HOTELS interview: Cairo hotelier talks security, business in wake of protests

CAIRO The fluid political and security situation in Egypt is causing financial hardships on businesses throughout the country, but few industries are being affected worse than hotels, which are seeing mass cancellations by crucial tourist travelers. HOTELS interviewed Ibrahim Fahmy, the managing director of Egypt for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, who is based at Sheraton Cairo.

HOTELS: What is your occupancy level and for how long has it been this way?

Fahmy: Occupancy is at 12% or less in Cairo—only the Hilton and the Semiramis InterContinental are running at 28% due to the press occupying the rooms overlooking the Tahrir Square.

HOTELS: Have you had to furlough staff already?

Fahmy: We are consuming all the accrued vacations first before laying off; although a sensitive issue considering the situation, it will be an eventuality if the situation prolongs.

HOTELS: What are the safety issues and how are you responding?

Fahmy: The safety of the guests, the associates and the asset; we have on 24 hours a team guarding the property that includes associates, external security and undercover and uniformed police. Also, the army has a strong presence, with tanks and soldiers.

HOTELS: What has happened to forward bookings?

Fahmy: Cancelled and on hold until April or May.

HOTELS: What are you doing to ensure the safety of your team?

Fahmy: Any expatriate desiring to evacuate or move into the hotel for safety have been accommodated, and some have evacuated their family.

HOTELS: How is the hotel operating right now in terms of staff numbers and priorities?

Fahmy: We have 100 associates and 60 guests on average. Our priority is ensuring the feeling of safety to the in-house guests, including the press.

HOTELS: What is the biggest surprise about this situation?

Fahmy: The sincere commitment of the staff in dealing with the situation.

HOTELS: What is the biggest challenge you face?

Fahmy: The associates that have to cope with taking guard to protect their homes and family at night and come to work during a few hours in the day between the curfews with the disappearance of the police.

HOTELS: What kind of support and orders are you getting from corporate?

Fahmy: We are getting continuous offers of help and support on a daily basis, and there is a great concern on the safety of all. We also have no need more than the support provided.

HOTELS: Are you fearful for your safety that of your staff or any remaining guests?

Fahmy: Yes and no.

Protestors at Cairo's Tahrir Square
Protestors at Cairo’s Tahrir Square