Omar Mohsen, Egypt Today
By Ahmed Mansour
Omar Tantawy has been with the Marriott in Zamalek for nine years now and is currently supervising the transition of the Mena House to the Marriott family. We sit down with Tantawy to talk about hotel expansion and his outlook on the tourism industry.
How has the Marriott changed during your years there? What would you say makes the Marriott one of the most popular hotels in Cairo?
Our policy is that we always listen to our customers and we know everything about creating a nourishing environment by studying and constantly researching the behavior of the travelers. We adjust our services, facilities and offerings to suit their needs. To evolve, we need to understand and provide services that are attractive to the new generations that come to visit us from all around the world.
How has the Marriott moved with the times?
First of all we have the fastest wi-fi you could ever find in a hotel and we now have the Marriott Mobile applications to ease the process of reservations, checkins, checkouts, and also via the application our customers can leave their special requests so that we can make their stay pleasurable and unforgettable. We consider ourselves a tier 1 business hotel, people come to the Marriott to conduct their businesses. Of course, we have a lot of tourists, but business is our main bread and butter.
What changes are planned at the Marriott Palace?
The Marriott in Zamalek is undergoing very ambitious major renovations this year. We’ll be renovating the swimming pool and creating a new world-class spa experience. We’re also planning a soft redo of the rooms to give them a new, fresh and crisp look.
Are you optimistic the industry will recover?
Tourism is a very fragile industry and it has a relation and correlation with the economic and political circumstances of the surrounding region. I’m really optimistic regarding tourism in the near future. The efforts that the government is taking to revive tourism in Egypt are massive and I believe that in the near future things will get back on track. I understand the circumstances nowadays are painful, but the outcome of these efforts will come later on.
Since the revolution, tourists have been turning away from Egypt and heading to other more stable destinations like the Gulf. What do we need to do to win back the tourists?
The UAE has created the most advanced, clean, disciplined, inexpensive and safest country in the world. Dubai is a magnificent model that everybody wanted to see. For us to be able to compete we need to concentrate on fixing a lot of things in terms of security, hospitality, and everything related to tourism. We must have a vision, and we need the will, endurance and the right people to execute the vision properly.
The Marriott has an impressive footprint across not only Africa and the Middle East region, but also all over the world. Tell us a little about the giant’s phenomenal expansion in the past few decades and in the last year in particular with the acquisition of Starwood.
In the past year alone we have doubled our hotels by acquiring the Starwood chain. Starwood basically has 11 brands, totaling around 1,600 hotels. Today, the Marriott owns 30 brands operating 5,000 hotels around the world. Our policy in acquiring all these hotels is that we aim to offer diversity for our customers. Having a lot of options to choose from is what makes the Marriott the strongest hotel chain in the world.
What will that mean for Marriott customers in Egypt and the region?
It means that our footprint worldwide is huge because the more hotels you have, the more market share you receive. For our customers this means that the Marriott will be there for them everywhere in the world and that gives them privileges. For example, we have our Marriott Rewards Program that you can accumulate points on and exchange them for benefits such as free nights.
When you’re not working, what’s your favorite spot at the hotel?
I manage to juggle it all with a lot of dedication, a lot of passion, and a lot of hard work. When you love your work you find it really easy and entertaining. I love walking down the Garden Promenade and stopping for a shawerma—they serve the best shawermas in the country! At Ristorante Tuscany I order the Risotto Au Saffron, and I adore the tacos and burgers at Roy’s.
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