Since the tender age of 19, Francesca Webster has been building a career in the luxury service industry. From early beginnings at Sydney’s Park Hyatt to Relationships & Lifestyle Manager of Halcyon House, she today continues to build a respected name for herself in the hotel industry. Last year Francesca was appointed General Manager at Byron Bay’s illustrious Raes on Wategos boutique hotel; Essentials spoke to her about her hospitality passions and love of the NSW North Coast.
You got your start at a young age, where did you begin and what inspired you to enter hospitality?
I was lucky enough to start my career at Park Hyatt Sydney. However, I grew up in and out of Aman resorts as my godparents were co-General Managers of many of them. It was here I grew my appreciation and at the Park Hyatt I learnt my skill. It is still my bucket list to this day, to stay in every Aman property.
You’re currently the General Manager of Raes on Watego’s Byron Bay, how does the hotel differ to larger city-based properties?
Raes is an intimate 7-roomed property, with a Spa, restaurant (Raes Dining Room) and bar (Raes Cellar Bar). Whilst the scale is small, we find this is what the guests enjoy most. Our guests aren’t known by room numbers, they’re known by name, the coffee they like in the morning, the occasion or reason their visiting. The size allows us to create an experience that is utterly tailored and special. It also allows us the ability to do things (amongst many others) like have a pot of sleep tea brewed for each guest on turndown. Our pace is also slower, 98 percent are leisure visits rather than business so there is a big shift there with a city hotel whose corporate market is traditionally huge.
Are you a water baby? Do you love Byron?
To be raised in Sydney is something special, to live in Byron Bay is something incredible! I very fortunately find myself in Sydney still very often, so whenever I need my fix the not even 1.5hr flight from Ballina makes it very possible so I don’t have a chance to miss the big smoke! I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to split myself across two of Australia’s most amazing cities – and couldn’t live without access to salt water.
What are the best aspects about staying at Raes, and what are you most proud of delivering to guests?
I can very confidently say there is no property like Raes anywhere in the world. I can also confidently say that no two guests visits are the same as each experience is tailored to that guests needs. My biggest achievement are my staff, and to watch them all deliver something that is truly genuine and authentic, is what I am most proud of and what our guests take home with them.
Are you a boss tucked away in the office, or do you greet the guests?
Whilst I try to get office time, I like to be across everything that’s happening on site, and I also truly enjoy being amongst it all. Engaging with guests is the reason I was inspired to enter this industry and role, and it’s the one reason that will keep me here.
Raes on Wategos
6/8 Marine Parade, Byron Bay, NSW
Tel 02 6685 5366