From heading great restaurants and kitchens to meeting royals, presidents and celebrities, Thomas Flindt, GM of Sheraton Bahrain, has had some remarkable experiences over the course of his career. As the chair of Marriott Business Council Bahrain – KSA East, he discusses the country’s cherished hotel, which is undergoing extensive renovation and is poised to reopen soon.
What have been some of the key moments and experiences from your journey with Sheraton?
My journey started out in 1982 in Copenhagen, Denmark, my home country.
The Plaza, a Sheraton Hotel, is where I started out as chef de partie and subsequently sous chef. Then my journey continued in Oslo, where I worked as an executive sous chef. After a couple of years, I returned to Copenhagen as an executive assistant chef. I went on to become the F&B manager. AI subsequently moved to Phuket, Thailand, where I was appointed director of F&B.
Various roles followed, including appointments in China, Nigeria, Egypt, Pakistan and Lebanon. I spent almost seven years working as a GM in Beirut before relocating to Manama, Bahrain, in January 2015.
During this journey, I have met royals, presidents and celebrities. Having traveled with family, I can say that we have met wonderful people in every destination and have always been welcomed graciously everywhere.
What are the most important factors to consider when managing a hotel in Bahrain?
Managing a hotel in Bahrain, or any other destination for that matter, is very similar. You need to ensure your product appeals to locals, as much as to foreign travelers. Thus, you also need to have a healthy mix of locals and global nationalities on your team. The purpose being to effectively take care of your guests.
Secondly, you need to ensure that all your actions align with local law, culture and expectations.
Finally, having a standout product and service is crucial to capturing not only your fair market share but potentially more. The competition is fierce, as the supply keeps increasing at a faster pace than demand.
Being part of Marriott International is an advantage. We are part of a huge booking platform. Furthermore, we have what is probably the best loyalty program in the industry – Marriott Bonvoy.
As the general manager of Sheraton Bahrain, how would you describe the hospitality industry in the kingdom and what role do you believe Sheraton plays in adapting to these changes?
The Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority is doing its utmost to promote Bahrain. Recently they opened Exhibition World Bahrain, a new Exhibition and Conventions Center that is the largest in the GCC. This will catalyze the growth of the MICE market in Bahrain, attracting larger conferences and conventions in the years to come.
Great work is being done to upgrade the Pearling Path and the old parts of Muharraq. In addition, there are plans to upgrade the old Manama Souq area.
Furthermore, with events like F1 and 8 hours of Bahrain, and more sporting events on the calendar, we anticipate a surge in visitor numbers to Bahrain. Additionally, the supply of four- and five-star hotels and residences in Bahrain is increasing. For instance, in 2023 alone it has grown by approximately 12 percent.
As for the demand, it has only grown by approximately half of that, so competition is tough.