Gender is Not an Issue

Tash-Tobias
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New GM of Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park says first thing is to bring the team together and really find a way to bring the hotel to the next level.

By Percy Roxas

We live in a time and age gender when equality is no longer an issue. Still, one cannot help but be curious about how female hoteliers fare in an industry where the balance is still tilted toward their male counterparts. Is there, indeed, a distinct advantage of having, or being, a female hotelier? “It’s no big deal,” says Tash Tobias, the new general manager (GM) of Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park.

Australian-born Tash is also the area GM for the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) in Bangkok overseeing Holiday Inn Silom, Holiday Inn Pattaya, and the upcoming Hotel Indigo Wireless Road. She has been in the position for about six weeks at the time of the interview. But she’s not the only female GM in Bangkok at the moment; there are currently four or five of them. Although she’s the first at Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park.

“I’m just a GM,” says the pretty Tash during an exclusive interview at her hotel’s posh executive lounge. “Yes, being a hotel manager seems to be man’s job. But I don’t think there’s a distinct advantage or disadvantage. I just think everyone has a different leadership style.”

Was there ever a time when gender became an issue in her career? “Never,” she says, “I think I’m lucky in that.” She says she hasn’t encountered a glass ceiling yet. “It would be nice to say that it doesn’t matter,” she says.

Tash originally wanted to be an accountant or lawyer, until she took a part-time job in a restaurant to make extra money during her university days in Melbourne. “I loved it, so I decided study hotel management instead,” she says.

That’s what she did indeed and then joined an Australian hotel company as a hotel management trainee. The program was only for one year, but Tash stayed with them for about six years. After her university graduation in 1996, there was no turning back. She was totally hooked. She has never been tempted to change careers. “I love this career,” she says simply.

But she never dreamed of becoming a GM or an Area GM. “When I was starting in this industry, I told my Mom that maybe if I worked really hard, I can be a director of room or something, but not any more than that.

She said that at the time, she thought she couldn’t because she was a woman. “I told them that I will try very hard but I will probably not be one,” she recalls. But times were changing. They have changed. And with the role of a GM completely transformed as well, Tash – with her strong sales and marketing background – has in fact nowhere to go but up.

“Anyway, I did some very typical work and put my path – not deliberately perhaps – that leads one to become a GM. I did sales and marketing, and I did revenue management, etc., and I think these gave me a big advantage. Sometimes you don’t have the confidence that you can do it. But as you become more competent you realize, ‘Oh maybe I can take another step.’” Soon she was hotel manager at the Intercontinental Asiana Saigon when it opened with 305 hotel rooms and 260 residences, and then eventually became GM of Intercontinetal Singapore. “It was an amazing experience,” she says.

“I felt so privileged to have run that hotel,” she continues, “it’s a really a special hotel, with a unique style and one of the first branded hotels in the region, so for the first time I was really thinking: I’m really doing this, and between that, I was so proud to be able to.” The hotel made her even more prouder when it became well known and won awards from various travel bodies during her term. “It’s great for my team to be recognized for the job that we did, that was important for me.”

One can say she expects nothing less than achieve the same opportunities for the Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park. “But,” she was quick to add, “first thing – as happens whenever there’s a new GM in a hotel – is to bring the team together and really find a way to bring this hotel to the next level. That’s a great part of the job.”

Anyway, Tash says she’s just happy to be in Asia. After Vietnam, her career took her to Singapore where she lived and worked for two-and-a half years.

“This is something I have really always wanted to do – to come to Asia,” she says, “to come to work in Thailand.”

Tash says she just loves Thailand. “I mean, I went to the hospitality industry because I love to explore different cultures and people, learn about different religions and different food. And it’s just great to know I will have more time to learn and love it. I mean I’m just here six weeks, still learning, still discovering, still exploring.”

“The first year is always about putting the team together, making them trust each other, and that’s my philosophy in terms of managing people. I think with that you can be successful in the business. I’m trying that in the first six months.”

“To be honest, there is always a way to improve in everything,” she adds, “but I’m very fortunate with this hotel because it’s in great shape. The hotel is very busy and running very well. But I always think that if everything is OK and I just sit back and not do anything, then it will fall behind. After six weeks, I’m just starting to formulate all my plans but I’m sure they will not deduct from what the hotel has achieved so far.”

How challenging is it for her to juggle between family and career? “My secret is a great partner,” she says. “I am privileged to have two things: a great partner and a great work. I think its about having an employer who looks for your results and it’s not really having to work 80 hours a week. IHG is a great company in that regard and that’s a big part of it. Then, I have a fantastic partner and two kids who’s willing to move around the world with me. We’ve moved about 10 or 12 times in the past 16 years. “

“I think that to be really good at anything you need to bring the passion with you to anything you do at the moment,” she continues. “It’s really about making sure that when you do the different components in your life you’re 100 percent there. It’s really important to be passionate.”

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