Sonja's commitment to The Peninsula Hotels began nearly 15 years ago, when she became Hotel Manager of The Peninsula New York. From there, she took over The Peninsula Manila, followed by the Peninsula Tokyo in 2015.
Such an extensive experience as general Manager within the Peninsula Group led her to recently be appointed Managing Director of The Peninsula London.
In her own words, Sonja Vordusek thrives on "building a strong team culture and strives to build solid stakeholder relationships that are mutually supportive, encouraging innovation and collaboration that ultimately translates into customer loyalty and advocacy". A loyalty that shines in her long lasting journey with The Peninsula Hotels, as well as the 13 years she spent building her expertise across various roles with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts up until 2010.
Being "passionate and committed about mentoring the next generation of leaders to guide and prepare them for the ups and downs of economic cycles and crisis situations", Sonja Vorusek, answers the questions of the Journal des Palaces. An opportunity to share her personal take on the industry and share insights with the new generation she's so keen on helping build.
What attracted you to luxury hospitality?
Originally, I was destined to join my family’s business in Australia, but an advert for the Blue Mountains International Hospitality School grabbed my attention, and that was the start of an incredible career. I was excited by the idea of travel, the opportunity to hone my skills in different cultural settings, and the freedom to forge my own path. Also, the idea of working in some of the world’s most beautiful hotels was a huge draw.
Your career has been mostly in Housekeeping. What qualities do you think you developed that make you the General Manager you are today?
My career started in housekeeping, which gave me the foundations of understanding the guest experience from the ground up. It set me on a journey to opening and running some of the most remarkable hotels in the world. The most valuable qualities I developed in housekeeping included developing extremely high attention to detail and learning how to work in a team.
You've been part of the Peninsula family for almost 10 years now. What keeps you passionate about the brand?
The Peninsula has a unique approach to hospitality because we are a family-owned company that has been in the same family for four generations. For me, that means we think long term. Whether that is about investing in creativity and quality with our hotel product, or working with our loyal staff members to deliver exceptional Peninsula service. This core value of longevity is at the heart of everything we do.
Between Four Seasons and Peninsula, you have experience in more than 7 countries. Have you noticed a difference in your approach to the roles or/and your colleagues?
In addition to being agile and adaptable to rapidly changing environments, the two Q’s I believe are important are EQ: Emotional Intelligence and CQ: Cultural Intelligence. Both are extremely valuable assets in hospitality, when you might be working in entirely different parts of the world. Understanding and respecting different cultural nuances as you conduct business is vital.
With such a large luxury hospitality offer in London, what are your goals for the Peninsula London?
My biggest goal for The Peninsula London is to build a hotel for generations to come, both for guests to stay and create memories for generations, or for staff to shape a sustainable career for the future.
Who are your target customers?
Our doors are very much open to all our international guests as well as local visitors. Typically, our core customers are from the US and Asia as the majority of our hotels are in those regions, so brand recognition is high. However, since we have opened our ‘European’ collection in Paris, Istanbul and now London, we are seeing much more awareness in key European markets, including France, Spain, Italy, and Germany. Since opening The Peninsula London, we have welcomed old friends to The Peninsula hospitality in London, and look forward to introducing new guests to The Peninsula experience.
You are still recruiting for various roles. What makes The Peninsula London an envious place to work?
At The Peninsula London, we have committed to offering the Real Living Wage, and we invest significantly in our people by providing them with the best possible environment to do their work. Service is at the heart of hospitality, so getting the right people on board is the key to our success.
In your opinion, what sets the luxury hospitality culture aside?
Quality, attention to detail, and service.
What are your biggest challenges when recruiting?
As an industry, we probably need to do a better job of communicating the opportunities to young people, and addressing the changing ways they consider work. Business practices and training have changed to address fair pay, equality, inclusion and advancement – we just need to make sure the message is getting across!
What would be your advice to someone looking at a career in luxury hospitality?
Luxury hospitality is about aptitude and attitude. The right attitude unlocks a world of career opportunities. It is a wonderful industry, though demanding, it can give you a lot back in terms of job satisfaction and being part of a meaningful community.
A lover of human interactions, Sonia started her journalism career in various media outlets before moving to London and shifting to the digital industry. Listening to her calling, she's picking up her pen to share the passion and ambitions of luxury hospitality.