Olivier Rouma's story
I started in hospitality but left briefly and worked for the Ministry of Finance in Liège. I prepared lunch and dinner for 600 people but I only stayed six months because they just needed to eat; they paid €3 for their meal and always sat in the same place, they didn’t appreciate hospitality.
After that, I joined a laundry company and that gave me another view of the industry because as a salesman I visited many hotels – big and small properties and some with just two or three rooms, which gave me a lot of ideas about giving a warm welcome to guests. This was particularly useful for opening this hotel.
While I was an internal auditor for Accor, we achieved our first ISO certification in 1998. This was important because it was a recognition of quality and we were introducing the same way of working in ibis worldwide. It was easy to learn that and to explain to new teams. I met a lot of people in other hotels and learned a lot by visiting the properties – both good and bad!
I began to work for Accor in 1996 in subsidiary hotels and then moved to franchised in 2007 where I took on the role of General Manager. Both owned and franchise have good points but I prefer to be a Manager and the advantage of franchise is we can explain to the owners of the buildings how to operate a hotel; the owner of this property doesn’t know a lot about hotels but does know hospitality, so we have long conversations and we learn from each other.
I have acquired something from each of the roles I have had in Accor. I started as a receptionist in a small hotel, where I had responsibility for the housekeeping team, and as front office manager I discovered bigger establishments. One of the best jobs was sales and banqueting manager because it was a central role – I dealt with reception, the F&B manager, kitchen manager, housekeeping, and that was very useful because I dealt with all types of guests – in the hotel and in the meeting rooms.
I always have in mind the words of then DOP ibis Benelux Thomas Dubaere who said “service starts with a smile”. If you are new to hospitality, it is helpful to remember that. I say to my trainees and new collaborators, always keep this in mind; if you don’t smile at a guest, it will be difficult to give them a memorable stay or the best quality service. We try to welcome all customers in the same way and that is why we get a good RPS – reputation promoter score – which is about quality of service and guest satisfaction.
And to someone who is looking for their first job, join the hospitality industry if you like people and you like to learn. You can absorb many disciplines – marketing, accounting, F&B – because you can move from department to department; every day is different.
After nearly 30 years, I still learn from my team and my guests. I also discover things from other hotel managers because I am President of the Hotel Association in Liège; we have regular meetings and we hear from each other about new styles of working and new products – it is dynamic.
- Olivier Rouma
- General Manager
- Ibis Styles Liège Guillemain (Belgium)