The Tigaiga Hotel has always been like a great school where you learn a unique customer service
Tigaiga Team

The Tigaiga Hotel has always been like a great school where you learn a unique customer service

Naima Pérez ASHOTEL interviews Luis Pérez Rodríguez, retired worker of the Tigaiga Hotel, Tenerife

Ylenia, Luis an Marian at the Tigaiga Reception

Luis Pérez Rodríguez (Puerto de la Cruz, 1947) is living history of tourism in Puerto de la Cruz since its beginnings in the 60s. Although he has been retired since March 2011, he remains a very important figure for the Talg family, owners of the Tigaiga Hotel and Tigaiga Suites, with whose three generations he has worked. Luis’s story is the story of the Talg family and of personal growth, loyalty, and smiles. His situation was quite common in many families whose father died leaving small children, some of whom had to start working very young to help support the family. At 10 years old, he began to “lend a hand” at the old Martiánez hotel, then managed by Enrique Talg Schulz, who about six years later, in 1963, took him to work at the Tigaiga hotel, already owned by the Talg family. In fact, he is one of the few who has worked with three generations and even knows the fourth. “I worked in the mornings and studied in the afternoons with Don Manuel, the teacher,” he recalls. Although he spent his five decades in the active workforce primarily in Reception, which he directed from a very young age, Luis is familiar with all departments. Today, he has a special relationship with those who are also part of his family. He attends Pilates classes several days a week at Tigaiga Suites and then takes the opportunity to greet his former colleagues. Luis sees artificial intelligence as progress, but he remains focused on human intelligence and kindness as key elements of the hotel business.

?Tell us, Luis, you started working at the Martiánez hotel as a child at the age of 10, when it was managed by Enrique Talg Schulz, the grandfather of the current generation. What was your role and how did you come to work at that hotel?

Well, the truth is, at home we were in trouble when my father died, so some of the five siblings had to start working. Really, at ten years old I could do little, it wasn’t real work, just small tasks like delivering mail, running errands… and not much more. At that time, my case was not so uncommon, there were more children and teenagers helping out in some businesses. My first contract was at 14, and at that time I cleaned windows, worked as a bellboy, and helped guests carry their bags and luggage, swept the sidewalks… I remember there was a water fountain in front of the hotel; I would go, fill the bucket, and take it to Gilberto Cabrera so he could mop.

?And weren’t you studying?

I went to school in the afternoons, with Don Jesús, the teacher; they were actually private lessons. Don Jesús taught many boys my age.

Luis in his early days at the Martiánez hotel with some customers and the hotel maître.

?In 1963, you moved to the Tigaiga hotel, which opened in 1959 and is celebrating its 65th anniversary today. Did you imagine retiring at that same hotel back then?

I came to Tigaiga because Martiánez closed and the Talg family had their hotel finished and in operation, already owned. The truth is, I’ve only worked with the Talg family for about 54 years (smiles).

?At Tigaiga, you took a six-month break to go to Germany and learn the language…

Yes, that’s right. I was fortunate to spend six months in Germany learning German, through some hotel guests who had a bath business, something like today’s spa; I made good use of the time, didn’t go out with the Spaniards and always sought to speak German. At Tigaiga, I asked for special permission during those months for training and got it. And there, I not only learned German, but also worked as a cleaner, chambermaid… swept, made beds, washed kitchens…

Workers at Tigaiga in the 60s.

?Times have changed over these decades. What, in your opinion, has been the hallmark of the place where you have always worked?

I always noticed that this hotel had something special from a professional point of view; compared to other hotels, the staff at Tigaiga were extraordinarily qualified; just in the way we treated the guests, we were unique in Puerto.

?And why do you emphasize that difference so much?

Because this was like a great school, we workers learned the trade in the same hotel, with a unique customer service, I insist. [“How many years have you been here, Yeray?” he asks at that moment to one of the waiters. “22; I started at 17 as a waiter’s assistant and learned the profession here,” he replies]. Look, 22 years, which is quickly said for a young person like Yeray; I mean, this has always been a school, really. Here, everyone taught you, from the boss (Enrique Talg Wyss, father of the current owner generation, Enrique, Irene, and Úrsula) to other professionals.

?But besides that direct approach, from your years of experience, what are two other key factors you think a hotel should have?

Cleanliness, of course, which may sound absurd because it’s taken for granted, but it’s an important value; and alongside that, food, gastronomy is fundamental for a hotel business to succeed.

Luis at the reception of Tigaiga, alongside a hotel waiter in the 70s.

?You, who lived so closely the daily interaction with customers, many of whom you might even see as part of your family, what do you think about all the technology applied to customer service?

All technological advances are fine, but I insist that the most important part of a hotel is the qualification of the staff to serve the guests. We had a phrase years ago that we used a lot: “You have to show your teeth, not to bite, but to show our smile.”

?And with that special treatment, you surely made friends among the hotel guests.

Of course; we got to know all the guests here by name; I have friends in Germany whom I call occasionally and who were hotel guests.

“I knew everything about Tigaiga, even where the shut-off valves were for each area of the hotel” ?Excuse me for insisting on this matter, how do you see artificial intelligence in your philosophy of customer service? Does it fit in?

Well, the truth is, personally I believe that the essence of human interaction will be lost. This talking to a machine and “goodbye, have a nice day,” I don’t know if I see that… Human intelligence is completely linked to kindness.

?If you had to name just two fundamental skills for working in a hotel, what would they be?

Well, of course, something I’ve repeated a lot in this conversation, excellent and personalised customer service; and, of course, languages.

?How do you view the new generations in this sector?

Well, quite well prepared in knowledge, but I think they lack a bit of kindness; it’s great to have qualifications, like in Tourism, but there’s something in the way of being, human interaction, and that’s also learned; and this isn’t exclusive to a hotel, but to any other type of business where there’s a relationship with customers.

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