By Jojo Dass
Alexander Suski, recently appointed acting chief executive officer at Ishraq Hospitality, could probably still hear the thump-thumping sound of a basketball hitting the wooden floor whenever it’s crunch time.
It’s been many years ago when he last played. But that unmistakable whiff of the hard court is still all around him, bringing back flashes of memories whenever he ponders on his next move while at work.
From insurance sales to hospitality
Having grown up in a little village in Belgium, Alexander was in the big league, playing professional basketball in his early 20’s, when an incident snuffed it all out.
“I had an injury and it forced me to quit from that career aspiration,” Alexander tells Dubai Vibes Magazine.
For a moment, it seemed the world has dead-ended on Alexander, and he took the first thing he saw that could bring him back.
“From there, I worked in insurance sales, which was an exciting hardcore sales learning curve that taught me a lot,” he said.
The road he has taken eventually led him to hospitality. “I realized I really loved it and decided to develop myself further; it allowed me to travel and have amazing experiences.”
The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.
These days, Alexander counts among Dubai hospitality’s head honchos with bragging rights to over 18 years of industry experience that spans Europe and the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, and more than a decade of strategic development in sales and marketing in these parts of the world.
Prior to his appointment as acting CEO at Ishraq Hospitality, Alexander was associate vice president for sales and marketing at Millennium Hotels and Resorts – MEA where he had a portfolio of 48 properties and over 40 future openings under his watch.
Before that, Alexander was area director of sales and marketing at Kempinksi Hotels in Egypt and Bahrain, then moved to UAE as director of sales and marketing at Kempinski Hotel Ajman and Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates. In this role, he reinvigorated sales and marketing strategies, market share, profit expansion and hotel brand repositioning to accelerate growth.
Alexander’s more than a decade-long valuable experience in Europe was integral to his vast understanding of the hospitality sector. He has worked with InterContinental Hotels & Resorts (IHG) in Warsaw; Sofitel Luxury Hotels (Accor) in Bruges-Ghent-Brussels-Luxemburg-Amsterdam; Crowne Plaza (IHG) in Brussels; and De Dikke Van Dale (Fletcher Hotels) in Holland.
His previous post before he was appointed acting CEO at Ishraq Hospitality was group director for the company’s, Commercial and Business Development division, where he oversaw commercial operations and strategic expansion of seven hotel properties under InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG Hotels & Resorts) and Wyndham franchises. In addition, Alexander was also responsible for driving short- and long-term commercial strategies for the portfolio and developing Ishraq Hospitality’s well-recognized Hospitality Advisory Services for investors or hotel owners.
Ishraq Hospitality is a division of Mohamed & Obaid AlMulla Group, one of the most dynamic and prominent business houses in UAE.
Looking back, it’s all about basketball, after all.
“Being a professional basketball player when I was young, prepared me to deal with adversity and for sudden failure; as in sports, we all know that one can go from being a winner to a loser, and vice versa in a fraction of a second,” says Alexander.
“The best way to get back on your feet is to self-assess with your team, your peers and managers: ‘What did I do wrong, or where do I learn from?’ Taking that learning to heart and acting on it immediately get you a step further,” he added.
He said he takes it from Michael Jordan who once said: “I can accept failure; everyone fails sometimes. But I can’t accept not trying again.”
In his new post, Alexander will be playing team captain. “My key role is the expansion of the company, being, first, recognized as a leading white label hotel operator in the region; and second, the expansion of Holiday Inn Express in the Middle East,” he says.
“We will be only as successful as the team is,” he added, “so, it is important to have the right experts and motivated department heads in place.
Alexander said he has been very lucky to be brought up in a Belgian education system, which means Dutch, English, German and French were part of the regular curriculum.
“Then I decided to work in Brussels – and that meant working in a French spoken business environment all the time. Thanks to the diverse international professional path abroad and to working with all different nationalities, one is always practicing linguistics,” he says.
Alexander has been in Dubai for eight years and has no plans of leaving soon. “My family is here – wife and two daughters – and we love Dubai for all that is gives. For me home is where my family is.”
He has lived in Belgium, Luxemburg, Egypt and Bahrain, among others, travelling and moving around.
“Dubai is now home, and it is where we decided to settle down,” he said.