SHANGHAI—Rey Moraga, front office manager of the historic Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia has been hailed as the “Hotelier of the Year” under the front office category in the Stelliers Awards 2020, a prestigious accolade in the Oscar’s of the hotel industry in Asia. The awards ceremony was held virtually on Dec. 4, 2020.
The Stelliers is the leading awards platform and the only accolade in Asia that gives recognizes outstanding professionals in the hospitality industry. The awards have become a symbol of excellence and a network of powerhouse hoteliers in the region.
“I am incredibly honored and humbled to be given this prestigious award. I share this tremendous recognition with our entire Raffles family. This is a testament to our steadfast dedication to exceptional hospitality and unwavering commitment to service excellence,” says Moraga.
The winners of the Stelliers were decided based on their performance in 2019, before the pandemic. The two-round judging process centered on a combination of information presented during the nominations, interviews, and testimonials, which ensured that the winners in each category each hold a significant amount of industry-specific expertise and knowledge. Deliberations over the pool of shortlisted nominees took place over a period of six months, and the judging panel was composed of industry experts that included representatives from École hôtelière de Lausanne, Jones Lang LaSalle and LRA By Deloitte.
“We feel privileged to have such a talent as part of our team. Rey brings a passion and drive for perpetual improvement which can be seen in his work, the performance of his team and in our guest satisfaction,” says Oliver Dudler, area general manager for Raffles hotels in Cambodia.
Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat is among the first to congratulate the young hotelier as soon as the winners were announced.
“I am proud to have witnessed Rey grow in his chosen profession. I have known Rey for almost a decade and as a young hotelier, he consistently exemplifies the value of an outstanding leader who possesses profound integrity and extraordinary talent. He may be posted abroad but he continues to be dedicated in contributing to the advancement of tourism in the Philippines. This accolade is not for him alone. Now more than ever, in the midst of a pandemic, this will serve as an inspiration to young and aspiring Filipino hoteliers who will be inspired to dream bigger not only for themselves but for our country,” Romulo-Puyat says.
Moraga, who hails from Davao, is a graduate of Enderun Colleges, one of Southeast Asia’s leading international hospitality and management schools. After completing his bachelor’s degree, the then-20-year-old alumnus joined the pre-opening team of the Raffles Hotel and Residences in Manila.
“It’s no secret that I have had a long love affair with Raffles,” says Moraga, who started his career with the ultra-luxury brand as a ‘room puncher,’ a unique interim role which was required during the turnover of the building contractor to the hotel operator.
“I remember running around the hotel to ‘test’ these never-before-seen guestrooms; checking every detail from the functionality to ergonomics, technology and finishing—from doorknobs, light switches to even ensuring the shower had the right water pressure for a perfect bath. That was quite a lot of fun!” he says. “These meticulous steps ensured a seamless guest experience. It is important that every element in the room works, fulfilling our promise of convenience and comfort.”
Since joining Raffles Hotels & Resorts as concierge in 2012, Moraga has been promoted to several leadership roles in the rooms division. In 2017, Moraga was recognized by Accor as ‘The Most Outstanding Heartist in Asia Pacific,’ a distinction which recognizes the most outstanding employee across the group’s 80,000 employees in over 800 properties in the 22 countries.
“Heartist is a unique word as it combines two important foundations of hospitality: heart and artist. Heartist is about leading with your heart and using your creativity [as an artist] to connect with our guests and colleagues,” the hotelier says.
He credits his success to his determination, focus and genuine curiosity for hospitality.
In 2018, Rey moved to Siem Reap after being promoted to his current role at the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, arguably Cambodia’s most distinguished and storied hotel. As the youngest department head, he leads a team of over 40 hoteliers—front desk agents, butlers, concierges, doormen, bellhops, telephone operators, duty managers and retail assistants.
“It has been an exhilarating journey so far. Like a conductor of an orchestra, I lead the entire band, directing the tempo and dynamics, to make sure that the experience in our hotel and the destination resonates with our guests,” Moraga explains. “The experience our guests receive from Raffles is quite unique and we are very proud of that. Our style of service is engaging and thoughtful, an oasis where you arrive as guests, leave as friends, and return as family.”
Vincent Gernigon, former hotel manager of Raffles Siem Reap, recalls Moraga’s dedication to his work. “During our recent renovations, Rey was tremendously involved with the developments and enhancements by offering bold ideas and fresh perspective.”
Oliver Dudler adds, “He introduced and led various projects to elevate and reposition the property with new amenities, services and experiences on top of the physical enhancements.”
The historic Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor completed an extensive restoration in October 2019. “At the Grand Hotel, apart from being hoteliers, we are also custodians of an incredible heritage landmark,” Moraga says.
Moraga credits the many role models he has worked with. “I’m blessed to have had the good fortune of working with aspirational leaders in the industry—Tom Meyer, David Batchelor and Oliver Dudler to name a few,” he says. “I am grateful to them for showing me what inspiring leadership and true excellence looks like.”
Moraga hopes his achievement will serve as an inspiration to fellow young hoteliers around the world as the industry looks to chart a path forward in the wake of a trying year. “The experience with The Stelliers has given me the opportunity to share my story and to hopefully inspire fellow hoteliers,” Moraga says during his acceptance speech.
“I’d like to say hospitality is not just an industry—it is, first of all, an attitude. In these extraordinary times, hospitality takes on a profound significance. Whether towards your colleagues, your neighbors or even with strangers, small acts of kindness make a big difference,” he says.
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