“We’re actually in the business of building people.”: Angel Sueiro
After 17 years in the industry, Angel Sueiro is well versed in every aspect of the development and construction of a luxury resort. Now, at the helm of PH Resorts Group Holdings, he explains why its people-focused approach is making waves in the Philippines.
Picture this: you’re relaxing poolside with a pina colada in one hand and the book that’s been on your to-read list for months now in the other. Palm trees tower above and warm sunshine caresses your skin.
Later, you might saunter down to the beach to go snorkelling before checking which delicacies are on the menu tonight at one of the world-class restaurants on offer. For millions of people across the globe, when asked to conjure up an image of their ‘happy place’, this is exactly what comes to mind.
For nearly two decades, Angel Sueiro has helped create these slices of paradise – luxury resorts in some of the most stunning corners of the globe. However, for him, the best part of the job isn’t just giving people the vacation of their dreams – it’s also about helping enhance the lives of those in the wider community.
"At the end of the day, while we’re in the business of building resorts, hotels and casinos, we’re actually in the business of building people," Angel says.
"When you see the people around you increasing, that’s an amazing motivation. And it’s not just the workers either – just look at the areas we’re in. You can see that we’ve made a difference in the lives of so many people. So to wake up every morning knowing that we can keep doing this, makes going to work easy."
Having grown up in Spain, Angel obtained his Master of Business Administration from EUDE Business School, Madrid, and then went to the US, where he gained his master’s in project management from Villanova University, Pennsylvania, and his master’s in hospitality management from Cornell University, New York.
From 2003 to 2017, Angel worked on gaming and hospitality projects in more than 20 countries for Thunderbird Resorts, firstly as Vice President of Design and Construction, then as Vice President of Corporate Affairs and later as COO of its Asia division.
"At the start of my career, I focused on product development," he explains. "I’d arrive in a country, spend time understanding the kind of product they wanted to deliver, and then work with engineers and developers to build these resorts.
"In the second chapter, I also managed the resorts and took care of the stakeholder relationships. I was really keen to see the product management side as well as running the business side. Because I’ve worked across different countries, continents and on so many different projects, I have learned to re-evaluate assumptions and adapt. One approach can’t be applied to every project."
This comprehensive look at all aspects of the industry meant that when Angel was brought on board as COO of PH Resorts Group Holdings in mid-2017, he was able to utilise his extensive experience in the sector and ensure that the company could be the best of its kind. "When I joined PH Resorts, there were just three people," Angel recalls.
"It was an amazing opportunity, because I was really able to instil certain values into the company. We were able to devise a strategy about the kind of culture we wanted, whereas, when you go into a company that’s already built, it’s very difficult to change the values. So this was my opportunity to create exactly what we needed – our dream company."
PH Resorts currently has one high-end boutique resort, Donatela Hotel on Panglao Island in the Philippines, boasting 12 luxury villas with pools. The company is developing two more integrated resorts in the archipelagic country.
The Base in Clark will feature 600 electronic gaming machines, 100 gaming tables, multiple hotels with around 400 rooms, plus a retail and restaurant complex, and is set to open in 2022.
The impressive Emerald Bay on Mactan Island will have more than 1,000 electronic gaming machines and 146 gaming tables, a five-star hotel with 838 rooms including five villas, a vast retail complex, convention centre and 18 restaurants.
You have to be humble; you have to be ready to execute, but you always need to imagine being in other people’s shoes.
Unfortunately, while the latter was scheduled to open in 2020, COVID-19 had other plans, and the date has now been pushed. However, in spite of the added complications and prolonged timeline, Angel is optimistic, instead viewing it as a time to reflect on what can be improved.
"We need to accept the problems beyond our control; things like not being able to get workers or materials because of COVID-19," he says. "Of course, the situation is quite complex, but now is the time to show our passion. This is the time to say, ‘Let’s go back to the drawing table. Let’s see what we can do differently in order to move forward.’ Life is about change. I think the challenge should be transformed into an opportunity."
Looking to the future, Angel insists that while it will expand its offerings, PH Resorts will never lose sight of its core philosophy, and it will continue to set an example for other companies by prioritising a people-first mentality that supports every individual in the supply chain.
"We need to be a role model in our sector," he says. "While we continue to grow, we always want to ensure that we’re taking care of our employees and being mindful of the way we’re impacting communities. The challenge is to keep the passion strong, and to be able to put that passion into every value of the organisation. Each day I’m asking, ‘How can I do something that people working with me will be proud of?’"
It’s an approach that comes from the top down, heralded by Angel – a leader who recognises that no business can flourish without the respect and trust of its team, as well as the community.
"You have to be humble; you have to be ready to execute, but you always need to imagine being in other people’s shoes," he says. "It’s not a matter of being good or bad, it’s about being fair above all else."
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