Mario Piazza

I started in the hospitality industry only about half way in to my life. I was working in the building industry prior to my inception in to hospitality. After working in construction business for 14 years as a plumber, electrician, form work and concreting, at a certain point in my life, I thought to myself I needed to make a change as I was not happy working in the building industry and I wanted to change my career path. A very close mate of mine suggested that I look into hospitality, given I had this people’s person engagement, which fits my personality. I wasn’t exactly sure about this switch, but I had nothing to lose and decided to change my career. I knew this would affect my monthly earnings, but I knew if I take a step back in life, something good is going to happen, so regardless, I thought I’ll give it a shot.

I started my hospitality career as a Banquet Waiter at the Menzies Hotel in Sydney. Within a couple of months, I was given the opportunity to cross train into the Concierge position, as the Bellman. From that point on, the change I made was starting to take its course. The Concierge Manager, at that time, decided to leave to work in Indonesia. A couple of months later my ex-colleague called me during a busy shift to offer me a job after a year and two months in this industry. Within this period, I had worked as a waiter, a porter, moved on to a bell captain and got the opportunity to work in Indonesia at a Spanish company. Before I left for Indonesia, I told my friends I will be back after 1 year, and 21 years have passed by since. I have worked in a lot of Asian countries including Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Laos, Tibet and China. During the years, I have worked mostly the Group Recreation Director with Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts.

We have to always remember, that at times we need to think positive on changes, as Stephen Covey quoted “To change ourselves effectively, we first have to change perceptions”.

So, over the years I knew if I wanted to grow and be a leader, personal development was vital so I discussed my succession planning with my mentor. I did enroll myself in some internal company courses, as well as some online university courses, which excelled me to move into Operations Manager, Hotel Manager and then promoted to General Manager at Angsana Velavaru. I was very excited to move to the Maldives. I think the property has a very unique layout given the location and the lagoon.

What do you consider as successes?

If people are passionate about their work and are determined, people can move up in life. My education background was very basic when I first entered into the hospitality industry. I knew that if I wanted to be successful, I needed to take the right leap within myself to improve. Over the years many of my colleagues have been inspired on my career path. They always want to know how they can do the same, so I always say, if one has determination within oneself, then you are going to be able to excel to another level in life. You just need to believe in yourself.

You have changed your career from construction to hospitality. You must have faced some challenges during this period. Can you name some of those challenges?

Hospitality requires a certain discipline within one’s self, the way we approach people and changing our habits. This was of course challenging to some extent. On the other hand, I say no because I was always a people person and always had the ability to connect with people already instilled in myself. A lot of my friends kept telling me that hospitality was the right choice for me.

In terms of managing a resort, what are the challenges you face?

You always have challenges when you first come into a new property. You have to understand how the operations functions and take the time to understand the local practices. It is not easy to waltz in and make sudden changes as you need to always make your assessments. You need to look at the clientele, the product and you have to strategize on how to tackle your downfalls. Everything has its process. The key element to managing a hotel or anywhere else, is being able to engage with your teams. The first three months is always the challenging part. But a lot of us do thrive on challenges; which keeps us energetic and innovating, not to mention creative and positive thinking.

What is it that you differently here at Velavaru, considering you have worked at many different hotels before?

Being diverse in my life as I am moving along and having different challenges and experiences makes me very diverse in my managerial skills, and also in the way I see things. I bring different ideas and cultures I experienced over the years, infusing them with local culture.

What is your advice to young aspiring future hoteliers who wish to make a career in this industry?

Firstly, you need to find out what you really want to do in hospitality. I always tell our interns to work at different departments and try to identify which department is more suitable for them. You might be good at one department, but you also might be great at a completely different department. Therefore, it is very important to figure out what exactly you want to do in the industry. Once you have established your position, aim high. You have to work out how you want to build your career and achieve those goals. I always tell my team – one day you could be sitting in my chair, if you have the right determination.

What is Banyan Tree doing, as a brand, to promote sustainable tourism?

We do a thing called “earth check” – they’re an organization that checks and ensures we comply with the WHO regulations, whether we use eco-friendly products. We also have programs that guests can get involved in, like coral planting and reef clean-ups and evening marine talks to educate more on saving our environment. One effort we have done is switching to paper straws and removing plastic straws, to avoid unnecessary trash in our oceans.  Together, we can make the world a better place!