New Recruit: Hilton Dubai's Julien Besancon
Julien Besancon has more than 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry, including eight years with Hilton across the Middle East; he reveals that he aspires to become a general manager at a Hilton hotel someday
What inspired you to get into the hospitality industry?
My great-grandmother owned a number of bars in my hometown, Lyon, France and when I was younger, I used to visit her bars a lot. I was fascinated with the hospitality industry right from the beginning. My father too owned a company that supplied equipment and furniture to hotels, so I got to visit hundreds of different hotels and their operations over the years, which compounded my love of the industry.
Having been strongly involved in the operations, especially F&B of a hotel, would you say it is the most natural progression to be a general manager?
I still remember one of the general managers I worked with in an Abu Dhabi hotel saying that the best general managers come from F&B backgrounds. This is because you have to take lot of ownership in the revenue and profit, flexibility, people, customers, and suppliers. You truly are exposed to the A to Z of operations, rather than one part or another.
How has your previous work experience inspired you to get to where you are today?
Over the years I have worked with a number of great general managers who were all fantastic at their jobs for various reasons. Some focused more on quality, which inspired me to always provide a top quality customer experience. Some were very cost conscious, which taught me to ensure all costs were kept in line and to always have the bottom line in mind when making decisions. They all taught me a lot and inspired me to blend these traits in my work ethic.
My last general manager in particular was instrumental in my food and beverage development, teaching me a lot about the commercial side of the business. This has put me in good stead for my current position as director of operations at the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah and the Hilton Dubai The Walk, and has given me the confidence to make the changes to push the hotels as leading F&B hotspots in the city.
What are some of the challenges and the opportunities you foresee in your role?
There has been a surge in F&B offerings in JBR over the past few years, this means we have to continually come up with new and fresh ideas, and ensure the highest standards of service are maintained consistently. Finding the right people is always a challenge in this industry, but working for such a large operation gives us a great pool of talent to nurture and grow.
You started with Hilton in 2004, and then moved to other groups, what brought you back to Hilton in 2009?
I wanted to move to the UK to further develop my English language skills. I had an opportunity to move with another group and took it, but I always missed the Hilton family, so when the opportunity arose to come back I snapped it up. Hilton is unlike any other hotel chain I have worked for in terms of service and training, two things I hold highly.
Where has been your favourite place to work so far, and why?
Dubai is and always will be my favourite, I love the fast-paced and ever changing face of the city. It keeps us on our toes and forces us to constantly think outside the box to ensure we stay relevant.