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American with a mission Spencer H. Wadama aims to ensure one of the most prestigious properties on the island fulfils its rich potential.
He’s the third GM to take hold of the reigns of the 174-room Jumeirah Royal Saray Bahrain since it opened last year.
And Spencer, a seasoned hospitality operator, is lapping up the challenge of a highly-competitive sector and looking forward to unveiling the Seef beach resort’s first-ever Ramadan tent.
“I bring 25 years of global experience to the table and the last eight years in the region. I bring tremendous optimism and I love to win,” he told GulfWeekly. “Being the fact that I’m a ‘grass roots’ hospitality person, I understand and stand side-by-side with my team to ensure we deliver on our guests expectations.”
Father-of-three Spencer, 51, boasts a decade of senior management experience including a successful spell as GM of the award-winning Armani Hotel Dubai, the flagship property that marked the partnership of global developer Emaar Properties and fashion legend Giorgio Armani.
Although being actively involved in 12 new property openings, he left hotel management for a spell as a managing partner of a gourmet food company … but the chance of following in the footsteps of Nordine El Yafi and Zeki Ozal in Bahrain proved too tempting to resist.
“Honestly, hospitality is in my DNA,” he said. “I love it too much.” But he admitted that after ‘all the years’ he got ‘a bit bored and even hyper-critical of the business’. “I needed to step out for a bit and allow me a chance to realise that having a team, watching them grow and succeed, meeting new people and being a part of creating memories for people IS what I truly love to do,” he explained.
The magnificence of the Jumeirah Royal Saray was a magnet too. “I personally love the Arabesque-style, yet the hotel has a very elegant, modern feel to it,” he said. “In a new property, there is always change. The resort needs to find its best operating model. Most new hotels open with an aspirational structure then as time goes by, attrition happens.
“At the level of GM, you always need ‘fresh eyes’. My predecessors have all been a crucial part of where this hotel is today so I would never take away from their contributions.
“I am truly honoured to be a part of the Jumeirah Royal Saray family and feel fortunate to be entrusted with such a beautiful property. Jumeirah is an amazing brand and Sevens Holding is a supportive owner which, for a GM, is a great combination.
“The Jumeirah brand also brings comfort and stability to all the staff. Being a part of such an iconic hospitality group is what means most to them and even our guests.
“It was very satisfying to meet the staff of the hotel and feel the passion they have to serve and the way they are enjoying their jobs. Our ownership Seven Holding continues to offer amazing support and guidance with a shared vision for success.
He appreciates the competitiveness of the hospitality sector in the kingdom but also believes the country should take ‘credit’ for enticing such major brands, ‘Jumeirah being one’, to set up operations here and encourage a growth in tourism.
“I’ve been to Bahrain a few times, mainly on business, so I really have not seen much yet,” he said. “My visits have always consisted of ‘airport to hotel and back to the airport’ so I’m excited to explore more of the island.”
He enjoys working out and keeping fit and is also a motorsport fan, a proud member of ‘Team LH’ made up of fans of British Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton – although basketball was his sport growing up. “Being a NORCAL (Northern California) guy, the current world champs (Golden State) Warriors is my team,” he added.
And, he’ll need all the energy he can muster for the months ahead. “Well, we have finally taken over the new Garden and Royal Villas which are amazing 3-4 bedroom private ‘homes’ with all the Jumeirah touches, definitely a ‘must see and experience’ – with private butlers,” he said.
“We have our ballroom/event space recently opened too, perfect for weddings, events, meetings and receptions.
“This year we will also have a true Ramadan offering in our very special Ramadan tent. Its unique see-through dome and Arabesque-style will make it the perfect venue for Iftar and Ghabga between friends, family and colleagues.”