As a leader, Gel Gomez is someone whose presence is felt during the best of times and the most challenging of situations. As a woman, she also brings a naturally authentic way of caring to the way she handles business.
These qualities have helped her become one of the most effective and beloved general managers (GMs) in the hospitality industry. Gomez became GM of three-star accommodation brands Hotel 101 and Jinjiang Inn at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
At that point, she had been with Double Dragon, the company that owns the hotel brands, for about five years. But suffice it to say, no one could have prepared her, or anyone else for that matter, for the challenges that befell the tourism and hospitality industries because of it.
“We all know how stressful it was at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, we had 200 long-staying guests at Hotel 101 with nowhere to go. Just figuring out where we would get the food for all those guests was a daily struggle,” Gomez told the Inquirer in a one-on-one interview.
But once she and her team got through the worst of the global pandemic, they felt they had come out of the situation stronger than ever, more knowledgeable and mature, and more confident of their place in the industry.
“Many of our crew, including myself, had to stay in Hotel 101 for at least two months when the pandemic first hit. We were all scared, but I didn’t want anyone to see that. I had to stay strong for everyone. After going through what we went through, I feel like we are now better prepared to face any unforeseen uncertainties,” she said. “Bring it on!”
The experience during those unprecedented times shows what an effective and forward-thinking leader Gomez is. She is not one to take sole credit for herself. In fact, during the interview with this writer, Gomez kept giving props to her excellent team.
Chosen for the role
Gomez was handpicked for the GM role she now holds. After all, she never applied to become one. What she was gunning for at the time was to be promoted from head of group sales marketing to hotel manager for Hotel 101.
A couple of months before lockdown restrictions were imposed in the country, the GM for Hotel 101 stepped down. Gomez temporarily took her place, but with the understanding that she would only hold it for three months.
Then the country’s borders closed. Chaos ensued when the twin health and economic crises rocked not just the Philippines but the whole world.
“Someone had to step up,” she said. So Gomez did.
For a while, there was no word as to her employment status. Has she been promoted to hotel manager, or is the GM position hers for good? It was the latter, though she learned this several months later.
For Gomez, it was more important to act and make sure that everyone was taken care of. That was the priority then.
Rising from the ranks
Gomez has come a long way since she graduated with a degree in hotel and restaurant management from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in 2001.
“Back then, I was wowed by people from sales and marketing who were always so well-dressed. They were celebrities in my eyes,” she said.
Her first stint in the hospitality industry was at the Mandarin Hotel, where she took her practicum. After graduation, she joined a Davao-based brand, the Grand Regal Hotel, as a sales executive. Though she was based in Manila, she regularly went to Davao as part of her job.
After a year, she moved to the Orchid Garden, a hotel in Manila. In 2004, still in the sales industry, Gomez became part of the sales team of the Waterfront Hotels and Casinos for a year.
Her most extended employment, though, has so far been with Sofitel, a five-star hotel in Pasay. For 10 years, she worked her way from sales manager to senior sales manager. Later, she was promoted to assistant director of sales before shifting to assistant director of events because she wanted to gain experience in the operations department.
Today, as if she doesn’t already have her hands full as GM for Hotel 101 and Jianjiang Inn, Gomez is also taking up the Masters in Business Administration (Regis Program at the Ateneo de Manila University).
Gomez said: “At some point, you have to be content with what you have or where you are. Our goals change, too, as we go along. But the important thing is to never stop growing. And I intend on growing further with Hotel 101 as the brand prepares to go international very soon.”