In Focus: Hotelier Ashwini Kumar

More Saudi women join the hotel industry

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Saudi Gazette

With 28 years in the hospitality industry and many more to come, Hotelier Ashwini Kumar, General Manager at Park Hyatt Jeddah Marina, Club and Spa, spoke to Saudi Gazette about his journey, Park Hyatt hotels and Saudi Vision 2030. As a man who ‘likes to lead from the front’ Kumar has worked tenaciously to elevate hotel standards ever since he joined the Park Hyatt Jeddah property four years ago. “I started my career at the age of 20, in Dammam,” Kumar told Saudi Gazette. “I initially came for two years but here I am 28 years later. I have never looked back.” From working the front desk to becoming the general manager of one of the most prestigious hotel properties in the Kingdom, Ashwini is a classic self-made hero who persevered and never gave up on success. From working 8 am to 3 am shifts at a point in his career, Kumar worked endlessly to provide the best for his family and the Hyatt brand. Promoted five times over five years, Kumar was known as the ‘doctor who could fix anything’. During the interview, he spoke about the passion one needs to survive and applauded his wife for the relentless support that helped him reach this milestone. We spoke to Kumar about his current position, changing trends and the future of hotels in Saudi Arabia. He also spoke about the positive attitude of Saudi youth in the workforce and more Saudi women joining the hotel industry.

Journey

I am from India but have never worked there. I went to Dubai in 1989 from Oberoi Hotel in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, at a time when there were only few of five-stars hotels in the city. I had few walk-in interviews and was offered jobs at most of them, but someone recommended Hyatt and that was the first step of my Hyatt journey. I worked various positions in rooms division from 1989 to 2003 at Hyatt Regency Dubai. In 2004, I got transferred to Grand Hyatt Dubai as an Executive Assistant Manager – Rooms. By end of 2009, I got transferred to Abu Dhabi as a Pre-Opening General Manager of Hyatt Capital Gate which was a very exciting and interesting project in terms of the building’s unique architecture and design.

Park Hyatt Jeddah

Coming back to Saudi Arabia in 2014 was like returning to the starting point of my hospitality career way back in 1981. It was quite different from Dubai where we are considered spoiled in terms of the diverse manpower available in the city. It is a totally different experience here and certainly a different set of challenges too. The most important thing is to work and utilize the available resources to the max. Together with my team, we started building up strategies by enhancing product and services alike based on the great job done by the preopening team. As we all know, changes are not always accepted so at times one just has to make it happen somehow. I am not a ‘back of the house fan’ I would rather lead from the front and join my team on the field. My tenure of almost four years at Park Hyatt Jeddah is not only challenging but rewarding as well. I am grateful to my team for their consistent support, hard work and passion that helps ensure Park Hyatt Jeddah remains to be one of the most successful hotels of the city.

More Saudi Women Join The Hotel Industry

Primarily Saudi nationals operate Park Hyatt Jeddah’s front desk. During the hiring process, we visited the Dean of King Abdul-Aziz university in Jeddah. We offered their students on-the-job training and some of them became a part of our team. We are working with the Saudi Development Fund and managed to recruit some talented individuals who are a valuable asset to our team. We are privileged to have many hardworking Saudi women on board in various positions throughout many departments and at different levels. Everyone is hard working, caring and devoted to their jobs. This is a game changer! The way the industry and the country is moving towards Vision 2030, formation of entertainment ministry and other initiatives will definitely have a huge positive impact on our industry and will be a turning-point in the future of hospitality in Saudi Arabia.

Local Competition

With many new hotels coming up in Jeddah, competition is growing and in a way correcting the balance between supply and demand. It is healthy competition and every hotel has to come up with different strategies in order to get their market share. I always believed that product is important but it is human resources of the organization, which tilt the balance and make the differentiation between competitors. Warm welcome, smile and service with care are few of the basic pillars of our industry, which cannot be replaced by technology.

Family And Success- 28 Years Later

One thing the Jeddah property gave me, which no other property did, was time to spend with my family. At times you wonder what all you missed in all those years. My wife has always been supportive, never complained and managed most of the responsibilities of upbringing our son, who is 23-years-old and is an engineer now. In this industry, one has to have a partner who is supportive and understands the industry. That is something I tell my budding hoteliers too. You have to balance family and the demanding work life because it is a tough industry.


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