Redefining Hospitality in Cairo
It’s not every day you get to hear about a woman flourishing in affluent male-dominated fields like hospitality. Caroline Selim has recently been appointed General Manager of Sonesta Hotel Tower & Casino, and humble as she is about her recent history-making promotion, Selim managed to spare some time from her hectic schedule to have a chat with us on how she made it to the top.
Tell us how your hospitality journey began. Is this what you have always wanted to do?
I started working since my first year of university to gain as much experience as I could, so I could pursue my goals and dreams in the hospitality business. I then worked at multiple tourism agencies in Egypt and then Kuwait. A few years later, I returned back to Egypt to continue my journey.
You are considered the first Egyptian woman to be assigned the position of General Manager in a major luxury hotel in Cairo. How did you do it?
Actually, I am not the first Egyptian woman to be assigned the position of General Manager here, but there are very few you don’t hear of. With hard work, passion and determination any woman can pursue her goals.
What was your reaction to this promotion?
I was surprised because I didn’t know beforehand, but I felt that years of hard work have finally paid off, and I instantly felt the sense of responsibility to take the hotel to a whole new level of excellence.
What are the perks of being a General Manager of such a reputable hotel?
Of course, it is an honour to be the head of such a beautiful, reputable property, although it is not an easy task to manage such a big hotel with more than 550 employees and thousands of guests to satisfy every day. On the other hand, it feels great to be someone who managed to reach the highest level in management after over 28 years in the field.
You have garnered global experience in the hospitality field. Tell us why you prefer to stay in Egypt.
I have been around the world. I’ve seen it all, and experienced the tastes of every corner, but there’s no place like home…especially if your home is Egypt. If I can be of any help to my country, I will never turn my back and leave.
Does this career leave you with enough time for leisure and a proper social life? How do you deal with overwhelming schedules?
It definitely affects my social life, but I have a very supportive and understanding family. I always try to manage my time in the most efficient way. Also, I always try to balance between work and my personal life.
Where would you place Egypt’s tourism status today on the market scale? Is there growth or hindrance?
Egypt’s tourism has been going through tough times since 2011. But since last year, things have gradually started to get better, and I believe that by the coming winter season, we will have been back to the elevating track where we left it in 2010.
Is it difficult to try to maintain the hotel’s heritage while trying to balance that with modern demands?
No, it is not a problem. We just keep the heritage as our mainframe and work to implement the latest trends, features and technology to offer our clients the highest quality in comfort accommodation, while maintaining our sense of style.
Do you consider the Food & Beverage part of the field to pose its own set of challenges?
Food & Beverage is the important part of the hospitality equation. If you are known for your fine cuisines, your clients will be even more satisfied in their stay, and it remains an opportunity to attract people and increase revenue.
Do you think it’s important to offer a personalised guest experience? How do you take care of that?
I believe that personalised service is the way to make our guests feel at home, while also feeling important and welcomed. Our long-staying and loyal guests would attest to that. We also try to give this privilege to one-night-stay visitors.
Any advice for those in the hospitality field?
We have a lot to advise our colleagues and the new generation in hospitality. For those in high management: they have to take good care of the new generation, and train them by showing them world-class levels of hospitality. High management has to make sure that the new generation is eager and determined to sharpen their skills, so they can elevate the industry’s standards and secure their own successful career.
What’s next for Caroline?
Every day is a new challenge; every hour there is more to learn. I will keep on pushing ahead – the sky is the limit.