DUBAI EXPAT STORIES. ‘I started out as a luggage porter.’ — Jan Hanak, general manager at Radisson Blu Dubai Deira Creek

By Jojo Dass

Most hotel general managers begin their journey to the swivel chair from below – either as a concierge, front desk staff or luggage guy. 

Jan Hanak, general manager at Radisson Blu Dubai Deira Creek, went through almost all these “hardship posts,” as they are oft-called, while at the same time pursing his studies in Prague – a Disneylandish place nicknamed “City of a Hundred Spires,” and popular among tourists for its UNESCO sites, baroque buildings and the Old Town Square.

“I started in the hospitality (industry) as a luggage porter in 1998 in Prague,” Hanak tells Dubai Vibes Magazine, referring to his first hotel job, which was at Radisson SAS Alcron Hotel in Prague.

“Then,” he added, “I went through various positions in front desk as receptionist…night manager… night auditor.”

Through all these, Hanak, who was born in Prague, as well the birthplace of one of the 20th century’s literary giants, Frans Kafka, successfully pursued a degree in Economics with a major in Finance at the Czech University of Life Sciences’ Faculty of Economics and Management.

“I wanted to move toward that field, actually,” recalls Hanak. “(But) at the time, the hotel offered me the revenue management post,” he said.

Following this, Hanak was transferred to London as revenue manager at Radisson SAS Portman Hotel from 2005 until 2008 before being promoted as executive assistant manager in 2009. 

First GM assignment

Hanak’s first assignment as general manager was at Radisson Blu in Belfast, Ireland, where shortly thereafter he also became head of Park Inn Belfast. He was 32.

Hanak was then assigned to Russia where he oversaw a successful renovation project at the 842-room Park Inn Sheremetyevo Airport Moscow. He became the cluster general manager of the Radisson Blu Hotel, Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport and the Park Inn by Radisson Pulkovo Airport St. Petersburg.  

Following this, Hanak flew to Dubai three years ago where he took the helm at Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek as general manager.

His primary task: Oversee the big renovation project at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek, the city’s first five-star hotel, which was built in 1975. 

“Being in a hotel of this kind, the oldest five start hotel in Dubai, is an honor and also a responsibility,” said Hanak.  “As a team, we always make sure that we meet the guests’ expectations, which are very high,” he said.

Hanak said the project was halted last year due to Covid-19 quarantine measures.   

“We paused it because of the situation. But this year, I am happy that we can start refurbishment very soon and we expect that to be finished in the third quarter,” said Hanak.

Day begins

Most people probably wonder how a hotel GM’s day begins.

Hanak’s starts with a “little sport,” as he calls it.

“Probably swimming,” he said, “then have a healthy breakfast with the family…have a little chit-chat with the kids before they go to school because not always could I manage to be home before they go to bed.” 

Arriving at work, Hanak would buckle down with the team for the daily morning briefing. “We would discuss the successes or challenges of the previous day to see what we could have probably done better or improve. We would also discuss the agenda for the day to make sure that everything goes well,” he said.

Dubai has been gathering steam and so they have to keep up or be left behind.

“I love Dubai. I have also been looking after the Middle East market when I was in London. At the time, I have been coming to Dubai very often and used to stay in this hotel (Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek).

“I remember chatting with my colleagues who would asked if I would be willing to move here,” recalls Hanak.

He described this expat city as a “dynamic place full of changes… (where) a lot is always moving.”

Rebound

Like most hoteliers, Hanak said he believes Dubai is definitely on the rebound.

“When I see different industry reports and our internal ones as well, I could clearly see that Dubai is on the route to recovery well ahead of the other markets,” he said.

He further explained: “I think due to the fact that Dubai took a very pragmatic approach in terms of the necessary precautions coupled with the focus on vaccination and the promotion of the market, the city is shaping up well; and with Expo 2020 coming,  I am sure Dubai will soon be recovering fully.”

Advice

Looking back, from tending to luggage and now running a hotel, Hanak believes he would not have made it without resolve.

His advice?  “Do your best and do not be afraid to ask questions. Bring new ideas to the table and do a little bit extra than what is expected from the job.

“I believe that by doing these the opportunities will be available.”

Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek, which was built in 1975, is the city’s first five-star hotel.

Golden meal

As such, it is also home to the city’s oldest and most authentic Persian restaurant, Shabestan, described by Hanak as their “jewel of the crown,” which is celebrating it’s 37th anniversary this year with a special golden menu.

Built in 1984, Shabestan has been a favorite of many royal families, including Dubai’s very own ruling family. 

Chef Abol Fazl Shirazi, head of the culinary team, curated a special menu infused with 23-carat gold.

Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek is set within the cultural and art districts of the city and located next to traditional souks such as the gold and spice markets. It also is a few minutes away from the Burj Khalifa, shopping malls, and the iconic Dubai Frame.

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