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Lebanon 2018 | TOURISM & ENTERTAINMENT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Georges Ojeil, General Manager of Le Gray Hotel, on opening up in new markets, boosting tourism numbers, and working to develop the tourism recovery plan.

Georges Ojeil
BIOGRAPHY
Following years as a food and beverages director and executive assistant manager with a number of properties in Lebanon, Georges Ojeil was appointed Corporate Director of Food and Beverage for Le Royal Hotels & Resorts where he oversaw Le Royal Hammamet, Le Royal Luxembourg, Le Royal Beirut, Le Royal El Minzah, and Grand Hotel Ville De France by Le Royal in Tangier. He was called to join IHG as Executive Assistant Manager for the Crown Plaza Hotel in the Dead Sea, Jordan, and then as Hotel Manager for InterContinental’s flagship property in Amman with 440 rooms and seven outlets. Ojeil holds an MBA from Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Paris and an Executive MBA from Ecole Superieure des Affaires in Beirut.

Having additional properties in Malta and Liberia, and projects in Jordan, Scotland, and Bahrain, what specific role does Le Gray Hotel play in Beirut as part of the greater Campbell Gray Hotels portfolio?

The qualitative yet fast expansion of the company is, to a certain extent, underlining the role of Le Gray Beirut as a loyal advocate to the philosophy of Gordon Campbell Gray. Le Gray's attention to layers and layers of details, understated approach to luxury, and finesse of quality delivery where everything is about service made a difference, surely. This is the role of Le Gray, and we will always be loyal to the vision and philosophy of Campbell Gray. We simply believe in it.

What measures have been taken by Le Gray hotel in recent months to boost local, regional, and international visitor numbers?

Le Gray's sales and marketing leaders managed to compose a well-structured plan focusing on penetrating new markets through social media platforms, fair participation, and invitations for international journalists and influencers. We have always believed that there is nothing better than a highly credible third-party endorsement to promote Lebanon as a destination and Le Gray as a luxury property. This creative effort has been accompanied by a thorough travel plan for our sales team focusing on the diversification of our business mix rather than continuously counting on a single source market in a highly elastic sector and politicized region.

What further measures should be taken by the government and/or sector in order to assist luxury brands such as Le Gray in the attraction of visitors?

The participation of the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism in international luxury fairs, organizing FAM trips for regional and international events organizers, and diversifying the business mix through creating demand from different markets to Lebanon will surely raise occupancy rates of luxury-brand hotels. On the same note, luxury brands are highly frequented by high-income people with great sensitivity to stability, safety, and security. And this is the government's main role: ensuring a safe and secure environment.

In regard to Lebanon's tourism recovery plan, which areas of the country have experienced the most growth, and do you have any expansion plans in these areas?

It is worth mentioning that the active tourism recovery plan created positive dynamics and aimed rigorously on repositioning the destination on the touristic map. That said, demand is still impacted by regional conflicts and a highly politicized atmosphere. Beirut, as the capital, remains the main destination for both leisure and business travelers alike. However, we are not witnessing an overflow of demand necessitating expansions to accommodate the demand.

What are Le Gray Hotel's main objectives for 2018?

With the inauguration of the extension project by the end of 2017, Le Gray's main objective is to penetrate the up-scale luxury conferences and events market and promote the newly inaugurated facilities. In parallel, and after adding more than 18% worth of room inventory, the team is determined to acquire its share from the MICE business through bundling attractive packages for our niche market.