In Conversation with…Manuela Brode

We chat to the GM of the new Hilton Garden Inn Bahrain Bay.

When you started out as a receptionist back in 2002, did you envisage hotels becoming a career? Did you ever expect to get to the level of GM?

I absolutely did and even before my first receptionist role. My vision to make a career in hotels and hospitality started at the age of 14, during a two-week internship at the Hilton Berlin. We had the Prime Minister of France staying with us and I was delivering flowers to his suite and assisted with housekeeping tasks. On that day I decided I would pursue a career in hospitality. My passion for the industry grew from there and is still unchanged today, after 22 years.

The question on dreaming of a GM role started in my early years as our general manager at the time was one of the very few female hotel leaders, in charge of a property with 589 rooms and a team of nearly 300 members. She inspired me with her leadership and challenged and mentored me.

Of your previous postings, which has been your favourite and why?

I would probably say my placement in Nairobi, Kenya, was one of the most surprising experiences. The opportunity to enjoy a safari in my free time was unique; discovering animals in the wild and the beauty of nature coupled with East African hospitality will always have a special place in my heart.

One of my very first positions, as guest relations in Malta, is certainly worth a mention as it was my first time living abroad. Malta was not part of the EU then and I was one of the few expats in the country. It was also my first work experience in a resort hotel. I enjoy regular visits back when possible to reconnect with long-term friends who became my family away from home.

Also, my experience in Dubai, my first time in the Middle East, back in 2010. Working with the most diverse and inclusive team from across the world helped me grow, not only professionally but personally too. Then, we only had two Hilton Hotels in Dubai. Now, there are more than 20.

How does being pre-opening GM differ to doing the job when the property is up and running? Do you plan to stay once open?

well as connecting with the community. It is very theoretical, in many ways, and also hands-on as every team member, regardless of role and position, will assist to unpack, unfold and arrange linen, equipment and tools to be guest-ready in time. You will always need to have a Plan B, C and D for everything during pre-opening – Plan A might not go ahead as planned. At Hilton we have a wonderful system to support all GMs to success.

After opening is mostly about guests, team member development and revenues and ultimately profits. Managing hotels is all about creating extraordinary and safe guest experiences, being the best place to work for our team members and delivering results to our owners. As operating GM, you observe existing processes, review and challenge them to continuously improve, analyse your and your team’s performance and work on ways to enhance.

My contract is planned to not only open but also manage the hotel after opening.

Please tell us a bit about Hilton Garden Inn Bahrain Bay. When will it open and what will be on offer?

Our Hilton Garden Inn Bahrain Bay will feature 192 rooms and suites with all of them enjoying unobstructed sea views and overlooking the skyline of Bahrain Bay. Our spacious one-bedroom suites and plenty of connecting rooms will be great for families and long-stay guests.

Our own restaurant ‘together & co’ as well as ‘together and co lobby cafe’ will offer the right mix of local Bahrain specialities to international cuisine. The direct connection to The Avenues mall allows our future guests to connect business with leisure. Four meeting rooms benefit from natural daylight and offer the latest AV equipment for any kind of meeting setup.

Our hotel is opening very soon, and we are looking at a date in quarter two of this year.

How have you enjoyed your time in Bahrain so far and what are your favorite things to do when you are not working?

Since my arrival, the experience has been fantastic. Bahrain and its people have been extremely welcoming to me, even during times of social distance. I enjoy the open views to the sea wherever you go on the island and the heritage and culture. I love to explore new areas when I am not working, I’ve already visited the National Museum, discovered the Pearl path in Muharraq and one of my favourite things is a to enjoy a late local breakfast shared with friends during days off. ✤