On a hazy day in December, we sat down with Jeronimo Molina to discuss his recent appointment as General Manager of the Gran Melia Xi’an. Sitting in the Executive Lounge of the hotel, we discuss his experience, impressions, and hopes for the future of the Gran Melia Xi’an.
What can you tell us about yourself?
I have worked in Gran Melia properties for 15 years, beginning at the front desk before being promoted to Hotel Manager, then General Manager. I love hospitality for the opportunities that it provides to see the world. When an opportunity to come to Asia arose, I took it, as I had been to Asia many times previously on holiday. I’ve always found the people in Asia to be so kind, so willing to help others even when they are not from the same culture. I’ve never felt like a foreigner here.
You’ve just recently arrived in the city. What are your impressions of Xi’an so far?
I actually came to Xi’an once before, in 2015, for the grand opening of this hotel. The differences between then and now is astounding. This area (Qujiang) has developed so quickly. Just a few years ago there wasn’t too much here. But despite this development, Xi’an still has its own characteristics. It is a place that has the touch of tradition, where people are proud of their culture. This give you the impression that this is a special place.
I’ve also had a chance to try some of the local food. I love the Roujiamo and the barbeque. I’ve just come from Indonesia, which is a Muslim country, so it is interesting to see some similar flavors when visiting Muslim Street. And, of course, there is other Chinese food. Cantonese. Sichuan cuisine. I love spicy food, so I’ve had no problem adjusting. It really seems like you can find anything you like in Xi’an.
Hospitality can be a tough business. Why did you choose hospitality as a career?
To be in hospitality, you have to love it. Working in leisure properties, you must love people, as you will constantly be talking to guests and your staff. Social skills are incredibly important. I often say that the GM is like the mayor of a small town, and the different departments are like government ministers. Everyone works together.
When you work in hospitality, every day is a new day, with new challenges and experiences. You must be able to evolve constantly. For me, once you reach the ceiling, once you get comfortable, or things get boring, it’s time for something new. I could have continued to work in my hometown. My first hotel was just a short walk from home. I could have stayed. But I didn’t. Hospitality is not for everyone, but for me, it is great. Luckily, my wife also enjoys the excitement of going to new places and meeting new people.
You’ve spent so much time working in various Gran Melia properties around the world. What do you feel sets Gran Melia apart from other high-end hotels?
First of all, Gran Melia is the only Spanish luxury hotel brand. In Spain, luxury is all about the simple pleasures. A sip of fine wine. A taste of delicious food. Enjoying a great painting or a beautiful piece of music. It is all about the small touches. So, we bring bits of Spanish culture to each of our properties. Not just the amazing food and wine. People know these things already. We also bring music and art. This concept of luxury also allows us to adapt to the local culture, to find the simple pleasures and share them with our guests. In addition, Spanish culture is very warm and welcoming. We want our guests to be like family, to show them empathy, to socialize with them. This is what makes us different.
What is the most interesting place that you worked before coming to Xi’an?
It is impossible to say which place was the most interesting. Each place is unique. I have loved every place that I have stayed for different reasons, and they have always felt like home. When I was in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, everything was so international. In Yogyakarta in Indonesia, everyone is so personal with their lives, so friendly and open. When you keep moving, keep traveling, you discover that your hometown is not that special, that every place has something nice, and that you can find those good things.
What kind of changes can our reader’s look forward to in 2020?
In the past, I feel that the culture was not promoted as much as it could have been. We would really like to emphasize the cultural connection by increasing our activities, having fashion show; cultural trips. Things like this. We would like to bring the idea of Spanish luxury to Xi’an, to promote Spanish culture, with a touch of the local culture. We will have a new chef coming to Duo, our Spanish restaurant, next year and we will be refreshing the restaurant and its menu. There are so many opportunities that now with the new visa policies coming into place and the new technologies that are available for us to communicate the cultural connection. It is very important to catch the trends that are happening. We now have a Welcome Ambassador in the lobby to welcome our guests and help communicate with them about our hotel and our brand. We will be trying many new things in the coming year.
We here at xianease would like to welcome Jeronimo to the city. We are looking forward to seeing what happens at the Gran Melia Xian under his leadership.