When Alexander Siebentritt was a child, someone asked him where he’d like to live when he grew up, “somewhere with a house next to the ocean and a mountain to ski on right next to it,” he said. Decades later he’s living his dream in Nelson, where he’s been working for 11 years, helping others enjoy New Zealand as much as he does.
Siebentritt started out working in the Frankfurt bar and restaurant scene, where he thrived, before he moved further afield, first to Austria, then to New York, and finally to New Zealand. This breadth of knowledge is part of what makes him so valuable in his role as General Manager at the Rutherford. “When working in different areas of the world, it can be a challenge to come up with strategies that work well universally.” It’s a challenge, but one that helped him flourish. He adapted and thrived in the fast-paced international hospitality industry until he found his home in Nelson.
Flexibility isn’t his biggest challenge: it’s the distance between Nelson and his home country, Germany. Does he think about leaving? “Are you joking? Have you ever been to Nelson? It has charm, views, history, and – last but not least – wonderful people.”
From the age of 7, Siebentritt knew he was a ‘people person’. “For my Dad’s 40th birthday he hired a beer trailer, fully equipped with tabs, sinks, and fridges. I managed it and even supplied the guests with play money so they could ‘pay’ me.” He didn’t return to hospitality until more than 10 years later, but it’s been a lifelong passion since.
Hospitality is a ‘people’s industry,’ and the Rutherford Hotel is a perfect fit for him, “A big part of my role is to ensure our guests are enjoying their time with us, and I enjoy seeing young staff find their passion. Knowing guests and staff both enjoy being at the hotel is incredibly rewarding.”
The Rutherford has been operating for 45 years but it isn’t tied to the past. The hotel has undergone a number of improvements over the years, and in 2013 it opened a conference centre that caters for up to 700 guests. The Nelson region, too, is a timeless setting. The three national parks surrounding it offer the best of New Zealand’s flora and fauna, and the township has famous craft and artisan markets.
Where to from here? “I’d like to see the Rutherford continue to grow and provide our guests with this special experience.” On a personal level, Siebentritt is ready to settle down and buy a house in Nelson. He’s achieved a lot and is ready to relax and enjoy where he’s found himself.
To those looking for an illustrious career in hotel management, he offers tried and tested advice “good things take time. Stay enthusiastic and don’t be afraid of change.”