Hotelier Middle East Awards 2017: The story is just beginning...

Hotelier Middle East catches up with the winners of the 12th Hotelier Middle East Awards to find out where they are today, and how their win has helped them in their careers

Reports

Fitness/ Spa Person of the Year

Paris Kounoudis, Director of spa, The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal

How has winning a Hotelier Award impacted your career?

Winning a Hotelier Award has definitely helped my career as I have been recognised from my company worldwide as well as from colleagues all around Middle East and Africa. It’s a prestigious award and has helped me to boost my career establishing myself as one of the best in the region.

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What advice would you give other hoteliers hoping to win?

My advice is that since the awards are based on achievements, candidates need to focus on their business, increasing all measurable parameters like guest satisfaction, revenue, profit, etc. and create and develop new innovating ideas to drive all key elements of their business. If they have a proven record of doing that then they are very close to winning.

Are you still working at the same hotel?

I am taking a new position in September within the company as director of lifestyle in a new opening luxury collection resort.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I will keep enjoying my work in hotels and I hope I will climb the hotel management ladder.

Housekeeper of the Year

Akshi Singh, Cluster Director of Housekeeping, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn Al Thuraya City, Kuwait

How has winning a Hotelier Award impacted your career?

Winning a Hotelier Award has been a dream I aspired for long and it is now my USP. I am now writing features in local magazines and also am invited for several forums and meetings. Overall it has focused a spotlight on me which has served as a tremendous motivation and has got me recognition and respect internationally.

Are you still at the same hotel?

Yes. I am at the same hotel, but manage two properties as a cluster director. We are in the process of opening an InterContinental hotel in 2018. We will have all three brands in a single complex — namely a Holiday Inn; a Crowne Plaza, and the new InterContinental property.

What advice would you give other hoteliers also hoping to win a Hotelier Award?

What I would say to all aspirants of the award is that, if you want to be facilitated by the Hotelier Awards you really need to be a leader and in both thinking and doing. The award gets the best pitted against the best and an elite panel of distinguished industry specialists judge your achievements. You need to show not only that you are a master of your game but also a game changer.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I am passionate about my arena and aim to manage multiple properties under my belt. Having a team of highly efficient and dedicated executive housekeepers assist me in redefining, elevating, and innovating the standards of housekeeping.

Sales Person of the Year

Dorsai Khaghani, Director of Sales and Marketing, Sofitel the Palm Dubai

How has winning a Hotelier Award impacted your career?

Being recognised as the Sales Person of the Year was certainly a great achievement in my career, which has opened doors to new opportunities within leading luxury hotel chains in Dubai. The support and appreciation I have received from my colleagues and clients have been heart-warming.

What advice would you give other hoteliers hoping to win a Hotelier Award?

It’s not about winning or losing. Being shortlisted in a category is an accomplishments on its own, one to be immensely proud of!

Are you still at the same hotel?

Proudly, yes.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

Growing within AccorHotels, responsible for future openings within the luxury segment and handling more than one hotel.

Hotel Engineer of the Year

Basant Kumar Kushwaha, Director of Engineering, Kempinski Hotel Ajman

How has winning a Hotelier Award impacted your career?

Having the Hotelier Middle East award is a great recognition for self-motivation and within my professional network. I received wide exposure on social media. Many people contacted me to get insights into the award and were eager to know more details of my achievements. I feel I have had the opportunity to be a mentor to these people as I was able to share with them the best practices and encourage them to develop new ideas for their hotel properties.

What advice would you give other hoteliers also hoping to win a Hotelier Award?

After such a long series of Hotelier Awards, it has been very competitive. People are getting involved, and expect to be the best. So definitely, my advice for prospective award winners would be to try to make a difference in your organisation, be innovative, and achieve the best results.

Are you still at the same hotel?

Yes, I am still working with Kempinski Hotel Ajman and am trying to implement some more innovative and practical ideas. I have got the opportunity to experiment and improve financial results in specific areas.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I am planning to continue working with Kempinski in order to grow my career experience in the hotel industry. I aim to gain a deeper knowledge of sustainability. And definitely, I would then like to work with some bigger-scale properties where the opportunity to implement green initiatives and sustainable ideas is greater.

Safety & Security Manager of the Year

Mohammed Al-Shishani, Director of Security, Safety, and Loss Prevention, Four Seasons Hotel Amman

How has winning a Hotelier Award impacted your career?

Winning the Hotelier Middle East Award has had a very positive impact on my career at Four Seasons Hotel Amman, Jordan through the recognition I have received from both the hotel management and guests. This award continues to cement the hotel’s position in the country as the most prestigious address but also the safest and most secure property for all guests, team members, contractors, general visitors, and employees of the hotel.

What advice would you give other hoteliers hoping to win a Hotelier Award?

My advice is twofold — the first is be as innovative as possible when it comes to your work; think outside the box. And secondly, own what you do and take accountability of all your actions, be it postitive or negative.

Are you still at the same hotel?

Yes I am still with the Four Seasons Hotel Amman as director of security, safety and loss prevention.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

First and foremost, I hope to continue to win prestigious awards like this one. It’s a very satisfying feeling to see your hard work and efforts being recognised. After I received this award, Four Seasons globally is recognising me even mor,e and additionally, they are using our property in Amman as a case study for all other properties for follow suit when it comes to safety and security. And finally, I would also like to see my career developing on a global level.

IT Person of the Year

Roger Tabbal, Former Director of IT,  Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Lakes Towers

How has winning a Hotelier Award impacted your career?

After winning the prestigious Hotlier Midde East Award, better recognition and more appreciation from the management has surrounded my daily work, which has added to my personal pride and self-satisfaction. This achievement was one of other factors which contributed to my transfer to the corporate office.

What advice would you give other hoteliers hoping to win a Hotelier Award?

My advice to the IT colleagues is to keep on working hard and never give up. Every person will be rewarded on his effort one day, it’s a matter of right timing; all you need is optimism and ambition. The key point is the drive, entrepreneurship, and trust that you gain from the management.

Are you still with the same property?

I have been promoted last November to the corporate centre as IT director for customer service for Movenpick Hotels worldwide. I also became part of the IT executive team of the company and am responsible for major decisions taken in the technology and innovation department.

How do you see your career progressing in the next five years; what are your goals?

Working within the same company to which I embrace loyalty and gratitude, I will be enhancing my experience and working closely with the senior IT team to leverage our technology services and mark a mark in every new hotel that we open.

HR & Training Person of the Year

Lynne McGarvey, Training Manager, Media One Hotel

How has winning a Hotelier Award impacted your career?

It was a huge honour to be recognised by the Hotelier Middle East panel as the HR & Training Person of the Year in 2016. As well as giving me a great sense of pride and recognition it has also given me a chance to build a relationship with many other amazing hospitality professionals.

What advice would you give other hoteliers also hoping to win a Hotelier Award?

Do not focus on trying to win the Hotelier Award, just focus on doing the best job you can every single day with passion. Look after your guests and team alike. If you love your job it will show.  On the night itself, don’t forget to enjoy it! I will never forget that winning moment.

Are you still at the same hotel?

Yes. At Media One no two days are ever the same. We work in such a fast paced, ever-changing, and fun environment. Last year we also picked up the Hotel Team of the Year award and the reason for that is that we are all one big family driving towards making the Media One experience the best it can possibly be for the guest. I love being part of such a vibrant, award winning team.

How do you see your career progressing in the next five years; what are your ambitions?

Still working in the world of hospitality, doing a job that I love, learning, and enjoying every day. Hospitality is a career that offers an unlimited number of disciplines all with the same goal — keeping people happy and helping them have a great time.

Procurement Manager of the Year

Stelios Damianelis, Former Director of Procurement, Intercontinental Dubai Festival City

Stelios Damianelis has moved on from his role at InterContinental Dubai Festival City to Majid Al Futtaim as a senior manager for procurement and hotels development — hotels. When Hotelier Middle East reached out to him, the corporate office declined to comment.

Concierge/ Guest Services Person of the Year

Luca Valdevit, Front Office MKanager, Kempinski Hotel Ajman

How has winning a Hotelier Award impacted your career?

It has been a great privilege to win such a prestigious award. I consider the Hotelier Awards in the Middle East hospitality industry to be equally as important as the Oscars in the film industry. Winning the award has not impacted my career so much, as much as it has impacted my overall image and name. For example, as soon as I would introduce myself upon meeting industry peers, they would immediately recognise me as the Hotelier Award winner, which is a great ice breaker and ignites the interest about my career achievements and choices, which I have made along the way, to reach to the point where I am today.

What advice would you give other hoteliers hoping to win a Hotelier Award?

Regardless, if you will ultimately win or not, being already chosen amongst all the colleagues to be nominated, and to be able to share your story and career achievements is a great honour. It is crucial to be humble about it and to continue doing your best — to lead by example, and most importantly — to be patient as good things take time.

Are you still at the same hotel?

I am currently gearing up for an exciting new venture within the company, as I still consider myself as the ‘Kempinski Kid’ and loyal to the brand, already for the sixth continuous year. I would prefer not to lift the shield from the secret by revealing the position and the new country, which I’m heading to, as the official announcement is still yet to come. Thus, I can say that my career path continues in the region and one of my long-term dreams will become true.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

My goal is to position myself on a leadership role amongst senior management, such as director of operations or executive assistant manager (EAM), overseeing all aspects of the hotel’s daily operations and working hand-in-hand with the general manager.

Finance Person of the Year

Mohamed Farag, Director of Finance and Business Support, Crowne Plaza — The Business Park

How has winning an Hotelier Award impacted your career?

Winning the award has had a great impact on my career in many areas, after receiving the award I’ve been crowned as ‘The Best Finance Leader IMEA’ (India, Middle East & Africa) from IHG. Aside from being recognised due to my commitment and performance, it was due to the award that I have received from Hotelier Middle East. I got the chance to share my experience and how I won this award with some of my senior leaders too.

What advice would you give other hoteliers also hoping to win a Hotelier Award?

Hospitality is one of the best and dynamic industries to work for; however, it’s not easy. Without passion and eagerness, it’s impossible to learn and keep learning. Love what you do, this will allow you to shine always and it’s worth the efforts you put in. The hospitality industry has lots of challenges; however, in each a challenge there are great opportunities... find it, then taste the success (it’s really tasty). This how I won my award.

Are you still working at the same hotel?

Currently, I’m still in the same hotel, however, my responsibility has been expanded to cover two hotels, Crowne Plaza & Holiday Inn — The Business Park (almost 700 rooms’ inventory with two completely different brands). The Hotelier Middle East Award has been a motivator for some recruiters to approach me; however, the time to move on hasn’t come yet.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

This question has been asked quite a few time since I have won the award. I will be better than what I am today. I am driven to be the best at what I do and I want to work somewhere where I will have opportunities to develop my skills, take on interesting projects, add value and work with people I can really learn from.

Marketing and PR Person of the Year

Deveekaa Nijhawan, Former Complex Public Relations and Communications Manager, Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre

How has winning a Hotelier Award impacted your career?

Wining the award has been a milestone in my professional career. I still cherish the moment I received the award. It made me feel like a celebrity as many people from the industry congratulated me and acknowledged my achievements. It gave me both national and international recognition and it imparted a strong re-affirmation that my career was moving in the right direction.

What advice would you give other hoteliers also hoping to win a Hotelier Award?

Have confidence in yourself and be passionate about what you do. Be your true self and open to criticism, but never let others pull you back. If you have confidence in yourself, others will do as well. You should set professional goals at the onset and define the trajectory for your career progression. Always aim high and constantly learn from others and your mistakes to improve your skills. Be aware of the industry trends, new technology developments, and competitive landscape. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box and of failures — they help you to grow by enhancing your knowledge.

Are you still at the same hotel?

A lot has changed for me in the last year, including being offered the role of director of public relations & communications by Minor Hotels at Niyama Private Islands in the Maldives. I took on the responsibilities of my new position in July. I am responsible for all PR, marketing, and digital communications activities for the resort.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

My goal is to be responsible for the PR and communication activities for an international brand at a global level. I would love to work with hotels on pre-openings, travel the world, meet colleagues and customers from different countries and embrace different cultures. From the onset I have been a globetrotter exemplified by having lived in India, Sri Lanka, the UK, KSA, Oman, the UAE, and now Maldives. Hopefully my career helps me in expanding this list even further.

Executive Chef of the Year 

Stephen Wright, Former Executive chef, Marriott Marquis City Centre

How has winning a Hotelier middle east Award impacted your career?

To be recognised for this achievement and award was completely unexpected; I was more than happy just to be nominated. As such, I believe that the Hotelier Award gave recognition to not only myself, but to the outstanding job the entire culinary and hotel team were doing. Without their help, the award would not have been possible. I think it was a great achievement for what we did in the hotel. I was very pleased to accept it and get recognised, which in turn has brought a little bit of spotlight on myself which is never a bad thing.

What advice would you give other hoteliers hoping to win a Hotelier Award?

The best advice I can give is to focus on what matters the most: our staff and guests, the two most important things in any hotel. With staff and associates, motivate them to come to work, enjoy work, and ensure that have a clear path of their own progression then they will ensure that your guests get the best service and experience possible which in turn ensures a hotel’s success. 

Are you still working at the same hotel?

I have moved on from the Marriott Marquis City Centre but I am still with the company. I recently joined our corporate office in Dubai as the director of culinary for Marriott Hotels in the Middle East and Africa.

How do you see your career progressing in the next five years; what are your goals?

In all honesty I have just started this new role and with the growth that Marriott is going through, especially in this region, it’s just a very exciting time to be with the company, so at this point in time l am solely focused on my current position. 

Unsung Hero of the Year

Lama Fernando, Carpenter-cum-Polisher, Crowne Plaza Bahrain

How has winning a Hotelier Award impacted your career?

It was very exciting winning the Hotelier Middle East 2016 award for the category of Unsung Hero which made my career more thrilling in my trade. I have been recognised more in my hotel and also amongst my colleagues than earlier. This has given me the opportunity to showcase myself more often.

What advice would you give other hoteliers also hoping to win a Hotelier Award?

If a task is assigned, complete it with great passion and to make sure to go an extra mile; this will result in your hard work being recognised on such a level.

Are you still working at the same hotel?

Yes, I am still working for Crowne Plaza Hotel Bahrain.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

Unfortunately, I will be retiring from the hotel and the organisation, and getting back to my country.

F&B Manager of the Year

Patrick Fernandez, F&B Manager, Jumeirah Beach Hotel

How has winning a Hotelier Award impacted your career?

Winning the award has personally boosted my confidence and the way I look at things. I also think it has impacted the careers of my colleagues by motivating them to excel in what they do.

What advice would you give others hoping to win a Hotelier Award?

A great platform to showcase what you have, what you are, and the rest will follow.

Are you still working at the same hotel?

Yes; however in a month’s time I will be moving to sister property, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, in the role of assistant director F&B.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I would like to become a hotel manager.

General Manager of the Year

Maria Tullberg, General Manager, Radisson Blu Hotel Dubai Deira Creek

How has winning a Hotelier Award impacted your career?

There wasn’t any direct impact on the career, but it has definitely created a boost in interest for my persona. After that I have received more requests to speak at various events and has broadened by network.

What advice would you give other hoteliers hoping to win a Hotelier Award?

‘Go for it.’ It’s a perfect way to promote yourself as an individual, great for your hotel, and it sets an example for individual high performing team members.

Are you still working at the same hotel?

Yes I am. I have received a few offers after winning the award, but for the time being I’m committed to Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek, and the exciting development phase we are going through at the moment. I’m also very pleased and proud to be a part of the Rezidor family.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

Ideally, I would still like to see myself living in Dubai. Career-wise, in five years I would see myself in either a cluster role or district director role.

Young Hotelier of the Year

Grégoire Berger, chef de cuisine, Ossiano, Atlantis the Palm

How has winning a Hotelier Award impacted your career?

It’s been an amazing year that has passed. In short I will say it was challenging, developing, inspiring, and most of all constantly motivating. Not only did winning this prestigious award impact my own career but it also bought new guests to Ossiano who were impressed with the recognition. Winning the award has also helped confirm my approach to Ossiano, to my team, and to my work is going in the right direction. I feel very proud.

What advice would you give other hoteliers hoping to win a Hotelier Award?

Always to focus on being your very best, every day. Be humble, lead by example and most of all be passionate. Your work will not go unnoticed.

Are you still at the same hotel?

Yes, I am still with Ossiano at Atlantis, The Palm

Where do you see yourself in the next five years; what are your ambitions?

If Michelin comes to the region, I’d like to stay at Ossiano and secure some stars!

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