Ravi Santiago has a multi- faceted role at R Hotels as Cluster General Manager for the Wyndham hotels in Ajman and Group Financial Controller. We take a look at his interesting journey over the years. Kicking off his career journey with the crème de la crème of Sri Lankan hospitality as Financial Controller opening the popular Global Towers Hotel in Marine Drive, Colombo Sri Lanka in 2004.
A qualified Accountant spanning over 25 years of experience in different fields, treaded on his new journey over 15 years ago in his homeland, Sri Lanka.
Santiago has worked with the pioneers of Sri Lankan hospitality, viz. stalwarts like Chandra Mohotti, Prema Cooray and Shanthi Kumar – legends who have actually ensured that hospitality in the pearl of the Indian Ocean grew from strength to strength to what it is today, of international acclaim. Santiago shares how he received the perfect training in the field of hospitality with the legends themselves.
He states, “Being a neophyte to the hospitality industry, I wanted to learn about the industry, hence Chandra Mohotti, the CEO of Global Towers at the time assigned me to landmark properties in Sri Lanka, including Galadari, Holiday Inn and other five-star properties in Colombo which provided me a launchpad to begin my hospitality journey.”
Santiago ventured into various fields as a professionally qualified management accountant from CIMA (UK), CGMA. He pursued his MBA from the University of Northampton, UK and has a PGD in Business Administration from the University of Wales, UK. His knowledge and experience in different fields such as manufacturing, processing, logistics, telecommunications, travel and tourism, property management and the hotel industry for almost 25 years has given him an edge over the years.
Forte in finance and revenue
Achieving that perfect ‘number’ at the end of the day as revenue and return on investment has been his forte which gained him prominence not only in Sri Lanka but in the UAE as well. Kicking off his career from Global Towers in Marine Drive, Santiago pursued further in his hospitality career as he was appointed as General Manager Finance to manage five-star properties with Aitken Spence Hotel Management in Sri Lanka in 2007. After this stint, Santiago furthered his career move by joining R Hotels in the UAE as Cluster Financial Controller in 2009; at the time Ramada Hotel and Suites Ajman was already operational and ready for opening Ramada Downtown Dubai.
Over the past almost 11 years he has been with the group as Financial Controller, however with the pandemic setting in, he was called upon to take the role of General Manager for three important properties in Ajman. Today, he is Cluster General Manager for Ramada Hotel & Suites by Wyndham Ajman, Ramada by Wyndham Beach Hotel Ajman, and Wyndham Garden Ajman Corniche and also Group Financial Controller.
Ready with contingency plans
According to Santiago, it is a distinct advantage to be proficient with numbers, especially during this pandemic. It gives a clear picture of resources and funds, which is a very well-balanced outlook for a General Manager. He was appointed in the new role during the peak of the pandemic, but his coordination with the management and owners really brought in something more to the table. He shares, “When the pandemic hit us, one of the first things requested by the management was to ensure that all staff are retained and we devised a sensitivity analysis, a way forward with varying scenarios. At a time when others were thinking of how to survive, we already had our contingency plans set for different conditions, which made a big difference to us.
None of our seven properties were closed during the period and when things started easing, we began campaigning for staycations. To date this has been the most successful campaign as many locals and expats started to avail the offers on staycations and our team really worked very hard to bring in something new that would attract the customers. So over the past several months we have actually experienced an influx of domestic tourists from all emirates. Today, occupancy is above 70 per cent going up to almost 90 per cent during weekends mainly due to the passion and commitment of the team. As I mentioned before, our management has always placed motivation of staff as a key to success, hence the probability of staff seeking employment elsewhere is scarce as they are well looked after in every possible manner. Today, this success has gone one step further and we are on the lookout for new staff members to join our team,” concluded Santiago.