General Manager – Holiday Inn Kuwait, Salmiya
“EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON”
Please introduce yourself to our readers:
It is indeed a privilege to introduce myself to your magazine readers. I am a Lebanese national, holding Australian citizenship, married to an amazing wife and proud father of one daughter and one son. I am someone who is fully committed to what he does. My love towards different cultures and meeting new people from all around the world are the main reasons why I developed a passion for hospitality in the first place.
Tell us about your education:
I received my bachelor degree in Hotel Management and Tourism from Notre Dame University, Beirut.
How and when did you develop an interest in the hospitality field and what was your first job in this field?
I took my first job as a part-time bartender where I worked weekends while at university. At first I was a bit hesitant about taking the job, but very soon felt that I fit in and that hospitality was what I wanted to pursue. Taking care of people, mingling with them and putting a smile on their faces was something I saw myself doing every day. I began to realize that I had taken the right decision to major in hospitality, knowing that hospitality was just starting to grow at that time in our country.
How did you get started and how was your experience?
I worked as a part-time bartender for about a year before moving to a luxury boutique hotel called Regency Palace Hotel. The plan was to do three months training during the summer but I ended up working with them for three years. In 2000 my journey started with Intercontinental Hotels Group, as part of the opening team of InterContinental Phoenicia Beirut.
Take us through your career journey to date:
After moving to InterContinental Phoenicia Beirut in 2000, my next stop was InterContinental Aqaba Resort in Jordan 2007, where I joined as Front Office Manager. In 2011 I moved to Crowne Plaza Dubai where I was promoted to Director of Rooms. My last stop before coming to Kuwait was in Muscat 2015, where I joined the lovely historical InterContinental Muscat Hotel as the Hotel Manager for three remarkable years. Now I am the General Manager of Holiday Inn Kuwait Salmiya. Along the way I have been lucky to experience different brands within IHG, a journey that allowed me to develop and experience different cultures and different ways of working.
How has been your experience in Kuwait so far?
I can genuinely say that the experience so far has been everything that I had expected it to be. I had always pictured my first General Manager role to be an adventure, but of course one that came with bigger responsibilities and commitments. Moving to a new country was always going to make it a bit more challenging. Time was needed to adapt to a new culture, understand the market and its trends, build great rapport with the team, our guests and, of course, a close relationship with our owners. I am proud to say that after eight months I am very comfortable with what the team and I have accomplished. The relationship that exists with the team is built on transparency and trust, where everyone works very hard for one another and is fully committed towards achieving positive outcomes. People in Kuwait are very sociable and have welcomed me with open arms. Since arriving I have had the opportunity to meet and get to know some amazing people from many different fields and industries, allowing me the opportunity to expand my network here in Kuwait. I am also very grateful for the support provided by our owners. Their passion towards Holiday Inn Salmiya and towards hospitality is second to none.
What’s your opinion of the Holiday Inn Salmiya?
This property has character and charm. Its reputation speaks for itself so when the opportunity to join Holiday Inn Salmiya arose, I was extremely interested and positive about the possibility of joining a well-established organization. This hotel has always played a role in developing people and making sure that there are only better things to come. Holiday Inn Salmiya is well known for its facilities, services and restaurants and is ideally located in the heart of Salmiya.
I am also very happy to share with you that since joining in February we have opened a new pool bar, renovated Ayam Zaman, our Lebanese restaurant, and re-opened our much improved Kids Club.
What is the room capacity of the hotel?
The Hotel offers 189 guest rooms and 108 residential suites and apartments featuring stunning views of The Arabian Gulf and providing an abundance of features and amenities, including Smart LED Screens, complimentary high-speed wired and wireless internet, complimentary Starter pack and mini bar and a very efficient 24-hour room service. For long staying guests we also offer our fully equipped Business suites which are totally inspired with a touch of elegance and comfort and designed to feel more like a comfortable private residence than a hotel accommodation.
How do you think Holiday Inn Salmiya is unique in its offerings to the Kuwait market?
Well, we are known for our passion to offer everything that delights our guests around the year and through every aspect of their stay. Our hotel is conveniently located in the heart of Kuwait which makes it the perfect destination for all business and leisure travellers. We offer easy access to various entertainment spots and shopping malls and we’re only a 25-minutes drive from Kuwait International Airport. The hotel features 9 culinary experiences and caters to all tastes, 22 fully equipped conference and meeting facilities, two stunning ballrooms, a 2000 sqm fully equipped 24-hour fitness center, concierge service and top quality catering services that deliver the ultimate culinary experience to all types of occasions. However, our greatest asset is, and has always been, our people. They make the difference through their professionalism, hard work and commitment towards providing every guest with a great experience.
We take great pride in creating a work environment and embedding a culture that fosters their success and ensures they are continuously developed and provided with opportunities to grow and show their true potential. We are extremely proud to be a part of one of the world’s leading hotel companies. IHG has been recognized globally as an AON Global Best Employer for the second consecutive year.
What are the dining options available at the hotel and which one is your personal favourite?
The hotel offers six distinct flavours under one roof. Ayam Zaman, our newly renovated Lebanese restaurant, Jamawar Indian restaurant, Tang Chao Chinese restaurant, Rib Eye Steak House, Sakura Japanese restaurant, Al Diwan all day dining buffet that offers international food besides a range of theme nights and brunches that takes our guests on a unique journey to savor different tastes. The restaurant offers easy access to the kids outdoor and indoor play area as well as to the play station room which makes it the perfect family destination. L’aroma is our lobby café which is famous for its lively and enjoyable location to perform business meetings or simply meet friends while enjoying our complimentary high-speed internet. We also have Gardenia private tents in the hotel gardens and Zanzibar Pool Bar where guests can enjoy refreshing cocktails, protein shakes and healthy snacks.
I genuinely enjoy dining in all of them and love the variety available, but if I was to choose my favourite I would probably choose Ayam Zaman, not just because of the amazing food, but also the fact that I can enjoy a shisha while watching my favourite football matches.
The gym at your hotel has received amazing reviews. Can you tell us more about the facilities available at the gym?
Our 24-hour Health Club located in the mezzanine level, with an outside dedicated entrance for the convenience of our valued members, offers top-notch fitness facilities over 2000 sqm. It’s equipped with the latest fitness machines, a dedicated cardio area, strength and body building area, an outdoor pool with sun loungers, separate spa facilities and variety of massage treatments. Our qualified trainers provide extensive expertise in cardio, weight management, bodybuilding, group and private exercise classes, aerobics and even personalized nutrition plans catered to your needs. Not to forget the full range of fitness classes for both adults and children, ranging from cross training, toning workouts, Zumba, salsa, stretching, kick boxing, yoga, children fitness academy, gymnastics, ballet, karate and swimming.
What kind of events does the hotel host and attract? Can you tell us more about the meetings, incentives, conference and exhibition facilities at the hotel?
We offer to our MICE guests and corporate groups a variety of accommodation options and facilities with our 297 rooms and suites, distributed over nine floors in three buildings. Fuelled by ten food and beverage choices, including our executive lounge, our hotel’s meeting facilities can cater for all your events be it weddings, seminars, conferences, exhibitions, a gala dinner or any other personal requirement. The refined style of the two Ballrooms and 24 different size meeting rooms are fully equipped with the latest audio-visual technology and high-speed complimentary Internet connections. We also offer more than 1,000 parking spaces and valet services, all backed up by the expertise, flexibility and responsiveness of our team.
What are some of your hobbies and how do you spend your day off?
I’m a big sport fanatic. I enjoy watching and playing many sports, mainly football and rugby and I am a huge Manchester United fan. My days off are fully dedicated to my family. I have a beautiful wife and a son and daughter and I cherish spending whatever free time I have with them.
At work, what puts a smile on your face?
Simply seeing the smiles on our guests’ faces. This validates that we are providing unique hospitality and creating memorable experiences. Receiving compliments from our guests is very rewarding and certainly motivates our team to continue doing what they are doing, and to even exceed our guests’ expectations. Having dedicated and committed colleagues that work together hand in hand for the best interest of the hotel also creates a wonderful atmosphere and working environment that brings the best out of everyone.
What advice would you give to young people entering this industry?
Hospitably is never boring but it requires dedication, perseverance and hard work. The key to succeeding in this industry is being patient and learning from the negatives as much as you do from the positives. Listen to your peers and once you start climbing the ladder never forget where you started from. Remain humble and lead by example. Be passionate about what you do and come to work because you enjoy what you do and not because you have to. Working in hotels, and with a company like IHG, has certainly made me a better person and what you decide to do in your careers must eventually make you feel the same.
Your message for our readers:
Please come with your families and visit Holiday Inn Salmiya. Enjoy our facilities and experience an amazing dining experience at any of our restaurants. Make sure you visit our newly renovated Ayam Zaman Lebanese restaurant, try our fitness center facilities and experience our newly opened pool bar. We assure you that we can and will always put a smile on your faces.
Your message for us at CP Magazine:
I would like to thank you for this interview. I’m a new reader of your magazine and to be honest, I’m very happy with the quality and variety of content presented. So keep up the good work and I wish you all the best.