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Nizar Alouf

LEBANON - Tourism

Luxury Like Home

General Manager, Riviera Hotel

Bio

Nizar Alouf studied hotel business management in both Europe and the US. He managed the Casino du Liban from 1986 to 1988. Then from 1989 to 1991 he ran the Intercontinental Hotel Mombasa, before becoming the GM of the Riviera Hotel, where he has been since 1992.

What have been the key changes in the Lebanese tourism sector since the Riviera Hotel was founded? Beirut has a long history of iconic five-star hotels. We opened in 1956, […]

What have been the key changes in the Lebanese tourism sector since the Riviera Hotel was founded?

Beirut has a long history of iconic five-star hotels. We opened in 1956, and at that time the Bristol Hotel and the Saint Georges were already open, followed by the Palm Beach. There was also Le Commodore, and then the Phoenicia arrived on the scene, whereby year after year, Beirut’s hotel offering expanded, today numbering 99. Beirut started as a summer destination principally for visitors from other Arab countries. The wealthy citizens of the Arab world arrived to visit the mountains, for their alluring, greener scenery and cooler climate. Some tourists came for Lebanon’s archaeological sites, a trend which continued until the 1960s. From Europe, visitors started to arrive from Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Italy, the UK, and France. We began to see a second wave of more independent tourists enjoying tours through Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. Lebanon was always the common denominator in these tours. And following the war, the Riviera was the first hotel to recover, reopening in 1992. The Phoenicia also underwent renovation, and then new hotels like Le Gray and the Four Seasons opened, as well as many small boutique establishments.

How do you ensure that expatriates become repeat visitors?

Over the years Riviera’s loyalty signature was naturally organic thanks to its brand recognition by the international tourists who have built a great reputation for us generation after generation. We have witnessed guests from 40 years ago becoming grandfathers who are now bringing their family members here to remember the nostalgic Riviera. Our personalized service contributes very positively to the expatriate visitors who become repeat guests.

How did you alter your yield management in the face of increasing competition in the industry?

We personalized our service, for one, by rotating our staff less often, so that they could become familiar with repeat guests, and tend to their individual needs and preferences. We try to understand the wishes and preferences of each individual guest and offer what they like. It is also important not to have too rigid an approach to our rates. Our sector is seasonal, and we work according to whether it is the low, medium, or high season. Our greatest asset at the Riviera is our location, and our beach is a major point of attraction.

How do you go about appealing to tourists from Europe?

France is a good target market for Lebanon due to the similarities between the French and Lebanese cultures. The French feel at ease here, as French is widely spoken. English is also commonly spoken. An additional advantage for the visitor is the relative ease of communicating in Lebanon. If you go out, be it to a restaurant, bar, nightclub, or concert, Lebanese people initiate communication. They tend not to wait for you to come over and do so. They will then try to assist you, familiarize you with the country, and make you feel at ease. As a natural appeal for tourists Lebanese hospitality is in the blood.

How important are international events and conferences for your business?

Such events form a crucial element of our business as increased brand awareness ultimately leads to new guest arrivals. Such events account for approximately 25% of our business.

What do the next five years hold in store for the Riviera Hotel?

We want to maintain our business and preserve the factors both large and small that make us unique. We want repeat guests to feel this continued attention to detail.

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