Interviewing Omer Kaddouri - Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rotana
By Dr. Lily Lin, Author of "Interviewing Successful Hotel Managers"
President and the Chief Operating Officer of Rotana at the time of this interview. Now, he has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of Rotana. Omer is an energetic and a demanding boss. He takes pride in the fact that he is fair and a people manager. B
orn to an Iraqi father and a British mother, Omer Kaddouri grew up in the Middle East and learned Arabic in his youth. His mixed family exposed him to various cultures which gave him a great advantage throughout his career, and he is proud of it.
portfolio of over 47 operating hotels throughout the Middle East and Africa. It has an aggressive expansion plan. Combining Rotana's operating hotels as well as hotels due to open in the near future, it has a portfolio of 85 properties. Rotana has pledged to understand and meet the individual needs of all guests. In doing so, Rotana has evolved its product brands to include Rotana Hotels & Resorts, Centro Hotels by Rotana, Rayhaan Hotels & Resorts by Rotana and Arjaan Hotel Apartments by Rotana.
otana currently manages a
You studied at Ecole Les Roches from 1984 to 1986. Did you always want to
Working in the hotel industry wasn't my first choice; I started studying for a business degree in England but then I realized I wasn't happy with it, so I decided to switch to hotel management studies instead.
Nowadays, more and more hotel school students do not stick to their major. They change their minds and move to something completely different.
You then became the "Banquet Head Waiter" at the Hilton Kensington inLondon. What did you learn from this experience?
I started in banqueting, which was a great place to learn about the business. I learned that in this business hard work is required. You have to move tables and chairs and maybe you only get three hours of sleep at night. I learned about making commitments. I also learned to understand customers and their needs and to know what hospitality is all about.
The fact that I started from the bottom gave me the strength I have today. It was a great experience.
In 1989 you became the Assistant Banquets Manager at the HiltonInternational in Abu Dhabi. Was it an advantage for you to work in UAE because you speak Arabic and understand the culture?
Yes. Being able to speak the language was a great advantage. Today, I can communicate with Arabs and Westerners. It was a move at the right place and at the right time and a great step forward in my career.
You have been with Rotana Hotels for over 15 years. What is the fundamentaldifference between working for Rotana Hotels and Hilton International?
Hilton was a fantastic training ground and I am sure everyone who has worked for Hilton would agree with me. Rotana, on the other hand, is a dynamic company and it is growing very fast. I remember when I first joined Rotana, we were managing 15 hotels, and today we have 47 hotels in operation! In five years, we plan to reach 100 hotels!
You were an opening GM. What were the most difficult issues you faced as theopening GM?
Many challenges are faced during openings that are beyond a general manager's control, such as economic downtimes, political changes, financial crisis, and so on. On top of that, we must ensure that we are opening the hotel with a commitment for rooms sold, i.e. a healthy occupancy, which of course means that we need to have a fixed opening date. This is a challenging task for any General Manager, who is handling an opening as he needs to make sure he puts together a strong pre- opening team.
Many people will look to you as a source of inspiration. Who do you mostadmire? Why?
So many people have inspired me throughout my life and career and it is difficult to name one person.
What keeps you motivated?
My family keeps me motivated with
Besides being the Executive Vice President, you are also the Chief OperatingOfficer. In your opinion, what is the single most important issue to your employees?
I think the most important issue to my colleagues is recognition and fair treatment. In this industry, you can be technically brilliant but you cannot be successful if you cannot work with people. I love talking to people and I do not do it because I have to; I do it because I love it.
If you must make a choice, would you do the things right or would you do theright things?
I see myself as a perfectionist; I would rather do the things right.
I recently posted a question in our Facebook page (iworkinhotels.com): "Whydo you think your GM is important to you?" Someone answered: "I don't think my GM is important to me but he might be important to the company." Do you agree with this statement?
I strongly disagree with this statement; this person's answer suggests that he was not inspired by his GM — the GM must be the driving force for his employees.
What is your leadership style, and what makes you an effective leader?
I like to believe that my leadership style inspires others and sets a good example.
I try to create a good platform for our managers. I am a driver; they know what I wantfrom them. I expect them to do their best. At the same time, I will work hard to give them tools to do their job right.
I am basically fair and I practice what I preach.
What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
Being a perfectionist is my weakness, I may be too picky.
What brings meaning to your experiences?
At work, what puts a smile on your face?
• When our business is
• When I give people advice and as the result, they achieve their goals;
• When guests are happy and satisfied and come back to us repeatedly;
• When I see my colleagues have a smile on their face.
These things put a smile on my face.
What puts a frown on your face?
People not living up to their
Life is too short to tolerate ____________________.
Life is too
Some people say that life is a constant struggle. What has been the greateststruggle for you so far?
About 20 years ago, I had to give up a successful business due to a dispute with my partners. That taught me never to venture into business with friends.
How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?
I am satisfied with the place I am in professionally and personally. You are as young as you want to be and this business keeps you young. If I did not know how old I was, I would probably guess I would be a bit younger than I actually am.
What advice would you offer to those who are inspired to become successful inthe hospitality industry?
Many students do not have a realistic view about our industry. You must like what you do. If you do not like our business, it is difficult to deliver a good service.
We need energetic and positive people.
Rotana is growing day by day and is opening 10
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