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Interview: Radisson Hotel Group Cluster GM James Berry

James Berry, cluster general manager for Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Media City and Park Inn by Radisson, Dubai Motor City, showcases his properties’ best features.

Berry, 42, from Northamptonshire, England, began his management career as general manager in 2008 and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the hotel and hospitality industry.

Prior to moving to Dubai, he had been serving as general manager at Sofitel London Heathrow Hotel after spending two years as a general manager at Sofitel London Gatwick Hotel.

Prior to that, Berry spent four years with Guoman & Thistle Hotels, now known as glh, in London, as VC general manager at The Tower Hotel and acting general manager of The Cumberland in Marble Arch.

Berry has also previously worked with Radisson Hotel Group as general manager of Park Inn Peterborough, during which, he also oversaw the opening of the Park Inn Rotherham, and at Park Inn Thurrock.

What are some of the most unique points of the properties you manage?
Park Inn by Radisson, Dubai Motor City is a vibrant hotel overlooking the Dubai Autodrome Racetrack and the only motor-themed hotel in Dubai with a Ferrari hanging in our lobby ceiling.

Motor City’s sense of adventure and fun is reflected in the modern design and philosophy of the hotel. The 146 colorful hotel rooms have all Apple TV with our superior rooms offering a thrilling track view!

The hotel is ideally located a 30 minutes’ drive from Dubai’s two international airports and the perfect base for visitors wanting to explore Dubai’s stunning souks, beaches, golf courses, and the world-class range of cultural and modern attractions such as IMG Worlds, Global Village and Dubai Miracle Garden.

Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Media City, on the other hand, is a well-established hotel in the heart of Dubai Media City, the region’s most credible media community that houses the largest global and local media brands. Having been around for more than 14 years, the hotel is well known among the local community and a popular base for returning business travellers.

Tell us more about some of the challenges you face in hotel management.
A balance of priorities and time: hospitality is about hosting, Hotels are about service, this is a People business, but even through my twelve-year career as general manager, the role has changed significantly into a financial business leader, Health & Safety specialist, oracle who can see the future, relationship broker, and even political advisor. 

Today, it’s important to balance many factors, looking after your team as well as your owner, checking on quality and service as well as business analysis and reporting, are only a few to mention. The right balance is key in today’s business, otherwise you will miss something that may damage it.

What’s the importance of online hotel reviews and social media feedback, and how much of it do you take on board?
It’s very important and has to be done right. Ultimately, what your guests says about your business in their online reviews and on social media, and how you respond to these reviews, will influence purchase decisions more than ever and much more so than brand-driven marketing messages, paid advertising, and traditional customer acquisition efforts can. Our guests are always our top priority.  

How do you evaluate employee performance, and keep your team motivated?
Performance is measurable so as long as you have a fair and balanced set of criteria communicated properly and understood by the recipient, so there are no surprises, normally. 

A performance evaluation is not personal, there should be no emotion that effects your opinion.Team motivation starts with self-motivation; if you aren’t honest and trying to fake it, they will see it and you will lose their respect. 

I’m very lucky in that I have chosen a job that I loved, that became a career (probably more so because I can’t do anything else) and I still love my job, mainly because I like interaction with people and making people laugh or smile, and this drives and motivates me, which is portrayed as leading by example, which motivates my teams.

What systems do you have in place for resolving guest complaints?
Many: verbal communications between staff, with guests obviously, written handovers, questionnaires, apps and real time interactive systems that mean you can address something quickly. 

The best system is the proactive approach, the preventative one, the one that never lets the complaint leave the building in the first place.  And that is mine, and you’re not having it, it’s top secret…

What would you like to tell visitors about the hotels’ F&B offerings?Radisson Blu Hotel. Dubai Media City is home to well-known iconic F&B outlets, Certo and ICON Bar which most people have fond memories of.

We recently launched a ladies’ night for the very first time in Certo called “La Vita Bella”, which offers our guests three Italian beverages and non-stop pizza every Monday for only AED 89 and it was a highly successful launch.

ICON Bar is an institution in the area and after listening to our guests’ feedback, we’re now offering happy hour all day everyday with beverages for AED 29 and a daily brunch as well.

Park Inn by Radisson, Dubai Motor City caters to the local community and has a fantastic rooftop pool with views overlooking the Dubai Autodrome

The hotel is also home to Live Inn Room, which is the all-day dining outlet, the venue is a cheerful, relaxing, and a fun dining area serving delicious food made with the freshest produce and the perfect spot for getting the family together for a meal.

Tell us a bit more about any new measures that are in place for COVID-19.
While the current situation has had a profound impact on daily operations, we’re taking advantage of this time to refine various elements and procedures to ensure our teams and hotels are fully prepared to maximise their potential.

There are many factors we’ve had to consider from an operational perspective, adapting new strategies and expanding hygiene, sanitation and precautionary measures, as well as implementing social distancing.

One of our highest priorities at Radisson Hotel Group is the continued health, safety and security of our  guests, team members, and business partners, which is why we recently launched the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol, a new programme of in-depth cleanliness and disinfection procedures, in partnership with SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company.

These enhanced protocols, operational guidance and comprehensive health and safety procedures validated by SGS, will be adapted based on local requirements and recommendations, to ensure guests’ safety and peace of mind from check-in to check-out.

We will soon be announcing an extension to our brand commitment which includes 20 Steps and an additional 10-Step protocol for Meetings & Events. 

How has your strategy shifted?
The plan for 2020 has effectively been paused, reset, changing the “0” for a “1” and starting again, when it’s the right time to do so. The planning phase changed to an action phase, the long-term plan was suspended and the focus shifted to the short-term plan, and the short-term plan became now.  The first thing is safety and security: protect your team, protect your guests.  The second thing is, protect your owner, make the right calls at the right time and take the tough decisions if you have to, but be ready to bring the business back properly when the time is right.

I think that was very much Q2 this year. Q3 is more of the unknown, but will be different from Q2 because the process is the opposite: what’s coming back, when is it coming, and how much of it is coming. If anyone knows the answer to that, please give me a call.


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