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The Caravan of destiny.

An accomplished career is not just about fancy designations and five-figure salaries ... old fashioned views of loyalty, hard work and dedication, combined with continuous professional training can find its right rewards even in today's highly-competitive business world.

Caravan Group of Hotels general manager Mohanan Pillai is a living testimony to the above having served his organisation for more than 30 years; steadily climbing the corporate ladder from a modest start, learning the ropes from the bottom up ... and still training to improve his knowledge to this day.

Under his leadership the Caravan Group with its chain of hotels - three-star Aradous Hotel and Adhari Hotel and the four-star Delmon Hotel - has continually adjusted to the marketplace and continues to attract visitors and corporate clients despite increasing competition.

The 55-year-old executive from India said that despite the current economic downturn the future for the hotel industry in Bahrain is looking bright, boosted by a growth in the number of exhibitions and trade fairs complimenting the pulling power of Formula One and the Bahrain Airshow.

He said: "We are in the Manama Souq area frequented by a number of businessmen. They stay with us as it is easy for them to get to their business and walk back to the hotel. Our prices are competitive and people are comfortable with us. Good clean rooms, food according to taste - whether it is Arabic, Indian, Lebanese or continental from our restaurants and an easy access to technology is all what they need.

"Continued success can only be down to the service offered. Our staff has to get the entire credit for this ... they are well trained, enjoy job security and we also offer profit sharing. They do not live in constant fear that they may lose their jobs tomorrow as we have people working here for the past 20 or 25 years. We take care of them."

And, Mr Pillai is a prime example, having recently celebrated his 31st anniversary at the hotel.

Thirty-two years ago, Mr Pillai was handpicked by the then owner of Aradous Hotel, the late Shaikh Abdullah bin Mohammad Al Khalifa during a recruitment drive in India. He arrived on the shores of Bahrain on a 72-hour visa that transformed his life forever. He now lives in Budaiya with his wife Radhika, daughter Shruti, 21, who is a software engineering student in the US, and son Shradh, 16, who attends St Christopher's School.

Speaking of the days when there were just a handful of hotels in the kingdom, Mr Pillai said: "Initially I was asked to work in Al Bait, a shop selling fancy lights on Exhibition Road. There was nothing much to do and I even remember requesting the owner to send me back home.

Fortunately he had other plans for me and a few months later I began working as an executive secretary to him and the general manager of the newly-opened Aradous Hotel.

"I was always a trusted hand and soon gained the reputation of a man who could get things done. I had a good speed for shorthand and I was sent for all sorts of training to improve my hotel management skills. I soon began conducting staff training.

"Later, I was sent to the Cornell University in the US to study hospitality management and completed a certified hotel administrator's course. That was one of my biggest achievements and it gave me major exposure. I was trained in various departments - housekeeping, personnel management, sales and marketing and front office. These were completed in three short courses and recently I completed a general manager's course.

"They (the Shaikh's family) made me what I am ... it is they who trusted me, believed in my abilities and helped me reach where I am today and I am very thankful to them."

Mr Pillai said that the hotel's cornerstone is in 'clean tourism' and plans are underway for further expansion. He said: "Business picked up in a big way after the Saudi Causeway opened. Suddenly there was a flood of tourists and many Saudi visitors were sleeping in their car because there were no rooms available.

"There was a big flow at that time. And, that was a time when a lot of small hotels started. We do not believe in quick money - we are there to provide good service and reap benefits in the long run through good reputation."

Alcohol continues to be a sensitive issue within Bahrain's hospitality industry with frequent calls to ban it and debates on the impact it would have on the kingdom's development.

"I also do not agree that rooms are full and business is growing only because of alcohol," said Mr Pillai. "It is not a must if you know how to conduct business and keep customers happy and know what they really require. For example, corporate businessmen are not coming here to drink. They are coming here to conduct their business and take part in exhibitions. Alcohol is not high on the agenda.

"We are working on a new project that has not been finalised yet. But, we will definitely be growing. I believe there continues to be a potential for three and four star hotels. I do not believe that all the tourists to Bahrain are exclusively looking to stay in five-star hotels. Good clean rooms with good facilities at economical rates continue to be in high demand."

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Date:Apr 18, 2010
Words:916
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