11th July 2018: It is a prestige posting and this time one gets the feeling that it could be a keeper – for a good while at least. Ritz-Carlton Bahrain welcomes new French General Manager and looking back, the Ritz has indeed changed their GM a couple of times in the last 2 or 3 years. Each has their own character and very much so.
Let’s see how French National Mr. Bernard de Villèle settles in. By the looks of it, he already has and is proving very popular. Who Does What took to him immediately, so we like him! There is another reason as well and ‘creative licence’ if you like. Bernard came from the St Regis, Mexico City. Definitely an all singing, all dancing, high profile property and a very different culture. But then, Bernard’s 35 years plus career has taken him all over the world and to many establishments of repute. This is his first time in Bahrain, so he wanted to brush up on his geography and demographics. What yah gonna do? He Googled and one of the first items he came across (if not the first) was a report by www.whodoeswhat.tv so there was no need to introduce ourselves or explain what we did, Bernard even recognized faces and um…er.. voices. He also claims he has read all about Dilmun and Tylos which is an historic must if you want to go into Bahrain more deeply.
Among the first to arrive, walking into the Ritz-Carlton’s premier Italian restaurant Premavera was a bit confusing, as the room was set up for cocktails not an Italian restaurant at all. Plus it was dark. A DJ was deep into his mix, spinning technology with all sorts of LEDs flashing and the music level perfect. Setting up the camera and peering around the room, one recognized the Current American Ambassador Justin Siberell liberally chatting away to an unknown figure (at this stage). So hello! Who is at this event then? Perhaps the numerous guys in dark suits and ear pieces were not guests after all. Although we encounter Ambassador Siberell on a regular basis, he never seems to recognize, or more to the point acknowledge us but is always polite if we thrust out a hand in reminder. This time though, we didn’t want to interrupt this concerted conversation with what turned out to be the NEW GM we had all come to greet. The Italian Ambassador Domenico Bellato came bouncing in and quickly took up position with a group he was obviously familiar with. Looking around, we see the current French Ambassador Cécile LONGÉ as she obviously prefers her name written, sitting alone on a couch and already settled. This set the scene for the level of guests as ‘Who Does What’ is here thinking it was just a media gathering only, simply to introduce the new chap. The German charge d’affaires Martin Lötzer could be seen in his inimitable manner engaging with all as he does and you cannot meet a nicer chap. The list must have gone on, faces appearing and disappearing. Don’t forget England were playing Croatia later in the evening.
No sooner the dignitaries arrived, most disappeared as there was another big bash they had to attend up the road…….who knows? Still, as the camera rolls we see CEOs of well known companies such as American Express, all seemingly very comfortable. Ronnie Middleton he of Howard Hughes exclusivity and Managing director of the Al Hilal and Trade Arabia conglomeration was present, happily chatting away. Footage of this man is certainly rare, so we can certainly claim a little exclusivity here. This is all a very good sign for a man they have probably never met before or even heard of. The intrigue grows.
Mr De Villèle is not a shy bloke at all. He immediately mingles with whoever and is very chatty. Not all General Managers are so good at that, especially in strict protocol hotels which are owned by either rigid corporations with their checklist of ‘do it this way or else’ or indeed very influential individuals as in the case of the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain. The thing is with Bahrain, if you fit in you never want to leave (see below).
Most companies strive to keep their employees for years, but in the hotel business (especially 5 star) it is not uncommon, in fact completely normal for the ‘executive staff’ to be shuffled, cleaned out or replaced on a regular basis. It is an odd business and very much like broadcast media in many ways. Some teams gel well and that atmosphere is indeed permeated to the public and suppliers alike. Then there are some new transfers who just don’t cut the mustard at all and the sooner we see them move on the better, yet they fit in perfectly well in another property. There are other personal reasons why people go but it happens. Not so rare but certainly not usual, some people initially can’t hack the heat, or the way of life or indeed the culture and just want out. Of course, it is a stark change from say Hong Kong, London or Rome wherever, but after a few months Bahrain quickly becomes a place we call home for all its foibles and one doesn’t want to think about living anywhere else. Unfortunately, General Managers rarely ever get that luxury and are switched around all too often for the likes of some. Good luck Bernard de Villèle, one suspects you are going to fit in very well. As for your polite attempt at Arabic… um…ugh… Yeah, stick around awhile, it will surely get better 🙂