Gel Gomez thrives on excellence and that makes each day for her different.

"I tried pursuing a career to be a flight attendant during my youth. Thankfully, there were other plans for me which turned out for the better."

Gel Gomez
General Manager Hotel 101
Gel Gomez General Manager Hotel 101

SOMETIMES you aspire to become someone when you were younger but then, that ambition gets eclipsed by something bigger.

Hotel 101 General Manager (GM) Gel Gomez's childhood dream was to become a flight attendant. It didn't happen, and not because she was sidetracked: she instead progressed to being a hotelier, an-other face of the tourism industry.

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"I had an eye for the tourism industry, influenced by my flight attendant cousin," Gomez recalled. "I tried pursuing a career to be a flight attendant during my youth. Thankfully, there were other plans for me which turned out for the better."

She was inspired by relatives in the foreign service and in the airline sector to join the hotel indus-try. That interest was furthered by her practicum days at the Mandarin Oriental.

Gel Gomez with children
Garreth and Francine Sofia
Gel Gomez with children Garreth and Francine Sofia Alyssandra.
"Seeing the sales and marketing team of the hotel in action, the glitz, their smiles and their vibrancy despite long hours excited me and piqued my interest," she recalled. "As a fresh graduate, I was giv-en an opportunity to work as a sales executive in the first deluxe hotel in Davao — the Grand Regal Hotel — where it all started two decades ago."

Year-on-year promotions and opportunities Gomez received in the sales and marketing field in Or-chid Garden Suites, Waterfront Hotels and Casinos, Sofitel Philippine Plaza — led her to Double-Dragon Corp.

"I had the privilege to launch its hospitality arm, the Hotel 101 Group, and set up homegrown brand Hotel 101 and [the] franchised international brand Jinjiang Inn Philippines," she said. "Just before the pandemic, the opportunity to handle hotel operations was given to me, [while] at the same time still heading the group sales and marketing department.

"I shifted to operations to learn new things and be exposed to hotel management. The pandemic came, and I had to step up, adapt and show resiliency in handling operations of our five hotels in the midst of Covid-19. It was inevitable that I had to learn every aspect of the hotel and now still contin-ue to learn new things every single day."

DoubleDragon presently runs five hotels: three in Metro Manila (Hotel 101-Manila, Jinjiang Inn Orti-gas and Jinjiang Inn Makati) and two in the Western Visayas (Injap Tower Hotel Iloilo and Jinjiang Inn Boracay Station 1).

They have approximately 300 employees and personnel from third-party contractors, spread out across the five properties. "We kept the same number of employees and deployed personnel since pre-pandemic up until today, as we did not retrench and did our best to keep everyone's jobs," Gomez said.

Hotel 101 also partnered with local governments and nongovernment organizations for sustainable tourism, and Gomez could not be any prouder about their continuing efforts.

"[I]t will always be a proud moment to have accomplished these with our team," she said. "During the pandemic, we worked hand in hand to extend assistance to our frontliners, especially those in the vaccination sites and in the airports."

"Our employees gave back by providing a community pantry to the victims of [a] fire in Pasay while the management and our sister company, MerryMart, also contributed in our distribution of aid to several frontliners," she added.

"I can say that the bayanihan (community) spirit during the pandemic grew and extended even until today. As the general manager of Hotel 101 Group, I took this opportunity to lead the team in the active involvement in sustainable tourism, which resulted in launching our own initiative, the 101 Stay Green — Hotel 101 Group's own sustainability effort."

Hotel 101 also recently unveiled plans to expand abroad in a bid to become a global chain. "Last June 30, the company disclosed its plans for this endeavor in Japan," Gomez said. "We are presently pre-paring to begin the construction and pre-selling of Hotel 101 Niseko in Hokkaido, Japan by the fourth quarter this year."

Thriving on excellence

Gomez obtained her bachelor degree in hotel and restaurant management from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and completed a marketing diploma at the Ateneo Center for Continu-ing Education. At present, she is studying for a Master's in Business Administration at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business.

Gomez thrives on excellence, which is how she makes every day different from the previous one. There is not a day when she gets bored or idle, she remarked.

Gel Gomez is also
fond of visiting local
tourist sites, like in the
Bicol Region.
Gel Gomez is also fond of visiting local tourist sites, like in the Bicol Region.

"Each day is really different as I encounter different situations — from clients, events, employees, stakeholders and management," she said. "Every decision I have to make will not only affect our employees but also our guests and clients... these challenge and energize me."

Aside from managing, Gomez is also focused on how she influences the people around her. "Each thing I do, at the back of my head, I often think [about] if it will bring inspiration to others," she said. "I aim to motivate them to perform better and, in turn, inspire others as well."

"Every satisfied guest, every satisfied employee brings happiness and fulfillment to me. Whenever I get to develop future leaders, not only in my organization but also when they decide to pursue oth-er dreams, [this] also brings joy and satisfaction," she added.

"Three things that I focus on as the GM of Hotel 101 Group are character, competence and purpose, combining all three traits in how I encourage them as their GM and how I want them to also develop as my people."

As for family, Gomez — a single mother of two — said: "I am just fortunate that my son is of age al-ready — able to also take care of his sister."

"Both my kids are independent, especially when we shifted to online learning. It was a challenge in the beginning, but I was able to lead them easily. I get all the support I can from [my] family as my mom and my siblings are also constantly present."

Working in a hotel that runs 24/7, Gomez sees herself devoting more time than is required or de-manded by staff. Her weekends, however, are prioritized for family.

More than work-life balance, Gomez believes in work-life harmony. "I really work hard and I deliver. That's one of the traits that everyone can expect from me. Still, I ensure to make time for my per-sonal life through my time with family, traveling and enjoying life."

Gel Gomez in Prague
Gel Gomez in Prague

"I make sure that I delegate and have department heads or next-in-lines every time I am not around. That goes the same for them as I promote this culture for them to also enjoy family time," she add-ed.

As general manager, Gomez has a lot of things to attend to, and she makes sure everything goes as planned. "On a daily basis, I check on the operations of our flagship hotel, Hotel 101 Manila, and then go to my office in the DoubleDragon HQ (headquarters) when I do not meet and accommodate clients," she said.

"On a weekly basis, I start the week with operations meetings with our hotel heads and department heads, followed by owner's meeting, and visits to our other hotels."

Her role models are the "good mentors" who guided her throughout her professional journey. "[These are] my previous bosses in sales and marketing, Rose Libongco, one of the pillars of the hospitality industry, as well as my general managers, Bernd Schneider and Lei Apostol, whom I learned a lot from," Gomez said.

"They have imparted a lot of knowledge and experience, and I would consider [these] to have molded me to who and what I am today as a leader."