Profile Meet Mekaar Resort GM – Nelson Albarran

Today marks the 9th instalment of my weekly profile feature, where hotel general managers share their journey into hospitality. Isimangaliso Wetlands region which is a UNESCO declared World Heritage Site, is also home to a new tourism product named Meet Mekaar Resort, which is undergoing further improvements.

Nelson Albarran is at the helm, tasked with growing new brand and remain profitable. Let’s find out what type of arsenals are in his sleeves to conquer the trade, enjoy the read below…

Briefly introduce yourself, your career background before your current position…

My career in hospitality began in 1995 studying hotel management via the then Three Cities International Hotel School and American Hotel & Motel Association at the Carlton Hotel in Johannesburg. On completion of my two year diploma I opted to specialise via correspondence, a third year in Food & Beverage Management and internship at The Palace Hotel at Sun City.

Remaining at Sun City for another seven years working my way through Special Events Management to include the Super Bowl Concerts and Executive Floor Manager at the Palace Hotel, remains to this day some of my fondest memories.

Nelson Albarran, General Manager at Meet Mekaar Resort

Nelson Albarran, General Manager at Meet Mekaar Resort

A short two years contract on Carnival Cruise Lines in the Caribbean as Assistant Bar Manager then saw my transition into “the other side” when I moved to The Inside Edge Destination Management Company specialising on in-bound incentive corporate travel & events where I spent 6 wonderful years.

This not only gave me a great depth to our diverse country but massive exposure to many different styles of five star luxury Hotels & Lodges. In Sept this year I took the challenge of going back into hotel operations at Meet Mekaar Resort, a property that is quickly growing from strength to strength and has incredible potential.

What attracted you to Meet Mekaar Resort and how long have you been on the current position?

The challenge of moving back into operations and taking on the role of General Manager at a resort with newly completed conference & wedding venues (the largest North of Durban ICC). Growing literally by the day still adding more accommodation at this moment, setting systems and procedures that will take this resort to be recognised as the best service offering in the Northern Zululand.

What have been your proud achievements since taking over your current position?

It’s probably a little too early to tell but systems are starting to take shape and moving in the direction we want them to go. Proud achievements will be measured firstly by positive guest experience and naturally being able to show our director return on his investment.

Give us a breakdown of the offerings at Meet Mekaar Resort?

The hotel currently offers 92 beds (over 34 rooms/units including family and self-catering units). We are also adding more accommodation over the next few months which should take us to around 392 beds. We have a 358 seater thatch-roofed restaurant, a Log Chapel seating 80, “Barn style”

Fountain Hall seating 250 pax (banquet style). Our newly completed Mnguni Centre has two halls each easily capable of seating 250 and 450 people for gala dinners with an amazing wooden deck joining these two areas spanning approximately 900 sqm. All of this situated in a beautiful wetlands area, only 25 minutes from Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park and neighbouring St Lucia Estuary.

Post by Meet Mekaar Resort.

What daily challenges do you face with your position?

With a resort that is undergoing a huge investment injection and constantly developing (including some construction finishes and new upcoming accommodation underway) there are always challenges. This includes upgrading of internet WiFi infrastructure, telecommunications, software upgrades, accommodation offering upgrade & staff training just to name a few.

Setting up these systems, standards and training staff is the challenge. Seeing them come to fruition will be a true achievement.

What is the overall staff compliment under your supervision and what percentage of that is recruited from local community?

Currently 45 permanent staff with casuals on demand basis, 98% from Zululand and surrounds.

Do you have an example to share where your hotel has groomed a staff member from entry position to climb the career ladder?

Having only been here for two months, it’s a little early to tell who the true rising stars are but there are a few that are showing amazing potential. We look forward to setting career objectives and succession planning for them.

How does the hotel recruit new staff members?

Currently we look at promoting from within the company and recruit from the local area unless specialised positions where our marketing company African Insignia Hotels assists us.

How do you ensure you turn once-off hotel guests into repeat clients?

Hospitality extends to a level of personal attention and friendship. We try to ensure that all our guests feel like they are part of the growing Meet Mekaar Family.

What marketing strategies have proven profitable for your hotel and which ones have been a waste of resources?

With the property in its new form still being in infant stages we are starting to promote monthly markets creating an atmosphere of family outings and a place to meet one another. Marketing efforts have primarily been focused on engaging the local communities, corporates and businesses enticing them to experience Meet Mekaar and our growing hospitality.

African Insignia Hotels are looking further abroad for us talking to the industry about our developments.

What percentage of your budget is spent sourcing goods and services from within your locality?

We are currently working with the local community to assist us with growing our own fresh produce and these plans are still underway including setting up our own agricultural area.

Is your hotel involved in any community upliftment projects…if so, please share details?

Our monthly markets is the first step in our plan to get the local community involved with what we do at the resort and additional projects are in planning stages.

How is your hotel impacting positively to the environment?

We aim to “grow local” and recycling will become a large part of the way we do business.

What inspires you to wake up each morning ready to positively contribute in your hotel?

Our directors, the team that I work with have been hugely supportive and we all share the vision that the resort will grow exponentially over the coming months and years. This is what allows me to work in a positive and encouraging working environment. The natural beauty of the area is also a bonus.

What legacy do you aim to leave in your current position?

Seeing this resort develop to become a recognised industry competitor, leaving systems and training behind when I perhaps leave one day. Hopefully not anytime soon…

Author: Muzi Mohale

Hi there, am your host and I blog about the tourism industry in South Africa. You're also welcome to contribute your expert content on matters affecting the industry. You can reach me on muzi[at]tourismedition.com

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