Travel bans are lifted, and tourists are on the move!
Two years’ worth of travel dreams has raised people’s expectations through the roof. Hoteliers are tasked with meeting and surpassing their guests’ expectations, even as the hospitality industry faces internal challenges like it hasn’t in the last half a century.
Hospitality leaders in these turbulent times have been facing these challenges with grace, providing guests with unforgettable experiences.
Insights Success came across one such leader, Cenk Ünverdi, Regional General Manager at Rixos Hotels in the Gulf Region.
Cenk is a hospitality industry veteran who has faced many storms and has come out better every time. He leads by actively listening to the needs of his guests, the 2000 people under his command, and himself.
Cenk’s leadership has elevated the Rixos Hotels brand through strategic and high-profile partnerships; all Rixos properties at that time won the World Travel Awards in April 2019 under his command.
Cenk Ünverdi shares his experience about his journey in the hospitality industry, the challenges he faced along the way, and establishing Rixos as a leader of 360° guest experiences.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Briefly describe your professional journey up until now.
I bring over 15 years of experience in the hotel industry. My entire hospitality career has been wonderfully spent with Rixos, a lifestyle hotel brand that I consider my home. Being the Regional General Manager, I currently oversee five hotels in UAE and gearing for upcoming hotels in the wider GCC region.
What challenges did you face along the way?
It is inevitable to face challenges along the way, and for me, every challenge is a learning curve to improve and do better. Recovering from the pandemic was one of the challenges we all faced in this industry. From handling the pandemic well to implementing unique offers to keep up with the market amidst the tough competition to constantly embracing technological and digital changes, I am quite fortunate that I have a team who sees every challenge as an opportunity.
What significant impact have you brought to the hospitality industry?
Rixos is a growing brand, and I lead a relentless quest to establish the brand as the leader in setting the stage for memorable 360° guest experiences. Rixos Hotels have introduced revolutionary entertainment and wellness programs in the Middle East, from staged shows to exciting creative activities for children at Rixy Kids Club to action-packed challenges at Exclusive Sports Club – and they are not just that. We take pride in our Kids Club – it is one of the biggest destinations in the industry; it’s every child’s dream. It’s where imaginations come to life. There is always something for every preference. Our entertainment is so unique that every guest will find something for them. It’s more than just singing and dancing; it’s a performance of a lifetime. Our Exclusive Sports Club offers a wide selection of fitness programs suitable for all ages – and it’s more than that. These fitness programs are done uniquely with our well-experienced trainers. We do things; differently. We see things that others don’t. They are more than just added values; they are in themselves a pillar in making guests’ stay special. We constantly improve and innovate; we always know what works and turn what doesn’t into something bigger and better.
Tell us about Rixos Hotels Gulf Region and its foundation pillar.
Rixos Hotels Gulf Region is a popular lifestyle destination with a flock of quality celebrities, trendsetters, and influencers spotted on every corner from day to night. Its strategic location and unique design have kept its top position amongst its competitors, with Rixos The Palm Hotel & Suites to be in the same disposition someday. Rixos Premium Dubai has 414 well-kept guest rooms with breathtaking views of Ain Dubai and modern amenities, vibrant dining and nightlife venues, and unrivaled services. The property constantly innovates with the competitive landscape of the city through exceptional guest service experiences. Moreover, Rixos Hotels Gulf Region has a longstanding partnership with exceptional brands such as Ammos, Asil, Azure, Black Tap, Lock, Stock & Barrel, Luigia, and STK. These brands continuously redefine the entertainment, dining, and nightlife scene in Dubai, and these brands set the hotel apart from the ever-growing competition in Dubai.
How does Rixos Hotels Gulf Region promote workforce flexibility, and what is your role in it?
Leading a team of more than 2000 colleagues, I value not only the physical but also the mental well-being of our colleagues. Not only in Rixos Hotels Gulf Region but across all Rixos properties in the region, we try to coordinate various activities with the help of Talent & Culture to make sure that every single colleague is satisfied and motivated with their day-to-day activities. We have implemented a “Speakeasy Committee Meeting” where everyone can openly and freely discuss their feedback and opinion. We listen and actively encourage open discussion for change. My greatest success lies within my team, and they are the key to creating the best Rixos moments for our guests.
What is your take on technology’s importance, and how are you leveraging it?
I inspired the team to kickstart digital from scratch and successfully establish a digital ecosystem across Rixos properties in the region. Moreover, my passion for the digital landscape and innovation plays a significant role in the success of various campaigns, especially after the brink of the pandemic. We live in a world driven by technology, and it is extremely important to stay up-to-date with the current trends. I consistently get myself involved with our digital efforts and make sure that every single penny we are spending has a return for the business and creates awareness.
What will be the next significant change in the hospitality industry, and how are you preparing for it?
We are in a very competitive hospitality landscape, and change is inevitable in this industry. We try to constantly innovate and make sure that our guests will experience something they have never experienced before. It is the era of digitalization, and we plan ahead, brainstorm as a team, listen to everyone’s ideas and make sure that we are always prepared for whatever is coming our way.
What are your goals in the upcoming future?
My goal is to lead the market with innovation and pave the way for new stories in the hospitality forefront. Rixos Hotels is all about making a statement through each destination. It is a promising, young, and energetic brand, and we, as a team, continue to live up to its brand DNA. We are looking forward to further expanding our footprint across the GCC region. We are more than a hotel, more than a brand, and you’ll be hearing more of this soon.
What advice would you like to give the next generation of aspiring business leaders?
My advice is to embrace learning and always be open to ideas. We live in a world powered by technology, social media, and the latest and growing trend – influencer marketing. The trends constantly change, and we need to keep up with the speed of it. Learning never stops, especially in this industry. Every opportunity and challenge can always be turned into a learning experience. Always be open to ideas; even the smallest ones can affect the business significantly. Listening can go a long way. Listen to yourself, listen to your colleagues, and more importantly, listen to what your guests needs. Last but not least, learn how to value simplicity. For simplicity generates an unrivaled beauty.