This week Deeba Hasan sits down with Katrin Herz, Oman’s first female general manager of a hotel, who’s recently taken up her position at the Al Bustan Palace
Despite only having been in the country for three weeks, Katrin Herz was cool, calm and confident when we met over a traditional Omani coffee in the elegant setting of the Al Bustan Palace last week.
For someone who is breaking down barriers as the first female hotel GM in the country, she shows no signs of nerves at the challenge.She seems to be settling down well and is ready for a new atmosphere and what lies ahead. Well not entirely new – she was in Dubai for six years, where she opened The Ritz-Carlton Dubai International Financial Centre, before moving to Oman.
During her 18-year long career with the luxury hotel chain, which operates 84 hotels and resorts 26 countries, Katrin has managed at every level of the hospitality and catering industry, from the front desk and guest relations, right the way to housekeeping and laundry.
It’s also a career that has seen Katrin, who is originally from Germany, become something of a global citizen, working in Russia, Chile, Ireland, Portugal and America among others.
About her arrival to Oman, Katrin says: “It’s an honour to be the first female GM in a country where tourism is becoming increasingly important. I think the luxury hotel segment will see incredible growth over the next couple of years.”
She is grateful for the support from the Ministry of Tourism in Oman, who were involved in the process of bringing her to the country. “I don’t think I have received such a warm welcome anywhere else. This is my eighth Ritz-Carlton hotel and a very special arrival for me,” she says.
According to Katrin, there is somewhat of a misconception that those who work in the industry have an easy life. “People think it’s all about fancy hotels and that I travel the world meeting VIPs and celebrities, but that’s not the complete picture.”
For Katrin, her job is a passion. “In my job, you don’t count days or hours; we know when we come in the morning, but we don’t always know when we’re going to go home at night. We work when others relax and we enjoy when others work. It all comes with the business.”
Of course, it’s not all work and Katrin admits that she has had the opportunity to meet some celebrities who most people can only dream to catch a glimpse of.
“It has been the perfect job for me because it allowed me to travel to countries where I never would’ve lived otherwise and I have met so many interesting people, including politicians and celebrities.” US President Barack Obama, former US President Bill Clinton and actress Angelina Jolie are just some of the names she’s met to date.
“In Dubai we had a lot of Bollywood stars and people would be screaming at the entrance, but at the end of the day, you treat them as a guest and make sure they have a wonderful stay. You surprise and delight them and make it memorable for them somehow.”
Contrary to what you may think, balancing work and life at home, where she has a four-year-old daughter, has been relatively easy for Katrin, who attributes this fact to the support she receives from her husband. “He’s in the same industry and so he understands the position I am in,” she says. “When I am off from work and at home, I am really there and I enjoy every minute of it instead of watching TV or wasting time.”
It’s still early days, but Katrin is finding the Al Bustan Palace to be a very special experience. “There is so much history in this hotel, it’s the palace guest house of the Sultanate and the location itself was handpicked. There are so many stories that come with this hotel and I hope that during the next couple of weeks, I can start to understand them better.”
After studying the hotel industry in Oman, Katrin is positive about the impending growth in tourism. “The Ministry of Tourism has a big plan and they are working towards making Oman known internationally. As the Al Bustan Palace holds a key position in the market, we will be happy to work together with them to help create that awareness.”
Besides that, Katrin is also looking at making the hospitality industry attractive to the Sultanate’s millennials through close interaction with several of Oman’s colleges and other education institutions.
Her advice to those who want a career in this industry is simple: “If you have the hospitality gene somewhere in you and you can work hard, it’s a great career with many exciting possibilities.”