Ryan Gauci

It’s all about the team

Ryan Gauci, General Manager of Hilton Prague

Text: Martina Hošková and M.Zisso; Photo: Archive

“Ryan Gauci is a hospitality professional with an extensive background in the industry. Originally from Malta, he recently assumed the role of General Manager at Hilton Prague following a successful tenure in Croatia, where he served since May 2021. Prior to this, Gauci held the position of Hotel Manager at Hilton Prague for nearly three years, overseeing significant refurbishments and strategic repositioning efforts. Altogether, he has dedicated seventeen years of his career to Hilton, contributing to the success of twelve properties across eight countries. What does he have to say about his career experience and his new Prague assignment?

You graduated from the Institute of Tourism Studies in Malta. Why did you choose a career in hospitality?

Actually, I never thought of working in the hotel industry. I’ve always been drawn to archi- tecture. But in tourist countries like Malta, many students earn pocket money in the hospitality industry. I found myself working at the pool during summer holidays, either serving tables or lifting umbrellas. While making some money, I realized that I enjoyed this much more and decided to change direction last minute, opting to study hospitality. Once I entered the industry, it felt like a natural progression to move forward with my career. I believe it was a good choice, as I enjoy every single day working at the hotel, interacting with team members and guests.

You have been in the Czech Republic before. What is your view of it?

Prague is an up-and-coming city with significant potential. Its growing gastronomic scene, still relatively affordable compared to other European cities, is complemented by ample greenery and parks. The city boasts excellent connectivity and an efficient public transportation system, making navigation seamless. What truly sets Prague apart is its unique vibe, appreciated by visitors whether they’re here for leisure or business.

What is your vision for Hilton Prague?

I would begin by outlining a vision for Prague as a destination. While it has great potential to attract visitors for both leisure and business, there are still challenges, particularly with flight connections. I am keen to collaborate with other stakeholders to improve direct flight connections, particularly with the US and Asia, to bring more affluent guests to Prague.

At Hilton Prague, our focus this year is on enhancing our food and drink venues to create welcoming spaces where locals and visitors alike can enjoy unforgettable culinary experiences. With offerings such as Cloud 9 Sky Bar & Lounge, Café & Bistro, Hop House beer bar, Beer Garden Karlín, and Seasons restaurant, we are dedicated to establishing vibrant dining and socializing hubs.

Hilton Prague is the biggest hotel in Prague – together with Hilton Prague Old Town you offer over 1,000 rooms. How difficult is it to maintain high occupancy and satisfied guests?

It’s all about the team, and in Prague, we have a great team of dedicated and engaged professionals. It’s important that we all share the same vision and execute it together. When the team is happy, it positively reflects on our guests’ experiences. In the hospitality industry, our common goal is to ensure guest satisfaction, surpassing their expectations.

We also need to adopt different approaches for different types of business. Meeting and conference guests have different needs and priorities than leisure guests, be it time efficiency or specific food and beverage offerings.

Ryan Gauci with his parents

How do you motivate and lead a team to achieve their goals?

Motivation comes from recognizing and valuing everyone’s efforts and contributions, regardless of how small they may seem. Every little contribution matters. My management style is best described as collaborative. Having worked in diverse environments, teams, and cultures, I’ve had the opportunity to learn and adapt the style that I believe yields the best results. It’s crucial to me that everyone understands our goals and feels a shared responsibility for achieving them. I aim to foster an environment where we’re all in the same boat, enjoying our work. Such an environment provides the opportunity for individuals to thrive and grow.

What is the hardest challenge for a successful team leader?

Being a leader means constantly being looked up to and analysed by others. Your mood and energy levels have a cascading effect on the entire team. Even on the less bright and shiny days, it’s crucial to maintain a positive energy because you’re in the spotlight, and you want to project a positive vibe to influence the team. Staying calm in difficult situations and maintaining a positive outlook is essential.

I always strive to see the glass as half full rather than half empty.

How do you recharge?

I like outdoor activities and sports, mainly triathlon and swimming. Swimming for 30 minutes in the pool helps me clear my mind and fully relax, allowing me to switch off completely. And I also enjoy cooking very much.

Hilton Prague is known for its charity events. Are you going to continue this tradition?

For many years, we’ve been proud supporters of the Tereza Maxová Foundation through various initiatives, with our annual Christmas charity concert being the highlight. Giving back to those in need is ingrained in our values, and we’re committed to continuing this support in the future. Currently, we’re exploring new formats for our charity event, considering that after almost 20 years, it may be time to change the angle and introduce something different.

Before coming to Prague now, you worked for Hilton in eight different countries. What do you consider to be your most thrilling adventure so far?

The opening of Hilton Rijeka in Croatia was a thrilling adventure and milestone for me as a first-time General Manager. It was a culmination of hard work and anticipation, but witnessing the hotel up and running, with happy guests and team members, made the journey incredibly rewarding.

Having worked with so many people from different walks of life, have you ever dealt with any strange situations?

I recall a curious request from a guest who inquired about bringing their parrot to stay at the hotel. Given our balconies, I asked if the parrot would be in a cage, which was not the case. I then inquired if the guest had a leash for the parrot, which they also did not. Fortunately, the guest decid- ed to leave their feathered friend at home.

Ryan Gauci, General Manager of Hilton Prague

Your predecessor spent 16 years in Prague. Are you planning to break this record?

If I can continuously reinvent myself, staying innovative and relevant for 16 years, I will certainly strive to do so. Adaptability and innovation are key to long-term success in any industry.

What is your piece of advice to the next generation of hoteliers?

My advice is simple: be engaged and run the show as if it was your own business. Travel the world, gain experiences, and develop your career. There are endless opportunities within the hotel industry, with Hilton being a prime example.