Francesca Webster seems to have stuck the perfect work-life balance. This glamorous young hotelier splits her time between Byron Bay and Sydney, calling penthouse apartments and beautiful beaches office for the day. Cutting her teeth at Halcyon House in Cabarita Beach and Sydney’s Park Hyatt, Francesca joined The Raes Collection in 2017 as General Manager. It was under her remit that new life was breathed into Byron Bay beachside hotel Raes on Wategos, which has now garnered a reputation as one of Australia’s most luxurious hotels. This summer, Francesca will oversee the launch of Sea Raes, a super yacht experience launching in Sydney. We caught up with Francesca to find out more about her incredible career.
What first drew you to the hotel and tourism industry?
As a young girl growing up, many incredible hotels were my playgrounds. Most notably, watching my godparents as co-general managers of Aman resorts certainly placed the spark in my eye and began my desire to be a part of this very special world, as a hybrid version of a career and lifestyle.
Is there a defining moment in your career which you feel has led you to your success?
There is no doubt that being entrusted with the Raes regeneration as a 27-year-old General Manager served as a defining and pivotal moment in my career. Four-and-a-half years on and it is the single most fulfilling thing I have achieved.
What was your vision for Raes and how did you execute it?
The goal was always to make Raes world class. I knew Raes on Wategos had something you couldn’t tangibly see or touch, but a confidence that was truly special. My vision was to only highlight its bones, which are inimitable. These bones, paired with Tamsin Johnson’s interiors, a genuine yet professional service, and a hard working, progressive team was the recipe to our success. It was important that the team were as involved in the changes and growth plans as top tier management were. Their commitment and excitement for the end goal is how positive change with longevity could occur.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
I am inspired by other woman in the industry who are making their mark in their own unique and authentic way, such as Marie-Louise Scio (Pellicano Group), Bianca Marchi (Agnes, Same Same, Honto, Bianca – all in Brisbane), Emma Goodwin (The Surfrider, Malibu) and Christine Haddad (Park Hyatt, Sydney). My circle of friends are all highly motivated and talented; surrounding yourself with people that inspire you will continue to push you to be your best in and outside of professional circumstances daily.
The last two years have presented some of the hardest challenges for people personally and collectively. The hotel, restaurant and tourism industry have been some of the hardest hit industries. How have you faced this challenge of adversity and what is your advice to those in a similar position?
COVID taught us all the lessons of silver linings, the beauty of slowing down and the appreciation of the simpler things. When you surrender and accept that life is full of adversity, in the face of it, it becomes a lot more palatable when you know challenges are inevitable. Go with it, do your best, be kind to yourself and others, and it will all work out in the end.
You live between Sydney and Byron, what in particular draws you to both these iconic areas of Australia?
What a combination of coastal homes! The best of both worlds. Whilst I was largely in Byron for work, I benefited from it being a destination supportive of health, sunshine and saltwater. My office was Wategos Beach! However, Sydney for me has it all: the perfect balance of a cosmopolitan city, with an incredible climate and many, many salt water-driven moments.
What is your favourite thing on the menu at Rae’s?
Anything Jason Saxby creates is a masterpiece. He has a real gift; you could choose any of his dishes blindly and it would be one you will love.