Careers: Sweet Success
Now based in Sweden, Annelie Alhallaq-Bea earned her hospitality management degree at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management (EAHM)
Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management alumnus Annelie Alhallaq-Bea speaks to Hotelier Middle East about how her education has impacted her career, her defi nition of hospitality and her advice for
Did you always want to work in the hospitality sector?
Definitely! Both my parents worked for many years as executive chefs in renowned hotels and restaurants around Europe, so I grew up hearing plenty of stories about the ins and the outs of the industry. When I was born my parents ventured in to the retail sector and thereafter went on to start two different chocolate businesses. I spent many years working alongside them with product development, chocolate education directly to the consumer, production, exhibitions, health and safety processes, retail and customer service.
In Sweden, even today there are no internationally reputed hospitality management degree providers at university level, only a few local vocational programs. As I was looking to gain a degree or two from a reputed and internationally accredited university, I decided to leave the retail business and chocolate business for a while to get a hospitality business management degree at The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management (EAHM) and follow my dreams at the heart of hospitality. At the time, Dubai was not really on the map, but everything I had heard and from what I saw in hospitality trade magazines and online, this was the place to be!
During my time in Dubai, I had the opportunity to work for several internationally renowned hospitality
companies whilst completing my BScHons and MBA. The experience I gained from working for fi ve- and seven-star companies in a destination like Dubai and especially in my last role as senior manager of quality,
institutional effectiveness and risk at Jumeirah Group - EAHM, is something very valuable to me as I use it in my day to day operations at Pralinhuset. Now after a decade has passed, I am so grateful for the fantastic education I received and exhilarating experiences I have had in Dubai.
Two months ago I returned to Sweden with my husband Ahmad, who also studied at EAHM, and our two daughters, to together join the family business Pralin Huset and manage primarily the production, wholesale, events and exhibitions, health, safety and quality management processes For me ‘hospitality’ is not a word that I only associate with hotels and restaurants, it’s a word that I passionately relate to anything that has to do with people management, customer interaction, teamwork and delivering high quality products and services. And now that I have the opportunity to provide hospitality to chocolate lovers is just the cherry on the top!
Are companies in the region becoming more receptive to implementing sustainable initiatives?
Born and raised in Sweden with parents from Germany and the Netherlands, sustainable practices and recycling is a daily topic and is something we think about at work, on the way to and from work and at home. With government-enforced sustainability practices, we, as a high quality chocolate business, ensure that we do our best to buy from the right suppliers, use recyclable packaging, implement new sustainability initiatives and sell sustainable products at high quality.
I believe the UAE and parts of the region are working hard on trying to improve and promote sustainable initiatives and if the government continues to push for further sustainable practices, educates the population and also implements required legislation, I believe Dubai especially can become one of the world’s leading destinations in recycling initiatives and sustainability efforts. Education is the key though to getting more companies on-board and to encouraging the residents to partake in the regions sustainability initiatives and practices. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to combine sustainability education with hospitality at EAHM and in my career and I hope education providers and businesses invest in the required education.
What is something simple that properties can do to optimise energy consumption?
I would say relate statistics to everyday lives and imbed sustainability goals into
key performance targets. Encourage participation, run competitions or even incentivise all staff for team efforts in saving energy. Let them tell you what can be done. They usually have several tricks up their sleeves. But again education is so important and not only in English and Arabic but also in other languages. People ask themselves 'what is in it for me?', as long as they see the value in what they get back, people will get on-board. In residences around the UAE, I believe that just by educating parents, domestic workers and property caretakers about sustainable practices and recycling, the country will go far in its development.
Technology is playing an increasingly important role in hospitality.
What are some trends that you’re seeing?
With what is happening around the world, we cannot work or live without technology. With more people working from home or remotely, I think a greater focus will be on how to improve online security and infrastructure for companies who have staff members working remotely. Can everyone connect to high speed internet and does everyone have access to what they need access to? Unfortunately, we sometimes still take it for granted that everyone has the equipment, the WIFI connectivity, the suitable environment and the space to work in. If WIFI is included or easily available, should not be a questions asked in many countries which have the economy and infrastructure to support ease of connectivity. This should be common practice. It’s no longer about ‘hands-free’, but more about ‘contact-free’ services especially in hospitality, Part of the charm of arriving at a hotel and receiving excellent service has always been the connectivity with real people and not just screens.
But now we do see the industry moving more towards offering automated and ‘contact-free’ options to travelers and business. How artifi cial intelligence and big data can help us work better remotely and manage our staff and business more effi ciently online in the hospitality business and service industries, will be exciting to see. As long as we all remember the basics and don’t forget that not everyone in the team or in the public is as knowledgeable about technology as others, I think we will see some great advances in the near future.
How did EAHM impact your career?
In every way possible as an alumni and ex-colleague! I would not be the business person, wife, mother and quality focused individual I am today if it was not for great education and work experience I had at EAHM over the past decade in a destination so exiting as Dubai, I miss it every day!
What advice would you give to prospective students?
You can always learn to love it, it's all about your attitude. Not everything is easy in life. You will face challenges and you will learn from every situation you fi nd yourself in. You never know what will happen and who you will meet along the way, so make the most out of every activity you engage in! Education is something extremely valuable, so every penny or minute you invest, ensure you get something out of it. Do your research and ensure you choose a university that is right for you and that is not only locally but also internationally accredited.