In Conversation with Charbel Hanna

Deputy General Manager, The Gulf Hotel Bahrain Convention and Spa

What or who inspired you to enter the hospitality industry?

My mum inspired me. Back then, she was known for her excellent cooking skills and, to make ends meet, she started supplying to local restaurants and families with her ‘home food’ favourites. I always thought my mum was good enough to cook at the very best restaurants and hotels. That impression never really left my mind and so, when I finished high school, I knew what my heart desired.

You started at the very bottom, washing dishes in the kitchen and then waiting tables. Please tell us about that period and how you pushed forward onto the management ladder.

Indeed! I started from the very bottom and cleaning dishes was my first job.

It all began on a summer vacation during my high school days, with the sole purpose of buying a bicycle. I worked in the restaurant of a private club without my mum’s knowledge. A month later, I got lucky and moved to grilling burgers. I worked every summer at the grill and when I graduated, I took the position full time to earn money while I looked for the first step on the hospitality ladder. An opening came when news broke that a luxury hotel was going to open, giving me the chance to apply for a supervisory role. I went for the interview and was told that a waiter position was available. I knew what people would say with me being a university graduate, but I said yes on the spot! That is how it started. I always had a thought towards what would be the best way to move my career faster. Then, I had the opportunity to undergo a management training programme for two years, where I experienced working in all departments, and that pushed me to my first managerial role, as a restaurant manager. Having the attitude, passion, commitment and determination, I started climbing up the management ladder.

Did you expect to reach this level, 20 years on?

Yes, I did! In my 20 years in the industry, I have been working hard to reach not only this level but to go even higher. Therefore, I keep learning, enhancing my skills and developing myself towards my own self-growth.

What is next for the Gulf Hotel and for you?

The Gulf Hotel Bahrain Convention and Spa is a legendary five-star hotel in Bahrain that has maintained its reputation for many years. Once the pandemic is over, the hotel will be back to offering the largest hotel facilities, especially in food and beverage. The hotel is preparing to open all the facilities and to come back to the leading position in the market through our product quality and services. While, for myself, I am looking forward for my next role very soon.

On a more personal note, what do you enjoy doing when you are not at work?

Family! I love being with my family at home. We do things all together. My wife and I play with our kids, watch movies, gardening and we do many other activities indoor and outdoor.

Do you have a hidden talent or passion that few people know about?

Horseback riding! It is my passion. Since childhood, I have enjoyed being with horses. Riding can be exhilarating, nerve-racking and freeing all at the same time, but it makes me relax and it can be very therapeutic too. Not too long ago, I developed this passion into a sport. I am planning to participate in the next season of Bahrain Horse Endurance, and I have been practising daily every morning at 4.30am preparing the horse and myself to be qualified for the endurance rides at distances of 40km and moving forward to 80km and so on. ✤