Five Minutes With: Phoenicia Hotel Beirut general manager
Manrique Rodriguez talks about the resurgence of the Lebanese tourism market at new developments at the landmark property
We catch up with Phoenicia Hotel Beirut general manager Manrique Rodriguez
What was your first role in the hotel industry?
I’ve been with InterContinental Hotels Group for 30 years now. I started as a management trainee in Caracas, Venezuela, moving into the Food & Beverage department and making my way to Executive Assistant roles, then Hotel Manager and General Manager across various markets such as Brazil, USA, Australia, Spain and now Lebanon.
Name one challenge and one opportunity that comes with running a heritage property such as the Phoenicia.
The Phoenicia is a flagship hotel in the city and indeed in the region, and with this level of reputation comes very high guest expectations. But this is a challenge we relish; when it comes to our service, we aspire to deliver a world-class experiences and not only meet but exceed expectations. Similarly, with the facilities we offer at the hotel we ensure they remain in excellent condition to maintain the glamorous yet authentic image of this institution, this can be painstaking work, but the results are undeniable. And so, the opportunity that I have with running such a landmark property is the strong foundation the hotel has that enables us to maintain our position as leaders in the field and continue to welcome guests from all over the world.
What are three key things that any successful hotel manager should have in mind?
• Guest satisfaction: the most essential thing in a hotel is our guests. Guest satisfaction is key in the hotel’s success, generating positive word of mouth and driving loyalty.
• Employee engagement: the second most important investment is the personnel. What makes or breaks a business is the team behind it all. They need to feel confident and empowered to contribute to the success of the hotel, which of course in turn positively affects the guest satisfaction index.
• Stakeholders’ alignment: I have been entrusted to run this legendary property and oversee operations that are aligned with overall business objectives. Therefore, it is fundamental to be aligned with the stakeholder’s vision and goals in order to have a healthy working environment and achieve success.
Would you say that you’re seeing a resurgence of tourists coming to Lebanon?
There has definitely been a resurgence of tourists coming back to Lebanon for the past two years now. We’re witnessing a healthy increase in demand coming from various markets. We are welcoming guests from all over the world – of course the GCC is the main market feeder but we are also seeing more and more travellers from Europe (Spain, France, UK, Italy, etc.), especially now with the direct flights provided from/to Europe. The Latin American market is also an important one, including the Lebanese diaspora and nationals living there.
Are guests in this region more demanding in terms of service standards?
Not exactly, no. The hospitality industry in general requires a certain level of standards and that’s particularly vital for luxury hotels. Whether in terms of service, product or facilities, the expectations are very high, and guests demand the level of quality promised to them. We go all out to deliver the true level of hospitality, always exceeding the guests’ expectations, from the welcoming point to the check-out process.
Can you share any new developments with us?
We’ve redesigned our ballroom and banquet area with a new carpet and furniture. The design was created by Martin Hulbert with a spectacular contemporary carpet. For inspiration, Martin took into consideration our Mediterranean heritage and added his signature contemporary, classic elegant style. We have extended our renovations to include newly installed state-of-the-art technology, to ensure a top-notch experience. Coming up, we’re also working with Martin Hulbert on various new designs throughout the hotel. The first of these will be a new, exciting uplifting design for Amethyste, our outdoor pool lounge area, to begin early next year.