x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Born to a life in the hospitality industry

The Life: Bugra Berberoglu, the general manager of Emirates Palace, talks about his new role and his progress through the industry.

“My personal dream is to run an international hotel company one day,” says Bugra Berberoglu. Sammy Dallal / The National
“My personal dream is to run an international hotel company one day,” says Bugra Berberoglu. Sammy Dallal / The National

Bugra Berberoglu is only 39, which is remarkably young to be the general manager of one the world's most luxurious hotels - Emirates Palace. The hotelier, who took up his role in July, talks about his life in the industry and the job at the world-famous hotel.

q&a

q How did you get into the hotel industry?

a My parents are in the hotel business. My grandfather opened the first hotel in Kemer, Turkey, so I was born in a hotel. This is my passion. I left home when I was 17 and I went to Switzerland to Lausanne [Hotel School]. It was a great five years in Lausanne.

q What was your first hotel job?

a My first job was in Florida's Boca Raton [at the 1,000-room Boca Raton Resort & Club]. I spent some time in Latin America and North America. I moved to InterContinental for nine years. I became the resort manager of a new hotel they were opening in Puerto Rico when I was only 29 years old.

q And how did your career progress?

a From there, I moved to Kempinski. I ended up in Chad, where I opened a new hotel. Then I moved to Djibouti to open a Kempinski hotel. I got a medal of honour from the president of Djibouti for my contribution to the country. It was its first five-star hotel. Then I moved to Levant and signed several management contracts in the region.

q Now you are at Emirates Palace. You must have a busy working day.

a In Emirates Palace, there might be, in one day, three events and a couple of top VIPs coming in. I try to start early in the day. I ride my bicycle from where I live in Khalidiya, so if you see some bald guy at 6 o'clock in the morning riding on a bicycle, it's me. I come here, I work out, then I change and I go to the office. I stay until 6pm to 11pm - it depends. Hoteliers, in general, are very hard-working people because you need to have the presence and be with your staff.

q What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?

A: The biggest challenge is the people. In our business, our core is the people, in order for us to survive. Many companies neglect to understand this very basic rule. I always tell my staff that we all make mistakes. What we do is we learn from our mistakes and we move on.

q What do you do when you manage to get some time away from the hotel?

a I like motorcycles. I have a Harley-Davidson Street Bob.

q What's next for you?

a I'm all for that general managers should not stay more than [a] maximum of five years, because you become complacent after a certain number of years. You need to bring fresh eyes, fresh blood, fresh energy. The general manager is the soul of the property. My personal dream is to run an international hotel company one day.