Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residence
- 35 Giza Street, 12311 Giza, Cairo, Egypt
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2001
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Sales Manager, Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh
- Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza; Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria at San Stefano; Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza; Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh; Hilton Hotels Egypt
- Cairo, Egypt
- BA in Hotel Management, Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Cairo, Egypt
- English, Arabic
There is a lot of action on the hotel scene in the capital of Egypt these days, with major international brands either opening or prepping new properties. There is a transformation underway at Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residence as well, and the General Manager is integral to the effort. “We are repositioning ourselves as the boutique product in the heart of the city,” says Mahmoud ElKeiy, who was appointed in spring 2014.
Boutique? Even at 269 rooms, explains ElKeiy, Four Seasons longest-running Mideast address is “very small” compared with newer, large-scale offerings springing up around Cairo. “We want to reintroduce ourselves to travellers as the boutique alternative with our own unique personalized service.” ElKeiy jumped into the Hotel’s renovation from the start, lending expertise and enthusiasm on everything from the ground-level relocation of the reception area to choosing the new colour scheme for suites. “It’s gold and beige,” he says, “very much like at Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris.”
Key to the Hotel’s current and continued success, ElKeiy notes, is Four Seasons style luxury that goes beyond dazzling décor to what travellers desire and require. Business travellers can rely on the Hotel’s resourceful staff, click-heeled concierge, and a business centre that is open around the clock with reliable communications technologies. For families, luxury plays out with innovative offerings to engage children and reward parents with down time of their own. Indeed, the Hotel’s family-focused back-of-the-house tours and chef-run cooking classes have proven effective at community outreach as well, drawing local schoolchildren from across Cairo.
ElKeiy traces his fondness for the hotel business to his days as a student at Cambridge University, where he earned a General Certificate of Education. Faced with three months of downtime between studies – “I hated the idea of having nothing to do” – he secured a trainee-level position at a 1,000-room hotel. The attraction was instantaneous despite the lack of pay. “The day I started, I told a friend, ‘One day, you’ll see me managing a hotel.’” He discovered something new everyday and was fascinated by technologies long since lost to time, like the Telex in the front office and the pigeonhole key holder behind the front desk. “Even with so many rooms, the clerks would pull the right key without looking. I was like, ‘Wow! How do they do that?’”
ElKeiy’s family had a similar reaction when he told them of his intention to make a go of hospitality. “They said, ‘Wow! Why would you want to do that?’” Most people in his family are doctors, he says. “My father started to tell me that I couldn’t do it – ‘Would you accept serving someone coffee?’ I told him, ‘Yes, this is what I love and I’ll do whatever it takes.’”
Unlike many in his position, ElKeiy worked his way up in sales. The transition from marketing was “not easy” he says: “It took a lot of long hours for me to adapt.” His background still pays dividends in the form of business from contacts he developed in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) area and North and South America through the course of his sales career.
An avid traveller who estimates he has been to “70 percent of the world,” ElKeiy is also passionate about getting around on two wheels. “I have a Harley-Davidson Fat Bob with a 16-inch handlebar and a sissy bar I designed myself. Once a week, minimum, I take it out for very long day trip.” Would one be able to recognize ElKeiy as he speeds by? “I’m always in full black,” he says with a laugh, “like a gangster.”