By Louise Oakley
I have never seen as many hotel general managers in one room at the same time as I did at The Great GM Debate.
I have never seen as many hotel general managers in one room
at the same time as I did at The Great GM Debate.
GMs from hotels across the UAE, along with some that
travelled up from Muscat and the Musandam, gathered en masse at Jumeirah Beach
Hotel for the first ever conference presented by Hotelier Middle East.
We knew that there would be demand for an event like this,
but the turn out was overwhelming, with 170 GMs plus government officials from
the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and Abu Dhabi
Tourism Authority (ADTA) and top industry suppliers in attendance.
The guests heard speeches from DTCM director of hotel
classifications Majid Sager Al Marri, who spoke of the new classifications
system that would include gold and platinum categories for five-star hotels,
and ADTA director of tourism standards Nasser Saif Mubarak Al Reyami, who
revealed the authority had started trialling its green hotel guidelines in four
properties. He said in no uncertain terms that going green was a “win, win
scenario” for hotels that made “keen business sense”.
GMs also took part in eight interactive workshops. They were
educated on the hard facts of revenue management by Jumeirah group director of
revenue management Stefan Wolf, who said that, however scary it may seem, “it
is not a bad thing to fill last”; reminded of the simple practical changes they
can make to be more environmentally friendly by Professor Neil Kirkpatrick,
head of environment and sustainability, Royal Group; and able to share with one
another their experiences with owners in a session led by Viability Management
Consultants’ Guy Wilkinson, which one GM described as “therapy”.
And throughout the day, the GMs continued to counsel each
other, as they discussed hotel classifications and their relationships with
regulatory bodies, spurred by the debate’s opening panel session on working
with the government, during which Al Marri and Al Reyami were joined by Rotana
COO Omer Kaddouri and Emaar Hospitality Group CEO Marc Dardenne.
During the session, Dardenne urged the establishment of a
more regular formal forum between hotels and government to ensure that
legislation was working properly for everyone, and to help enable adjustments
As the day went on, this seemed to be the tip of the
iceberg, with many GMs revealing latent frustrations and the need for more
support from the authorities, be it data on the upcoming pipeline to
flexibility with classifications, especially when it came to global brands.
What began as whispers came to a head in the final panel
session when Accor Hospitality Middle East MD Christophe Landais and Layia
Hospitality CEO Daniel Hajjar voiced the concerns of many of the GMs in the
They received a round of applause for their forthrightness,
a sign that not only had the GMs warmed up after the workshops, but that the
issue of government support is one that holds real weight in the industry.
The support Hotelier Middle East received from the DTCM and
ADTA for The Great GM Debate was fantastic, and we hope that bringing the two
parties together is something we can facilitate again in the future.
The passion is there from both sides, that is not in
question; the challenge is to harness that in order to achieve everyone’s ultimate
goal - the future development of the industry and the destination.
Until then, we hope to welcome the GMs back for some more
therapy in the near future.
Louise Oakley, is the group editor of Hospitality.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.