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Beyond the boardroom with Eddy Tannous

Get to know Rotana's Chief Operating Officer, Eddy Tannous

Step into the personal realm of corporate leadership in this exclusive interview featuring Eddy Tannous, Rotana's recently appointed Chief Operating Officer.

Beyond the confines of his leadership role, discover Eddy's incredible zest for life that has seen him cliff diving just as a means to recharge or kickstart workdays with challenging treks for an adrenaline rush, as he generously lets us in on all the quirks, anecdotes and unexpected tales that have shaped the man behind the COO title.

In this candid conversation, he shares personal insights and the unique perspective that not only propels his professional success but also enriches his personal journey.

When you're not in COO mode, what's your favourite adventure sport or activity for unwinding and letting loose?

I need adrenaline and I need nature. So, when I want to disconnect, I might go biking, skiing or cliff diving – anything that is available to me based on my location. During my time overseeing a hotel launch in AlUla in Saudi Arabia, I made it a daily ritual to don my trekking gear, hike up the mountain at dawn and take a picture of the resort from up there. I would then send the picture to my General Manager and joke that I needed a helicopter to bring me down.

I need to be out in nature two or three times a year, and at least for a week at a time. I especially enjoy camping in virgin forests during these breaks.

On the weekends, I love to golf, as it allows me to disconnect and enjoy the tranquillity of the greens, the water, the trees and the birds. While it doesn’t compare to camping in the wild, it provides some semblance of nature in the city and offers the added benefit of socialising with friends.

If your passport could talk, what would be its favourite stamp and why?

That’s a tough one! I love to travel, be it for leisure or work. But I’d have to say that Kenya was an amazing experience. I've visited four times already and I love going back for its combination of nature, safaris, animal encounters and the experience of being out in the open. Engaging with the local communities in Kenya has been a big inspiration for me. During my last trip with my family, we set out on a four-hour drive between destinations, passing through the villages for a taste of local life. I wanted my kids to see the children from these villages, who cover substantial distances on foot every day just to make it to school. For our children, who are born and raised here in the UAE, experiencing these real-life challenges not only makes them appreciate their privileges even more but also fosters respect for different ways of life.

It's always good when I land in Zurich and I take a train to Zermatt. But returning home to Lebanon is something I deeply cherish. Here, I enjoy going skiing and spending quality time outdoors. Lastly, I love coming back to the UAE. Having worked in various locations around the world – no matter how great they’ve been – nowhere else do I experience the sense of returning home as profoundly as in the UAE.

If you could share the most interesting story from your travel experiences, what would that be?

Very early on in my life, about 25 years ago, I worked as a personal trainer for a very high-profile individual in Yemen and had to travel to the country for the first time. I was told I didn’t need a visa and landed in Yemen at about 1:00 in the morning. The airport was nearly deserted, with only a handful of people – even the person assigned to receive me failed to show up. I had to talk my way out of immigration, but, unfortunately, the Arabic dialect spoken here was so different that it made seamless communication a challenge. The entire process stretched on for about two hours before I could leave the airport, after which I had to drive through Sana'a in the wee hours of the morning. It was quite an interesting experience but, looking back, I was young and it was something I had to learn.

And what would you say has been the most disastrous travel experience?

Once while returning from Ibiza to Lebanon, we had to wait eight long hours for the plane, which eventually failed to show up, without any prior notice or information. We were forced to leave the airport, stay another night and reschedule our departure for the next day. There is so much we could have done in Spain during those lost eight hours, but instead, we found ourselves confined to the airport with a lack of communication exacerbating the situation.

This incident is a reminder of the significance of effective communication in the hospitality industry – a principle that resonates with our work at the hotel. Often, our guests undergo extensive journeys to reach our front desk. It emphasises the importance of ensuring that, upon arrival, they are promptly attended to, provided immediate reassurance and delivered a seamless experience.

Which period of your life would you say has been the most influential in shaping who you are today?

Professionally, it was the 2008-2009 financial crisis. As Director of Sales and Marketing, we faced the challenge of rebuilding after losing most of our business in Dubai. As a young leader, making impartial decisions to create a new commercial structure, irrespective of personal connections, tested my leadership. It was very tough, but it taught me that if you do the right thing and for the right reasons, you will always have a clear conscience. Coming out of it, it was clear that Dubai made one of the best recoveries globally – and we were part of that recovery. Emerging successfully from that tough period not only defined me as a leader but instilled a forward-thinking mindset and taught me the importance of proactive planning and anticipating challenges. Today, I don’t wait for something to go wrong until I have to deal with it. I apply this foresight to continuously assess potential risks and opportunities for growth.

On a personal level, my military service in Lebanon stands out as the most influential period of my life as it marked the transition from relying on parental support to becoming financially independent. This shift not only altered my perspective on life but also influenced crucial decisions that have shaped my journey to where I am today.

If you were to cast yourself as the main character in a book you've read or a movie you've seen, who would that character be?

William Wallace in Braveheart! Despite my evolving taste for more intellectual films as I've grown older, this particular movie remains a favourite. The character of William Wallace embodies enduring qualities that resonate with me, making him my top choice.

If you could eat one and only one meal for the rest of your life, what dish would that be? Bonus points if it’s from a Rotana restaurant!

It would undoubtedly be the Tournedos Rossini steak I recently enjoyed at Teatro Dubai at Towers Rotana. It was unbelievable! As someone who enjoys a good steak – I must apologise to all vegetarians – red meat is a non-negotiable part of my life. Family and a hearty steak are close contenders in my priorities! I recently ordered the dish during a client meeting and was so happy with the quality. It’s a very succulent cut of beef tenderloin, with foie gras on top, served with fries, king mushroom and green beans, and finished with black truffle and truffle jus. It’s a dish I could eat at any time, even for breakfast.

Could you share a memorable experience from your professional life that left a lasting impression on you?

In my 25 years of work, it's challenging to pinpoint just one memorable experience. However, what stands out are the interactions I've had with my coworkers that truly touched and shaped me. As a General Manager, when I was not entertaining guests at the restaurant, I made it a habit to dine in the staff cafeteria, seeking out those sitting alone. Whether from housekeeping, sales or stewarding, I'd join them for a conversation, humbled by the positivity they brought to work despite the daily challenges they faced. I recall the first time I chose to sit with a lady from housekeeping, breaking the norm of leaders, executives and other staff isolating themselves from one another. These interactions, where I learned about the lives and struggles of my team, have been profoundly meaningful in my professional journey.

If you could work from anywhere in the world, where would that be?

I'd like to say it would be near the river in my village, where you don't see anyone, but there's no Wi-Fi there. I’d have to say that I find the traditional workplace, whether in a hotel or at the office, most conducive. I like interacting with people, which is why I disliked working from home during the pandemic; it was unnatural for me. The office environment and interactions with people fuel my productivity – and this is what I would miss if I had to work remotely.

Finally, can you share the philosophy that you live by?

Do the right thing. Do the right thing for the business, do the right thing for the people around you and society. Just do the right thing! Don’t do what is perceived to be right or the political choice. If you can, unless your life is in danger, do the right thing.

When you do that, 80 percent or even 90 percent of the time, you’re going to be correct; you’re going to do a good job. You’re going to have a clear conscious that you did things for the right reasons.


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