Anne Arrowsmith, General Manager at 137 Pillars House in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tell us about your journey of achieving success in the luxury hotel industry…
Like many a journey is was rather circuitous. My first experience was accidental and prompted by a desire to travel, thus as a student I managed to be hired as a dish washer for the summer season at a hotel in Alberta, Canada. Fortune was on my side as on reporting to HR, they instantly assessed that I perhaps wasn’t ideal for the duties and instantly elevated me to assistant garde manger!
Again, motivated by travel, I was engaged by P&O SN Co (at that time owner of Princess Cruises) and spent four years in operations in the Front Office rising to Senior Assistant Purser. Back in the day, female officers were hired for administrative versus hospitality skills and interestingly I was the first female to be hired that broke that mold.
And the rest, as they say, is history. The opportunity to manage 137 Pillars House presented itself and like all prior steps in my career, it felt eminently right.
What do you think needs to happen to ensure women are given equal opportunities in the industry?
In the past decade or so, I’ve seen many positive changes. Whilst being part of strong female teams in my time, the number of female GM’s was and remains entirely out of kilter and a more expansive approach to leadership positions is needed within the industry.
Essentially talent, in all its forms, needs to be recognised and rewarded purely on merit and competencies, with biases and insecurities relegated to the ‘ash heap of history’. I have never expected or wanted an unfair advantage over anyone, I simply desired and continue to promote “an even playing field” for all.
What makes you independently minded?
My grandfather had a wonderful approach to life “always think yourself as good as anyone else but never better”. This simple wisdom overcomes pretty much every prejudice – gender, race and religion while at the same time ensuring that you don’t take yourself too seriously.
I was also blessed in being raised in a loving working-class environment where our home was a magnet for friends and family – everyone was welcome and food, laughter and conversation was in large supply. This was hospitality and generosity in its truest form and has fueled my wanderlust, confidence and adventures.