Interview 2: Rahim Abu Omar, Owner's Representative Europe, Al Habtoor Group

  • 9 Feb 2023 1:12 PM
Interview 2: Rahim Abu Omar, Owner's Representative Europe, Al Habtoor Group
1. What's been happening at work and at home since your first Xpat Interview?

Click here to read Mr Omar's first interview

I stayed at The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest as the General manager until the end of January 2019 and handled it over to the Mexican-Spanish GM, who then took good care of the hotel. 

The reason I moved was because I was given an assignment to go back to Dubai with the All Habtoor Group - I have worked with them for about 30 years.  Almost 18 months ago the company owner asked me to play the role of 'Owner Representative' at all his hotels outside Dubai. Altogether he has 14 hotels, 7 in Dubai and the 7 hotels abroad for which I am responsible now.

There are two in London, two in Budapest, one in Vienna, and one in the US, Illinois. The one in Vienna, will soon celebrate 150th anniversary operating as a hotel. I have the invitation card for the opening in 1873. It is the twin building of the Opera in Vienna, and so a very special property.

As for my personal life, I am married, I cannot get married again, so it is all fine :-)

2. On a scale of 1 to 10 how happy are you with your life in Hungary, and why?

9 out of 10. I am very happy in Hungary. I feel welcomed, so I feel happy. After living here the first time, and then travelling to Germany for a business, after 6 month when I came back one of my colleagues said, "Oh, thanks God, you are back home". When you come from the Middle East these things count. Now I am based in the hotel, I have a suite with an office at the Intercontinental Budapest, and I also have an another one at The Ritz-Carlton to use if needed.

3. What's your favourite drink?

Water. I am Muslim, so I only drink water.

4. What hidden talents do you have?

It is not a talent I think, but people around me say I have a passion for figures. And I love taking care of people. I'll give you an example: when I came here a Hungarian advisor said, we are not only figures, we are people. How did he conclude that, I do not know. I consider myself a lucky man, with common sense. Sometimes I look at figures, and I feel that something is not all right, and I tell people, if I am wrong, correct me, and most of the time, 99% out of 100 occasions I am correct.

5. What was the most interesting travel trip you have ever taken?

Travel trips are not an adventure for me, I travel all the time, and I cannot really name an outstanding one. What I can say is if on Facebook you can see a post by me with 4 suitcases, you can tell it is going to be a longer trip. If there is only on little suitcase, it will be a short one.

6. If you were given a wish that could come true, what would you ask for?

I want common sense to become common. So I am not looking for an advantage for me, it would be for everyone's benefit.

7. What's the last book you read, and movie you watched?

I just watch movies on flights. It is my way to unwind, I enjoy it and a couple of days later I can watch it again as though I have never seen it before, so I can't really remember one to mention.

There is a book I've been referring to  for the last 20 years, called 'Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies'.

What I like in our business it is the debate between the owner and the operator. Some ask, what is more important, consumer satisfaction or cash flow? This is a non-visionary comparison, as are other such a question as this. The visionary believes it is not an 'or' situation, they believe it is an 'and'

one, as there is no harm in having excellent consumer satisfaction and great cash-flow. In fact the first often leads to the second.

8. If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?

A hotelier. They say a person can move out from a hotel, but you cannot remove a hotel from a GM. This would be what the book of my life is about.

9. What is the perfect pizza toppings combination for you?

A tomato base, olives, onions, and lots of olive oil.

10. If you could trade places with any other person for a week, real or fictional, with whom would it be?

A doorman of a hotel for a week. Really, I really would love to do that.

11. On a scale of 1 to 10 how unusual are you, and why?

People who know me say I am very usual. People who meet me for the first time might say 10.

12. What's the best website you've ever visited, and why?

I do not have a particular favourite, but I use Facebook a lot.

13. What life advice would you offer based on your experience?

Life is full of opportunities, if you want to be successful don't confine yourself to making the same mistake, be creative, make new ones!

Also I would add this story maybe, about the four people called Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody couldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

14. Who do you admire the most, and why?

I cannot name one in particular, however no matter what you do, you have to take pride in your performance, be professional, and do it right. We cannot all be kings or prime ministers but anyway if you have chosen a certain job, do it well.

15. What do you like best and least about living in Hungary?

I like walking here. At the weekends I often walk 20 km a day. My daily average dropped to around 9.12 now the weather is not so warm. I still walk a couple of times per day between the Intercontinental Hotel and Ritz Carlton. You can go the short way, that is 600 meters, but I take the long way, that is 2 km each way. Since it is not allowed to smoke inside, I smoke while walking. For me one cigar lasts 4 kms, a cigarello is 1 km.

17. If you won USD 30 million, what would you do with the money?

I would spend it travelling around the world. In 2008 - 2009 when the economic crises hit and the market was down, when people didn't really know what they were supposed to do or where the world was going, I advised everybody to travel. You know it's the one thing that you spend money on that makes you richer.

18. Do you have a favourite karaoke song you might sing?

Interesting question! Let me start by saying this, one day I will have the courage to make a lot of money. Normally, you know organisers advertise a concert with a singer and there is a charge which you pay once to enter. The way I would do it, I would not ask for an entry fee to come to listen to me sing anything. However to leave the concert you would have to pay, and the earlier you want to leave the more you would have to pay. I would make a lot of money, as you didn't hear me sing just trust me on this.

19. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

Back in Jordan, Palestine, in the Holy Land. It is impossible for me to live there for me, but I wish I could.

20. In ten years from now what will you be doing?

Walking while smoking :-) I will continue being a hotelier. As long as I am healthy, I would not mind working for no money, just for the sake of working. Being a hotelier you have to look at it as a way of life, it is not a job.

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