What Makes Hotel Kimberly Tagaytay Number One?

Searching for lodging in the popular tourist destination of Tagaytay on Tripadvisor.com.ph will yield over 370,000 results.  The Number One spot goes to Hotel Kimberly (the 2015 and 2016 Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice winner), a well-appointed yet affordably-priced hotel in the quiet, rural area of Barangay Kaybagal North.  Even though its barangay name means “so slow,” Hotel Kimberly offers such a variety of fun, wholesome activities that travellers may quickly maximise a single trip with many adventures in this booming, bustling little city.

I looked at the website of Hotel Kimberly.  I can really see how guests on vacation, on business, retreat, or those with special occasions would love this place!

Warning: The following pictures may make you want to plan an event at the featured venue 🙂

The entrance is inviting:

The rooms look cozy, clean, and comfortable:

There is much room to explore and run around in with the jungle gym in a wide open space, an obstacle course…

The pool looks refreshing for day or night swimming…

You can imagine the special occasions you can celebrate at their indoor Pavilion:

The outdoor party area has (almost) limitless possibilities…

There are different farm animals and birds to visit…

kimberly 5 farm

kimberly 2 horses

The Fruit, Herb, Vegetable, and Flower Garden provide educational walks and activities…

There is a meeting room for business and game room for leisure…

And there is food, food, food indoors or al fresco by the pool…

But beyond the attraction of the place itself, I’m curious about the thought process behind the scenes that brought this about.  What makes this place Number One among sooo many other choices even if it does not have a view of the Taal Lake which is one of the most popular reasons people go to Tagaytay? What is behind this success story?  Sharing with you my chat with Natalie Ng, Managing Director of Hotel Kimberly:

BUTTERLFYINTHESPRING (BITS): Hi Natalie!  I heard that Hotel Kimberly just got an award?
NATALIE Q. NG (NQN): Yes it’s really a blessing that we are Number 1 on Tripadvisor.  It’s basically reviews from our guests, say if they like our hotel they rate us 5 stars…so recently, we’ve been ranked Number 1 in Tagaytay.

BITS:  That really sets you apart as Number One considering that if you type in “Tagaytay lodging” on Tripadvisor, there are so many search results!  What do you think is your key to success?
NQN: We try to provide a place that is all-in-one.  There are a lot of activities available.  There’s a games room, a massive DVD library, a farm where children can pet and feed animals, ride horses…kids get cookies and milk at bed time. On weekends, there are movie nights with unlimited free popcorn.  We have bonfires with marshmallows.

kimberly 5 bonfire

We sometimes plan games such as scavenger hunts for long weekends.  So people like staying at Kimberly and it’s especially a hit with families.  If you look at the reviews, people always say, “Oh my gosh, my kids don’t want to leave yet.” because there’s enough stuff to do there and not enough time!  Actually, we’re Number One for the reviews but we’re also an awardee for the Top Family Friendly Hotels in the Philippines… also on Tripadvisor.

kimberly 5 people farm

BITS: How did you come up with those interesting sections of the hotel (the birdhouse, farm, the jungle gym)? 
NQN: We have passionate people on our team who have interest in animals and activities. We open up with ideas in our weekly meetings and have a Viber group that is literally entitled “Tagaytay ideas” where any participant can contribute. If I think this is a good fit for the place, then they are encouraged to go and run with it. Our travels help a lot too. We are always looking for what we see abroad that we can bring back for people to enjoy here.

BITS:  When a special occasion like a wedding is held at your outdoor area, are you the only one allowed to cater for the event?
NQN:  No, we also accept catered events for our weddings at the Joya Pavilion but they must be accredited with us.

BITS: Is Hotel Kimberly suitable for corporate or other non-family needs as well?
NQN:  We have multiple function rooms that cater for anywhere between 10-350 people depending on the requirements.

kimberly 5 function room

High level executive planning all the way to noisy team building facilities. It’s also conducive for couples’ and family retreats. There’s enough space in the two-hectare property to spread out.

hotel kimberly playground

BITS:  What is the name of the hotel in Malate?
NQN:  It’s also Kimberly Hotel.  It was the first one opened 15 years ago.  But it’s a different market segment that caters mainly to business travellers.

BITS:  When you were starting out, did you experience a lot of challenges and how did you overcome them?
NQN:  There were challenges… mainly because when we started out, we hired General Managers to run the business.  A godly man on top is always the key because if not, how they run the business is not always ethical.  I realised after I took over  (after the second manager didn’t work out),  even if I didn’t have any background and it was basically an Accounting background that I came with, it doesn’t matter. All I do is just make sure the character of the higher level people are intact.

BITS:  Everything follows?
NQN:  Everything follows.  Of course, you have to make sure they have technical skills; they know how to manage the operations; your sales team  knows how to sell.  But other than that, the most important thing is their character has to be maayos (in order).  Kung maayos yon (If that is in order), everything will follow.  The most important thing is probably the culture of the people on the top then it cascades down.

BITS:  In your eight years with Kimberly Hotel, what is your most special or rewarding moment?
NQN:  It is not so much a moment as a journey. The whole journey of watching the hotel and its staff grow to what it is today has been very special. The best part is that it is ongoing. My staff know my favorite question is “How else can we improve?’!

BITS:  What inspires you to do your work?
NQN: My time is limited as I juggle work, family, and exercise on any typical day. Because I treasure my time, I have an obligation and desire to do my best in whatever it is that I’m assigned to or focused on. And not only to do my best but to be happy doing it and to cause the greatest good. When I started my first job, I was only concerned with making a good impression with my boss and I did that over time and different jobs. In time, that boss became God since I had to head the business. Ultimately, I am accountable to Him.
I guess, in a way, it’s also for our staff. I want them to experience a culture that is positive, that can reward, and is not just all about money.

BITS: How do you do that?
NQN: I try to create a good, open working environment so that people can work and contribute and be paid doing it. Again it comes to enjoying or being inspired to work rather than doing the bare minimum to get paid. If you look at our reviews, a lot of them (besides the facilities) really say, “excellent staff; the service is excellent.” And I’m not even always there. It’s just them. So I know that without the people that serve our guests, the hotel is not going to do anywhere near as well. In a way that has sort of evolved on its own and I think it’s all God’s work.

kimberly 5 natalie staff
Natalie (in navy blue top) with her staff.

BITS: When you say “not just all about money,” that might not make sense to some people; isn’t a business concern’s goal supposed to be profit or money?
NQN:  Yes, you may start a business thinking it is about making money and maximizing it. Over time, though, I’ve come to realize that maximizing profits may not necessarily be good for long-term or repeat business. Some of the best decisions I’ve made were when we chose the options that would make our guests happier but they were not necessarily the cheapest way.

If we create a business to fill an unmet need or can provide an unparalleled experience, then profitability and longevity follow. History is full of past and present examples: Google which started with allowing free information to the world…

BITS: Unparalleled experience?
NQN: An experience that cannot be easily found elsewhere or done on your own… for example,  who would set a bonfire in their own backyard? It needs space and twigs and other people to enjoy it with. That’s what we seek to give.

BITS: Do you have any encouragement for small business owners?
NQN: Oh, I think, you must have the passion for it so you can see it through thick or thin. It will be your baby for a LONG TIME. You keep an eye on it and on the cash flow…where will you get funds if you need, how you control the spend.  And you just really have to rely on God on EVERYTHING. I constantly pray for wisdom and guidance in all my decisions. I pray for the right staff. I pray for the customers. God first when there is conflict of interest between your agenda and God’s, even if it doesn’t make sense especially with taxes and government requirements and so forth. You just have to lift it to God and say, “Just honour this.” That’s it. Honestly, that’s it.

BITS:  What role does He play in your life?
NQN:  I try to make the hotel something that I would not be embarrassed to present before God.  It should be something like, “God, this is here because it’s You, it’s all You.”… like “even if we don’t have views of Taal  Volcano which is the main reason people visit Tagaytay… whatever this is, it’s because we work hard for it but all because You [God] brought our guests in.”  The way we run the business, it’s all above board.   We pay our taxes, we pay our staff.  We actively avoid any funny business.  And I always think that whatever blessings we get, that’s because God honours it.  Really, that’s what we do.  We’re probably one of the highest taxpayers around but I don’t mind because I’ve seen it come back time and time again over the past eight years.

BITS:  When you started managing Hotel Kimberly Tagaytay,
where were you in your walk with God?
NQN: Nine years ago, my husband and I and our three children lived in (Perth) Australia.  I really loved my life and my job there  so moving was not a priority for me.  That year, my husband and I took part in the CCF Prayer and Fasting (remotely via online livestream).  I remember telling the Lord that if it is His will for us to move back to Manila, here was my list of conditions to confirm His will. 

I figured I had a lot of time before I needed to move because some of the conditions were quite specific and unlikely to be accomplished in a short time.  (For example, school for all three kids with none being rejected or waitlisted, a home that is within fifteen minutes of the said school. We had not applied to any nor looked for a house at all.)  Imagine my surprise when ALL the conditions were met by May!  I knew then that God was clearly telling me it was time to come back. We made the decision to move in June and by August we were in Manila.

Because I knew God unmistakably wanted us here, I focused on building my life up, going back to my old church (CCF) and joining a bible study. I was also active in the school PTA. I didn’t realize the extent to which my spiritual walk had stagnated in Perth; coming back was like a spiritual homecoming. So I guess it was a spiritual rebirth or recommitment for me.

BITS: How is your relationship with God today different and how did it evolve?
NQN:  Since then I’ve tried to learn and grow more over the years. It wasn’t hard to be part of CCF once more and I really love that it is unashamed of its stance towards the gospel. I like that CCF says “well this is what the bible says” and expects everyone to follow and conform. One thing with living in Western society: I find that sometimes it makes excuses and tries to conform the Word of God to what society will find acceptable.  Over the years I’ve continued to familiarize myself with God, with His word and what His stance is. I try to focus more at the heart and motives than legalities or rules. I’ve tried to be more aware of where I can fail and where I can help. I’ve also learned to go with what God wants for me and just rely on his sustenance. Each day I wake, I pray for wisdom and think that if at the end of the day, I can face God then I’ve done well and start again the next day. It’s evolved more so that my accountability is with God first then the rest will follow.

BITS: Is there a bible verse you live by as far as business is concerned?
NQN: Philippians 4:13  I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
Also this is the best summary of my work view:  Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

kimberly 5 natalie more staff
Natalie Ng  (at center in navy blue top and white pants) with her team
hotel kimberly staff w natalie ng
Natalie Ng (Front row, third from right) with her team

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Dear Lord, Thank You for Natalie’s submission to You in her leadership.   Going the extra mile even if it is more costly, doing business above board in pursuit of excellence and integrity to honour You, You honoured with this awesome sweet success that inspires us to trust and obey You and rely on You for everything.  What a delightful endeavour Hotel Kimberly has turned out to be giving guests time to be recharged and to bond, and share wonderful experiences in beautiful surroundings without breaking their wallets.  Thank You for Natalie’s example of giving her staff an open, positive venue to contribute their own ideas and be in a positive environment where they are rewarded. May You continue to empower Natalie through Your Spirit and bless her, her family, her work, Hotel Kimberly. May You continue to give her the desires of her heart as she delights in You in Jesus’s name amen.

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Last Saturday, as I started to head out of the house for a meeting, I asked the Lord to show me whose business story I can share for Butterflyinthespring. The room started filling up and with barely ten minutes before the session start, from the crowd, I saw Natalie Ng walking in.  As we smiled to greet each other, I recalled the Instagram post she shared some time ago; it was about an award given to Hotel Kimberly, the hotel she manages.  This post is a result of that brief meeting.   Hope Natalie’s sharing inspires you…

 

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