I feel that to work as a general manager is not really gender related.
Sarah Moya is at home in the environment she has created at the five star hotel in Siem Reap which she manages. She’s dynamic, but the setting she has created at the hotel is serene. Tranquil music mingles with the splashes from an expansive water feature that encircles the main courtyard. Lustrous Indo-Chinese teak and floors of luxurious white Italian tiles enhance the “grand Khmer villa” feel.
But it is the discreet, subtle and elegant touches – the small rice seedlings growing in vases on each of the breakfast tables and a myriad of little feminine touches – that are the hallmarks of the 35-year-old Filipino expat Ms Moya’s style, at The Sothea Courtyard, Siem Reap’s newest five-star boutique hotel, where she is the resident general manager.
As a woman general manager, Sarah Moya is a rarity not only in Siem Reap, but in the entire Southeast Asian region. But being a woman in what has traditionally been perceived as a man’s job is not an aspect Moya is comfortable discussing.
“It’s just that I feel that to work as a general manager is not really gender related,” she said.
“You become a general manager, whether you’re male or female, because the things that you have done prior to becoming one that is what’s important. It’s all about the experience, it’s all about the skills that you acquire along the way.”
She does agree however that women general managers are few.
“I think basically the hotel business has always been initially dominated by males. It’s only recently that women are in charge and have risen to positions like the general manager.”
It’s no accident that Moya ended up in the hotel business, as hotels figured largely in her childhood. Her father, a significant figure in her life until he died when she was 17, designed resorts.
“He’s one of my main role models in life,” she said. “He was an engineer – he worked for quite a prestigious architectural firm in the Philippines and they were actually into resort design. So growing up, I used to watch him make drawing boards for what would eventually be resorts. In some ways that’s why resorts have always been a curiosity for me.”
Moya enrolled in a tourism management course at the University of the Philippines, graduating in 1994. After shopping around, she joined Hyatt Asia-Pacific in Manila, where she became head of the sales and marketing division.
After seven years with the Hyatt she was ready for a change, and accepted a job in Cambodia in 2003.
“It was a very good stepping point because I wanted to work as an expatriate overseas.
“Second to that I found that Siem Reap was very charming. At the time I was looking to reassess what I wanted to do in my life and I thought Siem Reap would be a good place to do that. It was less complicated. I knew that in my personal life I could slow down, I could reassess things. At the same time I would have the opportunity of building a very good business portfolio for my future.”
When she first joined Angkor Century, the sales office was in Phnom Penh, and she spent her first year shuttling backwards and forwards to the hotel in Siem Reap.
But when the general manager resigned she was given the job as acting general manger for three to six months, but ended up serving in that position for two years.
She then left the company and moved to China.
But she never severed her links to Angkor Century and Siem Reap and when the owner of Angkor Century planned to build a luxury boutique hotel in Siem Reap earlier this year as a gift to wife for her 50th birthday, Sara was appointed general manager.
Having been mentored by strong, successful women in the business, Moya is now mentoring the owner’s daughter, Rida Khun, who has just graduated from hotel school in Sydney, Australia.