Five questions with: Emaar Hospitality’s former CEO, Olivier Harnisch

Hotelier Middle East sits down with Emaar’s former CEO, Olivier Harnisch who talks about his first job, his love for flying planes and his advice to people in the hospitality industry

Emaar hospitality, Olivier harnisch, Take Five

What was your first job in the hospitality industry?
I started my hospitality career as a waiter in 1986 at the Hotel Negresco in Nice, France.

One piece of advice you would offer someone looking to work in the hotel sector?
Develop your own leadership style. In my career of 33 years, I have witnessed many leaders, both successful and less successful ones. It all comes down to style and how you do things. If you make mistakes learn and reflect on them. The ability to reflect on your performance and your behaviour in a constructive way is critical. You will make mistakes, but learn without beating yourself up.

What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t working in this industry?
I would be flying planes. I would be a pilot. In fact, I am a private pilot! I have been to the USA a couple of times to fly planes.

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Describe your typical working day?
No day is the same and this is why I am an hotelier. It’s such a colourful and amazing business. 
Sometimes I go to the office at 6 am, sometimes I go in at 9 am. There’s no two days that are common.

What would you say has been your most bizarre/fun experience so far?
My most fun experience was back in 1991 when I was a bar manager at the St Regis Hotel, New York.
One of our regular guests was musician Billy Joel. Back then, he was married to a famous model called Christie Brinkley and whenever she would travel, because he didn’t like to stay at home, he would stay at our hotel.
Sometimes he would sit in the hotel and start playing the piano and sing. He’s even played a private concert for us a couple of times. This is why I love the industry, no other industry creates such experiences.

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