An integral part of the MBA experience is an overseas visit, in which I had the opportunity to spend an intensive week in the United Arab Emirates. This experience enabled me to meet like-minded leaders and be immerse in another business culture. This year’s visit included a Global Leaders Industry Visit to the Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi.
The intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) is a global hotel company traded on the New York as well as the London Stock exchange. Present on over 100 countries worldwide with one of the largest room inventories of over 177,000 room in 4900 hotels, there is no surprise when IHG has been named on FORTUNE Magazine’s 2014 World’s Most Admired Companies list. The question when the Salford MBA students entered the hotel was, what makes them ‘amazing?’
In conversation with Ivor Prestwood, the General Manager of The Intercontinental Abu Dhabi, the Salford Business School MBA students were given an insight into the exciting and challenging world of hospitality.
‘1001 Arabian nights’ on Trip advisor
World map (CC) by Nicolas Raymond
With its headquarters in London, this brand has diversified into multiple markets as well as multiple segments. It has strong presence in Europe and has growing presence in emerging markets such as India and China. The organization has a total of nine brands ranging from the luxurious Intercontinental Hotels to the budget Holiday Inn Express. Interestingly, the organization has combined diversity in brand and diversity in geographic locations by opening the upscale HUALUXE Hotels and Resorts brand designed exclusively for Chinese consumers.
Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi
The Intercontinental Abu Dhabi has over 60 nationalities of employees working in the hotel and as mentioned by Ivor, the hotel and organization value diversity which is why one of the values of IHG is to celebrate difference. The belief lies in ‘Celebrating local differences whilst understanding that some things should be kept the same’
Salford MBA students at the Intercontinental in Abu Dhabi
As we entered the hotel we were greeted by the host dressed in the traditional Middle Eastern white dress called the ‘Jalabiya’ offering the Salford MBA students a customary Arabic welcome of cinnamon flavoured short coffee and candied dates. As we drank our coffee we noticed the design of the lobby replicating the Arabian Desert with veined marble and the traditional music in the lobby. These finer details made the local element in an international brand appropriately visible. Additionally the gracious hospitality displayed on the 22nd floor in the Club Lounge overlooking the expansive city of Abu Dhabi with petit fours of macaroon and pitted dates served again, reflected the local element. The warmth rendered also reflected the renowned Arabian hospitality with due attention and care given to guests.
Salford MBA students in conversation with the Front Office Manager
In conversation with the Front Office Manager, the Salford MBA students were told that he has worked with the organization for almost a decade and is deeply passionate about his role in the organization. When asked what keeps him intrinsically motivated, his reasons included challenging prospects, opportunities in learning and development from basics such as customer service to more advanced skills such as revenue and inventory management. He felt that the organization treated him as an individual with specific requirements and this has given him the high levels of motivation
Salford MBA students at the Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi
As part of the brief from Ivor, he mentioned that the company believes that the staff at every level in the hotel have the sprit to take care of guests and creating positive memories was always a priority. He mentioned that guest feedback is sought on their experiences and that is shared with team members to continuously motivate team members
Franchising versus Owning
The IHG group is largely franchised as compared to the earlier structure of owning as well as managing hotels. When asked, the General Manager quiet aptly mentioned that IHG is known for running hotels, not owning them so IHG has decided to continue expanding in the direction where it feels its expertise lie in. He also mentioned that franchised hotels are under constant evaluation for service levels and if the hotel does not meet the standards the IHG branding is removed from the hotel, thus ensuring quality at all times.
As we bid adieu to the beautiful and unique Intercontinental Abu Dhabi, the Salford MBA students felt humbled by the hospitality and at the end it was evident that the feeling of wonder we took away was what every guest takes away after a stay at The Intercontinental Abu Dhabi.
See more photos from the United Arab Emirates trip on Salford Business School Facebook page