MICHEL A. GALOPIN
The General Manager Islamabad Serena Hotel talks to Centreline and DNA
Ansar Mahmood Bhatti
The General Manager of the Islamabad Serena Hotel gave an exclusive interview to Centerline and Diplomatic News Agency (DNA). Here are excerpts from his interview for the interest of readers.
Upon becoming the general manager of the Islamabad Serena, what were some of the things you did to improve Serena?
The Islamabad Serena hotel was opened in 2001 and it has rapidly become a Leading Hotels of the World affiliated member. I believe the hotel is a great institution with many qualities. Before coming to Pakistan I had already served in Far East Asia for over 20 years for various leading hotel groups and I was pleased to join the Serena Hotel.
There are two factors which I believe helped me a lot in fostering the image and quality of this institution. First, I developed an efficient communication system so as to create better synergies among all the departments. Also, I believe in management by walking around which I always encourage my business partners to do. I am always in action because it is the only key to achieve greater customer satisfaction and that is what I always tell the associates.
Secondly, my aim and duty are also to develop the financial results of the hotel. The Serena, as you know, is a large hotel having 387 rooms coupled with a large number of banqueting facilities. I am very lucky to have Aziz Boolani as the CEO of Serena hotels who has been in this industry for many years. We maintain an excellent communication system with one another keeping in the mind the fact that it is the team work which contributes towards hotel success and we all put in our talent and efforts to achieve best results.
When an associate joins the Serena, his entire family becomes part of the company. We look after the Serena families in the best possible ways. When I took over as the general manager, sound career development of our associates was of utmost importance to me. Also, I have developed the Sales and Marketing team to improve our market share and we are successful in winning the confidence of new business partners. I have also enticed the team to be more flexible to customers’ demands and be more accommodating to their needs.
How are you able to handle so many departments? Do you have to have knowledge of each department?
To manage a hotel in an efficient manner one has to have adequate knowledge of all departments such as engineering, marketing, sales, housekeeping, food and beverages, etc. My previous professional experience of having worked for international hotel groups in several countries including UK, France, Switzerland, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, helps me to have an understanding of all these departments.
You have to have a passion for this career because when one has a desire he or she learns faster. The hospitality industry is a twenty four hour job; we are faced with all kinds of circumstances. To cope with various situations effectively and efficiently, it requires us to be available all the time.
How do you motivate your staff members?
I motivate the associates by leading personal precedents because I firmly believe that one can motivate others only if one does the duties religiously and being the general manager, I have to lead by example. Our associates are also provided with training and language classes daily designed by our training development centre; and this indeed is a big motivator for development.
I also motivate the associates through communication. I always tell them to express themselves; whenever they want to, whatever they want to say and never be shy. The GM has to foster all the departments. It is a long term process but a durable one. For employee recognition we hold employee of the month get-together where awards of appreciation are given to them. Apart from this, we also focus on sports activities such as cricket matches, hiking, picnic, etc. We bring together the families of all our associates on various occasions such as Eid Milan. We also have developed a programme through which we send our associates abroad for training and development. We thoroughly involve our associates in our CSR activities and this embeds a sense of ownership in them.
Quite a few hotels have been and are being constructed in the Islamabad area. What is Serena doing to stay competitive?
I believe that competition is healthy and gives us more opportunity to explore our potential. The Islamabad Serena Hotel is the only hotel in Pakistan that is affiliated with The Leading Hotels of the World, which is a prestigious recognition which requires to constantly develop highest technology as well. As I said before, training and development of the staff are key to success of any enterprise. The Serena is a symbol of excellence in service and comfort and we shall continue to provide best services to our customers in the coming years and we keep up with constant development of the hardware and software.
What is your greatest accomplishment during your so far tenure as general manager?
I do believe there is always room for improvement. I consider that I was able to develop good communication with the associates. As I mentioned earlier, we have fully and solidly developed the training centre and I am happy because we train our associates on daily basis and at the end of each day, they take valuable knowledge with them and to society.
Please tell something for those who wish to join this industry what do they need to do if they want a job like this?
When I meet new associates during the introduction, I always tell them that they can do wonders in this profession only if they have a passion for their job. Hotel industry provides great satisfaction in the noble meaning of hospitality but one must have the feeling of giving and be generous, as we are in service industry and it is all about giving. It demands great effort and serious work but the reward is tremendous.
How would you describe overall business potential in this country especially for the hospitality industry?
The hospitality industry in Pakistan is new and has huge potential. The security issue may be a problem, but I believe it will be solved. Pakistan offers a plethora of natural scenery which are pure treasures, especially the Northern part of the country which I visited a few months ago. Corporate business, I believe is doing very well in Pakistan but tourism is yet to be developed, then the hospitality industry will flourish.
Your impressions about Pakistan and Pakistani People?
Pakistan, as I said earlier, is a wonderful and a vibrant country. Its people are industrious, hard working and committed. Let me give you an example of the recently held flower show at our hotel. I was amazed and touched to see the craftsmanship of the participants of the Pakistan Floral Arts Society, women in particular. The way they produced such a quality work was a reflection of their commitment and their strong desire to do something different thereby bringing laurels to their families and their country. Likewise, you must have visited Satrang art gallery at the Islamabad Serena Hotel, which provides a platform to Pakistani artists to display an essence of their talents. The interest which Pakistani people show in such exhibitions is a clear manifestation of them being a lively and committed nation. I wish Pakistani people resounding success in all spheres of life.