#HospitalityLeaders: Sammy Gani, Complex General Manager, The Westin and Le Meridien

Sammy Gani – Complex General Manager

What is your vision for The Westin & Le Meridien?

To make The Westin & Le Meridien, City Centre a preferred choice for travellers whether it’s for leisure or business travel.

What have been your biggest challenges (and successes) over the past difficult years?

The biggest challenge was losing great talent due to the pandemic. We have been primarily focusing on recruiting and training on service delivery for the past seven months.

Other than a great team, what qualities do your hotels have that make them stand out in Bahrain?

Being attached to the largest mall on the island, City Centre Bahrain makes us the perfect destination for leisure and business. Guests can stay, dine, shop, and unwind all in the comfort of being in one place.

Our hotels offer a combination of new and exciting Food & Beverage (F&B) offerings, with the likes of Baharat adding a Turkish touch to diners’ experience. Our newly opened giant burger and monster milkshake lounge, Butcher and Buns, has live music and would be a great place to watch the World Cup and other sporting events. Salero, our authentic Spanish tapas and paella restaurant has live Flamenco performances, keeping our visitors entertained throughout the night.

We also have a number of F&B changes in line, which we will reveal towards the end of the year.

What does hospitality leadership mean to you?

I would define hospitality leadership as having the ability to share an inspired vision embraced by the team. This results in mastering the anticipation of guests’ needs, their expectations, and delivering consistently on that.

Is there a particular saying or motto that guides you?

“100% Responsibility, 0 excuses”. This is a quote from the book “Stepping Up” by John Izzo.

Executive Committee Team

Clockwise: Alper Kucukbaycan, Cristalyn Pastrana, Jane Fernandes, Mahmoud ElSheikh, and Armelle Retmia

Alper Kucukbaycan – Complex Director of Operations

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I would like to lead a 5-star hotel in Turkey where I am originally from. I would also like to do more for the community by supporting the education of youth who cannot afford a good education.

What do you enjoy doing in Bahrain when you are not working?

Bahrain is a very nice place, especially for families. So, I try to spend most of my time with my family here. We go for family breakfasts, beach activities, and to the playgrounds. I also like to watch sports when I have the time and when there is an important sports event.

Cristalyn Pastrana – Complex Director of Marketing

What is the most exciting aspect of your job?

Every day brings different excitement to my job at both hotels, but perhaps the most exciting part right now is the opening of our new outlets Butcher and Buns Lounge at Le Meridien City Centre Bahrain. Many exciting promotions and works of art were put into this new outlet, and we cannot wait to see the success ahead. A lot of exciting news and new offerings are coming your way, Bahrain; so, stay tuned!

As a leader, how do you encourage and support your staff to bring out their best in their career?

My team appreciates that I am upfront with them. I ensure that we have open communication all around and that information needed by the team is always shared and not hidden. Showing that you genuinely care and showing kindness even in little things can bring out the best in each member of the team. Keeping your commitments as a leader by doing what you say you will do, will be mirrored in the team’s performance. 

Armelle Retmia – Complex Director of Revenue Management

What are the most important qualities that each employee in the hospitality industry must possess?

It is no secret that being committed, having great people skills, attention to detail, and strong teamwork skills are key qualities within the hospitality industry. But, let’s not forget about enthusiasm and attitude – which may be considered the most important.

What advice for success would you give to someone who has just started pursuing their career in this industry?

Be ready to learn! To grow in your career, you have to be open to learning to become a great leader. No matter what university you have graduated from, professional life will be different from college. Be prepared to face a million questions, be open to receiving feedback, and a beautiful career will be waiting for you.

Mahmoud ElSheikh – Cluster Director of Finance

What is the most challenging part of your job?

I would call it interesting rather than challenging and it is ‘compliance’. This term originates from the business and legal “adherence to rules” of companies in order to comply with laws, guidelines, and ethical codes. It is referred to by the Government and Company policies to avoid breaches of rules. “The way we do business is as important as the business itself”.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?

Focus. When we focus 100% on what we do, our thoughts empower us and then trigger the right decisions.   

Jane Fernandes – Cluster Director of Human Resources

The hospitality industry can get busy and require long working hours. How do you maintain a good work-life balance?

I strongly believe that work-life balance is an ongoing cycle and not an achievement. As a mother of 1-year-old twins, leading Human Resources of four hotels in two different countries, I maintain a good work-life balance through several deeply ingrained habits – from prioritising/re-prioritising, recognising signs of burnout, and taking time to unplug and setting realistic boundaries between work and home. As a Hotelier, some days, you might focus more on the service, associates, guests, or business, while other days you might have more time to spend with your loved ones. It is about achieving that balance over time.

What to you is the backbone of success?

An indomitable spirit (the spirit that pushes you to achieve more despite the challenges, failures and obstacles) and a positive approach that not only inspires you but also uplifts those around you.