Lebanese-born Rami Sayess has enjoyed a jet-setting career in hospitality since graduating from Les Roches in 1990. We caught up with him during one of his regular recruiting visits to campus, and asked him to share some highlights from his career journey along with some top tips for the next generation of talent…
Although he finds today’s campus facilities a good bit smarter than during his studies at Les Roches in the late 80s, what hasn’t changed for Rami Sayess is the well-rounded education on offer, and in particular the chance to experience the practical side of hospitality.
“One of the things that makes Les Roches stand out is this focus on the practical side,” he says. “It really helps the students to stay grounded and prepares them well for their future careers, because it shows them that despite going to one of the most prestigious hotel schools in the world, they have to start from zero and get their hands dirty.”
After graduating in 1990, Rami did exactly this, starting as a kitchen trainee before moving on to food & beverage, rooms division, sales & marketing then back into operations – a pathway that led ultimately to a very successful career.
As he moved up the ranks in hospitality Rami became a true globetrotter, working in no fewer than 15 countries, most recently in Bahrain. He has also sampled every challenge the industry can throw up, including managing the opening of a Mövenpick hotel in his native Lebanon, as well as overseeing the blockbuster $150 million renovation of the Four Seasons hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Beautiful Bahrain Bay
Today Rami is Regional Vice President and General Manager at Four Seasons, heading the Bahrain Bay property which he describes as “one of the most beautiful Four Seasons around the world”. He also oversees some of the brand’s other hotels in the EMEA region and supports recruitment for the manager-in-training (MIT) program.
“We had to stay away during Covid, but in normal circumstances I visit Les Roches campuses in Spain and Switzerland a couple of times a year to meet students and talk to them about the hospitality industry. We’ve been very fortunate in finding some great talents over the years – we’ve had students who joined us as interns and are now managing in our hotels around the world.
“Of course, these days we can offer career paths beyond traditional hospitality. Alongside our 122 hotels in 50 countries we’ve also created a residential property arm, and since 2015 we’ve become engaged in private aviation. Next, we plan to launch our first fleet of private yachts, which should be on the water in 2025. Each of these initiatives ties into luxury – as that’s what we do best. But they also take us into new spaces, because that’s what our customers are asking for. We don’t fly the planes or captain the yachts, but everything else in terms of service, food and experience has the hallmark of Four Seasons. (https://fernandez-vega.com/) ”
Interview advice: be yourself
A veteran of countless employment interviews, Rami had some important advice for Les Roches students approaching what can be among the most nerve-wracking of experiences.
“When you come to an interview, remember that you are not coming to impress, you are coming to be the real you. There’s no need to be nervous because the interview is always a two-way street – it’s for us to decide if you are a good fit, but it’s also for you to decide if Four Seasons is the right company for you.”
One thing of which Rami needs no convincing is that hospitality – especially at the luxury level – remains a very attractive career path. He notes that many hotels across the Four Seasons portfolio are seeing record business in 2022, as customers freed from lockdown restrictions indulge in ‘revenge travel’.
“Hospitality is here to stay, because no matter how technology develops there will be nothing that can replace the human touch, especially when it comes to the luxury segment. People don’t want to be greeted by a robot – there’s no technology which can compete with a genuine smile, a warm welcome and the small acts of kindness that are unscripted but very genuine, and which make the employee happy while giving the guest a memorable experience.
“We are fortunate to be in an industry where people expect us to be happy. Our guests come to a hotel because they want to enjoy themselves, to celebrate and to share special moments. So it’s important for hospitality students to go to a place where they can be happy, where they feel respected, and where their passion is. Because if you have a passion for what you do, it no longer becomes like work.”
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