Interview: Mohamed Mahmoud on shifting staff expectations post-pandemic

Interview: Mohamed Mahmoud on shifting staff expectations post-pandemic

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Having studied hospitality management and graduating with flying colours from Helwan University in Egypt, Mohamed Mahmoud embarked on a path into hospitality and never looked back. Prior to taking on his most recent role at the new InterContinental Ras Al Khaimah, he was part of the pre-opening team carrying out an InterContinental hotel conversion in Saudi Arabia.

Connecting Travel met with Mahmoud to find out more about his new role, his new hotel and how the industry has changed post-pandemic.

Connecting Travel: Have employment expectations changed post-pandemic? 
Mohamed Mahmoud: With a high staff turnover in the past year and many employees re-evaluating their careers, expectations have definitely changed. Being an attractive place of employment has become a priority for all businesses post-pandemic and we are constantly striving to deliver the IHG promises of 'Room to Grow' and 'Room to be Yourself' for all colleagues.

I've always considered myself as a real-life example of the 'Room to Grow' values of IHG

From starting my career as front desk receptionist, I have climbed up the ladder across eight flagship InterContinental properties in the Middle East to bcome general manager. This experience has led to knowing how to strike the right balance between strategic ambitions and operational expectations.

CT: What makes you a good hotelier?
MM: Having experience in different roles and departments, such as Operations, Quality and Commercial, has given me versatility across all functions. My background in Quality has helped me drive exceptional guest experiences through targeted and measured training platforms, along with a high level of attention to detail in quality assurance and standards, while my commercial background has helped me establish and drive the financial performance and create results by maximising sales efforts with innovative marketing ideas.

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CT: What are the USPs of your property?
MM: InterContinental Ras Al Khaimah offers island living just 45 minutes from Dubai with three distinct resort experiences. We have the resort building for family-centred stays with direct access to kids’ and teens’ clubs, our Villas for privacy and exclusivity, and Club InterContinental for a 'boutique resort' experience with a private lobby, upscale dining offered throughout the day and dedicated adults-only pool. We are also a dining destination with six dining experiences, from contemporary New York favourites at NoHo Bar & Grill to authentic Levantine cuisine at & Nar.

The InterContinental Ras Al Khaimah

CT: What's your strategy to drive occupancy and revenue?
MM: The resort opened a little over six months ago and has made a big splash in the region and beyond. The flexible and long-term strategy and “always on” marketing across digital, print, radio and partnerships seek to build a top-of-mind position for our audience. And then, of course, once you have guests at your property, it’s about ensuring that they come back.

InterContinental Ras Al Khaimah beachfront villa

CT: What are your key source markets?
MM: Currently, our key source markets are the GCC, the UK, Germany and CIS.


CT: How do you attract and cater to guests from the GCC?
MM: I think external communication needs to be localised for GCC audiences, meaning that copy and visuals need to reflect this audience's specific expectations. And then, once on property, GCC guests value their privacy and gravitate towards our villa experience. 

Beachfront Private Pool Villas have proven especially popular with the GCC market

CT: With travel opening back up, are staycations still an important revenue driver?
MM: Even with travel opening up, travel – especially in European and North-American destinations – has been congested and has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels. So, this means staycations have remained popular with UAE residents this summer, and as the weather starts to cool, I'm sure it will continue going forward.

CT: How is the regional hospitality sector performing in 2022? 
MM: Regional occupancy levels are gradually returning to pre-pandemic level and confidence has definitely returned. For Ras Al Khaimah, we expect over 1 million visitors before the end of 2022 so it is definitely a great sign for the market.

For more information, visit www.icrasalkhaimah.com 

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