by Kamil Erfan
How do you elaborate your journey from a student to now being a well renowned professional in the hospitality industry?
Well, I was a student leader and very active in different activities, particularly in union activities and then I was also admired by the labour union. I started my career at Pearl Continental Hotel Lahore, which was my first hotel job. After joining, I started the union activities. I won the elections and did a lot of work for my colleagues there. That is actually how my journey started.
What challenges do you foresee; the hospitality industry would face with technology advancements, robotics and artificial intelligence?
It is a fact that technology is taking over but, currently, you do not see much use of robotics in the hospitality industry, whereas, in many other industries robotics are playing a vital role. Particularly, it is the speed that is making a big difference; robots don’t need to sleep or eat and employers are getting great benefits out of it. But for me, I am concerned that, due to robotics, many people are getting unemployed in the industry.
For an ambitious youngster who wants to excel in the hospitality industry, what personality traits and skills do you recommend to be focused on right from the beginning of the career?
I think it is very important to have a clear vision in your mind. When I started my journey at a hotel in UAE, I started as a reservations clerk and, in just 5 years’ time, I was the assistant general manager of that hotel. In the hospitality industry, you need to be multi-tasking because if you deliver, the management will definitely give you success just like I got mine
How do you compare European employees with Asian ones in terms of attitude and skills?
I have worked in Pakistan for more than 5 years and I have also travelled to West Europe, Eastern Europe and even to North America. To tell you the truth, every nationality has its own certain sets of skills and traits, as well as, their own plus and minuses. In our sub-continent, people are very down to earth and show true sense of hospitality. We are used to working for long hours, whereas, if you talk of the Europeans, they have high influence of technology; therefore, they are more equipped and proficient in using latest technology.
How can an intern become a permanent member of your workforce after completing his or her internship?
We have accommodated a lot of interns from different parts of the world especially from Switzerland and Germany. Since last 3 to 4 years, we are working with COTHM in Pakistan and we got many good interns. But I would like to give one example of a particular intern Mr. Awais from COTHM Pakistan, who after completing his 3 months internship went back to Pakistan. There was no application from his side to be a part of our team but after he went back home, you won’t believe the front office manager, the rooms division manager, the reservation manager, everyone came to me that we want to see Mr. Awais as a member of our team. Within one month’s time, he not only learned to handle the shift but he also replaced the night duty employee. So it’s really very important that when you are coming as an intern you must prove your worth to your management.
How do you predict the hospitality industry in GCC in the next 5 to 10 years?
The upcoming EXPO 2020 is a big opportunity and there is a lot of construction going on and we are adding more rooms. However, on one side, it is becoming a challenge to sell but at the same time people who are really experienced, people who know how to get benefit from the infrastructure of Dubai and how to tap new markets, I’m sure there is a lot of success for them. Despite all the challenges, we are enjoying sitting in Ajman doing 96 to 97 percent occupancies even in summer, so I think this is a great opportunity to work with a great infrastructure.
Since the beginning you have always been in the lime light of the hospitality industry when it comes to the green and sustainable initiatives taken by you. Tell us something about your sustainability projects?
When it comes to green / sustainability initiatives, I always take it in a commercial aspect first and then as a responsibility. That was my aim when I came as a general manager; I wanted to reduce the expenses and then to increase the profitability to make the bottom line stronger. You won’t believe that in just 1 year which was 2012, we were able to divert 90 percent of our waste from the land fill and that was a great achievement in terms of responsibility. Imagine we saved 120 thousand dirhams per annum, just in 5 years’ time more than half a million.
How do you compare Pakistani hospitality education with that of the international universities around the world?
I think we are the best people if we can step forward into the hospitality industry because hospitality is an integral part of our culture and we adopt it from a very early age from our families. I found really good candidates which I converted from trainees to employees and I’m really enjoying the performance of these candidates.
What is Pakistan Travel Market (PTM) and what is your relation with this organisation?
Well, we exhibited for the second time in the Pakistan Travel Market (PTM). The exhibition this time was very successful and there were almost six halls full of exhibitors and we witnessed that more than 15 countries participated in it. We participated for a reason i.e. we wanted to tap this market and get business in Ajman as a destination and get business for our hotels in Dubai and in Ajman.
Would you like to give a piece of advice particularly to COTHM graduates and the students in this profession?
I think for COTHM students, my message is very simple; for any person when you’re coming into the hospitality industry, you should understand that your customers / guests are really the king and of highest priority. You can take inspiration from the examples of industry leaders, follow them and I’m sure you will achieve success in the future, Insha’Allah.