Marco Cogollos fulfilled a professional dream when he was appointed General Manager of the prestigious Conrad Algarve hotel at the beginning of this year. While visiting Les Roches Marbella he shared his story, while also offering some tips for students looking to achieve their dreams in hospitality…
Though his recent visit to Les Roches Marbella marked the first time he’d physically set foot on campus, Marco Cogollos is no stranger to the school; nor is he in any doubt as to the quality of interns we can provide.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have many Les Roches students on internship; the most recent batch was with us this summer and I’m looking forward to receiving many more in future,” he says.
In coming to campus to speak directly with students, Marco had an important mission in mind. “In hospitality today we have something of a talent crisis, with young people not so sure if they want to be part of this amazing industry. So I feel it’s the responsibility of all the international hotel groups to get out and spread the word that hospitality is a fabulous place to make a career; that it offers so many options in terms of where you can work, and the roles available.
“The internships are a big part of this, because if someone comes to work at our hotel and they feel engaged, it can spark that flame of passion which drives them to become the professionals of the future and advocates for this industry.”
Searching for the passion
Passion is the key word for Marco. It’s what he prioritizes most when recruiting, reasoning that if an individual has passion for the industry and a willingness to work and learn, the requisite professional skills can be taught on the job.
In this regard he is envious of Les Roches students for the support they receive throughout the process of finding and securing internships, noting that during his own studies he was left to do this pretty much on his own.
Marco also supports the stepped approach to the internship process, whereby second semester interns are offered ‘entry level’ operational roles in which they can learn some of the core service skills, before taking on a more senior position in semester 5.
“At the end of the day you need to provide excellent guest service whether you are a three, four or five-star hotel. And if you are ultimately responsible for that service, as a GM or departmental manager, you have to know good from bad.
“For example, how can you know whether your F&B team is serving great coffee if you don’t know how to prepare a great coffee? We appreciate that not all tasks in hospitality are exciting; however, they are all essential. It may be boring polishing wine glasses, but if guests are paying a premium price for dinner they are going to be upset to find a glass with stains. If you don’t do the less exciting tasks well, you cannot hope to achieve a level of excellence.”
Getting the basics right
Marco’s own career has very much focused on perfecting the operational essentials. He began as Director of Operations at the Barceló Valencia hotel, where he was responsible for the daily running of the F&B and Rooms divisions. It was also with Barceló Hotels & Resorts that he first entered the GM’s office, in 2010. A move to Ritz-Carlton saw him work at the iconic Hotel Arts in Barcelona, before he joined the Hilton group in 2015, taking on his present role in January this year.
“My dream was to become GM of a luxury hotel, and so I can say it was my proudest professional moment to be offered this role. The year I joined Hilton I was already thinking about this hotel, and now I’m here I’m just enjoying the ride in this fantastic place and with this fantastic team!”
Opened 10 years ago, the Conrad Algarve is now firmly positioned as one of the region’s foremost luxury hotels. The F&B offer is especially notable, led as it is by the Michelin starred restaurant Gusto by Heinz Beck. To underscore this commitment to gastronomic perfection, the hotel recently organized a special event called ‘10 Years, 10 Stars’ to celebrate its first decade in business. The evening showcased the skills of seven chefs from across the Hilton group, including Heinz Beck, who have earned 10 Michelin stars between them.
“The level of detail in this hotel is amazing, and we are very used to developing talent,” says Marco. “Also, we have an amazing profile of guests, and dealing with these different types of people makes this a great place to learn the business of hospitality. I can think of several colleagues who joined us as interns and are now managers, and even as the GM I still learn from the team and how they treat guests.
“I often look back and wish I could have started as an intern at Conrad Algarve!”