Russia imports Pinoys for APEC leaders' summit

By Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 05 2012 10:28 PM | Updated as of Sep 07 2012 02:31 AM

Service personnel from Cebu in the Philippines have been imported by the Russian government's APEC organizing committee. Photo courtesy of Movenpick Resort and Spa 

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (UPDATED) – When President Aquino arrives here to participate in the 20th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders meeting, chances are he will be welcomed in his hotel not by local workers or even Filipino expatriates, but by Cebu-based service personnel.

That’s because 72 service personnel of Cebu’s Movenpick Resort and Spa have been imported by the Russian government’s APEC organizing committee to man front reception desks, supervise hotel staff services, and sometimes even act as bellboys themselves.
Although they were not allowed by company management to be interviewed on camera, Movenpick staff Arsenio, Leo and Dyvonee chatted with ABS-CBN News about their impressions of Vladivostok – in particular Russkiy Island, site of the sprawling Far Eastern Federal University where the APEC activities are being held. 
The three were assigned to Building 11 where the Philippine media as well as Presidential Communications Operations Office and Radio-TV Malacanang personnel are billeted.
Arsenio said their Russian counterparts have been very nice, helpful and eager to learn. 
Having been a closed military base for a long time, Vladivostok has no vibrant tourism and service industry to speak of, hence the decision to “import” personnel for this international event attended by leaders of 21 Pacific Rim economies.
Leo said the only problem was the language barrier: many of their Vladivostok counterparts don’t speak English well. 
Since arriving here last August 15, the Cebuanos have tried to learn a few Russian phrases while the Russians have tried to master some Cebuano words.
Being the professional service workers that they are, the Movenpick personnel have laid out a warm welcome to all the international media that checked into their assigned hotel buildings. 
But there's just a touch more warmth, excitement and a little Pinoy pride they extended to kababayans with whom they share this exciting adventure in the Russian Far East.
Knuth Kiefer, Movenpick Spa and Resort –Cebu General Manager, said in an email to ABS-CBN News that the Russian government’s request for skilled hospitality workers was relayed to him by Russian Honorary Consul Armi Garcia.
“Due to our current vast renovation and transformation of the hotel, we are going to elevate our service levels as well in the hotel and it was a great opportunity for our team members to gain new experience and give them the possibility to travel abroad,” Kiefer said. “For this reason, we made this opportunity available to a large number of our team as it benefits both, the organization of the APEC summit as well as our team members.”
Kiefer himself was in Vladivostok earlier to check on the accommodations for his team.