Interview of La Pirogue's GM, Mr Andrew Slome
April 08 2020
April 08 2020
Adorning the gorgeous west coast of Mauritius is the spectacular and iconic four-star hotel: La Pirogue. This extraordinary hotel offers guests a wealth of immersive and authentic Mauritian experiences that span everything from Mauritian culinary delights to sublime local entertainment and novel outdoor adventures. This beautiful resort, which is as perfect for lovebirds as it is for families, allows guests exclusive access to a tranquil boho-chic Mauritian haven unlike any other on the island.
La Pirogue is celebrated for its Mauritian hospitality, sublime location and its prime views of the fabled Mauritian sunset. The resort is characterised by its unique and charming thatch-roof bungalows that open onto a lush coconut grove which melts into an endless beach and a vast, twinkling azure lagoon.
It’s a hotel that boasts a wonderful Creole essence that allows guests to enjoy an island holiday in true Mauritian style with novel experiences. Guests can enjoy the local street food, take advantage of the glorious beaches, indulge in unique, Mauritian-inspired activities and embrace the seafood barbecue on the beach under the stars to the sounds of Sega at La Pirogue. This hotel helps guests to fully immerse themselves in the “genuine spirit” of the island and it’s been doing so for a whopping 44 years, making it the oldest hotel in Mauritius.
La Pirogue was built in 1976 on a stunning stretch of the west coast, just outside of the small fishing village of Flic-en-Flac. The site picked for the hotel was at the time, inaccessible and overgrown with filao trees, flanked by fields of vivid green sugar cane. The architect of the hotel, a Dutchman named Joseph Van Melick, was inspired by the design of the traditional Mauritian fishing boats, also known as pirogues, the essence of which is beautifully mirrored in the roof of the main building of the hotel (inspired by a white sail billowing in the breeze) and the thatched roofs of the bungalows (which are built from volcanic rocks from the island). The hotel has enjoyed a reputation for its exceptional service and romantic atmosphere since its inception.
Despite being around for over 40 years, there’s nothing dated about this historic hotel, as it underwent a huge renovation in 2017. While the integrity and authenticity of the hotel remain, it’s wonderfully on-trend with boho-chic design elements, modern comforts and luxurious touches.
To gain some insight into La Pirogue and its evolution since its inception, we spoke to the hotel’s General Manager, Andrew Slome, who first started working at the hotel in 1982. He is the longest-serving general manager in La Pirogue’s history, having served as GM from 1986 until 1996 and for a few months before taking up the post once permanently at the beginning of 2015.
Here’s what he had to share with us:
When did you start at the hotel and what position did you have at the time? Can you give us a bit of an idea of your journey in the hospitality industry?
I have actually worked at La Pirogue on three separate occasions as General Manager, spending over 15 years at La Pirogue in total. My latest appointment was in January 2015 and I’ve been with the hotel ever since.
I joined Sun Resorts in 1979. I started with the group as Assistant F&B Manager at Le Saint Geran, which was, at the time, run by Southern Sun from South Africa. I progressed from there, constantly being able to grow with the company as they acquired new properties. My first GM position was at the age of 29 at Le Touessrok before moving to the west coast.
It was along the west coast that I think I really made my mark as GM of both La Pirogue and Sugar Beach, which I opened in 1996. Here, I was acknowledged by the legendary Mr Kerzner as his General Manager of the year in 1998, followed by my decoration for my work in the Mauritius tourism industry from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (OBE) in 1991. I continued to build on the strengths of La Pirogue that have made it the number one customer choice in Mauritius for many years.
How has it evolved since its inception?
While maintaining its unique, genuine spirit complete with authentic thatched bungalows in an immense tropical garden, La Pirogue has continued to raise standards above customer expectations, allowing it to attract guests from around the world including celebrities, sports stars and even royalty. Today, La Pirogue offers a level of sophisticated service, accommodation and food and beverage with innovative and unique outlets like its Van der Stel Wine Bar and the Sounds music recording studio.
What have some of the challenges over the years been?
We have had a couple of challenges over the years such as trying to keep ahead of customer expectations (bearing in mind our high numbers of repeat guests) and maintaining a motivated, well-trained team of associates to serve our guests, most of the time, at very high occupancy. But I don’t think these are unique challenges to La Pirogue. It’s just very important for us to deliver the best service and offer the finest experiences to our esteemed guests.
In your opinion, what makes La Pirogue such a special hotel (other than its heritage)?
I think what makes La Pirogue truly special is the way our people embrace customers as if they were old friends or guests in their own homes. It creates a feeling and experience that would be very difficult to find elsewhere.
What is the hotel’s greatest accomplishment?
La Pirogue has enjoyed several awards and honours, but I’d have to say that being given a four-star superior hotel classification with a 91% LQA (Leading Quality Assurance) score, is probably the greatest achievement for us.
What are some of La Pirogue’s key moments/what special events have taken place at the hotel?
We have had the incredible honour of catering for many state occasions and official banquets which have been quite superb. We were also the chosen venue for one of the Duke Of Edinburgh’s Award conferences which was wonderful as well.
How is La Pirogue different from other hotels on the island?
Almost all of the hotels in Mauritius have rooms spanning multiple floors in big buildings grouped close together. I think one of our biggest differentiating factors is that all our bungalows are stand-alone units on the ground floor a mere stone’s throw from our glorious beach.
Other unique factors include our sublime west (sunset) coast location, our endless beach, the experienced team, the proximity of the hotel to a wide array of attractions, the genuine Mauritian spirit, a fabulous kids club, a novel music studio and an exclusive wine bar. Our seafood barbecue, to be enjoyed in the candlelight with toes in the sand, makes for another reason to visit!
What is the importance of good service at a hotel like La Pirogue?
Customer satisfaction through good service creates potential repeaters and makes previous customers lifetime ambassadors, that’s absolutely invaluable. Ultimately, we really want our guests to have the best holidays at La Pirogue.
What is your leadership style/how do you motivate and inspire your team?
I do my best to lead by example, I think it’s really important to have integrity with how you lead and I think it makes a big difference.
What is your favourite part about working as a GM at La Pirogue?
There are too many to choose from, I think my favourite aspect about working at La Pirogue, however, is getting to work with incredible people.
If guests are only able to enjoy one unique culinary experience - which do you recommend?
Definitely the Mauritian evening. Mauritian food is unbelievably tasty and definitely needs to be sampled while on holiday here.
The hotel underwent a renovation in 2017, how much of the original hotel would you say still exists and what were the changes?
The DNA of all the bungalows remained the same. We added a unique wine bar, the Coconut Cafe (the Mauritian street food restaurant), Sounds Music recording studio, a beach boutique and a new beach bar experience with live DJ and beach club ambience. But the spirit of the original hotel remains today.
If you are looking to experience unparalleled service, incredible activities and immersive and authentic experiences, then book your dream holiday at La Pirogue today and enjoy a holiday in paradise to remember.