Beating the Odds

Source: B’Here online    01 Jun 03:12 AM    Sector : Tourism    Country : LebanonB'Here

Nather Auchi, Vice President, Le Royal Hotels & Resorts Group Member of The Leading Hotels of the World


 

Le Royal Beirut is part of the Le Royal Hotels & Resorts chain, which in turn falls under the umbrella of the General Mediterranean Holding, established by its Chairman, Nadhmi Auchi, in Luxembourg in 1979. The company owns further properties in Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and Luxembourg and has other hospitality assets in Spain, France and Egypt. Maintaining success in tough times requires creativity and radical changes in the way business is conducted.

Nather Auchi, the hotel’s Vice Chairman, tells us how Le Royal Hotels & Resorts – Beirut has faced and overcome such challenges.


 

Nather Auchi col2Global economic crises, regional instability and local infrastructure challenges: how does Lebanon’s hospitality sector overcome such issues? Being in the hospitality industry today is indeed very challenging, as the sector has become significantly less profitable than it once was. We can compensate for most of the domestic infrastructure issues, but dealing with the external threats is much more challenging. The key is to be aware of such challenges and create contingency plans all the time, including retention strategies and branching out to new markets. In the meantime, we must be aware that as guests become more demanding, the cost of living is rising rapidly, competition is growing at an exponential rate, while we all compete for a shrinking market share.

What are you doing personally to address these challenges at Le Royal?  In terms of increasing market share, we’ve intensified our marketing efforts, both in traditional markets such as the Gulf region, but also in quite surprising new ones through our connections abroad. It is crucial for us to maintain our high standards in these tough times and we are careful not to compromise our quality in any way, despite a rise in costs across the board. To compensate, the global crisis has taught us how to think more green and become more sustainable.

What practical steps have you taken to enhance sustainability?  banquet hallWe are examining sustainable practices from every angle. Our head engineer is always looking for ways to streamline operational costs such as electricity, water and fuel consumption. The recycling of waste and filtering of wastewater to maintain the greenery at our property and many other actions are on our agenda. In parallel, we have set up a team representing all the different departments, whereby each team member seeks ways to improve sustainability in his or her particular department against set targets. Let me point out, however, that while we can improve sustainability, we should not compromise our standards. Being generous to the guest can coexist with sustainability, and this is something that all hospitality properties must remember.

Is sustainability about energy saving only?  61Absolutely not. It involves sustainability of a healthy workforce, sustainability of future generations, sustainability of the environment we live in. Part of the sustainability and environment initiative, for example, is our responsibility for employee health, which is why I have backed Lebanon’s non-smoking drive in public places all the way. Another part is our dedication to the environment, like our “Plant a tree” initiative in the past and our donations to green charities. Lately, we implemented the kids’ project with welcomes children with dedicated gift baskets, as we all know that tomorrow does not belong to us. All of these are examples of sustainability.

On a personal level what are your secrets to success in the hospitality sector?  First and foremost, success comes from being passionate about your work, which involves looking into details and following up. This philosophy goes a long way in putting clients at ease and making them happy. Indeed, when the client’s needs are fulfilled, there is no need to expect or fear a negative reaction. I rely considerably on our guest satisfaction surveys and the staff interaction with our guests to eradicate issues very quickly.

How is Le Royal Beirut different from other luxury hotels?  Titanic Bar The most important difference is that, unlike most luxury chain hotels, we manage our own hotels, which makes us more flexible and responsive to stay on top. We have six properties that are owned and managed by us, so our drive to seek perfection and innovation is very high. Also, while the six properties are a handful, each has some autonomy, as well as its own couleur locale, meaning that the product in our property in Luxembourg is very different from the one in Morocco, for example, each offering a unique experience with its own mystique. We are not in the business of cookie cutter hotels, but rather in the business of creating unique experiences for our guests, hence our effective slogan “Experiences to Explore.”

What are your strengths in management?   Our main strength comes from believing in our unique management style and in strategically placing key professionals to head each department. I personally play a role in empowering each member. After all, we are successful thanks to their commitment, teamwork and leadership skills. On the other hand, I am quite demanding and am not satisfied easily. But, between us, I have one hell of a tough, dedicated team.

What are the most important human assets for you?  I believe in the human factor, such as creativity and ingenuity, and I always back up initiatives in that respect. I know that the results are spectacular when you empower your team to be creative and innovative. While we all know where our brand should go, we have several means to achieve our vision, and it is the net results that matter in the end.