People at the heart of the hotel industry

4 October 2023

With the hospitality and tourism industry making a strong comeback from pandemic uncertainty, opportunities abound at TGH-owned hotels for employment. Tribal member Josh Watene (Te Papa o Rotu marae) shares his industry insights.

Josh Watene, Novotel Meetings and Events Manager

A career in the hotel industry wasn’t part of the plan for Josh Watene.

He took the job in food and beverage at Novotel Tainui Hamilton Hotel with the intention that he wouldn’t stay long. It wasn’t where he saw his future. But to his surprise he quickly worked his way to a team leader role before deciding to “take a crack at Auckland” and transferring to the Novotel Auckland Airport Hotel in the role of food and beverage supervisor.

Ten years on, he’s the hotel’s Meetings and Events Manager and that is where he wants to be. The industry, he says, isn’t an easy one to walk away from.

“For some, it can be a transient industry, and it was one I didn’t originally intend on. But for me, it’s the people that make you want to stick around. I’ve developed friendships that have held since the beginning of my time at Novotel Tainui Hamilton,” says Josh.

It’s also an industry that has grown away from the silver service rigidity that was traditionally expected.

“It’s not just a mask in a uniform anymore. It is personable and genuine interactions, with people coming from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and circumstances. The level of care, respect and attention required is similar to that of working in our marae, which we’ve all done. It is a different type of relationship, but something Maaori are born with a flair for.”

Paul Columbus, General Manager of Te Arikinui Pullman Auckland Airport Hotel (opening December 2023), sees Waikato-Tainui ownership as a valuable contribution to the culture of the industry.   

“With Waikato-Tainui as a feature owner, we have a stronger relationship and understanding of the iwi. For Accor, it is the people who are the heart of the operations, and we really hope to see more iwi members coming through our hotels and taking the opportunities to grow careers within a regenerating industry,” says Paul.   

Both Josh and Paul agree that the presence of Waikato-Tainui in New Zealand’s tourism industry, with four hotels over two major cities, presents an even bigger opportunity. Josh’s vision for the industry’s future includes an iwi-operated hospitality and tourism training and education facility.

“The pandemic really knocked out a whole generation’s interest in the hospitality and tourism industry. I think for people there’s a worry about the uncertainty in the sector. But the industry is back and alive, with a new partly owned Waikato-Tainui hotel on the way as well. A hospitality training facility model would be great to capture the attention of our youth.”

A careers open day will be held at the Novotel Auckland Airport Hotel on 7 October with two sessions at 10am and 12pm.