Tell us about yourself and your journey in the business.
I’ve been working as a general manager in the hotel business for 28 years, which isn’t a very difficult thing to do. But I’m consistently migrating from one property to another in order to permanently stay on top of the market; I never run a hotel in one country or
even continent for more than five or six years. I moved to Saudi when I was in my thirties, after which time, I opened Semiramis Intercontinental in Cairo before moving to Taiwan, then to New York, and back to Europe. After the birth of my daughters, I ventured a lot in America, Europe, Southeast Asia, China, Russia, and the Middle East, travelling from one country to the other
Kempinski is one of the most affluent hotel brands in the world. What makes it so unique?
What makes us unique is that we’re a small family; we’re organized and very professional. We have 80 hotels and everybody knows each other. I can call the CEO and talk to him at two in the morning. You can never do that in other organizations with 5,000 hotels. A GM of such widespread hotel organizations would be ignorant of who the CEO even is, let alone converse with him about business matters. Our variety is also another aspect that makes us special. We have newly built hotels, as well as ancient architecture converted to the luxurious Kempinski.
How do you think Royal Maxim managed to achieve such a raging success in the hotel industry?
We play a leading role with Royal Maxim’s property in the hotel industry. Our location is ideal, and it will soon be surrounded by embassies that are moving here. We have excellent guest rooms, beating all of our competitors. Our pool area is very sumptuous, and will only be improved when we infuse life to it by adding new decorations. Our Lebanese restaurant is moving outside where people can enjoy the stunning outdoors. We’re establishing our own catering brand as of next year, and we’re interviewing many young individuals to join our team.
What do you envision for the future of Kempinski in Egypt?
I hope that the high-end tourism market comes back and the false notion, that it is unsafe to visit Egypt, to fade. The Chinese are a bit afraid to visit, and Russians are not yet coming back. We’re working on creating a market compelling enough for them to gradually return to Sharm El Sheikh and Hurgada like they used to –that’s when it comes to Egypt in general, as for Cairo, we have the location to our advantage. Like I said, as of 2017, there will be plenty of ministries moving to the area, and we would be right in the centre. This is when Cairo will have a real chance to present itself. We have excellent chefs in all the kitchens, who are especially handpicked. I am very savvy when it comes to food, I’ve known Lebanese and Asian cuisine for thirty years, so we know exactly what we’re doing and whom we’re choosing. We’re also investing in introducing recreational concepts like cigar nights, specialty dinners and the like. All in all, we’re working on diversifying our market as well as employing our ballrooms for large conventions.
How do you manage to stay solid with the instable economy?
Egypt has passed the valley of instability. Things were rough after the revolution, but they were quickly picked up. I’d be lying if I said I’m an expert on Egypt and its politics, but according to what I read, everything is slowly building itself up. But in the event the economy was on a decline, I cannot just sit there and lament about it. We have to try to be productive enough to make a change. One very important thing about ”staying solid”, is to never do it with a price war. We never worry about our prices because we know the quality of our service very well and so do our visitors.
What are the new offerings in terms of internal facilities at Royal Maxim?
We’re expanding our spa; we will have a summer outdoor Lebanese restaurant for six months every year; we’re opening an exquisite Italian piazza, and we’re going to run specialty events. We are also working on opening a Cinema for our guests very soon.
What’s your general mission statement for the hotel?
To bring the revenue up sky high and become one of the best hotels in town.
What are the main problems that face you as a GM?
No problems at all because we constantly work on fixing them if they exist. We never fix the complaint, we simply cure the core problem.
What are the main aspects that separate Royal Maxim from the competition?
We have the best guest room products; we never take part in price wars, so we never compromise quality. We have outstanding ballrooms, which are ideal for wedding and convention markets, and we have excellent outlets including our extraordinary restaurants.
How does running a hotel in different countries affect a GM’s efforts?
You just have to know the public and what they want. Cultures affect your clients’ needs. You have to know how to properly communicate with a Chinese or a Saudi. You have to comprehend their customs in order to satisfy them and grant them what they want.
Does a man in your position have time for family and a social life?
I never take any jobs where my family would not be able to join me. I have a very strong relationship with my girls. We cook together, we go out together, and in summer, we rent a bungalow in Scandinavia where we do countless activities together. So yes, I do make time for my beautiful family
What is your opinion on VIP treatment policies?
VIP treatment can be very tricky depending on who is visiting. There is not a standard VIP treatment. Everybody has different demands, so we have to receive the details of that special guest before they visit in order to give them the superior treatment that they need.
Do you ever get homesick?
When people ask me what my favourite place in the world is, I never know how to answer. There’s always the right country to be in at a specific time. For instance, when you’re single, you can work in Saudi, whereas Egypt is the place you stay at when you crave a flamboyant, loud, and joyous life. But am I homesick? Only lately. At first, travelling was exciting and it still very much is, but I do miss my homes in Vienna and Tyrol. I miss buying fruits and vegetables from a biological farmer, so of course I get homesick sometimes, but only sometimes.
You’re finally back to Egypt. What food are you most excited for?
[Laughs] I love Shawarma drenched in Tahina and wrapped in steaming hot Syrian bread.
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