive work environment shines and our team is a true testament to the work done behind the scenes. Also, our location is unrivalled. If you are looking for a place to stay, relax and recharge near Queenstown, Millbrook is the perfect spot.”
Do you have anything to say about the industry in general?
“It’s interesting to see how our industry has been transforming over the last 20 years.
“Despite technology changing all aspects of our lives, I believe that travellers are still looking to make their holidays/trips special, looking for new experiences and to engage more with staff and/or locals.
“It seems that every single company is highlighting what unique experiences they can create for their customers and/or guests.”
Finally Nicolas added: “If I remember correctly, a good service was once measured by how long the check-in lasted and how long it took to deliver a message or room service but now is about how special we can make our guests feel during their stay.”
Vendella values housekeepers
Vendella recognises the importance of building strong relationships with housekeepers, and so it was a natural decision for this industry supplier of quality bedding and in-room items to support and sponsor the NZHIC Housekeeper of the Year award.
For over ten years Vendella has been sourcing, customising and delivering quality industry products and is considered an expert in large scale fit outs and day to day servicing. When innovating products, Vendella not only consider guest comfort to be a priority but also housekeeping efficiencies, costs, plus social and ethical industry policies.
Michael Boakes, Vendella sales team leader said: “For us to be able to deliver the absolute best value to our customers it is critical that we have really strong relationships with our housekeepers and we’re always refining our systems to make the ordering and delivery process as easy as possible, because we know how busy they are.
“This award was an ideal and important opportunity to pause and recognise our housekeepers’ talents and show our genuine gratitude for those important relationships.”
For Dilmah, one of the most important ways to enjoy a good cup of tea is when you have the time to relax and enjoy the moment – and Millbrook is the ideal place to stop and take your time.
The in-room tea experience is too often overlooked and undervalued, but Millbrook have always put an emphasis on providing their guests with quality. Tea is a little luxury and it’s sometimes the little details of your stay that count.
Dilmah tea is packed fresh in airtight outer packaging direct from the origin where it’s grown and presented in luxury bags which allow the larger grade of leaf room to infuse all its taste and goodness.
The Dilmah Exceptional teabags are made from plastic-free materials derived from maize starch into natural fibres and Dilmah are now in the process of moving all airtight outer packaging toward plastic free alternatives as well.
No longer do quality and freshness need to compromise the environment too.