PHILIPPINES - Looking at the multitiered gilt chandelier at the lobby of Makati Shangri-La, Belgian hotelier Alain Borgers recalls that it fell on the floor before the hotel's formal opening.
Two decades later, the chandelier, decked with its spotless floral glass lamps, still shimmers. People want to be photographed in front of it.
Asked how it feels to be back again as the Philippine area manager and Makati Shangri-La's general manager, Borgers replies in modesty, "I'm learning to deal with other hotels, but hoping to share something positive."
A graduate of Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, Borgers, 57, has been with the hospitality industry for 30 years. Nearly two decades of those years have been dedicated to the Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts. His first property for the group was the then newly-opened Shangri-La Makati. Borgers, then resident manager, also met his future wife, Carmela Narcisco, who was the floor manager of the Horizon Club.
"She left the hotel industry to be with me," says Borgers. They have two children, Isabela, 19, and Maxim, 9.
Borgers then became general manager at Shangri-La Bali Dynasty in Indonesia then was reassigned to Manila as GM of Edsa Shangri-La. He later became GM of another city hotel, Shangri-La Hotel, Surabaya in Indonesia.
Borgers says he can also share his experiences in running resorts. Under his guidance, Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort, Kota Kinabalu was named Best Resort in Malaysia by the Malaysian Tourism Board,
In 2008, Borgers was tasked to the pre-opening of the Shangri-La Paris property which was one of his most challenging. The hotel was built from a historical monument, the former palace of Napoleon Bonaparte's grandnephew, Prince Roland Bonaparte. Aside from restoring the architecture, the company had to comply with French regulations regarding construction in heritage buildings.
First Shangri-la in Europe
It was equally demanding to bring the Shangri-La philosophy to Europe for the very first time.
"I struggled in the beginning. My working process is more Asian. In Paris, it was tough. Asians have the positive attitude and they'll always try. In France, they will try to find a way not to do it. Service and pleasing somebody are noble jobs in Asia," he says.
Borgers applied the Shangri-La philosophy of hiring staffers with the right mindset. The hotel favoured young people with less experience but could easily be trained the Shangri-La Way.
Every employee carries a leaflet which states its core values, philosophy, mission, vision and guiding principles. The company's core values are actually virtues of humility, respect, selflessness, courtesy, helpfulness and sincerity. These are inculcated in all the Shangri-La properties worldwide.
To distinguish Shangri-La Paris from the other hotels, it focused on serving guests with more warmth and sincerity.
"Shangri-La has a culture of caring for people," explains Borgers.
"The smiles, the flexibility, the positivism and helpfulness made a lot of difference," says Borgers. The Shangri-La employees did much more for the guests than the competition.
Two years after its opening, Shangri-La Paris has been touted as one of the best luxury hotels in Paris not only for its glorious interiors, amenities and Michelin-starred restaurants but also for its genuine hospitality.
Borgers is back in the Philippines for his third posting. It's like second home since his family has been spending their annual vacations here. At home, Borgers is accustomed to eating adobo, pancit, lechon and conchinillo.