Front-of-House: Meet the director of rooms, The H Dubai
Shadi Al Hakim, director of rooms at The H Dubai talks about his role, the challenges he faced and more
Tell us about your role.
As the director of rooms at The H Dubai, I oversee all the front office, guest service and housekeeping departments. I also oversee the health club and spa operations at the hotel. I lead a total team of 96 staff who work in these departments ensuring a high level of guest service.
Apart from leading the operations, I am also actively engaged in the planning of budgets, personnel acquisition and training, ensuring quality and compliance across the board.
What made you want to work in hospitality?
My calling to work in hospitality came when I had just graduated from college with a degree in business administration and management back in 2005 when the hospitality industry was beginning to really take off in Dubai. I am from this region and hospitality is a big part of Arabic culture so the attraction of working in this vibrant industry came very naturally to me at that time and I was able to fit in seamlessly right from the beginning.
One of the biggest obstacles that I have faced in my career growth, but I am happy to see it changing now, is the limited access to quality hotel schools in the Middle East.
Out of the top ten hotel schools in the world, only one is located in the Middle East and it was only founded in 2001 while the rest of the hotel schools in Europe go as far back as the early 1900s. Although I have achieved a lot of growth in my career since starting out as a reception agent, I believe that my career could have grown even faster if I had the exposure to hotel schools earlier on. This is something I want to change for the future generations to come.
What makes you thrive in your place of work?
The hospitality industry in Dubai is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy and with this comes a lot of competition in the market. I thrive off the competition which is constantly driving me to keep learning and being innovative in how my team delivers quality guest experiences.
I also find it very exciting to work in a multi-cultural environment with more than 200 nationalities. I enjoy that I am challenged to prove my skills day after day and bear a great responsibility in my job and this gives me a sense of purpose.
Tell us about your experience in the industry.
I graduated with a degree from Damascus University in business administration and management shortly after which I started my career in hospitality as a waiter with Rotana hotels and I moved to the front office department. Within a year of joining Rotana hotels I was promoted to front office team leader and again to front desk manager and then duty manager.
I ended my tenure with Rotana hotels by joining Raffles Dubai in 2012 where I was appointed assistant front office manager and later promoted to front office manager.
In 2016, I was fortunate to join the H Dubai as director of front office operations, then promoted to room division manager and most recently to the position of director of rooms.
How do you monitor feedback?
I find that having as much face to face feedback with my guests to be the most effective approach to ensuring complete guest satisfaction. Having spent a lot of time in front office operations in my past experience, I have made it a habit to be consistent in my visits to the hotel lobby and build relationships with my guests.
While social media, surveys and other monitoring programmes available in the market are great tools for getting feedback from guests, they are reactive and cannot compare to face to face feedback which comes before the guest has left the hotel.
These technologies such as Review Pro are helping me to predict my guest’s desires and minimizes putting the business in a reactive state.
What is the trickiest situation that you have had to deal with?
Once a wealthy guest requested to have a BMW 7 series limousine the latest model, to pick him and his wife up from the airport, with a recliner back seat as his wife was pregnant but the car was not available in the market. There was just one available in Abu Dhabi. It was challenging, but I got it arranged and got the team to get the car to the guest. He was extremely happy that I accommodated his last minute request.
What do you do to self-motivate yourself?
Being eager to learn and adapt to change has been the biggest drive factor in my career growth. The hospitality industry has a long history and being one of the fastest growing industries it has allowed me to develop myself both professionally and personally.
I am also very motivated by the fact that I have the opportunity every day to meet and socialise with people — both staff and guests who represent a diverse range of nationalities.
Finally, the reason the biggest motivating factor for me is that hospitality is simply so much fun. All the dynamics, all the shifting with different responsibilities and the feeling you have when you start training and end up in a managing position, it’s more than satisfactory at the end of the day.
Five tips for guest satisfaction:
• Be available to your guests: It is worth taking your time to know your guests — not just as numbers in your CRM but as friends.
• Happy staff = Happy guests: Always remember that employees don't quit jobs; they often quit bosses. Your business as management is to take care of the staff and the staff will, in turn, take care of your guests who in turn will take care of the brand which takes care of you.
• Educate your staff about how they affect the hotel brand with their everyday actions: It is not enough to train your frontline staff in the systems, procedures or knowledge for their part of the service chain. As management, you need to actively share the bigger organisational ambitions and give real-life examples of how their actions can impact the reputation of the hotel.
• Put the management team in the shoes of the guests: Make sure that your staff has the opportunity to experience the hotel as guests from time to time.
• Be honest: Guests appreciate it. It pays to interact with your guests and educate them for better understanding.