Pamela Merlini
GENERAL MANAGER - Hotel Papadopoli di Venezia, MGallery Hotel Collection
Pamela Merlini
H:
Many thanks Pamela, it is a great pleasure for us to be in your facility and to be able to talk to you about hospitality and human resources. Tell us a little about yourself, and who exactly is Pamela? How did you approach the world of hospitality?
PM:
Thank you, Stefano! My experience in the world of hospitality began after my hotel diploma in Abano Terme. In detail, I started by working with a seasonal contract and then had several experiences in Great Britain and the United States. These experiences helped me a lot to open my mind, to understand how big the world is on a cultural and ideological level and to understand what I wanted for my future. I then returned to Italy, to Emilia Romagna, then to Cortina, and, again in Veneto, where I opened the Relais Monaco Country Hotel & Spa in Treviso. After a few years in sales, I moved to the Hotel Baglioni in Verona and finally arrived in the magical city of Venice. Here I mainly had experience in 5-star hotels, first at the Metropole in Riva degli Schiavoni, then as General Manager Grand Hotel dei Dogi. I then did the opening of Hotel La Gare under the Accor chain, it was 4-star superior and was the first hotel on Murano with 120 rooms. From Murano I came here to the Hotel Papadopoli, which is still a 4-star but in a much more central and strategic location, and since 1 May last year (2022) I have been General Manager.
H:
Thank you Pamela and congratulations on your career path. Tell us a little about the Hotel Papadopoli, how is it structured?
PM:
The hotel is a 4-star superior hotel with a long tradition in the hotel industry. Founded in the 1950s as a Park Hotel, it underwent several renovations until it became a Sofitel Hotel for several years, under the Accor brand, a worldwide chain with more than 7,000 hotels. Since 2010, the hotel has been part of MGallery, a new brand, also under the Accor group, which groups together all those hotels that have their own peculiarities, namely that they are not standardised. The location is crucial because we are a few steps away from piazzale Roma and the train station, and we have the classic Venetian canal in front of us. The hotel currently has 100 rooms, after the latest renovation that took place from 2015 to 2018, it presents itself to the public as a 4-star superior, high-end hotel. Our guests are predominantly Italian and European, and in high season we also welcome a good number of Americans. What sets us apart within our chain and also in Venice is customer satisfaction, which is 93.75 per cent; the average for the MGallery group is 84 per cent. The hotel also has a bar, a beautiful winter garden designed by Pietro Porcinai that we use daily for our breakfasts and for many events, such as fashion shows, gala dinners, etc.
H:
Based on your experience and the feedback you collect every day, what do your guests find outstanding here?
PM:
They find a sincerely kind staff, and I would like to emphasise the ‘sincerely’ because those who come from the luxury world, like me, know that being sincerely kind is not just a standard that has to be met, but an attitude, and when it is not, the customer recognises it. I have the luck of working with many colleagues, with many beautiful people who do this job out of passion, and this is the main thing: smile, passion, kindness, attention to the customer. This is because now what people are looking for is the experience, returning home with something human, because in Venice it is easy to find beautiful rooms, beautiful bathrooms and furnishings, but what fills the hearts of guests is attention to the customer and kindness.
H:
I completely agree, experience plays a key role today. The period of the pandemic has been a watershed in the world of hospitality and we have seen how people have changed radically; so, I ask you, how have the people who work here changed and how have the guests changed?
PM:
Thank you for this question Stefano, very interesting insight. Those who had been working here for many years (some people have been here for 30 years) perceived the job in the traditional way, that work is dignity, work is life; therefore, we couldn’t wait to go back to work because for us work was a fundamental part of our everyday life. From this point of view, I found some people a bit disoriented at the beginning because we went from working with great energy, to staying completely still at home, only to start off again at full speed.
It was not easy at first, but little by little we got back on track. Fortunately, the people who decided to leave the sector were only three, so we had to find other people to replace them and it was still very challenging.

The pandemic made people realise that you can have a life outside of work; they rediscovered the joys of family, the pleasure of taking time for themselves, for their passions. Having discovered that there is another life balance, people are now willing to live even with a lot less money and have quality experiences. In detail, we did an analysis to look at the priorities of employees and it turned out that the three fundamental aspects are no longer ‘prestige’, ‘salary’, etc., they are: ‘location of the workplace’, ‘working hours’, and then ‘salary’. What we can see from this data is that people are more focused on quality of life. It is up to us professionals to organise people’s work in the best possible way. In the facility, we have experienced some difficulties related to the fact that everyone wants to work until 6 p.m. at the latest. So when we have to insert certain people, at breakfast for example, who finish their shift at noon, I find them without problems. On the other hand, if I have to find staff for the evening shifts, I have difficulties, we struggle a lot. This is reflected in the number of applications we receive.
If we publish three advertisements for three positions (reception, breakfasts and restaurant), the amount of CVs we receive is in that order: for reception we receive a lot of applications, for breakfasts we receive a fair number and for the restaurant one or two. In all of these the really skilled, qualified and valid ones are, if anything, 10 per cent. As far as the customer is concerned, on the other hand, I would say that not much has changed. Guests travel more than before, they spend more than before, they have changed their booking behaviour, for example overseas customers used to book 120-180 days in advance, now they book even a week in advance, which was non-existent before. Historically in Venice we did not have last minute booking peaks, as happens in the business hotels of Milan, but now it is happening here too and this has consequences also in human resources management.
H:
Returning to the issue of the difficulty of finding professionally skilled people, we have noticed that hotel management institutes have been suffering from a lack of vocations for some time now. Why do you think young people and those approaching the world of hospitality see little attraction in this sector?
PM:
This job no longer offers as much appeal as it did to us because the generations have changed. My generation when started a job had the opportunity to retire in that same place and if you were a free spirit, tourism gave you the opportunity to travel the world and, let’s be honest, also to earn money.
Hotel schools used to be top-level schools, for example in my institute in Abano to be a technical teacher you had to have been a manager of a four-star hotel or higher for at least five years; therefore, the person who taught you and passed on something to you was not someone who had studied and then decided to teach, it was someone who had really experienced the sector. Therefore, in my opinion, there has been a general lowering of the training offer, a lack of attractiveness for the job from an economic point of view, once the good thing was that you sacrificed yourself and earned, now instead for those who do or do not do Saturdays and Sundays the difference is minimal; therefore, from an economic point of view there is no longer any attractiveness. Moreover, this work is mostly seen as demeaning, unrewarding.
I find it necessary for a truthful message to emerge about an industry that makes you live dynamically and uniquely every day. There is also a lack of ‘hunger’ in the generations, in the past if you wanted something, you had to earn it, there were no parents to give it to you. In recent years, the media has also given a wrong view of what our world is. There are some realities where it is true that you work 15 hours a day and you are only legal for 8, but not all places are like that, it is no longer that world there, there are many situations that are reliable, like ours, where one works 8 hours and has everything he/she is entitled to. Today the employer who makes his employees work 15 hours a day is the one who makes the most headlines and makes people believe that the whole industry is like that, but it is not true.
H:
Absolutely, we often make this reflection ourselves at Hospite when we come across facilities that really value their employees’ time. Speaking of new employees, what is the path you plan for a person starting work in your organisation? What is a new employee’s experience in terms of on-boarding, orientation, considering that you have guidelines that come from Paris?
PM:
First of all, we start with the selection of the staff, and the thing that strikes us most is generally attitude rather than technical preparation, because either you have a smile or you don’t, there is always time to gain a specific skill. Then the person is first placed in the department, i.e. shadowed by the heads of service, or more experienced colleagues, who invest their time in introducing the new employee to his or her work, to the processes and to everything to do with the facility. On our side there is the basic idea of investing in a person and giving continuity to the working relationship, to create solid and lasting teams. Parallel to on-boarding we have a series of training courses, 90% of which are online, provided by the chain and to be carried out during working hours. These are transversal courses ranging from data management, safety regulations, revenue and so on.
Those who work in the chain have the advantage that, if they show curiosity, they find fertile ground for growth. We have all gone to Paris rather than London to do courses, departmental meetings; these are times when you compare yourself with your colleagues on the other side of the world. We do a lot of little things for new employees and all this turns into benefits for the whole organisation.
H:
Very interesting and inspiring Pamela. What food for thought or advice would you like to give to those people already working in this world and those approaching the world of hospitality for the first time, so that they can better experience this transitional period of this industry?
PM:
To all those who work or wish to work in the world of tourism, I want to say that nothing in life is given as a gift; therefore, you have to enter into the perspective that a minimum of effort has to be made, but as with anything (like passing an exam at university), every sacrifice will be rewarded!
Having said that I think I am one of the best sponsors in this industry because, after more than 30 years, I come to work every morning with a smile on my face and it is an industry that gives you something priceless. First of all, no two days are the same, when you work with passion in this industry you receive smiles, genuine love and gratitude. This, besides being beautiful, is priceless. Ours is a job that allows you to travel the world, to make a career and to truly become a citizen of the world. So I believe that the world of hospitality can give so much to young people today, and I still see young people who are passionate about it. What makes me a bit sad is that those young enthusiasts don’t stay in Italy for long, that is, if they really love this job and they are not 50 years old, like me, they don’t stay in Italy and it’s a shame because we are losing so many resources because they are better managed and treated abroad than in Italy. So be passionate, be hungry and be curious about this sector, which has so much to give and so much to tell.