Marhaba Interview: Sami Aawar, Mövenpick Hotel Doha General Manager
Marhaba interviews Sami Aawar, Mövenpick Hotel Doha General Manager.
You’ve spent much of your career with Mövenpick, but where did it all begin and how did you progress your career to where you are today?
It started 24 years ago with Al Bustan Hotel in my home city, Beirut, in Lebanon. I was an intern in the food and beverage department of the hotel at that time. I started my career from the bottom and went through all the levels in the hotel business.
I was attracted by the five-star luxury lifestyle, meeting people every day from various countries around the globe, well dressed and who wine and dine, so I decided that I want to be a part of this world. I started climbing up the ladder slow and steady, moving to the front office department, followed by heading the Rooms Division and then taking on the role of the Director of Operations across various properties, all of which eventually led me to where I am today ie the General Manager of Mövenpick Hotel Doha, Qatar
What motivated you to go into the hotel industry?
I have been working since a young age, and as a novice the easiest place to get a job was in bars and restaurants, starting with washing up! I do think it’s important to start with the basics. I realised that I both enjoyed it and was good at it, and decided to made hospitality my permanent career thereon out.
I enjoy the variation the hospitality industry offers. It’s both challenging and rewarding with every day being different, and that keeps me motivated to come to work every single day knowing it’s not going to be a mundane one, but rather one full of new experiences and learning.
Tell us about Qatar as a destination. What do you think it offers to your guests?
Qatar as a destination offers something for everyone, no matter the age or the type of traveller. You can learn about the ancient pursuit of falconry, watch camels race across the desert and admire traditional dhows bobbing on the water, or for those looking for an adrenaline rush, there’s hot air ballooning, para-triking, kayaking and scuba diving, to name a few.
The country is developing rapidly, with the capital Doha a world-class city in the making, thanks to its spectacular modern skyline, peerless Museum of Islamic Art and National Museum of Qatar, a fine and expansive traditional souq, and burgeoning arts and culinary scenes ranging from modest to fine dining.
How is Mövenpick Hotel Doha positioned within the market, in your opinion?
Mövenpick Hotel Doha successfully combines the modern with the comfortable and achieves a subtle blend of the modern day comfort, warm Accor hospitality and high standards of service and attention enjoyed in a 4-star Hotel.
Can you discuss with us about the history of your property as well as the services it offers?
Mövenpick Hotel Doha is a landmark building in the city of Doha, known far and wide as one of the longest running hotel properties in the country, having opened in 2001.
The hotel offers superior and deluxe rooms as well as family and business suites individually decorated, portraying tranquillity and enhancing comfort, in a contemporary style. All 148 rooms and suites offer amenities that include complimentary Wi-Fi access, 24/7 reception and concierge services, a work desk, recreation facilities such as a pool and health club, food and beverage outlets, and spa services.
In terms of excitement and inspiration, what is it that gives you the passion for the role? What do you find inspiring about working in hospitality and being a general manager?
Hospitality is a 24-hour business with people. I take care of about 100 employees every day and make sure that they have their salaries and they are happy. On the other hand, I have to make sure that our guests are happy and have a fantastic time in the hotel. It is a very dynamic job and tomorrow is a completely different day from today.
We go by the motto ‘the only easy day was yesterday’. Every day you deal with different people, with different backgrounds, people who are coming from different countries, sharing different values; so many differences and at the core is respect and a common goal. We have all that at Mövenpick Hotel Doha. Hospitality is not like a normal working day in a bank – you come, you work and you go home. You work on holidays, you may have to skip or rearrange personal trips, or miss the birthdays of people you love. There is always something new happening and it is worth exploring that. If you are a dynamic person, you will love the job.
Usually I am a one of those general managers who goes around the hotel. I don’t sit too much in my office unless I have meetings. I like to talk to my people. We organise daily briefings with the core management team and quarterly gatherings with all staff where I present what is happening in the hotel, what is coming up, and I never forget to tell them, ‘I come from humble beginnings and started from the bottom, I am now a general manager. You can be too if you really believe it and live it. Everything is possible for you as long as you all like what you are doing.’
Do you kind of have any key predictions for changes you expect in the hotel industry after the pandemic?
Travel has been deeply affected during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the hospitality industry has surely felt its downside with losses in business.
However, I strongly believe that the hospitality industry will emerge stronger from the pandemic due to the government’s initiatives, its focus on health and safety, and the country’s ability to innovate, coupled with extensive hygiene and safety measures being implemented by the hotels on an individual level for the guests.
What is the biggest challenge you had to take up in your current role?
With no hesitation, the one that I have not realised yet! You always learn from your preceding challenge. I try to be a few steps ahead as much as possible and I always take my collaborators along with me.
The key for success is equal to the customer’s expectations ‘+1’: this is what will make the difference. We must understand and anticipate the action that will make our customers unique.
If you were going to pass on one piece of advice to an aspiring general manager, what would it be?
Listen to your own inner voice: it will tell you if you are really suited to this profession. Passion is obviously an absolute condition. We work in an extremely demanding sector, which requires considerable personal sacrifice – that you should not be afraid to face – as we are lucky to work in an exceptional environment. Even if you don’t have a degree in your pocket, the field we work in gives you formidable career opportunities if you have the will. The luxury industry is a privileged profession. Consequently, my advice would be: be yourself and do all you can to work for unique hotels. We are all unique, and we all have the need for unique recognition.
More about Mövenpick Hotel Doha here
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