Craig Seaward has spent the past 11 years as General Manager of the multi award-winning W Bali-Seminyak. He successfully opened the Escape (resort) property and will continue to bring his expertise and game-changing management style to the W brand.
An experienced hotelier, Craig is a global leader in the luxury lifestyle space and has spent 25 years working for premium hotels, predominantly with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which merged with Marriott International in 2016. He was named General Manager of the Year 2018 for Marriott Luxury and Best General Manager in Indonesia at the 2019 World Luxury Hotel Awards.
Craig also held the position of General Manager at Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers and Pakuwon Golf and Family Club in East Java, Sheraton Perth and Westin Chosun Beach, Pusan South Korea.
As General Manager for W Sydney, Craig will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the final build, including recruitment and training of the 500+ team and managing all pre-launch activity to ensure the hotel opens to the highest standard. Upon opening, he will direct the hotel’s day-to-day operations and be accountable for the commercial and operating strategy and performance of the hotel.
We take him back through his career to find out what he wished he knew when he was just starting out and what guests to W Sydney can expect when its doors open.
What excites you most about coming to Sydney?
Sydney encapsulates creativity and vibrancy and it is this energy that pulled me to the opening of W Sydney. Whilst I haven’t lived in Sydney previously, when I was based over in Perth it was my favourite Australian city to visit, there is always something new to discover and that never changes, drawing visitors in time and time again. Now I have the privilege of leading the opening of W Sydney, the anchor of the new architectural icon in Darling Harbour’s ‘Ribbon’ development, adding a new discovery for Sydneysiders and visitors alike. Who could say no to that!
What feature of W Sydney do you think will excite guests the most?
The location of W Sydney in the heart of Darling Harbour is an instant highlight. Step out of the hotel and you will find yourself immediately in the heart of all the action, with the hotel’s venues built to make the most of its epic Darling Harbour location. There are stellar design attributes throughout, but without giving too much away just yet I would say the all-day dining restaurant on Level Three will most definitely excite and a tie for the jewel in the hotel’s crown – WET® Deck on Level 29, and the two-storey rooftop bar on Levels 29 & 30, both overlooking Darling Harbour. I cannot wait to reveal more of W Sydney’s layers over the coming year.
You obviously haven’t always been a GM. What role in hospitality taught you some valuable lessons? What were they?
Earlier on in my career I was a Banquet Manager at Mmabatho Sun, a Casino hotel in Bophuthatswana, Southern Africa. It was the first management role I held following a 3-year traineeship and cemented my passion for the hospitality and tourism industry. I had an amazing mentor in the Food & Beverage Director, who had an extremely sharp eye for attention to detail and quality. Whilst at times this push for taking something good to something epic could be challenging, it also modelled my career and was an invaluable learning experience, especially in an industry that must continue to innovate through providing guests with an experience, rather than just a hotel stay.
What drew you to the industry?
I used to holiday with my parents in South Africa each year at a beach resort and I would see management entertaining guests from all over the world, with seemingly no day the same as the one previously as they worked across venues within the hotel and interacted with different guests throughout their day. Whilst not always as glamourous as that, we definitely know it is also hard work, I loved that it wasn’t an industry where you would be tied to your desk day in day out and throughout the years I have had the opportunity to work with amazing colleagues and welcome guests from all over the world, both of which have not only become friends but extended family. There are not too many industries where you can travel all over the world doing what you love whilst simultaneously growing a career.
If you could travel back in time to when you were just starting in the industry, what advice would you give yourself?
Learn to walk before you can run, it can be a slow march to the top but when you get there you will know so much more. When we are younger we want to get to the pinnacle but without the necessary experience it just won’t be as enjoyable when you get there. I would also remind myself to be open to feedback and other opinions, it is the best way to learn and to not become too frustrated when you have a bad day, that is life and it is how we grow. The saying – ‘nothing worth having comes easy’ came from somewhere right…
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