Guest relations personnel are hotel properties’ best kept secrets who ensure that guests have a comfortable stay and memories to take home.
Chenee Seeberath has been a guest relations officer at The Leonardo in Sandton, Johannesburg since September 2019.
Seeberath began working in the hospitality industry in 2014. She spent two years in guest relations at the luxurious Saxon Hotel. She then moved on to become a client liaison officer at United Charter Services, a company that caters for airlines.
“Initially, I enrolled at Rhodes University to study Computer Science but soon realised that I wasn’t that great at programming. In addition, I hated sitting in front of a computer all day.”
After a year, Seeberath ditched Rhodes and changed to The International Hotel School to study Hospitality Management. While she loved her time at United Charter Services, she missed being in a hotel environment. As luck would have it, The Leonardo was recruiting; thanks to her experience over the years, she got the job.
While many people in the hospitality industry know Seeberath as having a bubbly personality, she says she was never a people person. “I was the biggest introvert when I was young, and almost too shy to walk up and greet another person.”
Guest relations personnel have to experience some fun activities in order to recommend these to their guests. These can include activities such as rock climbing. Seeberath says that it’s tricky with some of these activities because she is afraid of heights (never mind the fact that she works in the tallest building in South Africa) and says she is a horrible swimmer
Guest relations as a career
Seeberath says her love for the hospitality industry was sparked by her desire to travel the world and experience new cultures and cities. Working in different hotels was the only way to fulfil her desire.
“I also experienced a few good hotels when I was younger, and it kind of stuck, since they would always leave really special memories or feelings after departing. I used to think I would like to be a part of something like that when I grow up,” she says.
While it looks so easy to walk into a hotel with everyone running after you, it takes careful planning to ensure that guests are well looked-after.
Seeberath says guest relations is an exciting career that requires passion for what you do and an enquiring mind. “To create lasting memories and come up with exciting activities, guest relations personnel need to do constant research of trends and how to improve guest experiences.”
There are many advantages to working in hospitality. “I like that I get to help create amazing memories for guests and also meet a variety of people from all over the world. However, the hours are long and not always 9 to 5 like most jobs.”
In her current role at The Leonardo, Seeberath has various responsibilities on a daily basis. Those VIPs who check-in at the building are hosted by Seeberath and her team.
Other duties include organising special requests from guests such as birthday, anniversary and engagement celebrations, and managing the concierge department.
For example, she explains that guests who visit the hotel want to know what they can do in and around the area. As guest relations officer, it is her responsibility to compile this information and have it ready to dispatch when needed.
Located in Sandton Johannesburg, The Leonardo is the tallest building in South Africa with 55 storeys. The mixed-use development is comprised of apartments, hotel suites, offices and lifestyle assets.
Additionally, Seeberath conducts art tours and site inspections, as well as marketing the property to potential guests; she also manages photoshoots and shooting videos.
Seeberath notes that while the Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the hospitality sector globally, people are still visiting hotels, although, not as often as they used to.
“We are seeing that people are exploring more in their own cities/towns and countries. I think this will continue, as people are finding out that there is a lot to do at home instead of always choosing an international destination.”
On what inspires her
Horse riding is what inspires Seeberath, since she was four years old.
In the past, she competed in show jumping, and currently, she is focusing on dressage with her young horse. “Whenever I want to escape the rush of life, the one place I go to is the stables to spend time with my horse, with Areion Dolce Reno.”
Although horse riding is not an easy sport, she finds it inspirational because she is constantly improving, learning how to multitask and cope in different situations.
“I apply the same skills and ways of coping in life as I do in horse riding, and this helps me to work well under pressure as an individual and in a team.”
Seeberath adds that if she was not in guest relations, she would have been either a vet or a photographer. When she is not horse riding or at work, she enjoys taking photographs.
Edited by Gudrun Kaiser