The new General Manager of the award-winning Hotel Belmond La Residencia in Deya, Thomas Moons, is probably closer to home than he has been since joining the world-class Belmond group nearly nine years ago, but his arrival in Mallorca could be described as destiny.
“Last October, my wife and I came to Mallorca for the first time. We were out visiting one of the wonderful vineyards and over a glass of wine we agreed that it would be wonderful to return to the island one day, perhaps for work. Not long after the holiday, I received a call from head office and I was offered the opportunity to select any of the Belmond group’s hotels for my next position. I chose Deya, Mallorca, and here we are, the whole family,” he told the Bulletin this week.
“We are so lucky, it’s all come together like this, it’s where my wife and I wanted to be,” he added.
Thomas was born in Belgium, which is where he went to hotel school. He then studied hotel management in Holland before embarking on his journey, which included a management traineeship within the Intercontinental Hotels Group. The programme consisted of three years working in three different hotels, different positions and different countries, including Holland and Dubai.
In 2012, he was appointed Rooms Division Manager at The Governor’s Residence by Orient-Express (Yangon, Myanmar), which is where he remained until the middle of 2014, when he moved on and up to being Resident Manager at the Belmond La Residence d’Angkor, a luxury hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Less than a year later, he was appointed General Manager of the Belmond La Residence Phou Vao Resort in Luang Prabang, Laos.
Some eighteen months later, it was time for another move. This was to take over as General Manager at the Belmond Miraflores Park in Lima, Peru. He remained in the position for just over four and a half years before choosing the position of General Manager at La Residencia in Deya.
“Looking back, what was very helpful about staying at the hotel last year is that I was able to see it in full swing. I have never worked at a seasonal ‘resort’ hotel before, so I have to admit the past month or so, since I arrived, has been rather strange, working in a closed hotel.
“But I was extremely lucky that when I took over in early December, the outgoing General Manager, Ulisses (Marreiros), who had been in charge of the hotel for the previous eight seasons, stayed on for another two weeks to show me around and help me settle in. Previously I’ve been parachuted in at the deep end and had to get straight on with it in hotels which are open 365 days of the year,.
“So, I have had time to not only get used to the hotel and its surroundings but also get to know all of the staff. I have been to spend valuable time with key members of my team planning the new season and studying the various challenges we face. With regard to the hotel’s Covid protocol, Ulisses did an excellent job in setting that up. All of the staff know what the procedures are, so there is nothing to alter on that front - we’re more than ready to open.
“As things stand right now, we are getting ready to open on March 18, which is pretty much our annual opening date, but there are obviously numerous variables to take into account with the pandemic, and I guess Monday, when everyone gets back to work and the authorities have decided on what the next phase of restrictions is going to be, will be D-day.
“What I love about La Residencia compared to other hotels I have managed is its rustic chic charm and elegance. It’s a most unusual and unique property in a glorious location, sitting on a terrace listening to some live jazz while enjoying a drink and watching the sun set and go down over Deya; it’s truly amazing.
“It’s the ideal hotel to either come to for total relaxation and peace and quiet or to use as a base to explore the island, especially the mountains and little bays in this area of the island. Plus it’s just a short drive down to Palma. And right now, with things being rather relaxed, one can really appreciate the beauty of the surroundings and the environment, not to mention the cultural importance and history it has.
“I’ve already been in contact with numerous local residents, all keen to lend their support and express their desire for the hotel to reopen and for us to be able to return to hosting the various cultural events. They have helped me learn a lot not only about the hotel but its importance to the local community. I’ve listened to so many stories about the hotel, previous guests and the goings-on in Deya; it’s been a fascinating preparation.
“And despite the pandemic, I’ve also been in regular contact with loyal guests. Demand, the bookings, are already strong for June and July. Annual guests can’t wait to return, but I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see how the situation develops and keep our fingers crossed.
“But from my experience, once we open, I give it 100 days before I even begin to start thinking about making any changes. That said, from what I saw last year when the hotel was open and over the past month having spoken to and got to know the staff, if anything we’re looking at a tweak here and there. This really is a first-class hotel with such an exciting programme of activities to offer our guests. I feel extremely lucky to have been able to have chosen this hotel.
“Obviously, it’s going to be challenging. The UK accounts for 60 percent of our market while 30 percent comes from the United States, and the rest from all over the world. Many are Belmond clients, so if they have not been, they know what to expect, but La Residencia gives much more than many of the hotels I have managed to date. It has very high standards, so I have to ensure those are maintained, if not improved where and if possible. But there’s a very personal touch. Some of the staff have been here for 30 years and have developed a very close relationship with return guests; that was very warming and encouraging to see when I was here in October.
“La Residencia has a much more relaxed atmosphere and approach than what I have been used to. While being a top-end luxury hotel, it’s not as stiff, if that’s the right word. There’s a great connection between the staff, the guests and the village and we can’t wait to open and get going. We’re more than ready, but right now things are out of our hands to a certain extent. But I know that once we’re up and running, it’s going to be a busy season with so many people desperate to come back or make their first visit to the hotel, Deya and Mallorca.
“The standard of service is extremely high. It’s an extremely professional team at the hotel and that obviously makes life easier for someone in my position. But like I said, if I see things which can be made better, eventually I will. We are part of one of the best chains of hotels, river boats and trains in the world, so standards have to be maintained.”