Just 13 minutes from former King Farouk’s Palace & Montazah parks lays Sheraton Montazah; a refined business hotel overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. We chatted with the man on top of board of Sheraton Montazah hotel to unveil the secrets of what’s perceived as an unforgettable getaway in Alexandria. Full of determination and positive energy, here’s what Islam Mahrous had to say..
Mr. Mahrous, you’re known to have intensive experience in many international hotel chains, tell us more about your career path in hospitality.
I chose to join the faculty of tourism and hotels in Alexandria. It was one of the top faculties in the 90s. I actually enjoyed studying there as the atmosphere was really engaging and it really helped me to get a good sense of the practical work environment beside the academic life. During my study period I was keen to strengthen my language skills; so I studied Italian and German to give me an edge in the tourism business. I travelled abroad during summer where I received essential training in the tourism sector and got a real sense of the international market. My first job was in Intercontinental Hurghada in 1994, where I received intensive training with a worldwide chain of a reputable name. I started from the bottom of the pyramid as a receptionist in Intercontinental hotel and I actually gained a lot of experience there, and soon I got promoted to a shift leader then Assistant Manager.
I was also eager to gain international experience, so I travelled to Dubai and worked in Sofitel City Center, it was actually the first big project of a shopping mall that is linked to a hotel. Afterwards I joined Sheraton International chain in Dubai as a Night Manager. I also worked in Libya in one of the very significant hotel projects there. I similarly diversified my work experience in Egypt, I worked at Sheraton Soma Bay and Sheraton Miramar Elgouna, and finally I joined Sheraton Montazah in Alexandria as Hotel Manager.
As Director of Six Sigma and operations innovations in Sheraton Miramar, you performed many projects that were applied as best practices amongst Starwood Hotels in Africa; we’d like to hear more about that.
Six Sigma is an internationally recognized approach/project at Starwood Hotels and Resorts that helps associates develop innovative, customer-focused solutions and quickly spread those innovations across the entire organization. It is unique to the hospitality industry. It provides the framework and tools needed to create and maintain superior standards at all properties while dramatically improving the bottom line. For example, I worked on some projects to increase the materialization of the high rated tour operators so as to increase the average Room Rate, occupancy, and changed the business mix with Sales, Marketing and Revenue Management teams. Enhanced the Food & Beverage financial performance and increased the extras and allocation revenues per customer with F&B team. Accordingly, I was selected to be the Director of Operational Innovation Coach for (5) properties in Egypt and Morocco.
What are the new initiatives Sheraton Montazah is working on to attract new guests?
Now we are working on realizing the new business potential in Cairo thus maximizing the hotel’s occupancy through conducting different sales blitzes on different areas to grab new sources of business. In addition to hitting some business projects in Alexandria such as the new petroleum/Gas projects in Abu-Qir area.
Do you think Alex hotels still preserve its potential after the new luxurious resorts opening in North Coast?
In winter, Alexandria remains the center for conferences, meetings, seminars and business groups. In summer, Alexandria remains the center of leisure throughout the local market in spite of the competition in different nearby areas such as North Coast, Borj Alarab and King Mariout.
In your opinion, what steps are needed in the hospitality industry now to boast tourism?
First of all, Media should focus more on positive news. The negative propaganda about terrorism is largely magnified. Terrorism acts are taking place all over the world, not only in Egypt and this is a fact that we should all know. Our lifestyle should not change and we have to keep our positive yet realistic/factual approach to the challenges we have. We should start a well-planned Short, Mid and Long term strategies that include well executed tactics and actions in order to build a momentum of fast and consistent business development in different and diversified markets. We need the Egyptian media to work on building more trust internally and externally to send an optimistic massage to the international market.
What’s the one achievement you’re most proud of in your career path?
I’m really proud of myself being consistent in my performance and values while moving ahead through senior leadership positions during my career.
Being a five-star hotel’s Manager is a highly-demanding occupation, how did that affect your personal life?
It’s all about finding the right balance between business and personal life, which is very important, and applying the simple and basic definition of productivity: “Wherever you are, be there”.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Reading and swimming.
Any plans for festivals or special events at Sheraton Montazah for this summer season?
We do have plenty of surprises in summer, such as food & beverage festivals, social community events, offers on rooms and special promotions. Our Entertainment program in the different outlets has been enhanced and upgraded. Our rooms and corridors will witness a significant upgrade during the coming few weeks. The interiors of our public areas and F&B outlets will reflect cheerful summer spirit. I assure you Sheraton Montazah has plenty of satisfactory stories that will be introduced soon.
We can’t wait