When he was a boy, he wanted to become a commercial pilot to travel the world. That dream was shelved, but he got to see the world anyway as a hotelier.
There’s something special about the nameplates of Westin Manila’s employees. Instead of their designation or title, lettered on the brass plate below their name is their passion. You can read, for instance, passions like music, food, creative, basketball, shopping (why not?), volunteering, photography, film, cooking and many more that define what employees love doing in their personal lives.
Below the name of Westin General Manager Alex Dietzsch is the word that held all his childhood dreams: aviation.
“That’s the rule, it can only be one word. I think the staff are happy to share that part of themselves,” he says.
The hotel’s top boss wanted to become a commercial pilot when he was young because he wanted to see the world. Alex didn’t pursue his dream of flying for Germany’s national carrier (he loves the Boeing 777), but he did become a pilot in his private capacity. When he was in his twenties, he got his license to fly small planes, a hobby he wishes he had more time to do now.
As for his other big dream—to see the world—he did that as a hotelier. He laughs and says that maybe that was the next best thing to actually piloting commercial airplanes. Outside of his home country Germany, his work has taken him to places like San Francisco, where he started his career with Westin in 2005; Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the Middle East; and Bangkok and Bali in Asia.
He’s collected languages to speak along the way too. Apart from his native German, he speaks French, basic Japanese and Bahasa and, being married to a Filipina, he understands some Tagalog and has caught on to the nuances of the language.
In January 2020, Alex came to the Philippines as general manager of the brand-new, Gokongwei-owned Westin Manila, still in its final construction stage at the time. A month later, the world shut down and everything was put on hold. Nustar Resort and Casino in Cebu, another luxury property owned by the Gokongweis, however, was building at full speed and they made an agreement with Westin to temporarily assign Alex there. He helped launch Fili Hotel in 2022, the first hotel on the property.
Back at Westin Manila, Alex inculcated in his staff the values that make for an effective hotelier. “One has to be committed to serve because otherwise you will not enjoy that job,” he says. “You have to have that mindset that you’re working for others to serve others. It sounds basic, but it’s very essential to keep that in mind. If you can’t, then you wouldn’t last a long time in hospitality. And you have to be genuinely curious about other cultures.”
An eye for detail
Alex Dietzsch in Montepulciano, Italy
The Westin Manila is located at Ortigas CBD in Mandaluyong, right in the center of Metro Manila and the gateway to top corporate centers, shopping malls, healthcare establishments as well as dining and entertainment hotspots. The 32-story hotel features 303 rooms including 57 suites with stunning views of the Metro Manila skyline—all with Westin’s signature Heavenly Bed, possibly the most comfortable bed in any hotel.
The preopening of Westin was akin to orchestrating a grand symphony with Alex wielding the baton. He loves the detailed operation of this part of hotel life.
“Basically, we start to work when the designers finish. We choose what’s up to brand standard in terms of aesthetics, what’s functional and what’s durable. So if you’re asking to what extent we’re involved in, it’s everything from the teaspoon to the coat hanger and the cup that would be the perfect height for the Nespresso machine. Sounds like small details, but sometimes it takes a while to find the right things,” he says.
Alex adds that he considers it very important for the hotel staff to know their guests. “We want to make sure we function not only as a premium hotel but for our guests to have an emotional connection with the property. We want to know our guests—from their room preferences to their dietary needs. Our staff are trained to recognize guests by face and name, memorize what they have for breakfast, and all those things. That’s what makes the difference. It’s our task and challenge to do this.”
Holistic approach to wellness
GM Dietzsch: “We look forward to welcoming guests to a new world of personalized wellness with our signature Westin guest experiences.”
“We want to be the first choice when people are selecting a premium hotel brand that supports wellness and wellbeing,” Alex says.
The hotel’s design is modern and features a vertical garden, reflecting Westin’s holistic approach to wellbeing, from its food to fitness and spa offerings. Its club rooms and suites feature separate living rooms, and guests enjoy access to the exclusive Club Lounge which serves afternoon tea, hors d’oeuvres, and evening cocktails.
Hotel executive chef Rej Casanova—who was with Marriott Manila for 13 years with the last four as senior executive sous chef—has come up with the Eat Well menu for the all-day-dining restaurant Seasonal Tastes, where his team cooks in a live interactive kitchen. From flexibility of portion sizes to mindful ingredients, this special menu provides a variety of healthier choices to ensure that guests, including vegans, can choose healthy food. (They also have an A la Bark menu for pets.)
“The chicken inasal and adlai is a personal favorite,” says Rej. This is his healthier take on the popular chicken dish in Iloilo, where he was assigned to work when Marriott Courtyard opened. The dish is grilled chicken breast marinated in annatto seeds and lemongrass, and served with adlai grains, garlic aioli, moringa chimichurri.
Not to be missed by vegans menu is the Everything Vegan Lox, inspired by the salmon bagel, with Rej replacing the salmon with smoked organic carrots and the cream cheese with soya curd. “That’s why it’s high in protein,” he explains. There’s also the Plant-Based Carrot Cake, which features a creative and true-to-life representation of a carrot. “Though this is not part of the Eat Well menu, we are also offering this for those who want to indulge in desserts without feeling guilty,” he says. “This egg-free carrot cake has whipped coconut-lime frosting and a cocoa soil crumble.”
Organic pumpkin hummusPan-roasted salmom
Chicken inasal and adlai
The Farmers Garden Salad is a combination of local produce and Davao goat cheese, while the Organic Pumpkin Hummus contains less carbohydrates than the original version.
The Pan-Roasted Sustainable Harvest Salmon is another savory option on the menu. Rej used purple potato mousseline in place of rice. “This is an unusual pairing, but the ubecomplements the taste of the salmon,” he says.
The Lobby Lounge, meanwhile, offers al fresco terrace dining with live music, and serves the Crafted at Westin beverage menu of artisanal cocktails. At the Pool Bar, guests can enjoy the tropical sunshine with a handcrafted cocktail, and the Tapas Bar & Restaurant on the rooftop features panoramic views of Metro Manila as well as a fantastic jamón station stocked with the finest meats and authentic Spanish cuisine.
Guests also get to continue their fitness regimen at the Westin Workout Fitness Studio with its complete range of cardio and resistance equipment, as well as TRX stability equipment, followed by a swim in the hotel’s 25-meter outdoor pool. The Westin Workout Gear Lending program allows guests to borrow the latest high-tech recovery and total body strength training equipment to optimize their fitness.
As part of Westin’s Move Well pillar, the Run Westin program offers run route maps around Ortigas Center with a choice of three or five-mile runs. Heavenly Spa by Westin, which opened just a few months ago, offers treatments such as rejuvenating body scrub, massage, in-suite massages, and spa manicure and pedicure.
“Guests have all they need for a productive and relaxing stay in the city,” Alex says of the wellness-forward program at Westin. “We look forward to welcoming guests to a new world of personalized wellness with our signature Westin guest experiences.”