The seed of working in the hotel industry was planted in the mind of Alexi Hakim when he was just 12 years old. “I accompanied my father to the InterContinental Phoenicia in Beirut and was amazed by the grandeur of the place — the uniforms, the smiles and the food. I’ve since held a longstanding admiration to this industry.”
After completing his MBA at the University of New Orleans, he took a job as a front-desk clerk/bellman. “It was a truly humbling experience and made me appreciate the hard work our line associates endeavour upon every day. They’re the cornerstone of our business,” says the native of Lebanon.
Having worked on four continents in 35 years (including stints at Hilton and IHG at various levels of authority), Toronto has been home to Hakim for the past seven years, where he’s worked at the InterContinental Toronto Centre on Front St. “It’s a fabulous asset, a great location with a savvy ownership group and probably one of the best teams I’ve worked with,” boasts Hakim.
With oversight of 375 associates and 530 rooms and 54 suites, Hakim admits finding the right talent during this robust market cycle is a challenge. “We need to do more work to explore new sources while showcasing our industry more often and carrying our flag across schools, colleges and universities. It’s a great place to start a career — filled with excitement and a noble cause of helping guests feel at home.”
Like all successful hoteliers, his driving goal is making sure guests leave happy. “This culture has created an empowered employee base, striving to adhere to changing guest demands and ensuring issues, concerns and requests are met to the guest’s satisfaction.”
He believes in paying it forward. “Helping others succeed, unlocking their potential and opening new doors is key. It’s hard for me to find a better measurement for my success.”
With competition intensifying across all segments, Hakim believes technology “will play a huge role in elevating the guest experience — be it in the guestrooms or the public areas. We’ve installed Wi-Fi LED lighting in the lobby and bar that changes colour to fit the company logo or the season. We also introduced “Zingle,” a text-messaging system allowing guests to be in contact with us 24/7.” The hotel also added a new cultivator in the restaurant and is exploring robots to aid in the distribution of heavy deliveries.
But even with the growth of technology, Hakim says “it’s people and service that will continue to drive and strengthen differentiation.”