Catalina Susan - General Manager of
Armenia Marriott Hotel, Yerevan
What, in your
opinion, are the
main skills needed
to run a successful
irst of all, you need
to be knowledgeable
of all the hotel activities, and
this you can get with experience.
So, I strongly believe that a general manager should
have experience working in different departments of
a hotel. So, in my case, I worked most of my career,
about 16 years in the hotel finance department, but
the last two years I was involved with the work of other
departments as well, in order to get more experience
and more exposure.
Concerning the skills, I’d say you need to be strong,
as there are always various challenges, life in a hotel
is not easy, and something inevitably pops up and it
needs to be solved.
You also need to be hardworking, as you need to
dedicate all of yourself to the life in a hotel because
when you try to split it in another direction as well, it
gets extremely difficult.
And last but not least, you need to be very flexible to
adapt quickly to new environments, people, culture,
and if you’re not open to something new, you probably
will fail as a manager.
What are the biggest challenges a hotel owner/
general manager can expect to face?
o be honest, here in Armenia I face more challenges
then I did in the previous hotels I worked in, for
example in the European Union conditions, even
the legislation is totally different from further east.
This Marriott is not an easy property. The biggest
challenge, I would say, right now is finding suppliers in
the current market, as there aren’t that many options
here, and surprisingly for me, some supplier does not
want to work with Marriott.
It is also difficult to find outsource companies, which
is one of the options for running the property with
higher profit. And it’s much easier to work with
outsourcing companies and hire them during the
high season, and the other seasons you just base your
work on your regular staff. Also, it is difficult to work
in unfair conditions, for example, AirB&B is doing an
unfair competition, I’d say, and a lot of customers
prefer to go there instead of the hotels, despite the
fact that they have different conditions. A lot of people
do get disappointed, that whatever is shown in the
picture isn’t a reality most of the time, but still, for the
first experience they prefer something other than a
In Armenia it is difficult to find employees because
bright minds and good professionals have chosen
to leave Armenia, most of them work in Russia. So,
whenever we have an opening, it gets really difficult.
Turnover is not so big, but for some departments,
like front office, it is indeed very high, and we face
the issue of hiring people, training them, and
consecutively they do not stay long with us, and
instead move to another hotel with a higher
position, or maybe another Marriott property. The
majority of them say that it is a difficult job, but it
really is not, and if you really want to grow in that
company you need to start from the bottom.
Sure thing, as a General Manager you will most
definitely be stressed out most of the time, but it
is important not to show it because you will stress
the others as well. And so, I try to keep calm all
the time, and you will hardly see me upset.
Please describe a typical day of a general
manager of a large chain hotel.
he typical day is very busy, usually, I plan my
week at the weekend, but it never goes as
planned, I only manage to get some 40% done.
I start my morning in the gym at 6.30, I go there
3-4 times a week, this refreshes me to have a
long and busy day. Then I do a touring of the
hotel, starting with the breakfast area, talking
to the customers, I also come to the executive
lounge, where we have our repetitive guests
and VIPs, and sometimes I spend a lot of time
here chatting with them. Next, I check the
conference area to see what the events for the
day are, whether everything is prepared, then I
go through the lobby area and afterward I spend
some time talking to the staff.
One or two times a week I pass by all the
departments, I greet the employees, find out
how they feel, whether they need something.
Whenever we have a difficult or busy day I find it
especially useful talking to the staff as they may
feel overwhelmed, and while talking to them I try
to encourage them and make them feel a little
During the day I do have a lot of meetings, internal
meetings with my staff, like selling strategy
meetings, I try to catch up with my emails, but I
usually end up doing this after my working hours
when I am at home, and twice a week I take
Russian lessons, I want to learn Russian, I think it
will help me in my future career.
What advice would you give to prospective
hotel owners/general managers?
irst, they need to pay attention to the staff
they are hiring, because it is important to
hire the right people, and not to be very “cheap”,
because some people choose to go for young and
inexperienced staff, of course, it is very important
to hire young people to give them the chance to
build their career, but it is very important to have
experienced and skilled staff as well. Marriott is
very good at it, because they bring people from
other hotels for key positions, as these people
know all the rules and procedures. Also, they
need to be patient, in the beginning especially, as
it might be difficult to teach all the procedures,