Running On Passion

Adel Aramouni is a gentleman currently living his aspirations to live and work in Asia and lead his own team for a full opening of a very impressive property. A natural leader known for his strong passion for his work, Adel is currently in charge of two prestigious hotels: Holiday Inn Express and the highly anticipated Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong. Work has been taxing, and he barely has time to unwind, but these only strengthen his resolve as he moves forward, pouring in his whole heart and soul, to ensure his properties provide an unforgettable staying experience to discerning guests. Adel achieves this by utilising nearly three decades of vast experience in the hospitality industry. At the end of the day, he knows full well that his passion and dedication to his work are stronger than any difficulties or obstacles he may face.

Q: Would you kindly share the highlights of your career so far up until how you ended here at Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong?

A: I started professionally in September 1990 with the Hilton International in Dubai. At that time they had a very special program called the Management Training Program for a year and a half. I went through all the different departments like, for example F&B, engineering, operations to improve my general understanding. This went on for a year and a half and I was offered the position of F&B analyst. The position comes under the F&B department and is responsible for things like profit and loss analysis, food and beverage costs, pricing, etc. I was also involved in operations at Hilton later on. I left Hilton in 1996, going to IHG, and my first position was as assistant to the director of F&B. That was a bit of a challenge to me because it was a palace built by Sultan Qaboos based on the beach, 250 rooms, 12 meeting rooms, six outlets. And then I moved to Crowne Plaza as a full-fledged F&B manager, and then onward to Lebanon for the first time as a director of F&B for IHG’s first ski resort in the country. That was another challenge because there were standards of safety, risk and so on to be observed. Then came my first role as general manager with Holiday Inn at Al-Khobar, and then to Crowne Plaza Oman as general manager. Asia was always part of my endeavour, and there are always F&B concepts I can learn from wherever I go. Up until then I’d done soft openings but never done a full opening. I’d also never led an Indigo brand or Holiday Inn Express, so it all came together here. Two new brands I’d never done before and a full opening. To be here and experience all that finally is a fantastic delight for me.

Q: How did you come to develop a passion for F&B and hospitality?

A: When I was studying in Greece I always took part-time jobs at the weekends, back then it was the Athenium Intercontinental and I worked in banqueting to get extra income and experience and so on. I was only in my late teens and the F&B exposure within the hospitality scene gave me my passion. I started to ask questions and wanted to find out a little bit more about this and that. After banqueting they suggested I try the kitchen, after the kitchen they let me try the fine dining, and then they said why not try hotel management? Since Lebanon had always been famous for prestigious, high-end hotels, that became my goal and I eventually went back after my studies to Lebanon.

Q: Now after you developed the passion for it, how did you realise and decide that a career in hospitality was what you wanted to pursue?

A: You look at it from two ways: the personality and the character. And you reflect on yourself and ask if it’s really what you want or not. In terms of character, I’m an outgoing person who likes to meet people. I like to introduce myself and exchange learning and interesting conversations. I’m very pro people. This is one way I looked at it. My profile fits for it. I realised it would be a long-time commitment, and I knew I wanted to pursue it.

Q: Earlier on in your career you took the time to get to know every department on a fundamental level. How important would you say this early learning was to your career?

A: Again, in the hospitality department, passion goes a long way. Because of this passion I cared enough to do more than just pay my dues in order to move forward. The training that I received, not just in one but multiple departments, prepared me for the challenges that lay ahead. It is very easy to get sidetracked in this industry because what you see on the front side of business is always perfect and well organised, but in order to actually achieve that level, it is most important to understand the underlying process. I’m grateful to have been allowed the opportunity to comprehend this process early on.

Q: When you started your studies or early in your career, did you have it clearly in your mind that someday you would be a general manager?

A: The hotel management school that I went to in a way prepared us for the ultimate role of general manager. And so I wanted to be a general manager one day, but back then I knew it would be up to me and I would have to work hard for it. In the old days, you used to say that in hospitality you needed to have a papa, like a mentor that would nurture you and someday remember you and help you along. But nowadays, you need to help yourself. For me, I knew from day one that if I was going to this hotel management school, one day I have to end up as a general manager. Along the way, mentoring was very important for my progress, so was tutoring, as well as requesting feedback on my performance. I like hearing constructive criticism and feedback. I was always hungry for feedback in order to improve on my career.

Q: You’ve spent 21 years with IHG, and another five years with Hilton. In your perspective, what are some interesting trends in the industry that you’ve observed over the years?

A: I worked a lot in resort hotels, such as ski or beach resorts. I see that competition nowadays is fierce, and more properties are gearing up towards personalised service, listening to guests, improving services and facilities. We want the guest to return again and again, and the emphasis today is more on the people. The more our people are equipped, the more you are ready to bring returning business. If I can refer back to Dubai, in my earlier times in the early 1990s, there were only a few luxury hotels compared to around 350 standing today. People are travelling more, guests have higher incomes and they want to go and experience a lot of different things, and so hotels have a lot more creativity, art and design appeal. Take for example Baba Chews right here. It’s a unique place. You can refer to it as a heritage building, you can refer to it as an old police station – this is the kind of strong identity that people come back to experience. Going hand in hand with that is the quality of service and food and beverage. And these qualities, if maintained well, are easily recognised through social media and the internet and so on. Back in the old days this type of rapid communication with customers was a little bit difficult to find. We had to rely on simple business cards, special promotional events, even telemarketing. So definitely technology plays a massive roll these days.

Q: What advice can you give to young hoteliers trying to make it in the industry?

A: First of all, you need to focus. You need know what you want, and for that you need to understand what exactly is available in the hotel industry to you. You can try it out first. Come out and enjoy internships, maybe during the summer. Come for a week or two and maybe participate in summer training in order to really feel it out for yourself and pick what areas you want to focus your energy on. Second of all, if you don’t love what you’re doing, you will never get anywhere. In this industry you cannot do it halfway. I guarantee you that if your heart is not in there, people can tell. Not just your fellow team members, but more importantly the guests will be able to tell as well. It’s important to make sure that this is what you love to do and then do it wholeheartedly. Education background is very important. Going through proper education venues to get a strong base is important, but having a coach along the way is just as important. This coach ideally is someone who can direct you and show you the right way, advise you on what skills you need and how to develop such skills. You just focus on what you like to do and love it and you can accelerate. It’s also important to always be aware of your surroundings – the trends around you, the changes, and so on.