Today cooking is his passion, but more than two decades ago it was his first approach to a hotel. Within the framework of a 23-year career working within the Hilton chain, Agustín Maddocks arrived in Uruguay in 2015 from Tucumán with the challenge of leading the opening of a hotel in Montevideo, the Hilton Garden Inn. As fate would have it, three operations were opened in the capital and, in addition, they made it a key player in the hotel sector in one of its darkest moments as a result of the debacle caused by the covid-19 pandemic.
Maddocks worked for seven years leading the Hilton chain in Uruguay and also led the Uruguayan Association of Hotels and Restaurants for the last three years. Now, her time at Hilton Uruguay is over and she faces the challenge of lead Hilton Bogotá, in Colombia, leaving new leaders in Montevideo hotels. Below is the interview that Maddocks had with Coffee & Business in advance of your trip to a new destination.
How do you see the current situation in the sector? Has reactivation been achieved?
The occupation is recovering in a sustained and consolidated manner. We are not yet at pre-pandemic levels, but if we talk about Montevideo we have been at 60% average occupancy for several months. That gives us the peace of mind that we are having volume, and also now growth is beginning to appear in corporate tourism, not yet at pre-pandemic levels, but it is better. Today if we look at the three most important indicators, which are occupancy, average rate, revenue per available room (revenue per available room, revpar), which combines occupancy with the average rate; We are in Montevideo with 10% less occupancy than we had before the pandemic, at 20% less rates and the combination of both leaves 30% less revpar. That is what today we have to continue looking at as destiny. We have to make the revpar continue to rise, it could be that it rises due to a rate issue or due to an occupancy issue. Today the volume and occupancy are pushing it much more than the rate because the rate has a greater lag than the occupancy.
In this economic situation, other variables must be taken into account, in addition to talking about this 60% occupancy rate. In round numbers, we have an appreciation of the Uruguayan peso of 5% year-on-year, and at the same time with inflation close to 9%. When we add, it is 14% gap (gap), because our sales rates are in dollars. That hits very hard on profitability. If this gap between rates in dollars and costs in pesos is added to the lag in rates and occupancy, it becomes even more difficult to come out of the pandemic. In this framework, I have had the opportunity to thank the government for the sensitivity it has had with the sector during the pandemic and currently, since some benefits have been extended, such as the exemption of nine VAT points on gastronomy for tourists and also partial and total unemployment insurance until the end of the year; something that is fundamental for the interior of the country because until the harvest arrives, the hotels are usually empty or closed. The good thing would be that this VAT exemption also applies to domestic tourism, because that would make Uruguayans feel tempted to spend the summer in Uruguay and not so much outside the country, as is happening now due to the exchange rate.
Now it is his turn to undertake a new challenge, this time in Colombia. What is the role that she will play in Hilton Bogotá?
All the while, Hilton finds, retains, and grooms talent. We work every year on succession plans, it gives me great joy to be able to carry out this plan. When you’re a general manager, to grow you have to move. I was able to grow here as general manager because we opened two more hotels apart from the one I came to open, which was the Hilton Garden Inn in 2015, in 2017 we had the opportunity to open Hampton by Hilton and in 2019 Soro Montevideo by Hilton. But now, to continue growing, you have to move: the next challenge is Hilton Bogotá, a full service hotel of the brand. The company was already preparing me for that, although without knowing which property I was going to touch.
Since when is it effective?
Starting October 1st.
Due to the characteristics of the industry in that country, it represents a promotion to the professional level…
Yes, exactly, it is a promotion to the professional level. I live it with joy and with a little sorrow for leaving this wonderful country where my family is doing very well. Leaving makes us very sad, but on the other hand it is the opportunity to continue growing, not only professionally, but as a person and as a family.
What are the changes going to be in Hilton’s operations in Uruguay?
We put together this succession plan where the manager who was in charge of Hampton by Hilton, Pablo Scarpino, remains as general manager of Hilton Garden Inn Montevideo, the manager who was in charge of Soro Montevideo, Sebastián Orosa, passes to Hampton as general manager and the room manager who was at the Hilton Garden Inn Montevideo, Gastón Mussa, is transferred to Soro Montevideo as hotel manager. Luckily it could happen because there are three different hotels, there are three different owner companies that own the hotels and this speaks very well of the relationship with the owners who, ultimately, are businessmen who highly value the management that Hilton is carrying out in her three properties and they trust her.
How do you see Hilton’s commitment to Uruguay with these three hotels after such a critical moment as the pandemic?
That today there are three Hilton brands in Uruguay is a very important demonstration of how the brand wants to grow not only at the regional level, but also at the country level as a commitment to Uruguay. Hilton is always looking for new opportunities within Uruguay as well and that also allows us to rotate team members to allow for growth within the three hotels.
good place to work
Before his trip to Bogotá, the former manager of the Hilton chain for Uruguay thanked his work team for their joint effort.
In addition, he highlighted Hilton’s participation in Great Place To Work, a ranking in which the company obtained first place. “We always want to be the best place to work for our team”remarked