Name: Matt Rippin
Position title: General Manager, InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort
Company name: InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort
When and why did you join the industry?
Hotels have been in my DNA for many generations! I was born and bred in New Zealand where my parents owned a private hotel in Wellington – and my father’s father had a line of similar work before him. So it’s safe to say that from an early age I was washing dishes, folding sheets and learning everything there was to know about true hospitality in the accommodation sector. In Australia, my parents bought into management rights for properties and I gained experience through their operations until I moved with IHG working across numerous responsibilities and seniorities across the Gold Coast and abroad.
For me, it’s the love of a team environment within the industry – I have an appreciation for the hard work and still, to this day, get genuine delight seeing guest hospitality done right.
What do you like most about your job?
The opportunity we play in creating incredible guest experiences. We have the unique opportunity to create an environment where even the smallest moments can have a lasting impact; we are playing a part in a guest’s story and their milestones. Seeing exceptional guest hospitality is still the most rewarding part of my job.
Fostering a highly-engaged team is also one of the reasons I come to work every day. Leading a team that is engaged, proactive, happy and driven to create incredible guest experiences, is integral to the success of any company, and always highly rewarding.
What’s one of the biggest achievements of your career so far?
I felt incredibly humbled to receive the IHG Internal Flame Award in 2016 in the Asia Middle East and Africa market. This is the CEO’s award in recognition for development and ongoing commitment to people and commercial pipeline. This is was first time a General Manager has ever received the award, so it was certainly a proud moment in my career to be recognised. I have a genuine belief in paying it forward – to give back what’s been given to me – so developing teams and driving their success is a huge part of my leadership.
What’s the best advice ever given to you and who gave it?
Persistency is the goal. This is something my father would always say to me. I think it’s also more pertinent than ever – we get so hamstrung on getting there ‘tomorrow’ that we can lose sight of the big picture and what’s important. It’s about seeing past the moment and persisting: you career is a journey, it’s not about one moment or one setback – it’s a journey and you need to persist past the moments to keep going.
Who do you admire and see as a role model in the industry?
Karin Sheppard our COO for Australasia and Japan continues to be a source of great inspiration. Karin is incredibly focussed on relationships and people, and has always shown a tremendous commitment to growing her team. Whether you’re an asset owner or a colleague within the hotel, Karin is able to personally connect and offer strategic advice and guidance. I think this is particularly admirable and motivating balanced with a mind that is naturally strategic and results-driven. Certainly a blueprint to model!
What can people expect from your company and what sets it apart from the rest?
I was extremely proud to see IHG named among the top five companies to work for in Asia as part of the ‘Great Place to Work’ annual list of ‘Best Workplaces in Asia 2017.’ The survey audits more than 1,400 companies around the region so it’s a humbling recognition of our commitment to providing a great working culture where our colleagues have fun and enjoy the work we do.
I think people can expect to work hard and deliver the highest of standards for guest services, but to be rewarded with an unbeatable culture of development, engagement and celebration of success. As an InterContinental Resort property, I think people can also expect to experience a new layer of guest experience with true luxury service and personalisation.
What destinations are on your travel bucket list?
Cuba is high on the list! There’s plenty buzzing in Cuba lately – including wonderful food, culture and entertainment scene I’m keen to explore.
Once the kids are older, I would love to revisit pockets of Europe and travel further abroad as a family.
What’s a memorable travel experience you’ve had (good or bad)?
Oh, this one may come back to bite me – but I’d have to say a memorable night during Oktober Fest in Germany. Friends and I had celebrated the German festival in true German style, without exactly organising a place to stay. We pitched a tent at 11:30pm… in a place we probably shouldn’t have. We were woken up before dawn (not-so-politely) asked to relocate. We ended up sleeping somewhere out in the freezing cold!
In my more civil times, the Cairns to Cooktown cycling event is also an experience I’ll never forget. It’s a cycling event in support of Cardiac Challenge and I spent 333km seeing some of the most incredible sights. We raised over $300,000 for medical equipment and I’ll be doing it again this September. It’s one of the most amazing three days of comradeship!
What are three things you always take with you when travelling?
1. Good book
3. My sense for adventure
Name someone famous you’d like to travel with and a destination you’d like to go with them.
It’s hard to pick just one! I would say Richard Branson (…plus I’m sure his island or airline would come in handy). I can imagine quite a few memorable conversations!
What direction do you see the industry heading in over the next five to ten years?
I think will we start to see a higher demand for technology – both in regards to seamless booking paths and heightened personalisation through guest communications and content. The level of ‘personalisation’ we are seeing today will continue to evolve and grow more sophisticated (particularly with the likes of artificial intelligence) and we better understand the needs of our guests.
This also leads into the demand for boutique, lifestyle brands, which I think will continue to rise. These are part of a consistent international trend which is seeing more and more hotel companies evolve past the accommodation-only model and offering guests unique experiences. For example, IHG’s newest Hotel Indigo product is all about placing curious guests into inspired cities; no two properties are the same and each has its own story, rhythm and design drawn from the location.