We met with Aurelio Giraudo to talk about his four decades of experience in the hospitality industry. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Hotel Administration from Italian Hospitality and has completed a number of senior leadership programs at Cornell & Bocconi University.
Prior to his appointment at Accor as Cluster General Manager for Banyan Tree Doha & La Cigale Hotel Managed by Accor, Aurelio was the Cluster General Manager for Kempinski Group in Kenya as well as working at Four Seasons, Shangri-La, Preferred Hotels & Resorts, Dusit Hotels & Resorts, Marriott & Accor group. Aurelio is no stranger to the Banyan Tree group, during his early years in the hospitality industry at Banyan Tree Bintan Indonesia.
In his current role, Aurelio is in charge of repositioning the La Cigale Hotel under the Accor umbrella and to ensure the successful opening of Banyan Tree Doha, which will be the first Co venture between Accor & Banyan Tree Group.
What was your first hotel job?
Aurelio Giraudo: I started working very early during my college days. Every evening I used to go to our family restaurant and take care of entire operations. It was during this time; I fell in love with the hospitality industry. My inspiration was seeing what my parents did. I knew that hospitality and the relationship between people would be something I loved and that has remained with me till date and this is what motivates and inspires me.
What is the best thing about your job?
Aurelio Giraudo: My job gives me an opportunity to meet with people from different walks of life, be it guests or employees. I am working with team from diverse backgrounds be it culturally, socially, economically or professionally. Interacting with them, having new thoughts, ideas and getting to know them is what excites me! Seeing team members develop so I can offer them opportunities is something I take a lot of satisfaction from as well.
What is the next big thing for Accor? What hotels are you opening this year?
Aurelio Giraudo: The next big thing for Accor in Doha is a Banyan Tree Hotel and Residences, which will be opening this year. It’s already the talk of the town and the local market has shown great interest in this project. Accor has big plans for Doha market where Raffles, Fairmont, Sofitel, Rixos, Novotel, Pullman, Ibis and Adagio hotels are expected to open in the next 2 years.
Which is better – Doha or Dubai?
Aurelio Giraudo: Without a doubt my vote goes to Doha. I had an opportunity to live in both of these cities. Dubai is home to over 200 nationalities from around the world and has been named the world’s most cosmopolitan city. Dubai is one of the preferred travel spots in the Middle East because of its beaches and green areas and not to forget Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building.)
Doha has been home for me since last 2 years. One of the best things about living in Doha is that you will no doubt get caught up in the beautiful Arabic language. This includes using words like habibti/habibi, (‘dear’), khalas (‘finish’), la (‘no’) and inshallah (‘if God wills it’) on a daily basis. These words all become second nature once you get the hang of it.
Doha is a gateway to the rest of the world as it’s in the middle of the world with places like Goa, Maldives, Colombo, Istanbul, Amman, Muscat and Beirut all accessible in just a few hours. Living in Doha means you will have access to myriad travel options.
With Qatar hosting the World Cup in 2022, there are massive developments taking place and new people moving to the city all the time. From one day to the next there is new infrastructure, new roads and even new cities being built, and this adds to the charm of living here – it’s always changing.
Banyan Tree Doha is conceived as a very complex project, more like an urban resort. Tell us more.
Aurelio Giraudo: It will be a one-stop destination comprised of a luxury hotel, lavish residences, fine dining restaurants, prestigious French fashion department store Printemps, cutting edge Vox cinemas and a state of the art, indoor, first ever theme park in Qatar, Quest.
It will feature the signature Banyan Tree Spa, with a Rainforest hydrotherapy facility, Saffron fine-dining Thai restaurant, and Vertigo, a 28 floor high rooftop bar overlooking the panoramic city skyline of Doha.
For Italian food lovers, we will be having Il Galante a fine Italian dining restaurant, Qalamkarri, an Indian restaurant inspired by traditional Kalamkari art, and Panya Lounge, a patisserie with a combination of Asian and European flair.
Tell us about the La Cigale concept and what makes it such a unique property?
Aurelio Giraudo: La Cigale hotel is a five-star luxury hotel in the heart of the dynamic centre of Doha City, approximately 20 minutes away from the Hamad International Airport. Opened since 2006, La Cigale hotel is a winner of lots of World Travel Awards and has been recognized as Qatar’s leading Hotel by voters at the World Travel Awards in 2020. It was rebranded under the Accor umbrella in December 2019.
It has 225 keys, ten dining and entertainment outlets with outdoor seating options; two state of the art ballrooms; a 490 square meter gymnasium; a 20-meter-long daylight indoor swimming pool and a deluxe spa.
As this is one of the most popular food destinations in the city, in next 8-12 months, we will do a soft refurbishment of all our food & beverage outlets and will come up with exciting new concepts.
You manage two luxury hotels and residences – tell us what a typical day looks like for you?
Aurelio Giraudo: I wake up every day at 5.30am and start work by 6.15am. I do my property rounds in the morning and catch up with my leadership team too. I do my early morning meeting with revenue leaders and discuss bookings of all kinds. It is critical for me to remain on top of my business and to be fully aware of what’s happening in the market to align our strategies and position ourselves on par/above than the market.
I have become more tech savvy now and I do check my phone to ensure nothing dramatic has happened to our social media channels for the day before. I spend a lot of my time making sure the physical hotel is being well maintained, in addition making sure each department is delivering the correct training to deliver our standards. Guest expectations don’t change day to day, they always expect to receive great service, therefore the hotel has to run at its optimum every single day to make sure each guest has a unique and memorable experience. I see it as my job to make sure the conditions are correct so the team can deliver on these expectations.
Luxury clientele are interesting – What is the funniest request you have ever had?
Aurelio Giraudo: During my time in Asia, I had a request for arranging backstage passes for Kenny G Saxophonist and the Michael Jackson show. I luckily managed to arrange these passes and get them a backstage entrance. I still remember their reaction and smile on their faces when they saw me with these passes. I still connect with these guests and they have now become like a family to me.
Another interesting request was recently in Kenya, where during the visit of Melania Trump, an anonymous fan sent us 3000 roses to be sent to her room and to be placed in the hotel lobby. We followed the protocol and after inspection, we informed Mrs. Trump who first laughed off and then graciously accepted the 3000 roses.
How are you gearing up for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022?
Aurelio Giraudo: I am very excited for this tournament and one of the reasons for me moving to this beautiful city. Prior to the World Cup, there is lots of work to do for both our hotels and residences. We anticipate the market to recover by Q4 2021. There are lots of requests which we are receiving for both of our properties during this tournament period and city is expected to be sold out during FIFA World Cup. We have aligned our strategies to ensure our pricing is on par with the other competitive luxury hotels. We will be having special theme nights in all our restaurants during this period to cater to locals and tourists who will be in Qatar. Exclusive events have been planned for our Rooftop Bar for both the hotels. Exciting times ahead!
Favourite hotel experience ever and why?
Aurelio Giraudo: My experience at Principe di Savoia in Milan was one of the best. The service was exemplary, food, room upgrade to highest suite and butler service for my wife. Every night I was offered my favourite drink, a Kir Royale at the lobby lounge, what else can I ask for!
What is the secret to team success in a fast changing hotel environment?
Aurelio Giraudo: It’s all about understanding different cultures and using the right management style. The hospitality industry is a people-driven business; by understanding human behaviour, we will not only understand what the market needs, but will stand against competitors by creating unique experiences while fostering customer loyalty. It is important to understand the culture of your team, accept differences and individuality and know what motivates people, to create a healthy working environment that delivers exemplary customer services: a vital ingredient in a successful hotel operation.
Always share information with your team. It is vital that everyone knows and understands the vision of the company and should be aware and involved in achieving goals. People work better if they feel valued. Practice fairness at all times. Foster good working relationships, not only within the team, but with different stakeholders as well.
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All imagery courtesy of Accor.