Extreme pampering at Country Suites Tagaytay

- Estela Banzon-De La Paz () - March 24, 2008 - 12:00am

“Extreme pampering.” This is the one major secret why Hotel Systems Asia, Inc.-Raintree Partners, (HSAI-Raintree), a Filipino company, has become a formidable player in the local hospitality industry since it set up business in 2000.

Such pampering is what a guest of Country Suites can expect once he sets foot in this luxury seven-suite Bed and Breakfast (B&B) in Tagaytay. Located along Calamba Road just off the junction entering Tagaytay City if you’re coming from Silang, Cavite, this mountain retreat offers services and amenities that are of international standards and yet, has the distinct touch of real Filipino hospitality.

Country Suites is part of the Discovery Group owned and operated by HSAI-Raintree.

AnnabellaWisniewski is a Filipina married to an American of Polish descent Tom Wisniewski who is also in the hospitality industry. She is the first Filipina graduate in Hotel Administration at the prestigious Cornell University in 1965. At present, Wisniewski is the president of Raintree Partners which operates and manages the various Discovery properties — the flagship Discovery Suites in Ortigas, Discovery Shores in Boracay and Country Suites in Tagaytay.

“In our years of operations starting with Discovery Suites since 2000, we have seen our staff who are mostly Filipinos become equal or even better than their foreign counterparts — it is our goal to be the best in whatever we are doing,” said Wisniewski.

As such, she said the training to improve the skills of their employees as well as meetings to come up with ideas that are “out of the box” never ends. The results of these twin efforts redound to better, if not excellent services. Though these meetings and trainings require a lot of time and effort, she notes that it is worth it, as the employees’ creative juices are maximized. At the end, they feel a distinct pride in themselves and in their abilities. At the same time, they really become part of the company and its success. She notes that most of her employees have stayed with the company through the years except for a few who were offered very plum positions abroad.

Some “out of the box” ideas that loyal Country Suites’ guests keep coming back for more are actually the “inclusives” in its package. An overnight stay will come not only with a savoury country breakfast specials like fluffy pancakes or Belgian waffles complete with scrambled eggs, bacon and maple syrup, etc. , it also includes a “Wine and Cheese Buffet” set-up at sundown. As a night cap, a thermos-full of warm milk and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies are delivered to the guest’s room. And if the guest is billeted in the Oxford Suite which has a bath tub with a romantic view of the Taal Lake, expect a rose-petal filled tub complete with tea-light candles to really give a feeling of total relaxation. A masseuse is also available up to 11 pm (although this is no longer part of the package) to knead away all the knots and stresses in your body. Prices range from P7,000 to P15,000 depending on the season and the suite chosen by the guest.

Part HSAI-Raintree’s strategy is to give Country Suites a homey and personalized touch. Thus, every suite has a different theme. The suites are inspired by two design concepts — the oriental theme for the Ceylon, Siam and Nara Suites and the continental, for the Spanish- inspired Andalucia, French Saint Tropez, American Nantucket and British Oxford Suite. All suites are furnished with soft, goose down pillows, feather beds, 300-thread count beddings and spacious bathrooms outfitted with L’Occitane toiletries.

The main and sole dining area is the Verbena, considered to be one of the best restaurants in Tagaytay. Ms.Wisniewski attributes part of the success of Country Suites to this restaurant. The steady clientele not only for those who’ve checked in but also for walk-in guests have helped Country Suites become commercially viable considering that it only has 7 rooms. Verbena offers contemporary country cuisine using fresh organic produce from the farms in Tagaytay. At the helm of Verbena is its Colombian chef David Pardo de Ayala. Chef David has recently come up with new selections such as creamy Bavarian Mushroom Croute, Crabmeat and Grilled Corn Ravioli, Crispy-Seared Pork Belly. Its most popular dessert is still Bouchon’s Chocolate Marquise. If you want to catch the chef in action, just request for an “interaction” at the chef’s table located adjacent to the dining area.

With Country Suites’ success, a number of B&B’s have sprung up in Tagaytay. Rather than looking at it as a competition, Wisniewski considers this a welcome development as overall, it is helping boost tourism activities. “Our vision is to give back to the country and the community, the wealth and experience that we have acquired in the hospitality industry,” said Wisniewski. And so far, this lady has just been so successful at doing that.

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