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Elie Farhat

Elie Farhat: Keeping the Rich Arab Hospitality Heritage Intact

The Arab culture has earned global acclaim for its exceptional warmth and hospitality. Visitors frequently experience the genuine care of hosts who spare no effort in ensuring a remarkable stay. As a result of these distinctive qualities, the region has emerged as a preferred travel destination for tourists from all corners of the globe.

Given the substantial demand and accompanying expectations, the significance of the hospitality industry cannot be overstated. This pursuit of excellence motivates hotels, restaurants, and affiliated establishments to consistently enhance their services, with the aim of not only meeting but surpassing international standards.

Telal Resort Al Ain, under the able leadership of General Manager Elie Farhat, is determined to set the highest benchmarks and carry the legacy of the Arab hospitality industry forward. Elie is known for his dedication to creating a positive and engaged work environment for his team, which he believes is essential for delivering exceptional guest experiences. He shed light on his remarkable journey in the industry while discussing with us.

Below are the excerpts from our interview with Elie!

Can you please provide a brief overview of your professional background and experience as a General Manager?

I started my career 20 years ago as a housekeeping agent with Movenpick Hotel and Resort in Beirut, Lebanon. During my tenure, I underwent training from different departments that paved the way for my professional development. I moved to various hotels in GCC, holding a series of leadership roles that honed my skills, experience, and knowledge in hospitality. In 2016, I joined Telal Resort as a Rooms Division Manager and was appointed as General Manager in 2018. I am grateful to our Group Managing Director, Mr. Ahmed Al Blooki, for the trust and opportunity to lead Telal Resort Al Ain.

What are the key principles or values that guide your management approach?

As a General Manager, I have an immense responsibility to create a positive atmosphere and engaged environment for my team. I believe that motivated employees will uphold the highest level of standard in service, which will yield to creating exceptional guest experiences. Also, I am very hands-on in all aspects of the business and proactively monitor the flow of operations to ensure that we are consistently delivering our commitment to providing impeccable service and satisfied guests.

Could you highlight some of the significant achievements or milestones in your career as a General Manager?

It was a great achievement in terms of financials; for the fiscal year of 2022, we achieved the highest revenue in Telal Resort Al Ain’s history.

During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was a very challenging period for everyone, especially in the hospitality business, I am pleased to say that we did not let go or send anyone on unpaid leave. We managed to generate enough business to keep our operations while looking after the safety and well-being of our guests and team members.

Furthermore, to enrich guests’ journeys during their stay in Telal Resort, we brought to life new recreational activities to enjoy and experience the rich culture and heritage of the UAE.

As a luxury desert resort, it fills us with great pride that Telal Resort has won numerous accolades from different travel award-giving bodies. In four consecutive years, we bagged the United Arab Emirates’ Leading Boutique Resort from the World Travel Awards, various recognitions in different categories from the World Luxury Hotel Awards and Traveler’s Choice Awards from Trip Advisor. I am truly grateful for all the achievements and accomplishments that Telal Resort has obtained with the trust of our top management and the unparalleled support of my team members.

How do you view the current trends and challenges within your industry in the Arab world?

As the hospitality industry recovers from the impact of the pandemic, the travel and tourism sector in the Middle East is seeing a wave of new opportunities and challenges. With a growing number of visitors from different countries seeking unique local experiences, hotels that provide heritage and cultural immersion are growing in popularity.

Sustainability programs are becoming an essential trend and challenge as well, prompting many hotels and resorts to start implementing initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint.

Similarly, the rise of demand from individuals and groups for wellness-based experiences has made hotels find new ways to provide holistic spa services and yoga retreats. Wellness facilities and programs have started to be apparent in hotel offers and promotions.

What strategies do you employ for talent development and succession planning?

At Telal Resort Al Ain, we have a dedicated training department that ensures that every team member develops skills that help them perform their duties par excellence and prepare them to be future leaders.

How do you approach problem-solving in high-pressure situations?

In hospitality, a structured approach to problem-solving is necessary during high-pressure situations. Staying calm and positive is crucial in order to analyze the root cause, conduct an investigation, and gather all relevant information to identify the best solution. It is also essential to proactively anticipate and mitigate potential conflicts or problems that may disrupt the operations.

How do you encourage innovation and adaptability within your organization to stay ahead in a rapidly changing business environment?

Innovation has a positive transition into the hospitality industry. Implementation of new technology helps to make the hotel business more efficient. On the other hand, a failure to keep up with the latest hospitality trends can lead other players in the hospitality industry to have a competitive advantage over you.

How do you stay updated with industry trends and continue to grow professionally?

Attending industry events, trade shows, and forums that showcase the latest products, services, and best practices in the hospitality industry is a necessity to identify emerging opportunities that help to grow professionally and improve the overall guest experience in the property.

What advice would you give to emerging General Managers aspiring to make a significant impact in the business world, particularly in the Arab region?

Be always positive, work hard, and most importantly, focus on your team, which delivers a great experience to your guests.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your journey or experiences as a General Manager?

The journey of my career path at Telal Resort is customer-focused. As a General Manager, I believe that taking care of my team members as internal guests will lead to exemplary service to our external guests that will result in an exceptional reputation.

It has always been my mission to ensure that every guest who goes out of Telal Resort is thoroughly satisfied and happy.