Born in the UK, raised in South Africa and based in South-East Asia for the past five years, Julia Ward’s career spans over 30 years in the 5-star luxury hospitality industry. Recently installed as General Manager of the Regent Hotel Porto Montenegro, we sat with her to hear about her aspirations for her new role.
PJ: Julia can you give us a quick overview of your career so far?
JW: I naturally gravitated to the hospitality industry having completed my education and studies in Cape Town, South Africa where I began my work in Front of House Operations and then slowly transitioned into Food & Beverage for many years. I later moved across to Sales & Marketing with the Rezidor Group before becoming Director of Rooms for Fancourt in South Africa which comprised of residential units, lodges, two 5-star Hotels and four championship golf courses. After that an opportunity arose in Bali, Indonesia with Regent Hotels & Resorts where I joined the preopening team as Executive Assistant Manager to open their property there.
PJ: Where were you based before coming to Montenegro?
JW: I joined Regent Porto Montenegro in March 2016, arriving from the exotic Island of Koh Samui in Thailand where I had the pleasure of managing and marketing over 70 high-end butler style serviced villas for private owners and investors.
PJ: How would you describe your management style and who has influenced that most?
JW: I’ve been fortunate enough to train and work with many legendary hoteliers and business partners. My management style is based on an open door policy. I also enjoy working on the floor with my teams to bring out their best and to ensure that they reach their full potential, which translates to the ultimate guest satisfaction and experience. The position of General Manager requires creativity and innovation, as well as staying ahead of new industry trends and market demand.
PJ: What commercial or strategic objectives do you have for the hotel now that you’ve had a chance to settle in?
JW: We are honored to have the opportunity to be one of the pioneers of the international hospitality industry within Montenegro. Regent Hotels & Resorts is also a perfect match for the destination thanks to its philosophy of “global yet local”. Our main focus is to consistently offer exceptional experiences that result in a high frequency of returning guests. This also applies to weddings, meetings and incentive travel (MICE). The Regent Porto Montenegro has hosted over 100 successful events held in our conference facilities so far and in future we will work toward an even stronger positioning of within the MICE sector. We will also work proactively on the leisure side as destination weddings are something we see a lot of growth potential in.
Apart from the stunning location, views and service, our main restaurant has been voted by Conde Nast Traveler Russia as one of the top 15 hotel restaurants; our aim is to continue to impress our guests and be recognized as one of the top hotel restaurants globally.
We are also looking to extend our hotel with the sleek Regent Pool Club Residences. This exciting new development means a diversification of our existing accommodation units and the sensational new pool area will be the perfect addition to the indoor and outdoor pools in the main hotel.
PJ: From what you have seen so far, what are the elements of the local lifestyle that appeal most to you personally?
JW: Montenegro is truly an exceptional country where the land remains unspoiled. The culture and history is also impressive; I was amazed to learn that tiny Perast has no fewer than 19 churches for example.
The Mediterranean-style cuisine here is defined by exceptionally fresh and natural flavors. The use of organic produce is a fantastic way to showcase the fertility of Montenegro’s land and I have found Montenegrins themselves to be generous, hospitable and rightly proud of their heritage.
The mild Mediterranean climate, long sunny days and inviting beaches are sensational while the rustic far corners of the country offer the prospect of spectacular adventures for travelers looking to get off the beaten path.
PJ: What do you have in store for summer 2016 specifically?
JW: From June 24th onwards the Regent will be hosting Sundowner chill-out parties in our Italian Garden area every day from 6:30 pm. A tapas menu, light barbecue dishes, summery cocktails, DJs and live music are all part of this concept. For those seeking a more refined evening event, I recommend the Full Moon Gala Dinner on full moon night, July 19th.
Additionally, our culinary team is preparing a series of themed dinners including an Oyster & Champagne experience and exclusive Chef ’s Table events.
This summer, our Gourmet Corner café features a variety of seasonal offerings – June is all about mouth-watering strawberries, July brings a taste of our plump and sour cherries, while August is dedicated to innovative tomato-based dishes.
Finally, the Regent Spa has numerous packages and treatments tailored to the summer months designed to leave you feeling fully renewed.