Young, dapper and debonair, Goran Aleks personifies Sofitel with his modern sense of style and personable charm. He sets you at ease even as he exudes excitement. But don’t let his suave youthful looks deceive you. The thirty-something has honed himself working for tha past 10 years managing Sofitel hotels in Australia, Paris, and Thailand. There’s no better man for the job.
Your job as general manager for various Sofitel hotels has brought you to numerous cities around the world. What city has been the most challenging city for carrying out your duties and why?
Every destination has its advantages and disadvantages. I couldn’t pinpoint one specific destination, although Asia has seen challenges with natural calamities and relatively unstable political conditions. Australia, on the other hand, has had financial crises and labor and union issues to contend with.
How does Sofitel adapt to each city it establishes itself at? How does a Sofitel Hotel maintain its identity among the sea of luxury hotels in the world’s best cities?
Sofitel always adapts to the local environment and culture that it finds itself in, while always remaining true to its French roots. This is always evident in every detail of our environment – from lights, sounds, food and beverage, music, clothing, nature of special events, and the like.
We likewise always ensure that every Sofitel property we have is the right fit for its particular environment. For instance, we have So Sofitel boutique hotels in trendy, cosmopolitan cities and Sofitel Legend hotels in cities rich in tradition and history. We usually have Sofitel Luxury Hotels positioned close to convention centers.
What other cities is Sofitel eyeing? What does Sofitel look for in a city where it considers to establish itself?
Sofitel always ensures that it positions itself in key cities around the world, in keeping with our vision of having the finest collection of addresses. An example is our new So Singapore property, and we are also looking to build properties in Tokyo and Hong Kong.
We have learned that you are German-born. Germany itself is famous for its cities. What German cities are you most proud of and why?
I am personally taken with Berlin. Since the destruction of the Berlin Wall, the city was able to rebuild itself into a progressive one that is very much comparable to Paris and London.
Your job has, in a sense, taken you away from your homeland since 2002 to this day, having been assigned to Australia, Thailand, and now in Manila. What cities have been the most memorable assignments for you and why?
I will always remember Thailand as the place to enjoy food and nature; Australia for adventure seeking and “mateship”; the Philippines for its warm and hospitable people and breathtaking natural scenery.
Which city have you visited for pleasure, not business, and where you had the most fun that you wish to go back again and again?
I visited Luang Prabang in Laos. It is one of the most authentic Asian cities I’ve ever been to. I am looking forward to next visiting Myanmar.
What city has given you the most difficulty in adapting to and why? How did you deal with the challenges?
After living more than eight years in Asia, it was most interesting to adapt to and discover Australia. The isolation from the rest of the world was at times difficult, however the people made me have a deep appreciation for the country.
Since every country’s population is usually concentrated in the city, and since the instinct of common city dwellers is to get away from the city when seeking for adventures or relaxation, what would you suggest to city governments to keep the cities endeared to people?
I would suggest that more beautiful parks and man-made lakes be built, so that people are able to enjoy an abundance of nature while staying in the city. A place such as Central Park, for instance, has become dear not just to the citizens of New York, but to visitors from around the globe.
What are the top three things you wish cities have more of to attract more travelers?
I would say proper infrastructure, hospitable people, a stable government and safety and security in the city.
Based on your many travels, what city has been for you the one which has undergone the greatest reinvention, and what are these reinventions?
That would have to be Phnom Penh in Cambodia, which I visited in the year 2000. It changed incredibly based on my last visit in 2011. The bay area evolved from a slum area to a place lined with great restaurants and adorned with beautiful, bright lights.