Rami Sayess is the Regional Vice President and General Manager at Four Seasons Hotel Beirut, overseeing a number of hotels and resorts in the region including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco and Syria. Having distinguished himself at several Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts since 2005, Lebanese born Rami Sayess, also a British Citizen, returned home having left thirty years ago to embark on an exciting journey around the globe. A graduate of Les Roches Hotel Management School in Switzerland and Cornell University in New York, Sayess has worked in 15 countries and has travelled the world along with his wife and three children.
How did you get into the industry?
It started when my father suggested I enter hotel management, Lebanon was in the midst of a civil war and I, as a young 17 year-old, did not see how hospitality could evolve in my country. However, my father said something to me that day and it still rings true today and inspired me to return home: "By the time you graduate and earn experience in this industry, there will probably be peace in Lebanon and even a Four Seasons Hotel in Beirut that you could one day manage". He was certainly a man of a vision and I am delighted to have the opportunity to make his vision a reality thirty years later.
Any emerging industry trends?
1. Mobile Devices and APPS that enables personalized guests services, especially with the Millenial sector, from check-ins to reservations, comments and special services.
2. Using social media and digital Apps as customer service and marketing tool.
3. New & innovative security measures
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
• Technology: It will be providing more flexibility to guests and hotel operation. Also technology will give hotels that embrace it a head-start on their competitions.
• Serviced Apartments: The trends started in 2015 and is expected to have a bright future in the coming years.
• Global Changes: Hospitality is industry vulnerable to extraordinary changes like political instability, terrorists threats, pollutions and natural disasters; All these factors has heightened safety concerns and could reduce overall travel numbers in 2017.
• Recruitment: Attracting & retaining staff remains a top concern in the hospitality industry and one of the biggest challenge.
• We live in a world of now: "One-Think Decision-Making" creates Meaningful Membership as people expect to be satisfied immediately. If hotels do not deliver on their promises quickly, perceptions of quality, leadership and trust can be damaged.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
We have chosen to specialize within the hospitality industry by offering only experiences of exceptional quality. Our aim is to be differentiated as the company that manages the finest hotels, resorts and residence clubs wherever we operate. We create properties of enduring value using superior design and finishes, and support them with a deeply instilled ethic of personal service. Doing so allows Four Seasons to satisfy the needs and tastes of our guests, and to maintain our position as the world's premier luxury hospitality company.
Our greatest asset, and the key to our success, is our people. We believe that each of us needs a sense of dignity, pride and satisfaction in what we do. Because satisfying our guests depends on the united efforts of many, we are most effective when we work together cooperatively, respecting each other’s contribution and importance.
Times change, but our dedication to perfecting the travel experience never will. Our highly personalized 24-hour service, combined with authentic, elegant surroundings of the highest quality, embodies a home away from home for those who know and appreciate the best. As the company has grown from a single hotel to 99 in 41 countries, our deeply instilled culture, personified by our employees, continues to get stronger. Over more than 50 years, our people have built an unrivalled depth of reliability, trust and connection with our guests – a connection we will steadfastly uphold, now and always.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
The only thing that is constant in life is change….and the recent couple of years have witnessed several changes in the leadership of Four Seasons, which is natural in the life cycle of every organization. However despite all these changes one thing remained intact is our belief that PEOPLE remain our greatest asset and it is only through them we shall continue to manage world class hotels & resorts and offer our guests (both internal and external) exceptional experiences in every location.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
I like to call the hotel I manage, a land of opportunities…..and these may vary between hotels depending on several factors (location, space, market needs etc…) One successful idea was the creation of a “Shisha Terrace” at FS Doha. From an empty space, the team managed to create an amazing food & beverage outlet, overlooking the Arabian Gulf. Not only this became a destination for the “who’s who” in town but also generated healthy revenues/profits within a very short period of time. Hoteliers are also entrepreneurs and they can impact their business positively if/when they run it as their own!
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
Natural disasters are the most difficult because they are usually unexpected and not only affect the business but more importantly the people who run our business on daily basis. If I was to give an example it would have to be the flooding that hit Thailand shortly after my appointment to the position of Regional Vice President& GM at Four Seasons Bangkok, also overseeing our resorts throughout Thailand. Our occupancy fell overnight from 90% to a one digit figure…..Over 250 employees from our Bangkok hotel were affected, most of them lost their homes or at least suffered major losses…and the most important lesson I learned from this extremely challenging experience was how “resilient” the Thai people are….they carried on with their daily lives and kept on taking care of our guests with their traditional smile despite what they were going through….one of many lessons I took away from my time in Thailand.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
We strive to deliver a consistently excellent guest experience at all of our hotels. For several years now, Four Seasons has relied on many internal and external platforms to manage experiences across all properties and empower our people with customer data to make improvements. The system provides us with a comprehensive view of the entire customer journey: from arrival to checkout, and everything in between. Having accessible customer data enables our hotels to truly understand and connect with our guests as we strive to always exceed their expectations, and create great value in choosing Four Seasons.
How do you motivate others?
Our company culture is based on a single basic principle, the Golden Rule – to treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. It’s a universal value, practiced in every country, culture and religion. In fact, it’s the universality of the Golden Rule that gives Four Seasons culture its emotional power. Over more than 50 years in business, it has been the ethic that underlies every interaction with our guests, with our business partners and with each other. It is a way of life common to every Four Seasons employee, and will ensure our success in the next 50 years.
This requires leaders who are less bosses than mentors and communicators, whose role is to bring out each individual's best and weld them into a winning team.Our employees value primarily three things: first, to work for leaders who inspire their best; second, a physical environment that makes work enjoyable; and third, and I think most important, a sense of purpose, and a feeling they're working for more than a paycheck — that they're helping to build a company that they can take pride in. In short, a daily meaning along with their daily bread.
Career advice to those in your industry?
I have always believed that if you enjoy what you do you can do it well. But I also realized early on in my career that the hospitality business revolves around people and it is only through people that you can learn, develop and grow. Throughout my journey, during which I have worked in 15 countries, I have been blessed to work with people who guided, supported or helped me, sometimes learning what to do and often what not to do. I believe that you cannot choose your superior or your team, so you had better learn from whomever it is you are working with and make sure you gain the experience that you need to help you get to the next level. I always tell young hoteliers or fresh graduates not to be too focused on the destination, but to enjoy the journey instead. After all we are in the business of delighting our guests, so they should have fun while taking their journey.