Homewood Suites by Hilton Silao Airport GM Silvia Balcazar said she got into the hotel industry so she could have more chances to interact with people from various backgrounds.
SILAO, Mexico—Silvia Balcazar knew from a young age she would need to find a way to be around people as part of her career, because she loved learning about individuals and their differing cultures and perspectives.
“When I was very young, I was very shy, so one of my goals was to meet people,” she said. “But for me, it was difficult at first.”
She briefly thought about being an architect or maybe a lawyer, but she decided on a career where she would be exposed to as many different people and different ways of living as possible.
“Ultimately, I decided I’d have more opportunities to meet more people, to travel and to learn about different cultures if I got into tourism,” she said.
Today, it’s difficult to spot that shyness in Balcazar. Now the GM at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Silao Airport, she spends as little time in an office as possible, opting instead to walk through her property and interact with guests and staff members. While the property itself is located in a small city—with a population just shy of 150,000 people—in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, she said the constant stream of international business people staying at the property exposes her to interesting people with interesting stories.
“I say this hotel is like the U.N., because you can walk around and hear so many different languages,” she said.
Working up to GM
Balcazar has taken a winding path in her career in travel and tourism, starting with preparing flight itineraries for private flights. Ultimately, she found that job didn’t have the human contact she needed.
“It was in an office, and that wasn’t my thing,” she said.
After that, she went to school, making efforts to work in hotels as she earned her degree. Her first positions in the hotel space were largely in food and beverage, both as a server and cook.
After graduating, she started her career in earnest in Cancún, continuing her trajectory in the F&B space—until fate intervened.
“When I got to Cancún, on the second day I broke my leg,” Balcazar said. “So they moved me to the rooms department as a reservations agent. They gave me a small chair to rest my leg. And since then, 17 years ago, I’ve done almost every department in hotels with the exception of sales.”
Her work has lived up to the promise of getting to travel to different places and experience different walks of life, working in hotels in Cancún, Mexico City, Veracruz, New Orleans and Orlando, Florida.
“For me, this career has been a blessing,” Balcazar said. “Working for Hilton has given me plenty of opportunities.”
Balcazar said she originally resisted the idea of taking over a hotel as GM, assuming it would mean she would have to spend more time chained to a desk with less time to interact with other people. A long-time mentor convinced her that moving up to the top job would be the right move.
“He said, ‘There’s so much more that you can do and you can learn if you become a general manager,’” she said. “He told me to try different hotels three or four times. He really stressed I had to think about my future.”
Eventually, she relented and became GM of a Hilton property in Veracruz.
Life in Silao
With the Homewood property in Silao only operating for a matter of months, Balcazar said transitioning to her new role is still a work in progress, but she’s no stranger to change or opening new hotels. She previously worked on the opening teams for eight properties, including in New Orleans and Orlando. She said she’s also worked through two conversions.
Balcazar said she’s getting used to her new surroundings.
“It’s a challenge because it’s different from the other places I’ve been,” she said, noting that she does enjoy the fact the hotel is within driving distance of a laundry list of Mexican destinations.
“During the weekends when I can go, I’ll take my car and go find different cultures, different styles of cooking and meet really interesting people,” Balcazar said.
Right now, Balcazar said the start of her work at the new hotel is learning the area and the basics of the Homewood Suites brand. She said the transition has been eased by the strong relationship with the hotel’s owners.
“We’re not alone,” she said. “We’ve had very good support from the brand.”
Balcazar said she thinks the Silao hotel has the potential to be special, especially since it’s the first of the brand’s new Latin American prototype. It also features significantly more robust F&B offerings than most Homewood properties, which could be a combination of local demand and Balcazar’s strong personal interest in food.
She noted the hotel enjoys a strong mix of demand drivers. Silao is a manufacturing hub for many international companies and is also located near the city of Leon.
“During the week, we have lots of business travelers, and during the weekends we have families and senior couples who come to San Miguel,” she said.