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Interview with Michel Chertouh – Finalist for General Manager of the Year

Can you give us a brief insight into your education and career path?

My father was a Chef and he was the one, who first exposed me to the world of luxury hospitality in Paris. I remember experiencing some of the best hospitality experiences available at the time, which awakened my interest in the industry from an early age. He later started his own venture as a restaurateur, before becoming a hotelier. As a teenager I found myself with a unique opportunity, where I was able to earn some extra money, by helping out in the family business. A whole new world was being opened up to me and this is where the journey began.

When I joined InterContinental in the mid 80s, I started on the front line in Food & Beverage. This gave me the chance to build a very solid operations background. I slowly climed through the ranks and ended up becoming an F&B Director in Brazil, Spain and the USA. At the beginning of my career, I focused on the journey, rather than the destination, so that I could build and develop a diverse knowledge of the industry, allowing me to become a well-rounded leader. As a result, my career took me to different parts of the world, working from midscale to luxury hotels and resorts. I also experienced a diverse range of markets, from leisure to corporate and MICE, which broadened my experiences and allowed me to develop different perspectives. I soaked up all these opportunities along the way and in turn I became more confident. This meant I could take on more responsibility and the titles and position followed.

Education plays an important role in one’s development and my views are very much aligned with Confucius: “it does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop”. In my life, this is a principle that I have followed since graduating from “Ecole Hôtelière de Paris” (EHP or Mederic for the Parisians). At the time, this program focused more on Hospitality, Food & Beverage and all the traditional and conventional aspects of the industry. I quickly understood the importance of continuous education. I attended regular seminars, workshops and courses from the Professional Development program at Cornell University and obtained several certifications, which were relevant for me as the industry evolved. I then decided to move towards the more conventional business education, where I completed a BA Honors in Business Studies at the Open University in the U.K.

 

Can you share with us what you feel has been the most valuable part in your career development to date that has enabled you to get to where you are today?

 The capacity to adapt has always played a very important role in my career development and allowed me to grow from strength to strength. It has aided me in overcoming difficulties and challenges that I have faced as well as relating to people of different cultures, skill levels and abilities.

Adopting an adaptive leadership style facilitates the creation of a positive working environment and allows people to perform to their best.

An example of a challenge I like to recall is on my first real international assignment as the Assistant Food & Beverage Manager at the InterContinental Rio de Janeiro. I did not speak a word of Portuguese; everything was different. I was in a leadership role yet I was not able to communicate with my team. It was at this point I realised I had taken a big risk. It took a lot of resilience and willingness to learn a new language before I was able to collaborate with my new colleagues and to adapt to a new culture. It was extremely rewarding to go through this learning curve, as 14 years later, I became the General Manager of that same property. I was involved with many local committees and associations and became the President of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of the city. I was even appointed by the local authorities and the city hall as an “Honorary citizen” of Rio de Janeiro. A place that sounded so different at the time suddenly became so familiar and somewhere I still like to call home today!

So, learn, collaborate and adapt is my motto…

 

Congratulations on being a finalist in The BMW Hotelier Awards 2016. How are you planning on leveraging this opportunity to inspire the younger generation to work harder at developing their career in the hospitality scene

I am fortunate to work in an organisation like IHG, which has given me the opportunity to grow and develop both professionally and as an individual. In my current role, I have access to more than 5,000 properties and 350,000 colleagues in nearly 100 countries. I believe that by being a finalist for The BMW Hotelier Awards, I will be able to inspire a generation of young talent to join our company.

It is important for them to understand that the world is a big place waiting to be explored and that it is vital to enjoy the journey, whilst keeping an eye on the destination!

Our industry has evolved so much in recent years and the pace of business is certainly different to when I first started out. The new generation of hoteliers will face a more demanding customer, who will have experienced several brands and knows exactly what he or she wants from a hotel or resort. This combined with a much more competitive landscape in an era of social media, where digital strategies play a big role, will be challenging.

The new generation of hoteliers will need to be relevant and keep evolving and learning in this very fast paced environment. However, one thing that will remain the same is the opportunity to create a unique, emotional, connection with guests, by delivering special and genuine experiences from the heart!

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