Oman hotelier weaves dream into reality
May 14, 2018 | 6:34 PM
by Times News Service

To hotelier Khalid Al Balushi, nothing has come easy. His journey in the hospitality industry began decades ago as a member of the Al Bustan Palace Hotel’s line staff. Working his way up from scratch, he is now the manager of Omran’s Atana chain of hotels and the company’s first Omani hotel manager. “I started working in the hotel industry in 1991 with the Al Bustan Palace Hotel. In those days, it was run by the Intercontinental.”

Through meeting colleagues such as Isa Al Hajri, Khalid would gain strong encouragement and inspiration to continue moving up the ranks.

“I met people such as Isa, who encouraged me to stay in this field. Back then, there was a mentality that suggested it was not possible for an Omani to be successful in the hotel industry.”

At Bustan, Khalid gained access to vital training programmes that allowed him to see a different side of the hotel world.

“They put me in the trainer programme with managerial staff present there. It was very encouraging for me to gain skills and be around them. It totally changed my mentality regarding what people were saying and the reality of our field.”

After four years, he opted to continue his studies in the UK. “I worked part time in hotels and restaurants. The experience was beautiful.”

For Khalid Al Balushi, hospitality was the only field because you learn Omani hospitality from home.

After nearly four years in Britain, he returned to Oman and once again looked to the hospitality industry as his field of choice.

“I worked at Grand Hyatt in 2000 as a telephone operator, once again, as part of the line staff. There we had a very good team and I met Abdullah Al Hinai, who right now is the manager of a hotel in Salalah, and Abdullah Al Balushi, who was the front office manager and is now running the National Hospitality Institute. These are the people I worked with and being around them inspired me to continue,” he said. “I started from scratch and rose to where I am now. I’m proud to say that I am one of the leading hotel managers in the Sultanate.”

For Khalid, his field of choice came to him naturally, thanks to his strong Omani identity. “In my mind, hospitality was the only field because you learn Omani hospitality from home.”

These traditions have strongly influenced Khalid’s approach to hotel management and provided thousands of visitors to Atana’s two hotels with memories that will last a lifetime.

“There are lots of things you can merge between home and work. The first thing is the smile. Whenever you have guests in your house, you welcome them with a big smile, open arms, and a hug. This small gesture, when you implement in a hotel, makes a big impact on the guests. When you talk to them beyond the regular check-in and checkout procedures, it gets noticed. It’s like being in a majlis; when you have visitors. These things that are very deeply rooted at home can be incorporated into our professional lives. And they are examples of things we have moved from local hospitality into our hotels,” he said.

“That,” he says firmly, “is what differentiates the Atana brand from others in the region.”

The brand’s origins alone help it stand out. When the chain was launched by Omran in 2014, it was the first homegrown hotel brand from the Sultanate.

Khalid’s story of success and resilience provides a welcome source of inspiration to the youth of Oman, showing how talented youngsters can strike out in other fields and industries to achieve massive success.

Unfortunately, there are numerous misconceptions that have kept talented young Omanis from choosing a career in the hospitality industry. That, thanks to the guidance and hard work of people such as Khalid, may be about to change.

“The young generation think, first of all, of fast growth, secondly about salary, and after just working for a couple of months, they want to own a car.

“They’re moving too fast. If they think about it from a long-term perspective, they can get all that and more. But the thing is you have to have patience and the integrity to work your way up.”

For a man of his experience, Khalid’s advice to the new generation of Omani jobseekers is expectedly sage.

“If young Omanis have proper guidance and mindset, hospitality is an open world, even if you start at the bottom. It is our country, and in the end, no one is better than an Omani to become the perfect tourism ambassador for the Sultanate,” he said.

“That is my encouragement for the young generation; to look at that horizon. Don’t just look at your short-term goals. Look at the long term. As they say, ‘tourism enriches’. Nothing comes easy. You have to work hard to get where you want. It doesn’t come with the snap of a finger, he emphasised. “Nowadays, most youth are materialistic. They look for bigger salaries, cars, the latest phones, and an office. You can reach that level, but first you have to be patient and willing to earn it.”

On his part, the father of three is still ambitious. “My journey doesn’t end here. I’m still working towards new goals. I’m still moving towards the next step.”

Such words and determination bode well for an industry that continues to attract millions of visitors to the Sultanate. And those visitors are sure to find a warm dose of Omani hospitality waiting to greet them wherever Khalid is to be found.

Subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to know all the latest news