Angela Bauer knows Philadelphia. A native of the area, Bauer has lived in and around the city for nearly her entire life, working with the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau before migrating to the hotel industry. She has been a fixture at the Sofitel Philadelphia for 15 years now, so as she moved into the GM position at the property in December, she already knew she was home.
Angela Bauer is ready to go. Though she is just three months into her new position as GM of the Sofitel Philadelphia—and as the first female GM ever of a Sofitel-branded hotel—Bauer has worked at the property 15 years, joining the hotel as associate director of sales in May 2000, three months after it opened.
Bauer got her start in the hospitality industry while working with the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau’s sports congress. She left there to work with Bob Levy, who at the time was owner of the Philadelphia Phillies. After Levy’s retirement, a friend of Bauer’s convinced her to switch industries by working sales at a local Holiday Inn.
“After that, I never left the industry,” Bauer said. “It became my passion.”
Bauer’s journey took her from the Holiday Inn to an airport DoubleTree Suites, a Crowne Plaza and finally the Sofitel. Each hotel taught her the finer side of hotel operations based on its location—from the airport, to the suburbs and finally downtown. Her love of the area, as well as her family, kept her within city limits, and that has led to a wealth of experience. Most of all, it taught Bauer to correctly identify the types of travelers who come to the city, and she is now honing in on the leisure visitors that come to the Sofitel.
“We are fortunate in that [Philadelphia] is located [near] New York and Washington, D.C., in the way that it is,” Bauer said. “As a leisure destination, we are not as expensive as the alternatives, and we have strong marketing campaigns built for our city that have helped us through tougher times. There have been times when leisure travelers have kept our city alive.”
Before she was GM, Bauer helped introduce the international Sofitel brand to the Philadelphia market as the hotel’s regional director of sales and marketing, managing her sales team and even overseeing renovations at the hotel. Kicking off both the new year and her new position, Bauer sees the hotel in a good position as the only Franco-influenced property in the city. At the time of its construction in February 2000, the hotel was one of the most expensive built in the U.S. Since then, it completed a full renovation in 2013.
“We have evolved the hotel and are known for our F&B, which is what we want to be known for” Bauer said. “We are fortunate that the hotel’s infrastructure is positioned well, and I want to continue our current profitability and move us further into the leisure and luxury segment.”
According to Bauer, the hotel’s Liberté bar and restaurant are a major touchpoint for the property, and she wants that to become a driving element of what draws guests to the hotel. “We want to be able to host guests not just on the room side,” Bauer said. “We want guests to enjoy our F&B, and [also to] showcase the city’s history and culture as a destination.”
Bauer is also eager to bring digital updates to the property’s online persona. The industry-wide thirst for millennial interaction has found the Philadelphia property wanting of a stronger online presence, a challenge that Bauer is ready to take on. “This year, we are trying to move into a different element,” Bauer said. “In today’s world, social media is also very important. There are so many different areas to be watchful of, and in the hotel world, being true to your brand and being strategic with what information is sent are one and the same. It’s a different era of young people out there, and appealing to them is one of our missions.”
➔ ADVICE: Work hard. It pays. After 25 years in the industry, 15 of them with Sofitel, Bauer has learned that hard work translates into happy guests, who become ambassadors for your hotel—and your city.
* Challenge: When the hotel opened in 2000, Philadelphia was going through a low period of convention activity that would eventually suffer even more in the period following 9/11.
* Solution: The Republican National Convention provided a large boost to the hotel’s operations the year it opened, but the hotel entered a lull immediately after. Luckily, Bauer said, Philadelphia is through weathering these challenges, with convention business beginning to pick up and the Democratic National Convention on the horizon for 2016.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS.
Set an example: Use yourself to set an example for your employees, and always be a real person to them. Carry yourself the way you would want your employees to carry themselves in front of guests, and show them the attitudes that make running a property successful. Speak intelligently to employees, guests and owners on subjects regarding the property, markets and trends, and become someone who knows everything there is to know about their property.
Visibility: Have an open-door policy. Be in the lobby, present to clients and employees alike. In an industry where every property has stylish rooms, great F&B and meeting spaces, personal touches make the difference. Guests remember small gestures.
Happiness: Create an environment where employees want to come to work every day. Investing in your employees is the same as investing in your clients, and it all comes back around. Happy, enthusiastic employees set the tone for the entire property.