InterContinental general manager books Dubai hotel launch

General Manager Michael Martin is in launch mode for the new Intercontinental Dubai Marina - due to open in May. But he is a stickler for routine and still does the same daily walkarounds he would for a fully operational hotel.

Michael Martin spends his days setting up the InterContinental in Dubai – the third hotel he has helped open. Satish Kumar / The National
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Michael Martin is the general manager of the InterContinental Dubai Marina, which is scheduled to open in May. Hailing from Winchester in the UK, the 51-year-old arrived in the UAE a year ago after spending four years in China. He has been with InterContinental Hotels Group for 22 consecutive years and also holds the position of regional general manager for the UAE, managing 10 hotels in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.


I have a five-and-a-half year old son who tends to wake up early. The alarm officially goes off at 6am and that’s when I’m out of bed, but more often than not Alexander is in the room ready to tell me about his previous day. I like to go for a swim in the morning for 20 minutes and then we have breakfast together. A favourite is muesli, fruit, low-fat yoghurt and milk – quick to do and tasty. Alexander and I always have the same, otherwise there is war. I always like to hear what my son has done the day before – I don’t see him in the evening, unfortunately, as I come back too late – and he’s always willing to tell me what’s going on at school. He’s losing his teeth at the moment, so we are negotiating with the tooth fairy.


My wife, Jane, and my son leave for school just after 7am. I like to get a news update from my mobile and I also check emails to see what’s come in overnight. The hotel business is a 24-hour business, so there is always something happening. I check my diary before I even have breakfast to know what my schedule is for the today. I’m on the road by 7.30am.


I arrive at the office. Pre-opening can be a little bit different from running a hotel, but the habit of being a hotel GM sticks and you do your walkarounds, you go and see what’s going on, what happened the night before. You go and talk to reception and to the guests who are in the hotel at breakfast and get a feel for how the day has started. In pre-opening you don’t have guests but you still do the same thing – go around the different offices, go and see who’s in. We have 48 employees but by the time we open it will be 360. This will be my third opening now, so I’ve had some experience but I really do enjoy the day-to-day cut and thrust of an operating hotel.


For the next hour I go through emails and try to deal with anything immediate.


From now until about 4pm it is meetings of some description. When you are operating, you are dealing with all sorts of departmental managers; in the pre-opening you have a much wider stakeholder group. I try to catch lunch at some point, but at the moment lunch is not a defined period of time.


Now it’s my time in the office. In pre-opening you are looking for the risks – where are the problems in the future? – and trying to stop those happening. My job comes in four parts. It’s to motivate the teams, to challenge them to be the best they can possibly be, to remove barriers and then all the time try to add value using experience gained. When we selected the team, we really wanted to make sure we had a diverse group – some from within IHC, some from outside, some who had been in Dubai for a long time and had experienced the market, and some people who bring fresh blood.


I arrive home. My son has gone to bed by then, so our time [for my wife and me] is in the evening. We sit down to talk about her day and my day. I am a very keen golfer and she has recently taken up golf, so she comes back on a Tuesday telling me of her exploits on the course. Alexander is also learning how to play, so it’s kind of a family event. Dinner is usually around 8.30pm. I am trying to be healthy with a variety of fish and chicken dishes, however, I usually spoil it with some kind of roast vegetables. If I am running late – more often than not at the moment – it can be pasta on the go.


Last thing, I catch up on news and sport. I am a bit of a sports freak – football, rugby, cricket, golf – anything that’s going on. About 11pm is bedtime.

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