Gerd Steeb, President of Centara Hotels & Resorts, will retire from the company on February 23 after almost 22 years of service.
Joining what was then known as Central Hotels and Resorts in 1991, Mr. Steeb became Vice President in 1993, Executive Vice President in 1997, and President in 2005.
He was also appointed to the Board of Directors of Central Plaza Hotel Public Co. Ltd. on November 3, 2005 as the only foreign member of the board.
Working directly under Chairman Suthikiati Chirathivat, Mr. Steeb’s tenure has seen the remarkable rise of Centara Hotels & Resorts to become Thailand’s largest operator of hotels.
“Gerd Steeb is a man of drive and vision,” said Mr. Suthikiati, “When he joined us, we had just one hotel in Bangkok, one in Hua Hin, one in Pattaya, and one in Mae Sot.
“On his retirement day, Centara Hotels & Resorts has 55 properties. Of these, 38 are in Thailand and 17 are overseas.
“Our growth at home has been phenomenal and so too has our overseas progress, for we opened our first overseas property in the Maldives, only at the end of 2009.
“Gerd Steeb is without doubt a towering figure in the industry, and he is also a very good friend. He retires as a man who has achieved great things. He has the greatest respect of the Board of Directors, and of the entire company.”
Gerd Steeb hails from Stuttgart in Germany. His career began in the food and beverage sector in a number of leading hotels in Germany and Switzerland, and in 1964, he joined Hilton International in F&B in Cairo, Egypt.
Mr. Steeb first arrived in Thailand in 1966, at a time when the kingdom’s tourism and hospitality industry was in its very earliest stages.
“I was transferred by Hilton International from the Nile Hilton in Cairo to take up a position at the Rama Hilton on Silom Road, a property that is now the Holiday Inn Silom,” he recalled.
“There were very few international standard hotels here at that time. There was the Erawan, a Thai government hotel that was later demolished to make way for the Grand Hyatt Erawan, and there was the Oriental, as well as the President Hotel which opened at that time.
“But beyond that, there was very little. However, it was clear the industry had great potential, for towards the end of the 1960s the first generation of international hotels was being built.”
Mr. Steeb, in 1969, was offered a position by the Goodwood Group in Singapore, followed by his first appointment as General Manager of the Merlin Hotel, Singapore in 1973.
In 1975, he joined Accor, serving as General Manager of several prime properties worldwide, and finally as Area Director, based in Singapore.
In 1990, he was seconded from Accor, which since 1986, had had a joint operations agreement with Central Hotels in order to assist the fledgling hotel chain.
“It became very clear to me that there was potential for Thailand to have its own world-class hotel and resort chain,” he said, “There were already Thai hotel management companies who were doing well and achieving sound reputations.
“Central was determined to invest for growth, and to take hotel and service excellence to the far corners of Thailand and beyond, to Asian destinations that have great growth potential.
“The Board of Directors offered me a position with the company where I could make a significant contribution. Their vision was inspiring, and it was a privilege for me.”
In 1991, Mr. Steeb joined Central. The addition to the group of various properties, some under ownership by the Central group, some under management contract, gathered pace.
Mr. Steeb was appointed president of Central Hotels & Resorts in 2005, at a time when the rebranding of the company to Centara Hotels & Resorts was in process. The name change took place in 2007.
From that point on, with a new brand name, an aggressive expansion strategy was begun.
The company’s flagship property, Centara Grand & Bangkok Convention Centre, opened in the same year. In 2009, the first overseas property, Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives opened.
As the company grew, it became apparent that different brandings were required under the main branding, and so five different brands were created: Centara Grand, a series of five-star properties; Centara Hotels & Resorts, the core brand; Centara Boutique Collection, intimately-scaled hotels for the independently-minded traveller; the Centra 4-star value-brand; and Centara Residences & Suites.
Gerd Steeb’s plans for retirement are being kept private for now. But he admits he is going to greatly miss the excitement of the hospitality industry.
“I have been present at a time of great change, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I have enjoyed every day,” he says.
Centara Hotels & Resorts is Thailand’s largest operator of hotels, with 38 deluxe and first-class properties covering all the major tourist destinations in the kingdom. A further 17 resorts in the Maldives, Philippines, Vietnam, Bali Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Mauritius Indian Ocean, brings the present total to 55 properties. Brands and properties within Centara ensure that specific categories such as couples, families, individuals, and meetings and incentives groups will all find a hotel or resort that is appropriate to their needs. Centara operates 25 branches of Spa Cenvaree, one of Thailand’s most luxurious and innovative spa brands, and the company’s Kids’ Club is available at all the family-friendly resorts to ensure that the youngsters and teens are taken care of. Centara Hotels & Resorts also operates two state-of-the-art convention centers in Bangkok, and one in Udon Thani in northeastern Thailand.