In hospitality business, it’s been said that when one wants to climb in their career, they must keep on moving as the opportunities come up.
Not my words, but those of seasoned hotelier Ayub Alee. The 37 year-old is the manager for two branches of the City Blue Hotels chain; the City Blue Hotel along Embassy Row in Kacyiru, and Express by City Blue, in Kagugu.
And like his opening remarks suggest, Alee is somewhat of a hotel industry journeyman, having traversed the continents working in different capacities with several leading hotel names.
As a young man growing up in Nepal, his family was heavily involved in the business of selling and transporting clothes. Alee’s dream was to become a chartered accountant in future.
One day during his vacation after completing 12th grade, he met a man from Thailand “who really ignited my interest in the hotel industry,” confesses Alee. “He told me about the glamour aspect and how you get to meet all the important people there.” Alee welcomed the prospect with both arms, and has never looked back.
Today, he describes the hotel industry as “the second most glamorous after the film industry, because you get to meet all sorts of people – celebrities, diplomats, ministers, superstars...”
After graduating in hotel management from Calcutta, India in 1997, the Nepalese citizen kicked off his illustrious hotel career as a management trainee with the Taj Group of Hotels in New Delhi, India.
“After just one and a half years, I was promoted to the position of banquet manager and sent to the Hotel de l’Annapurna, in Nepal where I worked for two and a half years,” Alee explains.
In 2001, he moved to McDonalds in Dubai as a second assistant manager. Here he worked only one year,“because it was a fast food outlet which I didn’t like very much. I was more comfortable in hotels.”
Thus he left after a year, and joined the Le Meridian Hotel in Doha, Qatar as a senior restaurant manager. He would stay on this job a little longer - four and a half years, but due to personal issues to sort out at home, he resigned and headed home, in Nepal.
In Nepal he easily found work at Birgunj, the most commercial city of Nepal where he joined a four star hotel called Shamjhana as an Operations Manager.
After two and a half years in Nepal, Alee got his maiden appointment to Africa.
“I joined the Ruparelia Group in Uganda as a food and beverage manager for the Speke Resort Munyonyo, Kampala. I worked there for three years before coming to Rwanda,” Alee explains.
And coming to Africa, reckons Alee, “was a totally different set up from my previous experience.”
“At Speke Resort Munyonyo, I found that knowledge alone is not enough. I found that there was a need to put this knowledge into action. We had to retrain most of the staff to bring them up to standard.”
All in all, he remembers it as a good experience working in a hotel that boasts 448 guest rooms, and the biggest conference facility in the whole of East Africa.
Coming to Rwanda
After getting a taste of the hospitality industry in Africa while at Munyonyo, Alee continued with his upwardly mobile ways, this time joining the Karisimbi Hotel in Kiyovu as General Manager, a position he would occupy for a year.
After his contract ended he joined the City Blue Hotels as Manager for City Blue Hotel, Embassy Row. Today, he also manages the hotel’s other branch, the Express by City Blue, in Kagugu.
As a hotelier, Alee’s core specialization is in food and beverages, but he explains that as General Manager at the Samjhana and Karisimbi Hotels, he gained a lot of experience and confidence in general hotel management.
“When I started out my hotel career with the Taj Group, I discovered that it was a leading hotel group–the first hotel chain to open up a Five-Star facility in India. It is this place that made me the solid hotelier that I am today.
It’s from here that I learnt what to do and not do, how to deal with staff, and with clients from different backgrounds, and how to fetch good will and profit for the organization.”
While working in Doha, Qatar with the Le Meridien Group of Hotels he learnt advance customer care, sound management systems, cost control, and dealing with people of different attitudes.
He is also all praises for his last employer, the Karisimbi Hotel: “I found Mr. Alexis, the owner of Karisimbi Hotel to be one of the best professional hoteliers in the country. He accords more importance to customers than anything else. I learnt many other good lessons from him-like how to manage the hotel and how to cultivate good customer relations.”
Today, Alee takes pride in the“good experience, exposure, and command of the food and beverage department” that have made him the solid hotelier he is.
One of the things that has made his time working in the local hospitality industry more fulfilling is the staff. “I have found Rwandan youngsters easy to train, motivate and bring out the best in them, and I think this is a good thing for them and for Rwanda.”
As someone that manages not just one, but two hotel outlets, Alee contends that it’s not an easy fete to pull off.
However, “if someone is dedicated and knows the job, and puts systems in place, it comes naturally. I always put more emphasis on motivating and bringing out the best in my team, I’m always mindful of the quality of food we serve, and I also put emphasis on training staff in the effective use of machines.”
He is convinced that there is a better landscape and opportunity for the industry, which is a good platform for youngsters to take it up as a career. “The guarantee of security and cleanliness is one of the major draws for new players joining the industry,” he adds.
“Hospitality industry teaches us not to just earn, but also how to behave around people – how to talk, laugh, eat…”