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Rabih Zein

Rabih ZEIN: Embracing Employee Empowerment

Travelers hold diverse expectations when it comes to the hospitality sector. Their journey is profoundly influenced by the caliber of services and amenities they encounter throughout their trips. These expectations hinge on several elements, including the type of lodging, the destination’s characteristics, cultural backgrounds, and individual predilections. It is imperative for the hospitality industry to be finely attuned to these diverse anticipations to ensure an all-encompassing positive travel encounter.

In response to these varied needs, the industry is in a constant state of flux. Remaining adaptable to these requisites is pivotal for the industry to retain its competitive edge and offer superlative guest encounters. This not only draws more patrons but also cultivates allegiance, as contented guests are more inclined to revisit and endorse the establishment to others.

Rabih ZEIN, General Manager of Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche, has closely witnessed the growth of this sector. His long experience of 30 years is a guidebook for all beginners and aspiring individuals in the hospitality sector. We tried to interact with him to find out more about his journey, ideas, Mission, vision, and values.

The following key principle is ensuring we have the right team in the right place.

In order to achieve operational as well as financial goals, a passionate team with members who are enthusiastic and committed is necessary. And, of course, the exemplary leadership must be in place.

My management approach is also guided by Accor’s vision and objectives, structured around four strategic pillars: working with our teams, involving our clients, innovating with our partners, and involving local communities.

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

Throughout my career I successfully opened several hotel properties across the Middle East and Europe. I had the honor to win several awards, such as the Rezidor GM Fighter of the Year 2018 and the “Leading Responsible Business Hotel”. However the most significant accomplishment for me was the recognition from my team and the companies I worked for.

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

The hospitality industry in the Arab region and worldwide is growing and changing daily. Guests are very much involved; their expectations are higher, and demands are changing. Additionally, staying at a hotel has become more accessible to the public.

The U.A.E, followed by Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries, became among the top destinations worldwide and more to come. While 2022 was about recovering performances, we can safely say that 2023 is the year that travel fully recovered. The Middle East is the only region to witness a complete recovery of international travel in the first quarter of 2023.

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

I embrace employee empowerment at the workplace, which goes along with the understanding of their strengths and areas of development. At Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche, we make sure to provide equal opportunities for growth through training, involvement, empowerment, reward, and recognition.

Furthermore, I ensure I stay approachable and close to my team. By approachable, I mean creating an environment where open dialogue is encouraged and letting my team know that their opinions are valued.

What’s more – getting to know each of my employees is my priority. After all, our employees are the most valuable assets an organization has.

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

Problem-solving is a skill that improves with practice. Before taking any action, I always take time to assess the situation with the 360-degree approach. Being a problem solver comes with a willingness to learn, try again, and keep going.

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

We have to follow trends to be in the race of the ever-changing hospitality industry.

For example, seemingly recent innovations such as contactless payment, mobile check-ins, and fast Wi-Fi have all rapidly become commonplace in the hospitality industry. Keeping up with technology is 100% a part of the success of the industry.

As a leader, it is imperative for me to foster innovation. One of the ways to encourage innovation is by unlocking the innovative potential of my team members. I always encourage my team to share their ideas openly and to take ownership of new ideas and solutions.

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

I keep up with the latest trends by reading industry publications, news, and blogs daily. Furthermore, as a General Manager, I meet guests every day – I talk to them and ask questions, which is a great way to get first-hand information from our customers.

One of the great ways to stay updated, which I actively employ, is knowledge sharing with team members – during our daily morning briefings, our WhatsApp groups, and departmental meetings.

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

Love your job! Owning up to mistakes and patience are the key to success.

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

Hospitality is not a job; it’s a way of life. Dealing with guests, team members, and partners is not a challenge for me; it is a pleasure. A true passion for this industry is rare and comes from deep within. Personally, I am a tenacious and dedicated individual. I believe that if you enjoy what you do, you will always be successful.