The GM of one of Dubai’s newest midscale properties has had a long tenure with Hilton Worldwide Holdings and once considered a career as a construction engineer.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—Oliver Kesseler, a German native, originally had plans to follow his father into the construction business as an engineer.
But today, as the GM of the Hilton Garden Inn Mall of the Emirates, Kesseler is busy building a new brand’s midscale presence in the Middle East in busy Dubai.
“I had the goal of being an architect, but my maths grade was not good enough,” Kesseler said. “I happened to have been staying in a hotel for the weekend, and suddenly, it was ‘bingo.’”
Kesseler said he loved the pre-openings and openings of properties, but he listened and learned about all aspects of hotel operations.
“I took all the chances I could to develop myself with Hilton,” Kesseler said.
Kesseler said he’s proud that his current position is with the largest Hilton Garden Inn on the planet outside the United States, and it might have been his know-how that helped lead the hotel to open ahead of schedule.
“The opening day was moved forwards. From groundbreaking to opening took 20 months,” Kesseler said, who added parts of the 370-key property—which opened in January 2016—were put together in modular fashion.
While in some ways Kesseler might be reverting back to his construction origins, he said the understanding and practice of the commercial aspects of hotel operations have been the biggest changes to his education since donning the GM title on his nameplate.
Then and now
Kesseler started his hotel career at a private hotel in Germany. He then entered the world of chains with a role at Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts. Three different postings in Germany saw him work in front-desk and room operations.
His first international employment was with Hilton Worldwide Holdings as director of operations in Sofia, Bulgaria, before earning his first GM position at another United Arab Emirates hotel, the Hilton Fujairah Resort, on the other side of the country on the Gulf of Oman.
Kesseler came to the Hilton Garden Inn Mall of the Emirates in April 2015. The property joins two other Hilton Garden Inn hotels in Dubai—all of which opened within 90 days of one another—in a concerted effort to cement a midscale presence and scale in the city and extend Hilton’s “focused-service” offerings.
That goal is shared by many hotel operators, both in Dubai and the wider Middle East region.
Kesseler explained the hotel’s owner also owns the adjacent Mall of the Emirates, which has two on-site hotels; more than 700 stores; an arts center; and Ski Dubai, a 240,000-square-foot skiing center with five slopes, ice slides, toboggan runs and a resident group of penguins.
No doubt Kesseler is fascinated with mechanics and construction of that project, too, but for now he is concentrating on engineering Hilton’s freshest offering in Dubai.