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‘Local talent is our greatest strength’: Airways new GM Sunilkumar Panda on future-proofing PNG’s top hotel

Written by Paul Chai

Running a hotel during a global pandemic is never going to be smooth sailing but Airways Hotel’s new General Manager Sunilkumar Panda has made sure that Airways delivers the best service possible and is not just surviving in today’s environment but looking to a very bright future. When Mr Panda took on the job of Airways Hotel’s General Manager in November last year, he came to the group with nearly two decades of hotel management experience, both in Airways and in India’s Taj Hotels and Resorts. With extensive experience in the tourism and hospitality industry, Mr Panda has been confident in Airways best service delivery. ‘Any downtime during COVID has been used to help us 

reevaluate our business, train our employees and find new flexible ways to improve,’ he says. Under this stewardship, Airways has focussed on cost-saving measure to help with revenue but also invested in new technology that will future-proof the hotel and make guests feel secure in uncertain times. ‘We have been adapting new technology to keep people safe such as a UV sanitising system, fumigation machine, anti-bacterial door handles and a complete update of the air-conditioning system,’ Mr Panda added.

As part of the Hotel’s vision in providing the best service, caring for guests has been the Hotel’s top priority. Additionally, Airways Hotel has been developing its digital marketing skills, doing maintenance and upgrading the hotel’s premium rooms with 50-inch smart TVs and an improved in-room butler service. However, while Mr Panda sees the value in investing in the hotel’s bricks and mortar, his real passion lies with the Airways staff. ‘From the start, I recognised that the local talent is the hotel’s greatest strength,’ he says.

‘The service culture that our staff delivers is an unforgettable memory for guests,” Mr. Panda said. He further mentioned that the Hotel’s way of providing the best service is what makes the guests come back. It was this commitment to growing local talent that first drew him to Airways when he joined the group in 2014 as head of the food and beverage department. ‘Being a certified trainer, I love to train people and wanted to develop in-house talent here in PNG,’ he says. ‘I try my level best each day to help support the people around me. We are promoting our staff to a higher level and giving them bigger roles to boost their morale and show that we appreciate their efforts so that they will serve as an inspiration to others. ‘ With such passion for developing local talent, Mr Panda is confident that Airways will reach greater heights in the future while providing the best service possible.