HI: What has been the most important learning for you?
It was in hotel management school — a professor told us that in school I will tell you how you should be doing it, but when you work, they will show you how it’s done. Schools are a great base of knowledge, but you need experience to become a complete hotelier. That takes time and you have to be patient with this industry. One of the most important learning is that you can’t miss a step — start right at the bottom and work your way to the top. This will give you a strong understanding of both FOH and BOH. Both of these functions have completely opposite roles to play. It is a bit tricky to achieve synergy between them, but not impossible. When the team sees the benefits of doing it in a way where everyone wins – guests, FOH and BOH, they follow it willingly.
HI: Share an interesting guest experience with us.
One of the most interesting experiences was at my previous hotel when we had five former African presidents staying at the property for an AIDS conference. All elderly gentlemen, held in high regard, driving the charity, so I was a bit intimidated about how to greet them, but when I saw the camaraderie between them, joking together, I realised that they are also just simple people like us, who have done great things. It was a humbling experience to realise that they don’t take it too seriously, are so relaxed about their achievements. And that is such a good attitude.
HI: How is it, being a hotelier?
It has its pluses and downside. But one thing that you can’t deny is that it is always interesting. There is always something to do, somewhere to go within the property. but the worst thing is that it takes a toll on your family life – when the world has holidays, it’s the busiest time for us and we can never get an off then. It needs a balancing act and you work your offs around this.
HI: Where would you go for a holiday?
I would probably go to Africa – Masai Mara, spend probably 10 days with the Masai tribe because they have held on to their culture in this modern world, it is a very relaxing experience. I was brought up in Africa so it is like home.
HI: One advice that you would give to young hoteliers/your team.
Don’t get discouraged. Everyone wants quick results and gets discouraged very quickly. When you are sincerely working on something and it doesn’t work out, don’t worry about it; be pleased with what you’ve learnt through the process. If we focus on the process and work on it sincerely, the result will take care of itself.