Can you start by giving us an introduction to yourself, and tell us a bit more about your journey in the hospitality sector?
As a hotel Industry veteran of 31 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness different aspects of our industry over the years, in different world markets. Starting off in London, UK as a bus boy at one of Soho’s finest restaurants, followed by moving to Australia and joining what was then the largest food and beverage operation at Sydney Hilton, and growing through the ranks to become a Bar Manager. 11 years later, I decided to look at new career opportunities and joined casino operations, both in Sydney and Brisbane, taking up various roles, including the General Manager of F&B at the Conrad Treasury Brisbane.
From there, in 2006, I moved with my family to the Middle East, with my first role at Hilton Abu Dhabi, and I held several General Managers roles with Starwood Hotels and Resorts (now Marriott) and at the Millennium Hotels and Resorts for the past six years, including a Director of Operations UAE role for 18 operating and new opening hotels. I am currently a General Manger of Bab Al Qasr Hotel & Residence in Abu Dhabi, a flagship 677-room hotel, which is also part of Millennium Hotels and Resorts MEA.
Every day, no matter what the day ahead looks like, I remember that I am very lucky to work in a sector that is blessed. Hospitality is an industry that, throughout the history of humanity, has always been focused on taking care of others. It’s an industry which continues to grow over the long term, despite the successive crises that we have experienced in recent years and now. And it is an industry that is constantly renewing itself, and creating moments where we can get together and interact, with each day enhanced by new experiences and new learnings.
What are the latest developments at Bab Al Qasr that you think people should know about?
The latest, and one of the most exciting, developments is the relaunch of our outlet, Fresh Basil, revamped into Fresh Basil – Pitch Black Dining, a new, unique look to assist in the transition from light to dark, from known to unknown. Located on the second floor of the hotel, it offers a one-of-a-kind tailored-made experience. As no electronic devices are allowed inside the pitch-black room, the lack of distractions fosters the notion that dining in the dark sharpens diners’ senses. It emphases on taste, mouthfeel, fragrance, and sound, and it also promotes the art of talking. Yes, you will dine-in-the-dark, however, the whole experience has been built up beautifully in such a way that you will feel transported, acquainted with complete darkness, the social awareness heightened, and senses sharpened.
During the dining experience, guests will enjoy a three-course mystery set menu, one course at a time. Each delicious course has been created to entice the taste buds, and awaken the senses through flavours that flow from dish to dish. It is always our pleasure to see how guests enter Fresh Basil, excited, but a bit tense (not knowing what to expect), and come out smiling, socially more involved; they end up making new friends while trying to figure out in the dark what they are eating. You enter strangers, and come out friends.
What would you tell visitors who are looking to book a stay at your hotel?
Hospitality is about trusting yourself, trusting your heart, and using it to serve others. It is vital for us that we ensure other people feel welcome, feel at ease, feel safe, and ultimately feel at home in our hotel. You need us, just like we need you, to continue creating these daily experiences that our visitors will remember for the rest of their lives, as these experiences also enhance all our lives. That is why we work for the hospitality industry, and we are proud to be involved in a welcoming and nourishing world, that is focusing on others, which ultimately generates raving fans and return customers to our hotel and the UAE.
In your role as General Manager, how do you go about inspiring and motivating your team?
There is one thing in common at our hotel with all our professions, and that is that everything we do, comes from the heart. Every Bab Al Qasr employee is an ambassador, which means we always put people at the heart of what we do, which means taking care of others, providing a unique and warm welcome, innovating, pushing boundaries, creating new sensations, and inspiring experiences and moments of the day.
It is vital to us that we acknowledge the value and talent that each individual brings to our hotel and our Group, and empower them to take control of their own development. At Millennium Hotels and Resorts MEA, we take our cultural belief that we grow talent, and our talent grows us, to heart. Personalized career development to grow the potential of all team members is at the core of our values as an employer. Next to on-the-job learning and classroom training, one of our key development tools is “BAQ E-Learning Studio,” which is first ever hotel-based learning and development (L&D) online platform at our Group, designed by our own L&D team, which offers continuous learning opportunities with customized training programs, from induction to leadership, to be taken at your own pace.
How do you think the hospitality industry will look like in five years’ time?
As I look ahead, I am confident that our industry is on the road to recovery, and the future looks very bright, especially here in the UAE. Collectively, we’ve had to innovate and reinvent how we deliver the hospitality experience in a hygienic, yet humane way. The government of the UAE has gone leaps and bounds to support this, and together, we recovered. This will only continue as we embrace new technology, adapt to ever-evolving consumer needs, and ultimately realise our new ways and the new norms. With Expo 2020 Dubai now only around the corner with the theme, “Connecting Minds – Creating Future,” we are at the centre of all of what’s happening right now. The hospitality of the future is the hospitality that we are building today!