We speak to the new director of revenue management at Fairmont Dubai, Nelson Riffard on his journey to the top.
Tell us about your first job.
I’m from the South of France and started off very young in hospitality because my parents used to own a summer camp, which meant I used to help out in everything from service to housekeeping, so I guess this is why I wanted to study hospitality. My real first job in hospitality was in Bordeaux, in a hotel which is now MGallery by Accor, working at the reception. It was the only 5-star hotel in the city at the time and my job was not just front-office but also operations with valet parking, bringing guests to their room and much more. Two months later, the night auditor resigned, and they thought I was the right person to replace him.
Tell us about your experience in the industry so far.
I got a master’s in hospitality management following which I worked in France and Spain, then ended up getting a job with Accor which was my introduction to the revenue side of the job. Through them I got the opportunity to come to Dubai which was supposed to be for six months, in 2012 but I decided to stay here. I started off as an analyst assistant, revenue manager and then went to IHG festival city as cluster revenue manager.
Describe your current role and responsibilities.
We need to ensure that we are driving sales and pricing online, be aware of what the market is like and what our competition is doing. I am always looking at statistics and reservations along with having a daily briefing with director of sales and marketing and other ex-com members. I meet with them and see what opportunities are available and take decisions. In revenue we monitor current results, focus on the future results and work towards the goal.
Who has inspired you the most in your career?
I have had many great managers throughout my experience but if I had to pick one, I would pick my manager at IHG. She is an Australian lady and was one of the cleverest persons I worked with. She was a people’s person but what I liked the most about her was how she could always see the bigger picture. I was impressed with how she saw things in a more strategic way. Everything she did had a clear and logical explanation.
What are your thoughts on the current hospitality market?
When I arrived in 2012, the industry was booming, but it is such a dynamic market especially on the revenue side. It is very challenging with the amount of competition and luxury products coming in the market. It makes things interesting. You have all these new hotels which means you have a new market to play with. As the revenue manager you need to be very clever and know how to deal with the competition to ensure your market share.
What are the main challenges you face in your role?
The biggest challenge is the new supply in the market and as the revenue team you are first in line to explain the changes to the stakeholders and the first in line to understand this, communicate it properly, address the potential risk and opportunity, and deliver with your people.
What is your most favourite part of the role?
I’m a numbers guy which is great for my job. I think to be a good revenue team, you need to understand all the operations of the hotel, from reception to housekeeping, not just room revenue and sales. It’s not just being a geek behind the computer, you need to be out there talking to people.
If you could work in any hotel apart from the one you work in, which would it be?
Funny enough, there are some hotels which always fascinated me, the Fairmont in Canada is one of them. It is around a massive lake and mountains. After Dubai that would probably be a good place to be in.
What is your advice to young talent entering the hospitality industry?
You need to be patient and dedicated. When you are a junior you need to work as hard as you can to get a better understanding about how the industry works. Hard work can go a long way in hospitality and I have never seen good talent go unrewarded in this industry.