July ‘15
Insight Interview

July ‘15
Radisson Blu
Radisson Blu


With an extensive background in the hospitality industry, Harald Buerkle brings managerial experience and a range of other hospitality-related skills as the General Manager of Radisson Blu Hotel Cairo, Heliopolis'¦

What can you tell us about yourself?

I am a very passionate Hotelier; I have started in the industry as a Chef when I was just 16 years old in Germany. I moved around the country for a while before I started working in different countries with different cultures.

What has been your favorite country so far?

My favorite country is a little bit difficult, because I didn't find it yet. I think wherever you go you find very positive things that you always remember and some things that are not so ideal. I enjoy being in Egypt at the moment, it has been such a nice experience that I have never experienced before.

What about your journey with Radisson Blu?

My Journey with Radisson Blu started in 2005 in Kiev. Rezidor was the first international hotel to open in the Ukrainian Kiev and I was part of the pre-opening team as Executive Chef. A year later I was promoted to F&B Manager. Two years later I joined Radisson Blu Stansted in London as Director of Operations. I spent another two and a half years in UK then I had a very short stop in Germany where I worked as General Manager. Then I received an offer to move back to Russia to open two hotels in Sochi for the Winter Olympics in 2014, and then I moved to Cairo.

How has your journey in Cairo been so far?

A very exciting one! It's my first experience in the Middle East. It's normal that you face different challenges when you move to a new country with a different culture, but it's as simple as how you prepare yourself and open your arms to new adventures. But so far it has been a very promising experience. A big part of it is the people I work with and they are all very ambitious and very good, even if there was a challenge to find the right talents, especially in our competitive market.

How do you evaluate the hospitality business here in Egypt?

In terms of growth it's very promising. Since the beginning of my journey here in Egypt from last September, I witness a continuous positive movement in the market.

Then what do we miss?

We miss the positive feedback from the media. Every little event in Egypt affects the business. We can't regain trust in the country especially with tourists, who represent a big proportion of the hospitality in Egypt, with negative news. The biggest challenge we are really facing is to regain a stable market in Egypt.

What's the secret behind the constant success of the hotel in Cairo?

In Rezidor we have a ' Yes I Can' philosophy. Every person from the smallest entry position to the top level is empowered to take a decision and participate in the process.

What was your vision when you first started?

Providing all our efforts to the 'Yes I Can' service. By doing this you achieve everything, of course with the will to win, to be innovative and open to new challenges.

What about your highlighting moments since you came to Cairo?

When I first arrived to the airport, it was very nice to see how nice, friendly and positive people are. The pick up I've had at the airport was amazing. We hear the same feedback from all our guests. If you have this kind of experience the first time you arrive to a country then you have a vey positive push.

What 's your mission statement for the hotel?

For me it's all about providing 'Yes I Can' service. If I compare the hotel to other hotels in terms of unique facilities some hotels have it and some hotels don't have it'¦ but at the end people make the difference and provide the service that's the focus of hospitality, and the better we can do this, the better we can differentiate ourselves in the competition.

What are the biggest challenges that face you in your position as a GM?

The people we work with. At the end we are in the people business and it's important to get all the people in the same understanding on what service means and to provide it especially when you're in contact with different countries and you need to treat each country differently. We are in an Arabic culture but we have international guests. We teach our employees the flexibility to keep their own culture yet offer international services inside the hotel and this is a big challenge.

How do you reach this balance?

You can only reach it by training and providing an atmosphere where people feel that they are welcome to take decisions and they are empowered to do that.

What separates Radisson Blu from its competition?

The entire venue is built on the 'Yes I Can' service. We want to be the most innovative hoteliers, which means we need to constantly improve our processes. You can see this in the constant renovations we are doing in the building, for instance in 'Filini' we recently renovated our food and drinks offers and it never stops. It is important as well to listen to your customers and provide them with new services.

What's your favorite restaurant in the hotel?

Definitely the Italian restaurant, I love the Lebanese as well, but I prefer Italian cuisine and I love to cook for myself Italian cuisine. 'Filini' became a franchised chain for the Radisson Blu brand. The Vespa as well is one of the main themes of 'Filini' in all franchises.

What are your plans for Ramadan?

Ramadan is all about traditions. For me, as I come from a very traditional part of Germany I believe we should focus on traditions. Yes we change our food offerings and presentations; we consider some new trends and always try to be innovative but we like to adapt the traditional spirit of Ramadan.

Any new outlets?

After Ramadan we'll have some pool parties during the weekends and summer nights for younger people to enjoy. This service is offered for the first time in Heliopolis area, it was only available downtown.

What are your coming projects?

Radisson Blu is now in the front line of a company commitment 'Women in Leadership' to address the imbalance of women in senior management positions, compared to their total numbers in the hospitality industry. As you know hospitality business presents some real challenges and especially in a very male dominated culture like Egypt. We have some tough guidelines set in the hotel to increase 'Women in Leadership', currently we have 16% of women in leadership positions and by 2016 we want to reach 30%. Which gives us much more diversity especially in the hotel. We are really focusing on having employment equality and recruiting real talents.

How can you evaluate your journey with Radisson Blu?

I always like to win as a person and I believe my journey has just started. It's important for me to be happy with what I am doing, whatever I achieve I question it the same moment by thinking how can I do this better.

How do you find your team members?

Very ambitious, sometime challenging because of the culture differences, but I am very happy with my team.

In your point of view what are the key factors to being a successful GM?

You need to love what you're doing, and be passionate about it. And to have the right people around you as well!

By Rania Ihab