Welcome to Checking In, our feature that spotlights fascinating associates across the company and globe. Today, Heart of the House checks in with Freddy Pather, Concierge at the Protea Hotel Edward. Freddy was recently recognized with the 2016 Marriott Award of Excellence, the company’s most prestigious honor.
Putting aside the official job description, please describe what you do at the hotel.
I coordinate all of our guests’ needs with the respective departments. Along with my two concierge colleagues, John and Johnny, we arrange trips to natural attractions, recommend restaurants, book vacations for international guests and more. We run and care for the hotel like it’s our own business.
Where are you originally from?
I have lived in Durban my entire life — since 1947. Durban is also known as Little India. We have the largest Indian population outside of India. My grandparents immigrated to Durban in the early 1900s in search of a better life after the British colonized India.
What has kept you working at the hotel for 55 years?
My personality matches this industry better than any other. I love meeting new people. I started at the hotel when I was 16 years old as a busboy. I would walk from school to work so that I could assist my family financially. Once I completed school, I secured a full-time job at the hotel as the night switchboard operator.
What was the hotel like back then?
Protea Hotel Edward was the first five-star hotel in Durban. It was a real honor to work at the hotel — and still is today. We have served more kings and queens and heads of state than any other hotel in South Africa.
Can you tell us about one of your favorite memories?
The night I met Robert and Ethel Kennedy. I was trusted to arrange their itinerary, transfers and special requirements. Senator Kennedy gave me a tiepin of a navy boat. There were a lot of protocols that we had to adhere to and the security detail was high. Senator Kennedy spoke at a local university and then had dinner with several political figures at our restaurant.
Do you have any hobbies?
I love spending time with my wife, our two sons and our two grandchildren. We watch movies, play sports, garden and fish.
Do you volunteer with any community organizations?
I participate in many of our hotel’s Corporate Social Investment initiatives including rhino conservation, water and sanitation programs, as well as Reach for a Dream Foundation partnerships. We recently granted a wish from a young boy with a terminal illness. He had never stayed at a hotel before so we planned an amazing weekend for him and his family.
What do you love most about your city?
Being from Little India, food is a big part of our culture and a draw for tourists. I always like to recommend that guests try our lamb curry. Durban is a beautiful city filled with beautiful, friendly people. First-time visitors are usually interested in the Hluhluwe or Ithala reserves.