1. Tell us a little about your career highlights?
I started working in tourism while I was still at university and moved to Dubai after completing my Masters to open a 5-star hotel. My career path has ranged from Destination Management to Distribution through Property and Regional Sales for both International and privately-owned hotel groups, which overall has given me an appreciation of the diversity of the industry and the many wheels and cogs that turn within it.
The key highlights that stay with you over the years are not the awards, hotel launches or closing an amazing deal, but the occasions where you see your team come together in a crisis or a member of staff smiling and realizing how proud he is to be able to serve a guest and exceed their expectations
2. When you travel yourself, do you like to stay in a hotel or a hotel apartment and why?
I normally choose to stay in Hotel apartments as I appreciate the space and the sense of being at home. The difference lies in the simple things such as being able to have a home cooked meal rather than eating a room service dinner while perched on the edge of a coffee table or being able to have a cup of coffee in the morning without having to brave a buffet. The benefits apply both when travelling for work – or as a family. The extra space, privacy and the freedom of choice, make hotel apartments my preferred choice every time.
3. What aspects of the Middle-Eastern culture do you enjoy, having lived here for over 20 years?
I believe the key feature of Middle-Eastern culture that pervades every aspect of life here – and really sets the region apart - is the deeply ingrained concept of Hospitality.
It is an ancient Bedouin custom that a stranger walking into camp will be hosted, offered food water and shelter, with no questions asked for three days. This exemplifies the level of tolerance, courtesy and willingness to help others that allowed tribes and travelers to survive in the desert. The basic social tenet of hospitality still shows in the cultural and social diversity of the region. It regulates everyday interactions and has shaped the hospitality industry in the region.
4. What is one of the nicest compliment you have received from a guest?
Actions speak louder than words and the greatest compliment we can receive as Hoteliers is when a guest becomes a regular and chooses to make your hotel his home every time he visits the city. At Citadines Metro Central we enjoy having over 20% of our guests as regulars and they have quite simply become part of the family. Our guests have sponsored our in-house sports competitions, joined our staff birthday celebrations and even cooked for us on a special occasion. It is this level of unspoken appreciation that we value and strive for.
5. Can you think of a time when you made the impossible become possible?
The opening of a hotel is one of those moments in every hotelier’s career where hard work, persistence and teamwork make the impossible become possible. My very first opening in Dubai over 20 years ago was one of those occasions. The check-in date of our first guests dawned with what seemed like very little warning. At midnight the rooms were not furnished, let alone clean, the lobby was a mess, the Reception systems were not functioning, and it was only through a concerted effort of the entire team that our guests checked in at 3pm and experienced an impeccable 5-star experience. The sight of the GM standing in the kitchen making fruit baskets is one of my key hospitality moments.
6. What is the single best quality your employees can possess?
The most important quality in a hotel employee is having the right attitude – a willingness to learn and, to use a cliché, a “can-do” approach to the tasks in hand.
7. What motivated you to work in hospitality?
As travel has always been one of my passions and as such the tourism and hospitality industry was a career choice that was almost inevitable. Although I have experienced many different aspects of the industry - providing travelers with a place to rest and feel at home is where I feel I add the most value.
8. What advice would you offer to those who aspire to become a GM in the hotel industry someday?
Hospitality is not a job. It is a passion and hotels are a people industry. You can learn almost anything whether it is Accounting, Housekeeping or Food and Beverage service, but if you do not like interacting with people then working in a hotel is not career path to choose. As a GM the key focus is on people. You will need to motivate and develop a diverse multinational team and create a guest experience that ultimately does not come from the bricks and mortar of the building but from the people within it.
9. Who inspires you? And Why?
One of the greatest Hoteliers and hospitality Leaders: Bill Marriott. He embodies my core leadership values: you can listen and lead; keep an open mind; and you can always do better.