CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed Georges Ojeil, highly skilled luxury hotelier with exceptional achievements in markets such as Beirut, Lebanon including during challenging economic and political context. Besides, Campbel Gray, Ojeil’s experience includes executive roles with IHG (Intercontinental Hotels) and
You began your career in hospitality in 1997. What motivated this option and how do you think hospitality is more rewarding and motivating than other business sectors?
The journey started by a strong determination to integrate the school of engineering at McGill university. At the time, a part time job was needed to make a living. This is when destiny knocked my door and I started feeling this interest in the field of food and beverage. I decide to shift careers and move to hospitality management.
As a matter of fact, hospitality is a rewarding job that enables hotelier to build strong connections in societies, lead to high exposures at all levels and make hotel General Managers live the glamorous side of an existence. I always felt that hospitality is a passion rather than a job; we fall in love with hospitality to the point that going to work every morning becomes an irresistible journey.
In the course of your professional evolution you gradually shifted towards luxury hospitality. Tell us more.
Since my early days, I’ve always been attached to layers and layers of details. I enjoy putting together refined experiences focusing on delivering finesse and glamour. In parallel, Luxury hospitality necessitates a lot of discipline and the implementation of strict processes that enables a consistent delivery; it reflects a little bit my character. I am a highly motivated person, disciplined, strict with self before others and very process driven. A hotelier is an actor that is continually on stage where audience are watching the show live.
You managed luxury hotels across several countries. What is the key to success when it comes to adaptability?
I think the key to success in this respect is the ability to observe, understand and act on new situations with fresh ideas. Adaptability is about change for success, so when you are able to have this quick examination exercise and use your expertise to set goals accordingly and rally your team around them, you will have made the needed change in an inspirational fashion leading to success with almost no resistance.
In parallel, understanding and paying respect to the local culture would support the journey. I think emotional intelligence is key to success in building strong teams, liaising with guests and delivering results.
You are the Area General Manager of Le Gray, Beirut and Campbell Gray Living and Hotel Amman, a lesser known international luxury brand. However, specifically in Beirut, Le Gray has maintained a leading position in Beirut’s luxury hotel sector since opening, despite the latter opening of major international luxury chains and group.
As a matter of fact, Le Gray under the umbrella of Campbell Gray Hotels has a unique concept. It is a combination of three elements that make its uniqueness; the first being its own definition of luxury that is understated and focused on the comfort of the guest in a snob free atmosphere.
The second is attention to details because every little one matters and this applies to the service as much as it does on the way the room is designed or the staff is trained. Then comes the art, which conveys to Le Gray, and all the other Campbell Gray Hotels a homey feeling and a sense of beauty. This successful combination, through experiences, has conferred to Le Gray in Lebanon and wider on the international level the leadership position and the reputation it enjoys today.
In parallel, Le Gray’s success is built around a highly engaged, motivated and trained team. They are our strongest asset. Their dedication and commitment to excellence took Le Gray from height to height. It is all about people.
Managing such an established leading hotel in different economic and political contexts can be most challenging. What are the key tools one must be mastering?
The most important is to be able to anticipate and be able to switch to crisis management in a timely and efficient manner. In this respect, leading a participative management method helps in having highly committed team members, who are able to implement drastic measures and execute extreme scenarios while keeping the quality of service, the reputation of the hotel, its profitability and the continuity of their colleagues as ultimate objectives.
Communication plays a major role as well; opening up to the team, discussing challenges and make them part of the decision making process shall always drive commitment, engagement and ownership.
Besides an exceptional product, achieving and maintaining a consistent customer service standard is essential. Tell us more about your approach.
This is certainly key to building loyalty. Consistency is an objective in every aspect of our business. We have developed strong Quality Control and Continued Improvement processes to ensure consistency. Respecting and implementing standards and sequence of service are key to the success of daily operations. As a Leading Hotels of the World member, we also abide by the LQA standards and are continuously trained and audited in the implementation of those standards.
I highly believe in adopting a scientific approach of management when it comes to quality management focusing on feedback. Online reputation, feedback and guest interviews are key to understand the needs and demands of guests so to develop action planning securing quality and consistency.
Which are the essential professional skills one should exercise in the case of a independent hotel or a small chain versus a major international chain?
I believe we need to capitalize on the sense of individuality and the personalized experience. Today’s frequent international travelers need hotels that can anticipate their needs, secure their comfort and make sure they receive seamless experiences. Learning and delivering their preferences, making them feel warmly welcomed and continually looking into satisfying their needs are success factors for independent hotels and small chains.
The General Manager is also an ambassador of the respective hotel but he or she is also expected to generate through networking a web of connections especially related to sales. What is your experience?
The participation of the General Manager in the sales effort is of capital importance building spider connections and mirroring trust to guests and companies alike. I believe that the GM should always be reachable, accessible and willing to serve. In parallel, the participation and support of the GM to the sales effort energise the sales team and enable them to excel in driving business to the property.
How important is the financial side of an operation, i.e. setting goals, sale targets and making sure you run a profitable property.
At the end, every decision is a financial one. I strongly believe in balancing between quality and the cost of delivering quality specially in upscale luxury properties. Squeezing on costs to maximize profitability is a short term win leading to long term losses while investing irrationally in quality without quantifying the costs would not support running profitable businesses.
I strongly believe in putting together a full yearly business plan that simulates the different aspects of the operations in parallel to quantifying the cost implications as well. Every strategy needs to be quantified in terms of cost and return on investment so to secure profitable financial returns.
What is your approach to F&B and wellness especially in a highly competitive destination where there may be equally high standard outlets both within hotels but also stand alone.
Renewing and refreshing are essential in this respect, but also quality and consistency. In addition to being primary services for the hotel guests, our F&B outlets and our gym and spa are also made to attract the local clientele. Lebanese people like change and love to follow trends. To be an active player in the game, you have to know when and how to shuffle. So we make sure to suggest new offerings on monthly basis in each outlet. We have theme events. We organize special events on main occasions as well. All this is topped with highly attentive service and quality consistency.
In parallel, customer relationship management is key to many happy returns; a repeated guest needs to feel privileged.
Georges Ojeil is Area General Manager, Beirut and Amman overseeing Le Gray, Beirut as well as Campbell Gray Living and the forthcoming Campbell Gray Hotel, both in Amman in Jordan.
Georges joined Campbell Gray Hotels in 2015 as General Manager for Le Gray, Beirut and has taken the management team from strength to strength. He co-ordinated the complex renovation and opening of additional facilities at Le Gray in 2017, taking on the responsibility of project management while at the same time limiting any interruptions to daily operations.
Within his new role, Georges is overseeing the introduction and implementation of the same high standards of service and guest experience at Campbell Gray Living, which sees the group’s vision for luxury hospitality and design extended to private residences, serviced apartments, offices and retail units, as well as co-ordinate the pre-opening for the new Campbell Gray hotel in Amman.
Georges has several years of experience in the hospitality industry under his belt; and an extensive knowledge in Food and Beverage before managing one of Intercontinental biggest flagships in the Levant.
Following years as Food & Beverage Director and Executive Assistant Manager with a number of properties in Lebanon, he was appointed Corporate Director of Food and Beverage for Le Royal Hotels & Resorts where he oversaw Le Royal Hammamet, Le Royal Luxembourg, Le Royal Beirut, Le Royal Amman, Le Royal El Minzah and Grand Hotel Ville De France by Le Royal in Tangier.
He was called to join IHG as Executive Assistant Manager for the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the Dead Sea, Jordan and then as Hotel Manager for Intercontinental’s flagship property in Amman with 440 rooms and 7 outlets.
Georges Ojeil holds an MBA from École Superieure de Commerce de Paris and an Executive MBA from the École Supérieure des Affaires in Beirut and has lectured in various hospitality institutions and universities.
Le Gray is Campbell Gray’s first hotel in the Middle East and opened to huge acclaim in 2009. Located in the heart of Beirut on Martyrs’ Square, it showcases 103 stylish rooms and suites artistically designed in collaboration with Mary Fox Linton. Indigo on the Roof is the hotel’s roof top restaurant with spectacular views of Mount Lebanon and the Mediterranean. Funky roof top Bar ThreeSixty, housed in a glass atrium, also takes in this sweeping view, a meeting point for guests and chic Beirutis alike. A stylish Cigar Lounge with private terrace and outdoor heated roof top pool with a purple mosaic floor complete Le Gray’s exciting offering.
The just inaugurated Events and Conferences Spaces include Le Grand Salon, a 400sqm venue with a dazzling LED light ceiling; the Muse Room, a meeting facility; the Boardroom, a dramatic board meeting room and the Screening Room, a 53-seat mini cinema with an Atmos Dolby surround system.
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