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Austrian wins top honours in hospitality sector

1. September 2010

Florian Mayer’s exceptional contribution to Hilton Dubai Jumeirah has won him the AHIC 2010 Young Leader Award. Austrian Trade Commission goes behind the scenes and gets to know more about the man, his vision and Austrian values that he brings to the hospitality sector in the UAE

Austrian born Florian Mayer is being recognized as this year's winner of AHIC 2010 Young Leader Award for his exemplary contribution to Hilton Dubai Jumeirah. Having been brought up in a hospitality environment in Tyrolean Alps, it felt natural for Florian Mayer to choose hospitality as his vocation. After several internships with Austrian hotels, Florian Mayer joined Hilton Dubai Jumeirah at the tender age of 19, he was the youngest employee there. Five years later Florian Mayer is currently leading a team of 35 employees at Hilton Dubai Jumeirah.
He recently discussed his work, his aspirations and his reaction to winning the prize with the Austrian Trade Commission. Excerpts from the interview:

First off, congratulations! What does winning the AHIC 2010 Young Leader Award mean to you?
Thank you! Being selected as the Young Leader 2010 by a panel of the industries leaders that gathered for the annual hotel investment conference from the entire Middle East and North Africa means a lot to me. This award represents a great reward for a lot of responsibilities and hard work I have put into my position at the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself - your past work experiences, interests etc.
To sum it up in one word, Hospitality inside-out. Being brought up in a hospitality environment in the Tyrolean Alps there has been no option for me not to choose the hotel-business as my career path.
After graduating the Villa Blanka Hotel School in Innsbruck along with annual internships in Austrian Hotels I traveled the world by signing up for Austrian based DO&CO Formula One Catering, serving sponsors and VIP’s at every F1 Grand Prix.
At that time the media was all about Dubai, with the most luxurious hotels, man made islands and restaurants run by the worlds most famous Chefs.
I decided to do a Management training for the duration of 18 months at the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah, which was nearly five years ago. After my traineeship I got promoted to F&B Coordinator and after one year in that role I was offered the position of Restaurant Manager being in charge of the Hotels All Day dining restaurant and Lobby Lounge.
Dubai with its new hotels, great Bars and Restaurants became the ultimate hot spot for hoteliers, that fact kept me here. In my time off I try to see and experience as much as possible that Dubais luxury hotels can give you, always looking to grab unique ideas, best-practices and experiences to remember that I can take with me wherever I go next.
There is no place like the UAE, where so much investment is spent on hotels run by the world best hoteliers.

As an Austrian what are the values you bring to the work environment that sets you apart?
First and foremost I want to highlight the outstanding on hospitality focused education we receive which is a result of the century long role our country played in the lodging industry. Students are trained to be the next industries leader, starting at the early age of 14.
Austria with its incomparable hotel-schools and institutes for continued education, paired with its many regions and hotels that make up the majority of our countries economy, result in an excellent foundation for young people to conquer the world of Hotels. Another important value are the virtues we as Austrians are perceived of having. Those two facts answer the questions why you can find so many Austrians in this industry’s top positions.

What is a typical day at work like?
In this industry, a typical day does not exist. Catering for up to 1000 guests, all coming from different countries having different religions, not a single day is the same. When guests come to Dubai, their expectations are much higher unlike any other destination in this region, so it’s our job to fulfill the same which can be quite a task sometimes. During my years with Hilton I tried to train a routine to me and my team in order to please demanding guests and still stick to the company’s policies and procedures.

What motivated you to move from Austria to UAE?
When I joined the Hilton five years ago, it was the Vision of Dubai of becoming the world’s number one tourism destination. As a fresh hotel school graduate I felt I have to take part in that journey.

What advice would you give young Austrians wanting to enter the hospitality industry in the GCC?
To take the most out of their time in the gulf. In my opinion the UAE is the best place for hoteliers. Great minds from all over the world get the possibility and more importantly the finance, to build and run the world’s best hotels. My advice would be for any young hotelier to go out, see the competition, copy their ideas and see how others overcome challenges.
Further, the mix of cultures they will work with will shape them for the future and prepare them for any other upcoming work destination, be it in the east or the west.

Is there a customer experience you are really proud of?
There is no experience in particular, almost every day me and my team can tell you stories about how we managed to turn around a guests stay that may has had a wrong start. In general it depends very much on the individuals itself that shape a holiday, it’s on us – we make or break a guest’s stay.
Although it’s hard to give special attention to every single customer, I learned the more attention and focus we give to a single individual the more they feel looked after and valued. This can be quite a tough task, especially for breakfast when we serve up to 600 guests in a Restaurant with only 150 seats, so it can be quite hectic, especially during the holiday period. Guests can try to make an hoteliers life very difficult and try their best to take their advantage of that. The more routine you get in your job, the easier hard words or gestures will bounce of your uniform.

What difficulties do you face in your job as a restaurant manager in a highly multi cultural environment?
My biggest role is being the person that connects my team to our guests. If guests have a problem they come to me, the same goes for the team members. The more challenging experiences you manage the more prepared you are for the future.

A challenge for me was my tender age of 19 when I joined the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah, I was the youngest in the Hotel. By now I am leading a team of 35 individuals and most of my staff is older than me, that age difference can provoke criticism.
After some time working together and pulling on the same string they see my qualifications and that there is a reason I am holding this role.

What does the future hold for you - any exciting plans, developments?
After such a long time in one place, I am slowing thinking about a change. Unlike any other hotelier, my aim (for the moment) is not to become a General Manager. Currently I would like to pursue the career of a Hospitality Professional in the Hotel Real Estate or Consulting field.
But as of now I still enjoy my job very much and further got nominated as Outlet Manager of the year at Dubai’s Hotelier awards, so watch this space.