Andrew Milton is the general manager of the luxury resort, the One&Only Le Saint Géran, in Mauritius. He explains to Janet Harmer how working overseas can take you out of your comfort zone
Can you give me a broad outline of your current position? The One&Only Le Saint Géran is a five-star, 163-suite hotel with 600 employees. As general manager I'm responsible for its operational management alongside the sales and marketing, finance and human resources. The hotel is celebrating its 36th anniversary this year and has a very loyal repeat clientele, including royal families, celebrities and sports personalities from all over the world.
What encouraged you to work overseas in the first place? I grew up in Africa and the Middle East and after graduation I knew I wanted to continue to travel. I first became interested in hotels when I was 11 years old. My best friend was the son of the general manager of the InterContinental in Abu Dhabi. For us, the hotel was a playground and when we were exhausted, we would order a hamburger, coke and ice-cream in the restaurant and sign the bill.
How has working abroad enhanced your career? I think I have been able to advance my job prospects at a faster rate than I would if I'd remained in the UK. Working overseas provides more opportunities to prove your leadership skills and build up a wide network of contacts that assist your career development.
I've played a part in a number of hotel openings, enabling me to gain a lot of experience very fast. At the age of 32 I was fortunate to open what was the first five-star hotel in the Seychelles, the Lémuria Resort of Praslin. The experience, which was mentally and physically tough, remains the greatest experience of my career to date. We were a young team and passionate about the property. Within one year the hotel was voted among the top 10 resorts in the world in a top German travel publication.
What do you like about working in Mauritius? I enjoy resort management and the opportunity to drive not only operations, but also the sales, marketing and finance side of the business. The climate is an advantage, allowing for an outdoor style of life. As it's a holiday destination, you meet your guests every day and build up a relationship with them over the years. Organising special events, parties, bands and shows give you a great deal of satisfaction when client feedback is so positive.
What do you dislike about working in Mauritius? The 12-hour flights to Europe.
What could Mauritius learn from the UK? The operation of city hotel concepts. As the island develops there is a need for not only resorts, but also business hotels.
What has surprised you most about hospitality in Mauritius? The genuinely warm and caring attitude of Mauritian citizens. The success of Mauritian hospitality is that it is based on a genuine heartfelt culture. Local people are proud to work in hospitality and to serve.
A guest recently rented a car which suffered a puncture in a nearby village. The villagers asked the couple into their house for tea and changed the wheel for them and sent them off with a smile and cakes. That kind of attitude is contagious.
What advice would you give to anyone in the hospitality industry wishing to work abroad? Jump at the opportunity and learn a second language. It has given me opportunities to work with many cultures, as well as manage within different environments and with different people. Working outside your comfort zone helps make you a better manager.
What other aspects of working abroad would you like to share?
The food. There is such a diverse and wonderful array of different cuisines I would not have experienced if I had not worked abroad, from delicious street food to fine dining. I also have some wonderful memories.
CV: andrew milton
1990-91 Food and beverage controller, London Hilton on Park Lane
â- 1991-92 Assistant F&B manager, Langham Hilton, London
â- 1992-93 Assistant F&B manager, Noga Hilton, Cannes, France
â- 1993-95 F&B manager, London Gatwick Hilton
â- 1995-97 Executive assistant manager, Shandrani hotel, Mauritius
â- 1997-99 Executive assistant manager, Sugar Beach Resort, Mauritius
â- 1999-02 General manager, Lémuria Resort of Praslin, Seychelles
â- 2002-07 General manager, Le Prince Maurice, Mauritius
â- 2007-present General manager, One&Only Le Saint Géran, Mauritius