General Manager Centara West Bay Hotel & Residences Doha
What first sparked your interest in joining the hospitality field and who have been your inspirations or mentors?
Sawasdee krab (Thai greeting)
A summer vacation job as porter at The Royal Albion Hotel, Broadstairs, Kent, England, ignited my passion for hotels and hospitality at the tender age of 14. After graduating in Hotel Management, I then travelled extensively through Southeast Asia, where my passion for Asian cuisine, culture and the hospitality scene developed. My career started at the innovative restaurant group 1 9 9 7. Whilst in Hong Kong, I met mentor and creative restauranteur Paul Hsu, of Elite Concepts fame… who engaged me to set up the first Elite Concepts venture in Indonesia. My Food & Beverage (F&B) background has led to high-profile roles across many continents such as Executive Assistant Manager in South Korea and Director of Operations in Canada. As well as Corporate Director for hotel pre-openings, Asset Management and General Manager roles in Qatar and Africa. During my tenure in Dubai, I was fortunate to work with the inspirational and visionary Anthony Liddiard, who had a major influence on my workstyle, enhanced my creativity and shared his vast knowledge. He remains a mentor and friend today.
What have been the greatest challenges in guiding such a large property as Centara West Bay through the pandemic and how have you overcome them?
Centara Hotels, being a Thai brand, first responded to the pandemic in January 2020. At Centara West Bay we also followed all company trainings and protocols for Covid-19; by the end of January, we had conducted the hotel’s first internal Covid-19 training and set new levels of wellbeing and safety for guests throughout the property. A strategic decision was made to increase our long-stay base to compensate for other decreasing segments coupled with a cost saving plan. We partnered with local delivery apps to promote all food and beverage offerings to develop new revenue channels, and we started hotel drivethru, pickup, delivery and takeaway. We also transformed an underutilised area into a ladies’ salon and an underperforming area of the lobby into a modern Lebanese resto-lounge – The Mezze House – to support business growth through a time of change for the hospitality business. Team members were set clear goals that were reviewed periodically and amended when needed. We are most proud to have retained all full-time employees throughout the pandemic and successfully delivered outstanding guest service and financial results.
You have previously mentioned your excitement at taking on an area role in Centara’s expansion in Doha, what will this entail?
An expansion plan has been in place for the past two years, which has developed key talent to support both the growth of Centara and retain our position as a preferred employer; this now has translated into being a hotel brand of choice for owners. Qatar expansion for Centara Hotels and Resorts will encompass six distinct brands making their debut over the next five years: COSI affordable lifestyle, modern hangout hotels appealing to the digital generation; the value-driven midscale brand Centra by Centara; the curated and stylish leisure brand Centara Boutique Collection; the distinguished upper upscale Centara Grand; and the Iconic, new luxury hotel brand Centara Reserve. In terms of food and beverage, Centara will showcase innovative and authentic signature brands; Thai Suan Bua, Japanese Hagi, Spanish UNO MAS and Coast, the international beach club and bistro concept. World renowned bars, including rooftop destinations Red Sky and Blue Sky, will also feature within the new properties. Centara is one of Asia’s leading spa operators and the award-winning SPA Cenvaree brand will make its Qatar debut early next year.
Do you have family with you in Doha, how do you spend your free time?
I consider myself the luckiest man alive to be the proud father of two amazingly talented wonderful girls, Sofia and Summer, and married to French-Canadian photographer and artist Melissa Rouzier. Free time includes spending as much time as possible together with trips to the wonderful beaches and parks of Qatar. Due to the pandemic restrictions, we have not been able to go ice-skating or to the cinema recently. However, movie night at home with homemade glutenfree pizza is now a firm favourite for the entire family. Our home is very musical, Sofia, Summer and Melissa play the piano, sing and are also learning the guitar; recently they purchased me a drum kit which is a work in progress. Living in West Bay we are looking forward to the completion of West Bay North Beach development later this year which will transform the entire area into a unique leisure destination. Post summer, I will be back on my mountain bike enjoying early morning rides in the amazing desert locations of Qatar.
If you were not a hotelier, what other career might you have chosen?
It is difficult to comprehend not being in the hospitality business, every day is so different with new opportunities, interactions, and innovations that keep my focus firmly in the role I am passionate about. Being a hotelier for me is a way of life. My career has given me the opportunity to visit, live and work in so many wonderful countries, experience new cultures, cuisines, music, customs; I have so many fond memories from everywhere I visited, and met friends from all over the world. Being naturally creative with a talent for drawing, I enjoy the design phase of hotels, restaurants and bars and look up to many interior designers. Would I have chosen to be an interior designer or architect? I am not sure… If I had chosen that path, it would have still been linked to hospitality in the end! ✤