The Four Seasons Doctors move into Alexandria

STEPHAN KILLINGER, opening general manager at the Four Seasons Alexandria, continues his Alexandria Diary for TTN

Hello from Alexandria,
What a difference a month makes. As I write – in December – we’re really full-on now with the aim of getting as much completed in the hotel before the festive season begins, which for us includes Eid followed by the Coptic Christmas on January 7.

While the city has the wonderful experience of being able to celebrate three different religious occasions within the space of two weeks, at Four Seasons we have had several festivities ourselves. When each new member of staff comes on board, we ensure each is welcomed to ‘the family’ with a little get-together. This is important in developing a sense of belonging and encouraging teamwork. We’ve welcomed Mohamed El Banna as director of F&B and Khalil Abou Zeid, director of Rooms. We’ll shortly have our executive chef and hotel manager join, so our full planning committee will be installed by early January. And then our feet won’t touch the ground as we work towards our opening just before the summer.
Originally, when our chief engineer and I were the only two members of the staff and surrounded by the dust and general debris of a construction site, I worried that we’d never find the right people to fill certain positions. How wrong I was! Recruitment trips have brought us a wealth of very able and experienced people from within the hospitality industry, including many Alexandrians who are proud to return home to be part of this new project. They bring knowledge of international tourism practices and English as a second language. At least 10 per cent of staff will be recruited from sister Four Seasons hotels in Egypt, bringing their knowledge of Four Seasons’ ethics and service culture.
As more people join us, there’s a tremendous buzz in our offices and a constant flow of people going in and out. It gets so busy at times, it’s like Grand Central Station in the rush hour. I can sense the team spirit already, which, for a manager, is a very rewarding experience.
We are preparing for the big move into our permanent offices which should happen in early January. A ‘Swat’ team has arrived from our Nile Plaza property in Cairo to oversee the finishing details and ensure our offices are up to Four Seasons standard. We bought the team white boiler suits when they arrived which caused quite a stir amongst the construction workers on site, who have now nicknamed the guys ‘the Four Seasons Doctors’!
But while we plan and hire and prepare, there’s much going on ‘behind the scenes’. Piece by piece the jigsaw is falling into place as public spaces, restaurants, conference rooms and guest rooms are completed and we’re ordering equipment and staff uniforms.
It’s been a busy time for Ashraf Elmanawaty our director of marketing. He’s been travelling quite a lot on sales trips and in between, receiving calls from the trade and corporations who want to start booking functions or group reservations for rooms. We’ve already had several enquiries for weddings and our ballroom will certainly offer the perfect setting for a marriage celebration. We have had a French artist painting the ceiling of our grand ballroom and he’s created a very romantic cloud theme, reminiscent of the ceilings of a French chateau. Coupled with wonderful views of the Mediterranean, it will most definitely be a very special venue for Alexandria’s society to celebrate and party.
As I write this email from Alex, I am getting very excited about spending the festive season with my family in Germany. This is the first time in 23 years of being in hotels that I have been able to take time off over Christmas and New Year – and I am sure it will be the last for many years more!
I’ll sign off by wishing everyone a happy and prosperous 2007 and when I write the next email it will – hopefully – be from our brand new offices where I will be surrounded by feverish activity as everyone will be conscious that the opening is not ‘next year’ but ‘THIS year! A daunting – yet terribly exciting – thought!

from Stephan in San Stefano
December 2006