Insider Plus is visiting all the Corinthia Hotels, to meet some of the persons who make that hotel tick, and get to know them and the place better. This month it’s Corinthia Budapest.
“This Hotel is an expression of high class charm, grace and refinement. It is a masterpiece of architecture, a complete hotel with the most elegant ballroom one could imagine, the most welcome lobby I have ever seen, a beautiful Spa, and top culinary experiences – all coupled with a dedicated family of team members who strive to uplift the lives of our guests on a daily basis.” That was Mr Jonathan Pace, General Manager of Corinthia Budapest, who really hits the nail on the head. Elegance coupled with the warmth of all the personnel who enable the guests to merge smoothly with the surroundings and effortlessly make visitors welcome and at ease.
Mr Jonathan Pace joined Corinthia Budapest in August 2019 but he prides himself with an interesting past history with Corinthia: “I started as a student at Corinthia Palace in 1998 and joined the Corinthia family as an employee in 2001. I left Corinthia in 2005 for a period of one year, as I wanted to try something different, but I was then approached by Corinthia and happily returned to the fold. So far, I have worked in seven properties within the group:Corinthia Palace, Corinthia St George’s Bay, Marina Hotel, Panorama Hotel Prague, Corinthia Prague, Corinthia St Petersburg and now Corinthia Budapest.”
Hospitality has always been Mr Pace’s call. His educational background proves it; he studied at the Institute of Tourism Studies in Malta, completed a one-year placement at the world famous Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland, concluded the General Manager Program at Cornell University in 2015, and is currently studying Hotel Real Estate Investment and Asset Management at Cornell University – a course which should be completed by March 2021.
We noted his expression “dedicated family of team members” and asked Mr Jonathan Pace to expand on that.”We are a family and form one team. One important secret to build a team is that first and foremost, I ensure that I myself am an integral part of the team by being present as much as I can. I walk the property several times a day to be close to all my colleagues. I have regular chats with as many colleagues as I can and I always look forward to dining with them as this is where everyone can relax and talk about their personal life and hobbies. Being open and giving constant feedback is one thing that I feel colleagues appreciate most. Last but not least, come the relaxing parts of the equation where we also have some fun together in organising staff events whenever the opportunity arises.”
That’s team building, but what does being part of a family really mean? “Just building a team is not enough. Corinthia prides itself of a culture of forming part of a family. And that is also what I try to instil in each of my colleagues. Empathy, sharing and humaneness.We are quite knitted together. Unfortunately, we recently lost one team member, and the hotel on behalf of all colleagues reached out to the family to see if we could offer support in any way. Many of the colleagues are also friends and they usually meet outside the work environment as well. And the best part is when I get invited to some unexpected drinks with some of the teams outside work after a good week. We also get together to assist charitable institutions like Csodalampa, an association that helps terminally ill children get an experience or a gift they always wanted. We also recently partnered with Red Cross and collected clothing for those in need. This is just to name a few.”
Covid 19 must have been an unexpected avalanche. What was your experience and how do you look forward ? Mr Jonathan Pace looked down, weighing every word: “ Traumatic…We went from hosting a conference to an empty hotel in two days. All the colleagues knew tough times were coming, but we aimed to remain focused and restructure our operation. The main goals were to retain as many colleagues as we could and to quickly restructure our costs. The support of the team retained a strong sense of family despite the difficult scenario. Our objective was to stick together as a family, remain resilient and persevering and quickly adapt to the ever-changing market conditions. We are not out of it yet, however, we have now started to plan a phased opening of the Hotel operation as of Mid-March, and I can assure you every single team member is so much looking forward to this!”
Insider Plus was eager to get some information about Mr Pace’s family. His face beamed and he started by telling me that he is married to Pauline, a special person who has joined him wherever he was and has been travelling with him for the last eleven years. And children? “We have two daughters – Emilia who is 11 years old and Giuliana who is 6 years old. They have lived in different countries with us, however we make sure we return back to our beloved Malta and visit family and friends at least twice a year… and by the way, since we are in Budapest we have welcomed ‘Biscuit’ – our one-year old Dachshund, who has quickly become an inseparable member of our family.”
We wondered whether he practised some kind of sport, but never did we expect this answer: “Diving. Whilst many Russians go to Malta for diving, I got my diving license in the freezing waters of Russia believe it or not! And I am doing Crossfit since I arrived in Budapest.”
It was a pleasure to exchange a few words with Mr Jonathan Pace, especially his mission to retain and even further strengthen the living team bond which keeps the Hotel move foreword in difficult times.
Insider Plus was aware that one of the Corinthia Budapest team is Mr Tibor Meskal, a charming and larger-than-life character, who simply loves sharing his past history without bragging, whilst kindling the atmosphere of friendship.
Barely had we the chance to finish asking him to share his background story, Mr Meskal drove us through a sea of experiences: “ I was born in Hungary on 6th April 1943. After completing my high school education in 1960, I started a challenging life in the hotel industry. I extended my studies, showing great interest in gastronomy. My masters were famous experts who inspired me with their wide knowledge and experience of international customs and traditions.
“I completed my apprenticeship in1963 in the Grand Hotel Royal Budapest, where I was put in charge of room service and later of the restaurant. Three years later, I decided to explore the world to widen my experience and knowledge. I spent some time in Rome and then settled in Australia where I worked with a list of first-class hotels and restaurants, such as Intercontinental, Hilton, Sheraton, Hyatt, Chevron, Sydney Opera House. My jobs ranged from waiter to cocktail bartender, to restaurant manager. and finally F&B director. I even worked for one year working in the restaurant and cabin services on a luxury ocean liner and then in1977 I moved from the Sydney Hilton Hotel to Great Britain’s London Hilton and also worked at the Dorchester and Dukes hotels and The Waldorf.
Insider Plus exclaimed that he must have met a long line of personalities. His face shone more than usual and we knew we were in for a long list of names: “Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II, The Prince of Wales and Lady Diana, The Shah of Persia, Moshe Dyan, Marlene Dietrich, Frank Sinatra, President Gorbachev… and many, many more.”
Then in 1983 he went to Bermuda where he worked as restaurant manager in the newly opened prestigious restaurant Romanoff. But soon he also decided to open his own restaurant, so he moved to Australia.
“I returned to Hungary as a consultant in the Gundel Restaurant and later become F&B director of Intercontinental Budapest. With great excitement I witnessed the growth of my beloved Grand Hotel Royal as newly developed Corinthia in my mother country. I remember regularly visiting the building site for three years and then…”
Mr Meskal’s face betrayed his vivid excitement. “Finally, my dream came true! I joined Corinthia Budapest in a reborn atmosphere of the Hotel I had started working, Grand Hotel Royal.
“I joined immediately when it opened in 2003 and I am still happily part of the Corinthia family where I work as Senior Duty Manager.”
His outgoing character must have been of help to others. “ I am always ready to help my colleagues and friends to overcome their difficulties. Similarly I am always ready to assist guests of the hotel as well. All this is everyday practice in my life.”
Insider Plus asked Mr Meskal if his involvement with Corinthia had been recognized by management, whether in Budapest or by Corinthia as a whole. This question triggered a wide smile, clearly showing he was most pleased with the question.
“Throughout the past eighteen years I have been part of the Corinthia Family, I have been encouraged to perform better and better. My superiors have motivated and encouraged me. Amongst the awards I have received in the past, and of which I am particularly most proud, is The Chairman’s Corinthian Lifetime Award presented to me by Mr Alfred Pisani, Chairman of Corinthia. This was followed by the award Corinthian of the Year granted to me from amongst colleagues of all Corinthia Hotels . I will always treasure those awards.”
And the future? “In the highlight of my 60-year career I just wish I could continue the great years I have spent so far.”
What a positive view of life !