Australia's hospitality industry is in good shape in the hands of the leaders to come.
Australia’s hospitality industry is in good shape in the hands of the leaders to come.

Following the recent opening of nominations for the 2019 HM Awards, the task for organisers turns to sifting through a swathe of entries, most of which are thoroughly worthy of winning.

Determining the winner of Best General Manager Australia last year, judges said, was one of the most difficult decisions they’ve had to make in their careers. And of those whose entries fell just short of the final outcome, the level of perseverance and gritted determination to go that step further in 2019 will see this year’s winner earn their place more than ever before.

Let’s meet some of those outstanding finalists from last year and find out what they’ve been up to at their respective properties in the year since.

Amrita Verma – Quest Dubbo

Already the owner of one HM Award – for Rising Star in 2017 – Amrita makes a daily habit of seizing opportunities not just when they present themselves, but also by making them happy for herself.

More than two years into the role as Property Manager at Quest Dubbo, Amrita exudes passion for her local community and has placed her property firmly among it to live Quest’s Corporate Social Responsibility program every day and to take any chance to give back to her fellow residents whenever she can as a member of community organisation ORISCON. Whenever the hotel upgrades furniture, the old item – still in excellent condition – is donated to the Orana Support Centre.

A studio at Quest Dubbo

In addition to running a thriving business, Amrita is involved in promoting her hotel through local events in Dubbo such as major concert events by putting Quest Dubbo firmly among the exposure opportunities. In addition, it’s all about making her staff feel appreciated as team members’ birthdays are celebrated every month.

“I always make sure that we take staff on a wine outing every three months. Last time, we went to Hunter Valley Wineries and next time we are planning on going to Mudgee. It’s a staff outing so our staff have a chance to get to know each other and we get a chance to gel with them.”

Dean Newell – RACV Torquay Resort / RACV Cape Schanck Resort

When managing one resort isn’t enough, why not take on a second? While the extra workload keeps Dean Newell more than occupied when he’s on the clock, the responsibility is made somewhat easier when you have a highly professional, skilled and supportive team behind you. Despite this, finding the right people can sometimes be difficult, Newell says.

“Staffing issues are always a challenge, particularly in regional areas. The key is finding the right people and then skilling them up.”

RACV Cape Schanck Resort in regional Victoria

RACV Torquay Resort is the elder statesman of the region, having been open for seven years. The popularity of the region led RACV to open a second resort almost a year ago in RACV Cape Schanck Resort.

Even with the extra room capacity, Dean is currently working on addressing associated problems owing to the region’s success. Capacity issues at the restaurants now sees Dean focused on planning an expansion for new dining spaces and increasing the size of the spaces currently open. These works are still in their early phases, Dean tells HM.

Jesse Kornoff – Mount Lofty House

Highly commended in the General Manager category in 2018, Jesse Kornoff is currently overseeing a major new development at Mount Lofty House, nestled among the Barossa Valley wineries north of Adelaide, with Sequoia Lodge on track to open in November.

His on-site dining outlet, Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant, is a regular award-winner in both consumer and business realms. He has steered the property to three Chef’s Hats for outstanding quality and service and won Readers’ Choice for SA Fine Dining. He also took home Restaurant of the Year at Accor’s recent 2018 Pacific Franchise Hotel Awards.

Kornoff has taken charge of promoting his hotel, leading initiatives such as developing 3D property tours online, videos, photography and even hiring a person purely to manage social media. This exposure has seen the property appear on Masterchef, Better Homes & Gardens and much more.

Mount Lofty House in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.

“For me, this year it’s all about trying to put the hotel into an uncontestable [sic] space. There are so many great hotels opening up this year and we see the future of our success here being really operating as much as possible without any competitors. This year has been about trying to develop our unique offerings and part of that has been about expanding our unique guest experiences.

“We’ve completed a total refurbishment of the property and there aren’t too many refurbishments done at $90,000 a room so that has been fantastic.”