Haitham Mattar of the RAK Tourism Development Authority chats with us about climbing the ladder in the hospitality industry
Haitham Mattar, CEO of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, was appointed in May 2015 to drive the economic growth of Ras Al Khaimah by positioning the Emirate as a world-class destination for business and leisure tourism. With over 25 years of experience in global destination and hospitality management and marketing, Mattar has held senior roles with leading global brands including Marriott, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), and most recently Hilton Worldwide. Felice Hurst, MD of Hanson Search Dubai, recently caught up with Haitham to find out more about his career and how he made it to the top.
How did you get into the hospitality industry?
I got into hospitality back in 1987, when I was still at my last year at school. There was a Courtyard by Marriott across the road from where I lived, so I started there as a dishwasher. I then worked my way up through the food and beverage industry. I was probably the youngest restaurant manager with Marriott by the age of 19. I later moved over to front office operations as operations manager and I stayed in that field for quite some time before moving to sales and marketing.
What personal attributes do you think have most helped you succeed in your career?
To succeed in hospitality, you need to have perseverance for success and an eye for detail. I think that having a great level of humility and patience helps too. I’m a CEO now, and I’ve found that these attributes will take you through life both on a personal and professional level.
Who is the most inspiring person that you’ve worked with?
It is a difficult one to answer, as I get inspired by many different leaders for their different traits and contributions to society as a whole.
What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?
A wise man once gave me advice to always aim higher which has resonated with me for a long time. When you think about the words ‘aim higher’ it actually applies to everything that you do. For that reason, it was probably one of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given.
What do you hope to achieve over the next two years?
Our aim is to continue to position Ras Al Khaimah as a global tourism destination that offers great value for money and caters to several different tourist segments. One of the challenges we have today is the growth in demand versus supply. Over the coming years, the growth targets that we have set ourselves are ambitious and aggressive. We will need to increase our hotel rooms from 5000 to 25000 by 2025. We are confident that we can achieve this as long as the private sector continues to develop the right infrastructure at the right pace. That will be the key challenge for us. However, we are seeing very positive growth so far, and are well on track to achieve our Vision 2019 target for 1 million visitors.
What are the three words that best describe you?
I ran a 360-feedback session with some of my colleagues and one of the words repeated about me was “trustworthy”. It is difficult today to find someone you can trust, so that is important to me. I also have a great level of perseverance and hunger for success. I continue to push things until we reach our goal. Lastly, I’d say I’m attentive – with a great deal of attention to detail. I sometimes surprise my colleagues in meetings when I remind them of things said quite a long time ago. --
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