With almost a quarter century’s experience in the hotel industry, Constantinos S Gavriel has had a truly international career. From the UK to Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Moscow and Kazakhstan, it is fair to say that he has been around and experienced much of it. Now based in Bangladesh as the general manager of Le Meridien Dhaka since June 2017, Gavriel has plenty to be happy about.
The Dhaka experience so far
“It is an exciting time to be in Dhaka. I feel very privileged to be leading the No 1 hotel in Dhaka; it’s an absolute flagship property of The Mariott and for the Meridian brand,” Gavriel said excitedly. With good reason, too. Having just turned two in November 2017, Le Meridien is currently ranked among the top five hotels on Trip Advisor. “I was just reading this morning our three beverage outlets are No 1 on Trip Advisor. So we have restaurant number one, number two, number three for Dhaka so I think that’s out of 650 restaurants so that’s a really amazing achievement for the team” he adds, as modestly as possible.
Dining at Le Meridien
“We try to be as authentic and genuine as possible in our different restaurants. So in our Italian restaurant, we have an Italian chef. In our Asian corner, we have a Chinese chef. We just recruited a brand new executive chef so he started last week; he is internationally acclaimed chef from the UK. So the outlook from our Food and Beverages is extremely bright.” Without elaborating on detail, he hinted at new themes, new concepts and new menus coming up in the next few months.
Trials and challenges
Gavriel is not one to rest on his laurels. Getting a great rating on TripAdvisor is just the start. “The easy part is to get to one, two and three. That’s relatively straight forward, but maintaining that and obviously with new products coming into the market, with new entrants coming into the market, my focus and the team’s focus is very much on service and guest experience. I think this is what’s going to differentiate and keep us on the top. All the hotels are very nice these days. They all have great bedrooms, great restaurants, music and ambiance. I think the difference lies in the guest contact and delivering what the guest wants, which is to have a great experience. So if we focus on the needs of the guests and pay attention to detail and especially in this market that is what the key is to going forward.”
Sourcing remains a concern. Despite the conscious attempt to use local ingredients, in the interests of quality control, a significant amount of ingredients and products are required to be imported, and that has proven challenging in many cases.
Another downside of upsizing the scope and scale in operations is recruiting and developing talent that is true to the brand. “I think that’s getting even harder,” confesses Gavriel. “One of our focuses as a company is to identify and develop talent and we have these other hotels coming up so it is important to identify the right people. It’s not so much about skill, it’s about attitude. Skill you could teach someone; I could teach someone how to set a table. But I can’t teach him how to have the customer contact, the soft skills that people talk about, it’s very difficult to find.”
The outlook for the hospitality industry in the foreseeable future
“I think the Bangladeshi market is an exciting market to be in, it’s still in its infancy. I think the opportunity and potential for growth is immense,” he states with emphasis. “I think as the country develops, these big infrastructural projects come alive or come to a stage of construction, it can only be good for us.”
The RMG sector is considered to be a key source market, and the entire industry is watching the nation’s developments as a whole. “From a hotel industry perspective, in the next five to 10 years, it will be a day and night change. You won’t recognize it,” he states, talking about changing lifestyles, consumer demands, and the infrastructural landscape as a whole. “In terms of hospitality, and for people who want to get into the industry, the timing couldn’t be better.”