Bastien Blanc’s decades-long career in hospitality has taken him around the world and placed him at the helm of some of the world’s leading hotel operators, such as Accor and IHG. In this exclusive interview, Hospitality News Middle East reveals what drives the seasoned hotelier and why he’s invested in finding the talents of tomorrow.
You have over three decades of leadership experience in hotels. What did you learn?
I know it might sound deja vu, but it taught me that we need to learn every day. Whatever experience one has, the evolution of the industry, not only from a technological point of view, but also in terms of client expectations and the workplace in general, requires you to keep challenging yourself to adapt and grow, knowing that as much as what you do know, there are many things you don’t. Be hands on and be addicted to delivering the best environment for your team. Support them in understanding the vision of the business, and you can never go wrong.
How do you evaluate the hospitality landscape in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia?
The Middle East market in general keeps on going from strength to strength. The natural beauty of the landscape, from Jordan to Oman through Saudi Arabia, is being represented more accurately on an international scale. Zooming in on KSA, the evolution and growth of this market is breathtaking, and the target of over 100 million visitors by 2030, supported by a clear vision, is coming to life day after day.
What prompted you to establish the international hospitality group TroKadero Management?
In 2007, a close friend and I found that local owners were struggling because of the growth of international tourism in the eastern part of Europe and the influx of foreign brands, so we decided to put in place a team that could support them. It started with commercial and customer service support and evolved over the years to include asset management and full hotel management, focusing on smaller properties. Now we are present in over seven countries.
What gaps are you trying to bridge within the hospitality industry?
Performance is about caring about each asset as if it were yours. As an advisor and third-party hotel operator, we can provide advice on the best way to proceed, which, in turn, enables asset owners to make a difference. We have the ability to positively impact both branded and unbranded properties. We provide this edge thanks to our knowledge of the market in which we operate, as well as our international expertise.
How are you translating your support of the growing local talent in Saudi Arabia?
As you know, this is my key focus in Saudi Arabia. We are supporting the efforts of the Ministry of Tourism by hiring talent and focusing on how they can grow through strong mentorship and coaching. “Talentization,” a word that doesn’t exist but defines our aim, keeps us focused on caring about our team and developing talent beyond basic requirements, as it is simply the right thing to do.
On a personal level, I also contribute to various academic programs as a guest lecturer, such as the Trailblazer program at ESSEC Business School.
What is the secret behind developing a quality offering within the hospitality industry?
It all comes back to people. Having strong processes that support the quality of service and providing the right training and mentoring are essential, though all of them only bring value if you’ve hired the right people. It is essential to take the time to find the right associates who share the same values and “appetite” to do well.
In your opinion, how do you get the best out of people?
There is no need to reinvent the wheel; it all comes down to caring. Treating the team as you would like to be treated, being part of the team and seeing yourself as human, as Simon Sinek so nicely says it.
What are your plans for 2023?
Our goal remains to grow with our partners all over the world. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, we are expecting to reach double digits before the end of 2023. To that end, we have just opened TroKadero Management Middle East headquarters in Riyadh to support this regional growth, which is exciting.