In Conversation with… Gilles Nicolas

FACT quizzed the General Manager of Crowne Plaza & Holiday Inn Doha – The Business Park.

Do you recall your first foray into the hospitality industry?

It was a leap of faith. As a youngster, I was clueless of what my calling was; then there was this hospitality school close to where I live in France, and I said, “Maybe it’s worth the try”. While doing my studies, I had a great opportunity to work in the George V Paris, one of the most prestigious hotels in Paris at the time, as a part-time room service waiter. The turning point is still fresh in my memory: my first town hall meeting. The general manager (GM) was addressing all of us, a gentleman so wise and humble, talking about looking after us, his people, and as I listened attentively to him, I told myself, “This is what I want to do”. From that moment on, I pushed myself every day and worked my way up — pursued my degrees, started out in finance and purchasing, then back in food and beverage (F&B) in Canada, moved to London until I got to manage hotel operations, then moved to Dubai. It was in 2014 in Bahrain when I had my first GM role.

Where do you draw your inspiration? Were there any mentors who influenced the way you work and think?

Two main people had a massive impact on how I work and how I lead people. First, as I mentioned, the very first GM that I had who inspired me so much with his vision, humility and empathy for his people, turned my perspective around and made me realise what exactly I wanted to do. Secondly is Nick Campbell, my GM during my time at Holiday Inn London – Regent’s Park, who became my role model. He challenged me, mentored me, gave me the opportunity to grow and develop myself, and moulded me into the leader that I am today.

As an expat in Doha, what, for you, are the most interesting and unique aspects of Qatar, or your favourite things to do here as a domestic tourist?

Qatar is a very dynamic, fast-progressing country. It is quite exciting to be part of all the happenings and projects which are underway. Moreover, I quite like the lifestyle and there are just so many nice places to go to around Qatar. For instance, on my typical weekend, I wake up early and go cycling down to Al Khor and back in the morning, spend time by the beach in the afternoon, and find a place to dine in at night.

Can you share with us a day in the life of one of your hotels? What makes an international hotel like yours tick?

Both of our hotels — Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn at The Business Park — are business hotels, and with the location and the facilities of our hotels, along with Doha being currently quite busy with projects, we have many business travellers coming and staying with us. We are very fortunate to be in Qatar, where a lot of things are happening and continuing to progress, and so, right now, we are focussed on managing the high level of business that we have despite the global pandemic. Both our brands are centred on business travel; we aim to make business travel as easy and as comfortable as possible, and people around the world are aware of both our brands’ reputations. Every day we make it our mission to exceed expectations and deliver on our promise.

What advice would you give for someone considering a career in the hospitality industry?

Hospitality is not an easy industry, it is 24/7, and it never stops. My advice is to try it, give it a go. It is an industry of endless opportunities, but expect to work hard. For someone starting out in hospitality, it is of key importance to understand that we are in the service industry; whether you are wait staff or a GM, you will serve people. If you like walking with people, helping and serving others, the industry can offer an infinite amount of possibilities for growth and development.✤