Mr. Hugo, General Manager of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Budapest, sat down with us at Fab to give us some insight to his life and passion as a hotelier.
- Where did your Hotelier journey begin?
I started my hospitality journey, in Mexico, at the Marriott CasaMagna Hotel Cancun, in 1991, as Banquet Promotions Manager
- Could you describe what the position as General Manager of a Hotel entails?
Is the best job in the world. It entails looking forward and focus on flawless execution of hotel operations, with the ultimate scope of creating memorable moments and unforgettable stays for the guests. Moreover, it implies working hard with a great team of Ladies and Gentlemen, to produce a great place to work and exceptional financial performance.
- You have worked in the hotel industry for nearly 3 decades, what makes you tick?
How to continue surprising guests each day and developing new generations of Hoteliers to be passionate about this industry.
- You have a lot of experience with luxury brands. How do you define luxury in your own words?
Luxury Hospitality is experiencing service at that emotional level that leaves an indelible mark, that surprises you with the unexpected and far exceeds the quality of products and services, above the ordinary.
- What would you say are some of the most important aspects of making a hotel successful?
Having motivated and empowered teams, energized with passion and proud of their brand, delivering the impossible… making it possible
- You have left such a legacy of foot prints behind you, as you continue to bring excellency to hospitality; opening hotels and winning awards as General Manager for The Ritz-Carlton, under your exquisite leadership.
- You have won Best General Manager in Mexico with The Ritz-Carlton Cancun and in Spain with The Ritz- Carlton Abama, with Marriott Luxury Brands.
- and the 5 Diamond Award for the Caribbean and Latin America Region, in 2013.
In 2013, I was awarded with the GM of the year for the Caribbean and Latin America Region of Marriott International, the Hotel of the year for The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, The GM of the Year award for The Ritz-Carlton Brand and nominated for the Global GM of the Year of Marriott Worldwide.
In 2016, I was awarded with the GM of the Year for the South Europe Region Luxury for Marriott International with The Ritz-Carlton Abama.
All the credit goes to the amazing teams I was privileged to have in each property and thesupport of great owner groups like Grupo Escorpion of Mr Enrique Molina and Grupo Timon led by Don Ignacio Polanco at the time owner of The Ritz-Carlton Abama in Tenerife, that helped us to achieve such positive results and recognition.
- Going back to Tenerife Spain where you had a Championship Golf Course, Tennis Academy. How exciting was that and was it very demanding seasonally?
I had the fortune to be at the helm of one of the Top Resorts we have in Europe, the iconic The Ritz-Carlton Abama owned by Madrid based Grupo Timon, that currently owns the Abama Terrace Complex and the amazing and multiple times awarded Abama Golf Championship course ranked as one of the top courses in Europe, a challenging course with unforgiven signature greens and breathtaking views of the Ocean, Mount Teide and the Gomera Island.
- You must have met many of the greats in these sports. What were the highlights?
We had many celebrities and top golfers enjoying the course and a few European Women Golf events. I saw a few of the legends actually at the British Open in 2017, at The Royal Birkdale in the UK , that year Jordan Spieth won, but when I saw Jon Rahm playing live for the first time, I told my brother-in-law that one day, Jon would be number one. And…. a few years later, it is a reality.
- Which sports are you active in?
Golf, As they say, in golf the only difficult part is the first 30 years lol.. I enjoy every minute at any course, it is like therapy, you play against your own score, so is a challenging, yet enjoyable, opportunity to spend quality time with friends and clients.
- You must have acquired many cultural experiences through your travels; Could you tell us how it has enriched your life and share some fond memories with the FABL’STYLE readers?
Traveling helps you understand and appreciate your own culture and heritage, it also helps you learn and respect other cultures and richness of each country. When I move or travel to a new country, I try to learn the history, political situation and gastronomy, that is a reflection of the culture of each country. I was born in Mexico, but also adopted the Spanish Citizenship from my family roots and time lived in Spain, so both cultures are very rich in every cultural aspect possible.
I remember one memorable trip to Paris for my 50th birthday, I went with my wife Ale and daughter Kristen to the Legendary 2 Michelin Restaurant “Le Grand Véfour” of Chef Guy Martin, we had a magic night! This historic restaurant located in the gardens of the Palais-Royal (opened in 1754 as Café Chartres) has kept that great legacy and feeling of being the First Grand Restaurant in Paris, the dining room had golden frames and historic guest like Napoleon and Josephine, were regular visitors… You could feel the Belle Époque times inside and when reading the history of the Restaurant, I found out that Victor Hugo celebrated a special occasion on a February 25th, the same day I was celebrating my birthday. A very memorable occasion.
- Now Budapest, for the past two years. How is it to live with this gorgeous architecture, rich history/culture, city and country?
It has been an amazing experience, a culture with 1,000 years, every day there is something to discover, not only in the vibrant Budapest, but also in the beautiful countryside with exuberant flowers in the summer-time, amazing scenery, natural parksand great wine regions. The gastronomy is rich in flavor and variety and has one of the best Pastries in the World, we have at The Ritz-Carlton Budapest the famous Executive Sous-Chef Istvan Mazas, award-winning Pastry Chef of Hungary and winner of several competitions for his amazing cake creations, described in the art of cake brochure that can be found on the website of The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest.
- Budapest is considered a booming city, culinary-wise and with its lavishly growing lifestyle. Based on your many experiences could you tell us about the cuisine in Budapest?
Its booming. More and More restaurants are awarded, in 2019, 6 restaurants won or retained the coveted Michelin Star recognition, there are many concepts and creative ruin bars and concept bars that cater to all likes.
- You are from Mexico, which has a very exquisite food culture. How would you describe the richness of your Countries food?
Mexico is a large country with unique and rich gastronomy in each region, Mexico is all about color, warmth, music and joy, and that is reflected also in the gastronomy. It has a unique spice that conquer the hearts of whoever tries the authentic dishes and explores the heritage of its sauces and recipes.
- And by the way, do you enjoy cooking and what is your favorite cuisine to cook?
I like to cook Mexican and Spanish food. Spanish food has a Mediterranean component that makes it light, but extremely tasty.
- What is your ideal family holiday location and what form of residency would you choose, knowing as much about hospitality as you do?
I like Luxury Hotels no matter the size, if the service makes you feel you are the only guest, then the larger the better the impression. We like any city that has water flowing and once a year we like to go back to Cancun or Tenerife, since we consider both home.
- Fabl’style is mindful of sustainability. Does sustainability play a role in the Ritz Carlton Hotel Group?
Our commitment to environment is very important for us. We have a program called community footprint and one of the pillars is to be sustainable and reduce our carbon footprint. Marriott International has established parameters based on the global compact to reduce our footprint and implemented many measures like the elimination of single use plastic bottles and elimination of plastic straws. We have many programs including recycling in the rooms and implementation of BMS systems that help us maximize the reduction of energy and utilities. One area of focus in our hotel is food waste management. Preventing food waste already starts from purchasing and storing the food, until serving meals and even post service. It is an environmental action that also, enables us to establish sustainable food systems and reduce costs.