► A Q&A with Food and Beverage Manager Marc Giesbers of Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort
They say that at a certain age a man should pay more attention to sunrises than sunsets. That certainly isn’t true on Aruba as evidenced by Passions on the Beach, the signature restaurant of the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort, one of the most compelling properties on Eagle Beach.
— By Timothy Dugdale
— Photography: Kenneth Theysen
Every day when the sun begins to sink and glow, flocks of gents and ladies clad in luxury lifestyle white clamber for a table at Passions. Presiding over this graceful frenzy is Marc Giesbers, the food and beverage manager of the Amsterdam Manor.
It is a cliché in the hospitality industry to liken a kitchen to a pirate ship but Giesbers certainly looks the part of a buccaneer. Bald and compact, he is a bulldog of a man with an air of jovial, hard-bitten authority. Giesbers started out as a chef on a top-notch cruise line commanding a United Nations of misfits, seekers and career cooks. “I don’t like cartels,” he says. “The more diversity on my crew, the better in my book.” He’s been everywhere and seen everything you can when you toil on such vessels of posh excess. Along the way, he married a lovely Brazilian and he is now the father of a young son on whom he dotes. Aruba is his last stop. He’s dropped anchor and a good part of the treasure he has found belongs to Amsterdam Manor. After the sun had set and most of the lovers had moved on, we settled down to dinner and brass tacks at Passions. Our dinner began with the arrival of a young woman bearing an iPad that featured high-gloss photos of the night’s specials and a menu binder that illuminated the text when opened. Next to every table a tiki torch blazed into the expansive night sky. Clearly, an old sea dog can learn new tricks.
“We know there are many beach restaurants on the island,” said Giesbers as he watched me admire the menu. “But I think we raised the bar to go further than only serving good food. We offer local gift boxes. We have live music. It’s a very romantic experience. Many times we have proposals and then people coming back the next year for the wedding. We don’t have to advertise much but I believe word-of-mouth is key. Social media as well, of course.”
TD: This is a lovely property. How would you describe the Amsterdam Manor in relation to its competition.
MG: Next year will be the 25th anniversary of the Manor. We will have celebrations going on. We have 72 beautiful rooms that enjoy a high occupancy of 94% over the whole year. We have a lot of repeat guests, I’d say 55% North American, 40% Dutch.
TD: Is it mostly all-inclusive?
MG: We have only a small percentage that are all-inclusive. The hotel has restaurants, of course, and every room has kitchenettes.
TD: Aruba is going through some jockeying with the hotels, shifts in ownership and such. Does the Amsterdam have any plans to make its own move?
MG: We are a very stable four-star hotel. We do want to give it a little bit of a boutique style feel but that’s not really our key core business. It’s important that the hotel look fresh and well-maintained. People choose this hotel for its unique architectural look and layout. It’s open and it’s quiet. We don’t have pool bingo parties, belly button parties.
TD: What are the challenges you face to maintain your stability and your standards?
MG: I think the guests nowadays are more demanding. They’re more price conscious after the recession and the European financial crisis. People are putting prices under a magnifying glass and doing comparison shopping. Of course they want the best value for their dollar. I think not only us but every hotelier knows to raise the bar and deliver a better product.
We don’t really have a crowd that comes to Aruba looking for something new. People know and love what they get in Aruba.
TD: Tell me about your work. What are your main rewards in this job and its challenges.
MG: I’ve been here for seven and a half years. You put all your energy into the job and it pays back, not only with more patrons year after year. At the moment we have a very well-trained staff and they’ve been with me for quite a few years. The high turnover we had at the beginning is over. My people feel secure. They know what kind of level they need to perform at and they feel good here.
What I learned working on cruise ships was that you have to deliver quality day after day. I worked for Crystal Cruises and the guests were very critical and only the highest level of hospitality would put you above the other cruise lines. You learn to go the extra mile with guests and with staff. You offer on-going learning and training. Training is key.
TD: What advice would you give to someone aspiring to hotel management?
MG: Number one, your private life is sometimes limited. Here you work six days a week. In low season, it’s ten hours a day. In high season, sometimes it’s 13 or 15 hours a day. The business goes on 24/7. You need to invest in this career when you’re young, not only to travel the world, to work in as many places as possible. And I don’t just mean exclusive hotels and restaurants. I’m talking about places well below that because you learn everywhere. Later on, you can use this experience.
Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort
on the Beach
Juan E. Irausquin Blvd. 252