Chris Robertson can reel off stories ten to the dozen about his hotel management career which has taken him everywhere from mainstream cities like London and Perth to more offbeat destinations in the Middle East.
This engaging Englishman is now based in Port Moresby as the general manager of the Coral Sea group of hotels.
“Coral Sea is the most widely distributed group of hotels in Papua New Guinea,” said Chris. “We have a total of eight different sites dotted all over the country including Port Moresby and Madang.”Over the past year Chris Robertson has personally supervised the refurbishment of every hotel in the group. He is aiming at a group identity offering visitors an assurance that their expectations of high standards will be met whenever they stay in a hotel that bears the Coral Sea Hotels logo.
“We are constantly looking at new ways of improving each hotel and upgrading the facilities,” stressed Chris. “Some people hold the view that Papua New Guinea is still very much a third world community. This is wrong, the hotel trade here is maturing very quickly and I would say some of our suites comfortably outclass many of those in the hotels along the Queensland coast of Australia.”Stay in a Coral Sea Hotel and you can be nowhere else but Papua New Guinea. Chris Robertson has redesigned the interiors to reflect the colours and textures of this “natural paradise”. Soft furnishings are uniformly in the rich browns and dark greens of the tropics. Chairs and tables are made from South Pacific rattans and wood. Bamboo mats on the floors shine a golden yellow. These colours create a mellow atmosphere in which to relax and enjoy any free time. The spacious work zone, big desk, good lighting, IDD phone, fax and secretarial facilities, now characterise Coral Sea’s concern for its business customers.
Of the eight hotels in the group The Gateway in Port Moresby and the Melanesian in Lae are more geared up to serve corporate clients, whereas the picturesque Smugglers Resort in Madang is more suited to tourists who want to escape from work.
“The Gateway and the Melanesian both have multi-functional conference rooms whereas somewhere like The Smugglers puts greater emphasis on leisure pursuits” says Chris. “But most hotels have swimming pools and extensive sporting facilities. We like to be sure everyone enjoys themselves even if work is their dominant reason for visiting.”No two hotels are the same – each enjoys its own sense of innovation and originality. The Smugglers, for instance has a swimming pool shaped like a sea-horse. The Highlander in Mount Hagen gives guests the opportunity to step back in time and visit traditional tribal villages. The Gateway has a business centre. The Coast Watchers (also in Madang) has golf, tennis, bowls and squash on offer nearby and The Melanesian has a superbly equipped gym and the highest standard of accommodation in Lae.
Each hotel also has a variety of restaurants and bars to satisfy the most demanding palate. Whether a guest is after a poolside snack washed down with a cold beer or a four course feast accompanied by a fine bottle of wine, Coral Sea hotels will have it on one of their mouth watering international menus.Between them the hotels employ hundreds of staff. Each employee whether waiter or receptionist receives comprehensive in-house training. At least four times a year a specialist instructor from Australia comes over to teach the staff on specific aspects of the hotel trade.“Over 98% of the staff here are nationals,” says Chris. “We like to give everyone a fair share of responsibility whatever their post. There is a very healthy team spirit among our staff and if any of them show special potential we like to nurture that. Recently we sent some of our chefs down to a competition in Brisbane. They came back with a bronze medal.
“Papua New Guinea is a country proud of its past history, proud of its villages which live the same way they did hundreds of years ago but it is not afraid of modernising and embracing the future. From a business and a tourism perspective Papua New Guinea is maturing all the time. Coral Sea Hotels, which are solely based in PNG, are glad to be helping this country receive its share of the international limelight.