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Fri 26 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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General manager magic 101

Hotelier Middle East Awards GM of the Year - and former accountant - Elaine Watson talks about the challenges of running the Courtyard by Marriott Dubai Green Community.

Hotelier Middle East Awards GM of the Year - and former accountant - Elaine Watson talks about the challenges of running the Courtyard by Marriott Dubai Green Community.

How long have you worked at the Courtyard by Marriott and what were you doing before then?

I was assigned to the Courtyard and Marriott Executive Apartments, Green Community, project in February 2003. Prior to this I was general manager of the Marriott Executive Apartments, Dubai Creek where I'd been since pre-opening of the project.

I truly believe that 2008 has to be the year of my career in the hotel industry.

This was my first assignment in Dubai for Marriott. I've worked with Marriott both in franchised hotels and Marriott International hotels for the past 20 years.

What have you observed to be its strengths and weaknesses?

This has been a particularly interesting project as what was our inherent weakness in the beginning, namely our location, has really turned out to be our biggest strength. We've gone from being in what many would have termed as a remote location far away from everything to really being in the midst of the new developments in New Dubai.

We're also very much the social focal point of the Green Community and many of our regular guests are also our neighbours and we focus on building a great relationship with them and also listening to what it is they want to see us doing for them.

What kind of facilities do you have at the Courtyard?

Here at the Courtyard by Marriott Dubai Green Community we have 165 spacious guest rooms including 10 suites. Many of our guest rooms enjoy fantastic views of the lake.

We have three food and beverage outlets - the signature restaurant, Cucina, specialising in Italian trattoria cuisine, the Pine Grill restaurant which is our three meal restaurant catering to both our in-house guests and our conference delegates and the Rendezvous lounge which is our 24 hour lobby coffee shop.

We also have great conference and banqueting facilities which compromise a ballroom and three additional meeting rooms.

Have you faced any particular challenges in getting the Courtyard up and running successfully?

The main challenges we faced getting the Courtyard up and running was our location and the lack of signage and the lack of infrastructure in the immediate neighbourhood.

However to be honest given the fact that this project had complexities such as the lake in front of the hotel, the connecting Marriott Executive Apartments and the main entrance to the hotel that was always being moved to allow road improvements in the surrounding area - the challenges were really minimal.

We had great support from both Marriott International and our owning company Properties Investments which made a huge difference to the immediate success of this project.

We had our first sell-out night ten days following the opening of the hotel which I believe was probably some kind of a record.

How would you sum up the Courtyard's 2008 performance?

I remember doing my 2007 Performance Review with my AVP and we both really believed that the Courtyard in 2007 had probably the best year possible.

We then went on to be awarded the Marriott International Courtyard of the Year for 2007 and I was also awarded the Courtyard International General Manager of the Year Award - these were announced in February 2008 - so I guess for us this was the start of things to come.

To be able to tell you that 2008 has been even better is something beyond my wildest dreams; we have within Marriott International some really tough competition within our Courtyard brand especially our sister hotels in Asia who've also had a tremendous 2008. I truly believe that 2008 will have to be the year of my career in the hotel industry.

Is the credit crunch something that is worrying you and something you think will hit the Courtyard?

I gave up a long time ago worrying about things that I could not do anything about - so no I am not personally worried by the credit crunch! However as an accountant I think it is fair to say that anyone could see that things could never be sustained long term as they were.

However I'm financially minded so I'm interested in what's going on but it remains to be seen how it'll affect the industry.

How do you feel about getting the Hotelier award for best GM?

I was truly shocked and of course delighted for many reasons to win this award. I was amazed to be in the shortlist and never for a moment thought I would win. I guess I always believed these awards were given to people who went to hotel school and hospitality professionals - not someone who is a Fellow Member of the Association of Certified Accountants!

Having said that I guess this kind of sums up what I am all about; always strive to be the best at whatever I am doing. If you love what you are doing it's easy to be good at what you do. The day I stop enjoying it I guess I can find some place that is looking for someone that is good at counting the beans!

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