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“Service is more natural than it seems, it is often enough to combine politeness, genuineness, a smile, and a touch of humour”.


“Service is more natural than it seems, it is often enough to combine politeness, genuineness, a smile, and a touch of humour”.

Category: Europe - Switzerland - - Interviews
Interview made by Vanessa Guerrier-Buisine on 2023-05-05

Thomas Goval embodies an uninhibited luxury hotel industry that remains focused on providing exceptional service. Between elegance, modernity and empathy, this seasoned hotelier leaves his mark from the very first meeting.

However, the path was not always easy for this son of a German teacher and a tourism professional. At a very young age, he enjoyed serving his parents' friends when they were guests at their home.

Between play and pleasure, the young Thomas quickly understood that he wanted to make a career in the hotel industry. At the age of 17, following his high school graduation, he left home to combine professional experience with language training in England and Germany.

Throughout these experiences, his ambition was to enter the EHL Hospitality & Business School. But low income does not always equal to great schools. His determined character encouraged him to persevere in the face of the many closed doors of banks and other financing systems.

His efforts paid off in September 2008 when he entered EHL. This project was made possible thanks to a meeting with a bank advisor who trusted him, who believed in his professional endeavour to the point of defending his loan request at his headquarters in Paris, and thanks to whom Thomas Goval was finally able to fulfil his first dream.

A man of results

Thomas likes to learn, discover, and initiate new projects. After a stint in 2009 with two of the first three hotels of the 25hours group in Germany, then still in start-up mode, he ventured into other segments of the hospitality industry.

This is how he discovered the airline catering business in 2011. At Servair, he developed his management skills, whilst taking on the position of Servair’s Assistant Operations Vice-President for an internship. Thomas' main task was to set up performance monitoring indicators on 23 French operating sites, which naturally continued to influence his passion for quality and results throughout his career.

It was in 2012, after graduating from the EHL, that Thomas' career took off. His entry into the IHG group, and the integration into their “Future Leaders” training programme, took him on an adventurous six years when he was able to fulfil his full potential within the group.

During these six years, he moved from Germany to France and the United Kingdom, and took on a wide variety of projects and leadership assignments, including the opening of a hotel in Paris as Deputy General Manager. Improving departmental performances, helping in the integration and engagement of new employees, and increasing guest satisfaction and loyalty were all challenges successfully embraced by Thomas.

He doesn't fit into any one box and has worked in all hotel departments, from Food & Beverage to Rooms. His cross-functionality and versatility are his core strengths and allow him to consistently deliver for both his operational teams and the owners with whom he works.

A rewarding commitment

For this man of figures with human values, the first position as general manager came up in 2016. At the Hotel Indigo Berlin-Ku'damm he was able to fully showcase his talent. The results were not long in coming. Within just a few months, Thomas Goval had achieved double-digit growth in guest satisfaction, employee commitment, RevPAR, and gross operating profit. The hotel was nominated for the “Europe Hotel Awards 2018”, Thomas was awarded the title of “Colleague of the Year” by the CEO Europe, a recognition for the work done, and the passion displayed in uniting and driving the team towards this collective success.

Thomas Goval is a natural-born leader. Katara Hospitality identified his profile and offered him a leadership position assisting the General Manager.

In 2020, he was named “Young Hotelier of the Year” by the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI), a further accolade for his years of perseverance and determination.

In 2021, he was promoted to Hotel Manager, before accepting responsibility for the role of Acting General Manager in March 2023. “This is a great expression of trust, as it allows me to take full responsibility for the resort with the team,” says Thomas Goval, whose expertise with the property, the team members and the guests is paramount.

The challenge of time

Although his current position is, by definition, temporary, the responsibility is still there. Thomas Goval runs the resort with a long-term mindset. His priority is to support the team’s well-being, with a view to inspiring them to deliver exceptional levels of service, and ultimately achieve the performance expected by the hotel owners.
A virtuous circle that Thomas takes pleasure in refining.
This challenge is even more important as he simultaneously works as a Hotel Manager. “When you hold these two positions at the same time, you are the face of the resort and work behind the scenes on the substance of the files. It's exciting but at the same time challenging because you must find time and focus for both aspects. You are in the front line, on top of being a pillar of the internal organization,” he explains.

Thomas must know how to juggle the relationship with his guests, such as sharing breakfast with a loyal guest who has become a 'friend of the house', and managing projects behind the scenes, while remaining available to the teams when they need him. Time management is undoubtedly one of the major challenges of this special role.

A strong sense of service

Although his parents and his upbringing played an obvious role in the development of his sense of service, Thomas is above all conferred with a generous nature. “I recently found my first diploma as a young waiter issued by a restaurant chain, when I was 7 years old, he says amused. The brand presented a Polaroid photo of the child, in an apron, serving his parents, in this 'young waiter who knows how to serve' diploma. This experience helped me to see the restaurant business as a game and to love it”. It is this type of feeling that Thomas strives to offer to his own guests… including the youngest.

A desire to delight, the real driving force behind his daily hotel life. Aware of his responsibility to inspire the new generations and to share the passion of the hospitality industry, Thomas insists on the gift offered by his guests during and at the end of their stay: their smiles. The hospitality industry, a generator of happiness, is the sense that Thomas Goval gives to it. “All the energy you spend is returned a hundredfold by the guests,” he adds.

His sense of service combines perfectly with his definition of luxury. Thomas sees luxury as the ability to “make people experience emotions, by being sincere, unique and by paying attention to every detail”. The luxury of the intangible, of attention to others, a luxury that would apply, according to him, to all areas of life and all sectors. At a time when luxury hotel guests are above all looking for authenticity and emotion, Thomas Goval's definition makes perfect sense.

Making the profession more attractive

Although he is convinced of the virtues of the hospitality profession, he is no less aware of the obstacles. He is therefore keen to improve the working conditions of his teams. In addition to material efforts, Thomas strives to create a pleasant and fair work environment for his teams, thereby helping team cohesion and a work-life balance.

He also generously shares his career path, the obstacles he has encountered and his successes in the media or at student meetings, to show young people that the profession offers many opportunities. “I think we need to inspire young people who want to join us in the hotel industry,” he adds. To make people dream without cutting corners, to make them dream by sharing his passion, these are the ingredients used by Thomas Goval to improve the image of the hotel industry among young people.

He believes that “service is more natural than it seems, it is often enough to combine politeness, sincerity, a smile, and a touch of humour”, he continues.

To a young person who would like to join the world of luxury hotels, Thomas Goval recommends “to always be yourself, not to pretend. It is by being true to yourself that you can be persuasive”. And this is true regardless of the trials and challenges encountered.

He firmly believes that general managers play a key role in building team loyalty, in the hotel and even in the business. “They are the ones who lead their team. They are the ones who inspire you or disappoint you. When you don't feel trusted, it's very hard. By contrast, when someone offers you their trust, it's a driving force,” he says.

Recharge the batteries

Drawn into the daily hustle and bustle of his business, Thomas Goval knows how to seize every moment. Whenever he can, he arrives early at his hotel, “when everything is still calm and, without making a pun, everything is asleep, he says. It allows you to see the hotel better, to spot areas of improvement that you don't necessarily spot when there's more activity, and that's when I greet the first teams. Often, I still meet the night shifts too, so I really enjoy it”.

The Bürgenstock also has two historic corridors, one connecting two hotels, the other under one of the natural rocks facing the lake, offering a panoramic view of the lake. It is here, among other places, that Thomas likes to step back and think about finding solutions.

A bright future

For Thomas, whose main ambition is to “make a success of this transition period and ensure stability within the resort”, the future should be bright. With his innate sense of service, his caring attitude towards his teams and guests, and his talent as a manager, Thomas Goval belongs very naturally to the circle of hoteliers with a promising future.

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About the author

As a journalist and luxury hotel expert inspired by the men and women who embody it, Vanessa aspires to enhance and sublimate the beauty and elegance of palaces through her writing. "In a palace, simplicity serves the quest for excellence" she admires.

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