November 2017 marks the 10-year anniversary of Raffles Dubai. Since its opening, the property has had more than one million guests stay within its 252 rooms and suites. And despite it being around for a decade, the property shows no sign of slowing down.
As I enter the lobby in early October, the spacious and high-ceilinged reception area is a quiet buzz of activity. There are a number of guests discreetly going about their business, and it’s easy to see that the property still commands a high number of GCC guests. Raffles Dubai has also successfully maintained its position in the top two hotels in Dubai out of 556 on TripAdvisor — at the time of going to print, it’s the first.
Along with celebrating 10 years as an operational hotel, Raffles Dubai is also home to a number of colleagues who have been with the property since opening. The managing director, Ayman Gharib, began his Raffles journey two years later — he joined in 2009 as EAM F&B, was promoted to the role of hotel manager, then ascended to the title of general manager in January 2014, and was promoted as MD very recently.
Gharib tells Hotelier it was a milestone in his career to join the Raffles Dubai, which he labels an “iconic building” and says that while he joined during the height of the recession, the team around him kept both him and the property afloat.
“We had a family spirit, we had a lot of challenges ahead of us, but we were all determined to succeed and indeed, we did,” says Gharib, reflectively. He is also full of praise of a hotelier named Peter French, who joined the hotel as general manager in 2010 before moving into the role of regional vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa for Raffles, and then becoming the president of Raffles Hotels & Resorts in 2013. In 2016, French joined MKM Commercial Holdings LLC, the owner of Raffles Dubai.
Gharib continues reminiscing: “Peter French took this property from one success to another. Financially as well, the owners were pretty happy with us, Raffles International was very proud of what we achieved, and through this process we were all growing.”
The managing director asserts that the focus on people development at the hotel is above all, citing himself as an example — having moved through the ranks to where he is today. He continues: “A lot of colleagues in this hotel grew from within, like me. Our previous director of rooms was first our front office manager. She’s now director of operations (Krystel Irani). Waleed Osman, our director of engineering has been with us for six or seven years. Jessica Markham, the director of talent & culture, was the assistant at first and has also been here many years. We have a lot of trust and belief in the people in this property, and we all grew — and as we grew, we achieved results, and people were always enthusiastic on delivering more and proving that we can do more.”
Having seen the hotel develop and progress through the years, and having worked with a number of managers, I ask Gharib how his management philosophy has changed over the years. He notes: “Two factors: one is the people I worked with influenced me with their different characters and different leadership styles. But Dubai as a city has a huge influence on leadership style, it’s ever-changing. There’s huge growth in the hotel field so if you don’t keep on reinventing and re-assessing the processes that you have, you’ll be forgotten.”
Relevance is a key word, because in a place where the ‘next big thing’ attracts guests — even for the short-term — it’s important for everyone in hospitality to keep on their toes and ahead of the competition. Gharib agrees, and adds: “The most important thing is to keep listening to your guests. We’re in the business of taking care of our guests, making sure they’re happy.”