James Berry is cluster general manager at Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Media City and Park Inn by Radisson, Dubai Motor City.
Berry, 42, from Northamptonshire, England, began his management career as general manager in 2008 and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the hotel and hospitality industry.
Prior to moving to Dubai, he had been serving as general manager at Sofitel London Heathrow Hotel, after spending two years as a general manager at Sofitel London Gatwick Hotel. Before that, Berry spent four years with Guoman & Thistle Hotels, now known as glh, in London, as VC general manager at The Tower Hotel and acting general manager of The Cumberland in Marble Arch.
He has also previously worked with Radisson Hotel Group as general manager of Park Inn Peterborough, during which he also oversaw the opening of the Park Inn Rotherham, and at Park Inn Thurrock.
What were some of the hotel’s most important milestones throughout the years?
Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Media City has been amazingly resilient to the ebb and flow of the Dubai market over fifteen years, and now its third crisis after 2009 and then SARS.
However, I think the most important milestones are those of team members who celebrate another service anniversary each year. When I hear they are “employee 003 or 004”, I think it’s such a powerful, positive emotional moment, that moment of realisation of how important our team is, and how much effort and commitment it takes to achieve 10 year, and some 15-year, anniversaries after the hotel’s 15th birthday.
What are some of Radisson Blu Media City’s best-kept secrets to succeeding in the market, especially as you celebrate your 15-year anniversary?
I can tell you three simple ones; adaptability, as there were times when the hotel filled itself because of the amazing brand power and superior location, but today we have to cater for all types of guest and find new opportunities.
Tenacity, we always find a way to evolve, to create, to keep up. We have trekked the UAE, created “water for workers”, and delivered the infamous Brexit Brunch in my three-year tenure alone (I should have dined out at that brunch for the whole year, in hindsight).
Loyalty, my guests tell me how to run ICON Bar because they know it better; our loyal following in Certo maintains a level of expectations that keeps our quality standards so high, we’re a Top 5 Italian Restaurant in Dubai on Tripadvisor.
The rest I can’t tell you, or they wouldn’t be secrets, would they?
As the pandemic continues into 2021, how are you planning on moving forward?
I checked around my office, and I could not find a manual for this, so “positively, but cautiously” is my short answer. We see the light at the end of the tunnel now with the impressive vaccination drive in the UAE, but it’s fair to say the train is going very slowly. Everything is month to month, you need to keep a balance on pushing forward, but protecting what you have now, and prioritise safety and welfare over anything else.
One of our highest priorities is the continued health, safety and security of our guests, team members, and business partners, which is why we recently launched the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol, a new programme of in-depth cleanliness and disinfection procedures, in partnership with SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. These enhanced protocols, operational guidance and comprehensive health and safety procedures validated by SGS are adapted based on local requirements and recommendations, to ensure guests’ safety and peace of mind from check-in to check-out.
How have your F&B offerings evolved over the years?
Certo, as I mentioned, is and has always been one of the top Italian restaurants in Dubai and still serves the best pizza. Icon and Tamanya everybody knows, which tells you that if you deliver a great product at a consistent high quality with great service, then you don’t have to keep evolving what you are doing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
What has your hotel brought to Dubai and what is it known for?
I think it’s known by so many for so many reasons. Everyone you meet has either stayed there, or lived there “in the old days”, or had a meeting or an interview there.
The Media City community has its own long -asting memories of the restaurants and bars; they are aggressively loyal to Icon or Tamanya, but rarely both, and Certo has had a loyal following, like a “corporate family feel” for many years.
I think the hotel has brought one thing only a few properties in Dubai have and can bring – a history and reputation recalled with affection.
What’s the most common guest profile at your property and why do you think it appeals to them?
The hotel’s raison d’etre has not changed; it’s a corporate-focused property in a business district, part of a Radisson Hotel Group, one of the world’s largest hotel groups, and in the best location in the heart of Dubai Media City.
In addition, we’re confident that we offer some great all-inclusive staycation options and fantastic F&B to leisure guests.
How is the future looking?
Different, for the foreseeable future anyway. I think we have all learned a lot; we have put the worst of it behind us, and if there is one positive for me, it’s that we all remembered how important it was to connect with people, no matter if it’s waving awkwardly at someone from three metres away, or online.
I hope we all remember how important that is in the future.