General Manager Interview: Kosta Kourotsidis, Fairmont Ajman

Fairmont Ajman General Manager Kosta Kourotsidis takes us on a tour of one of the emirate’s most luxurious beachfront properties.

What are the special features of the hotel?
Fairmont Ajman is a 252 key beachfront luxury property with all rooms facing the Arabian Gulf and the first Fairmont property in the UAE, located in the Northern Emirates. One of the unique aspects of our resort is certainly the extensive suite of suites, of which we are very proud, and which covers 30% of our entire room inventory (out of 252 rooms, there are 84 suites). All of these suites are strategically located, with private balconies overlooking the gulf and designed for large families.

Since opening in 2015, we have been fortunate to have quickly become one of the most sought after venues for destination and local weddings. Our Topaz Ballroom is the only pillarless ballroom in Ajman, with a total seating capacity of 1,200, overlooking the Gulf from its floor-to-ceiling windows. In addition to the ballroom, our expansive beachfront pearl garden is another stunning wedding venue, which during the winter months is often full for large-scale weddings months in advance. Weekends with back-to-back nuptials are no stranger to our award-winning events and catering teams.

What are the main challenges you face in hotel management?
Ajman is often seen as the “secondary” emirate – therefore being the smallest of the seven emirates, people often tend to think of Ajman as located very far from Dubai, which in reality is not. Fairmont Ajman is only a 25 minute drive from Dubai International Airport, which is actually the same distance as the Palm Jumeirah, and unknown to many people – Ajman has one of the best white sand beaches of all. the world. UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. Therefore, the main challenge is to be able to change people’s perception of Ajman as a destination and to be constantly in mind – for those who have not yet visited us.

People from neighboring Emirates who have been to Ajman before and keep coming back often affectionately call us – a hidden gem of a destination.

Since opening, we have also been fortunate to establish ourselves in our main food markets such as Germany and the CIS countries, attracting a number of regular guests year after year. Thanks to the countless efforts of my team within the property, combined with the support of Accor and Ajman’s tourism development department, Ajman as a destination continues to grow and we are seeing great strides in bringing the destination to the higher level.

How important are online hotel reviews and social media comments, and to what extent do you take them into account?
Feedback from our customers is of utmost importance to us and I, along with my management team, take it very seriously – whether in the form of an online review posted on one of our many channels. social media or received by e-mail, by post. TrustYou stay survey, or verbally from guests.

When dealing with online reviews, timing is of the essence – living in a social age means customers are more connected than ever through social media and review platforms and responding to customer feedback in a timely manner is not only crucial, but expected by default of a five-star luxury property.

The only way to make sure we’re on the right track is to receive feedback. While feedback can be difficult, it helps us determine priority areas for improvement, to ensure the highest possible service standards and customer experience at all times. And as the impact of online bookings and digital reviews continues to increase, the importance of reputation management increases with it.

How to assess employee performance and keep your team motivated?
At all Accor properties around the world, we use a tool called Talent Connect – an online platform, allowing our Heartists and their leaders to successfully monitor and evaluate employee performance, based on defined objectives. At the start of each year, all employees will set smart goals together with their respective leaders, which will then be frequently assessed in individual performance reviews.

It is crucial that our leaders give frequent feedback to their team members, in order to avoid any surprises during the annual appraisal interviews. At the end of the year, all previously set goals will be reviewed and, on this basis, employee performance is marked as either “exceeding expectations”, “meeting expectations” or “underperforming”.

Our parent company Accor has also introduced 14 skills, which vary according to the level of the employees and the function of their position. For example, one of the skills of a housekeeper would be the “passion of the guests”, for which the employee must then, during the end-of-year evaluation, provide concrete examples, on how exactly he practiced this skill in real life. situations during service.

A back-office employee in charge of a sales team would have a skill of ‘leading a team’, to which he would then need to provide examples of his leadership skills.

All this is recorded on an online platform, accessible to human resources managers of all Accor establishments – if the employee wishes to be transferred within the company in the future – the management team can easily see how the employee behaved in their previous role.

What systems do you have in place to resolve customer complaints?
When the hotel opened, Fairmont Ajman was one of the first Fairmont Hotels & Resorts properties in the world to introduce the RSM system, which was therefore the pilot project for Accor in the region.

Managers in operational departments have devices that allow telephone operators to send customer inquiries and communicate maintenance issues directly to managers “in the field”.

This solution enables immediate processing of customer requests and gives managers an overview of pending and completed requests. Daily reports are also sent to the entire management team, which shows the number of requests resolved.

For example, when a customer calls from the room to inform our Royal Service team (telephone operators) that the TV is not working, our team can immediately register the customer’s complaint through the RSM online platform and simultaneously send the RSM ticket to the concerned member of the device of the technology team, which is currently on site and in the next few minutes able to resolve the issue.

What would you like to tell visitors about the hotels F&B offer?Due to its seven distinct food and beverage venues, the Fairmont Ajman is widely regarded as one of the most diverse culinary destinations in the Northern Emirates. Two of my personal favorites are Gioia, the classic Italian restaurant with a subtle modern twist, featuring a traditional pizza oven and interactive show cooking experience, and Kiyi. The latter is our signature restaurant offering an interactive, family-style dining experience in a traditional Turkish setting, with live oud music in the background.

For those cooler evenings between October and April, I would also highly recommend our outdoor Badr Lounge which offers panoramic views and breathtaking sunsets over the Gulf. Having extensive catering experience myself, our Executive Chef Rober Salloum and I work closely together and constantly strive to innovate and offer new concepts to our customers.

We believe that the most important thing for any dish is its taste, but with the rapid evolution of social media, Instagrammable aesthetics are almost as important: especially nowadays, when people eat first with their eyes on them. and often even before opening the menu, would show our waiter a picture of a dish from their phone, which they would like to order. Technology has always had a strong and positive impact on the restaurant industry, and now more than ever.

What is a good GM?
The sentence may seem overused, but you have to have a passion for the work because you can’t do a 14-hour day while continuing to smile at the guest. At the end of the day, people will realize that the smile is not genuine. If you don’t have passion, you just won’t be successful. Especially in our field, where passion for what you do is everything.

As times change, you need to keep up to date with the latest news and trends every day, and one of the most important of these is social media. It is crucial that we are present on these platforms that are relevant to our clients, in order to stay ahead and be able to communicate directly with our target audience.

What are your three favorite aspects of ownership?
First of all, our Heartists, because that’s ultimately the team that sells the hotel, and very often also the reason why overseas guests keep coming back to the property – because of how our colleagues made them special during their stay. It is ultimately the unwavering passion and culture of Fairmont service that sets us apart from the competition.

Our 200 meter natural pristine beach is very unique, I haven’t seen any other beach like this in the UAE.

Our Italian restaurant Gioia: from its open kitchen with live cooking stations to the multiple flavors of homemade pasta and a complete menu with organic ingredients – Gioia is an absolute gem in our wide selection of F&B outlets.

About Tammy N. McFarlane

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