The Millennium Biltmore Hotel has been host to many star-studded attractions in its ninety years including the 3rd annual Academy Awards in 1931. It has also been a setting for over 100 movies including Chinatown, Bridesmaids, The Dark Knight Rises and Ghostbusters. One of its more prominent stars, at least during work time, is University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa alumna and General Manager Wanda Chan (BBA ’82).
Chan says that through her degree in hotel management at UH Mānoa she learned “how to work with people and how to be resourceful.” Her time at UH Mānoa also allowed her to get her foot in the door and her very first role at the prestigious Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki. She recalls former Travel Industry Management School Dean Chuck Gee and the impact that he had on all of his students. Chan also remembers her time gaining experience in the travel and hospitality industry working summers as a waitress in a Houston coffee shop and as a hostess/cashier in restaurants.
She has come a long way from the days of being a waitress in a coffee shop and has traveled the world working at the iconic Raffles Hotel in Singapore as food and beverage manager with responsibilities for seven restaurants and five bars. From Singapore slings to cosmopolitans, she was then named executive assistant manager at the New York Palace where she participated in the hotel’s management reorganization, helping to establish new restaurant concepts and budgets. After the property’s renovation she was responsible for maintaining service standards in keeping with the property’s newly acquired AAA Five-Diamond status.
Iconic hotels are something of a specialty for Chan as she was also the general manager at the Swissotel New York, the Drake. She is proud to be at the pinnacle of her career managing the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel. She is extremely focused on teamwork and has instituted the “The Biltmore Voice,” a monthly newsletter that goes out to her staff and informs them about each division, how everyone is interconnected and includes messages from the general manager. She says, “If you want to be successful everyone around you must be working together and in a team. You are only as strong as your weakest link.”
Chan stresses the importance of hard work and being open to continually learning. She says, “We are always learning something new every day. It has to be constant improvement and we need to be open to those lessons.”
In 1927 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded in the Millennium Biltmore’s Crystal Ballroom with rumors that the first sketch of the Oscar statue was drawn on a Biltmore napkin. As they would say in show business, “the award goes to” Wanda Chan for her fantastic career and all that she has achieved as a proud UH Mānoa alumna.