What can you tell us about your career journey?
I did not choose my profession: it chose me. My family managed Saint Georges Yacht Motor Club in Beirut, Lebanon, for just over three generations. I spent my childhood watching my grandfather Michel Nader and my father and uncle manage what was then the “it” place in Beirut, and I fell in love with the hospitality business.
Soon after graduating from Glion in Switzerland, I traveled the world, working my way up from the F&B department to a general management position in less than seven years.
Understanding different cultures has always fascinated me. I was lucky enough to work in Egypt, Spain, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. I have been working in the United Arab Emirates for the past eight years.
I was also blessed to work for great employers: IHG, Accor and Starwood Hotels (which was acquired by Marriott International in 2016), to just name a few. I currently manage Marriott International’s operations for the UAE as area vice president.
What does your role encompass?
The UAE has always been strategic for the company. It is currently home to over 60 properties, with additional projects in the pipeline. In my role, I oversee the whole business, from operations to strategy, with the help of a great team of general managers and an incredible area team. We also have wonderful relationships with our owners and value every single partnership we have made.
What is your personal style of leadership?
I have a very collaborative approach with my team. I believe that to get the best out of people, you need to build their confidence. However, in challenging times I take a more directive approach when necessary.
What do you like most about Marriott?
One of Marriott’s core values is its people-first culture. Mr. Marriott always said that if we take care of our people, they will take care of our guests and the business will take care of itself. All I can say is that Marriott International’s culture really stands out.
Which hotelier do you idolize and why?
Without a doubt, my late grandfather Michel Nader Senior was my role model. I grew up watching him take care of guests as if they were family and managing conflicts so smoothly it felt like he had a magic wand. His words and advice are a big part of the way I go about my life both personally and professionally. The greatest lesson he taught me was to remain grounded and humble no matter what.
How do you view the hospitality sector in the UAE?
The UAE is a rich and diversified country when it comes to hospitality. The demand ranges from super luxurious resorts/villas to city hotels with serviced apartments, which makes it an interesting landscape for all our portfolio.
Overall, the sector is definitely in recovery mode, and it is performing much better here than many other regions, which is a testimony to the leadership of this country and the way they have efficiently managed this unprecedented crisis.
How has consumer demand changed in the sector?
For the best part of the last two years, people have been unable to travel and spend time with family and friends. Now that travel is opening up in many markets, we are seeing a spike in leisure travel, especially in terms of resorts, secluded properties and those with villa offerings.
Have the challenges faced during Covid-19 subsided?
I believe it’s safe to say that the worst is behind us. However, we must continue to maintain health and hygiene protocols and follow local guidelines and restrictions. We learned a great deal, and our reactions toward Covid-related matters are much more systematic and faster, which gives us more confidence when we think about the future.
Has the pandemic forever changed the hotel model?
Forever is a big word. If we have learned anything these past two years, it is that nothing lasts forever and change is constant. The industry will continue to evolve. Disruption forces people to innovate and progress faster than usual, and Covid-19 did precisely that.