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Najee Syriani, VP - Projects, Rotana Hotels

Najee Syriani is the VP of Projects at Rotana Hotels. Najee talks to The Industry Leaders about his role in creating new and unique developments across the globe and why his personal motto allows people to get on with their jobs.

How did you end up sitting where you are today?

Throughout my university years, I was involved in design projects from set design to large mixed-use developments. During this time, I had the opportunity to experience a wide spectrum of design aspects, from Interior Design to Architecture. I moved to Dubai in 2003 to join a regional contracting company as a Project Manager overseeing the design and execution of turnkey construction projects across the region.

After seven years of agency-side work between Beirut and Dubai, I took the leap into hospitality in 2005, when I joined Rotana Hotels. I joined as their Senior Architect at first, working closely with the Founder setting up a Projects Department from scratch. This also involved delivering the company's ambitious expansion plans, a growing portfolio in MENA, South Asia and Eastern Europe.

What kind of work does your role involve?

In my current role as Corporate Vice President - Projects, I lead a team of architects, interior designers and engineers. We are responsible for developing the company's aggressive expansion plans within the coming years in the GCC countries, MENA region and Europe.

What gets you excited about your industry?

Hospitality development and industry, in general, is a vast world of beautiful design, innovative technologies and a never-ending quest for perfection and amazement. There is a journey of creativity, fun and discovery behind every hotel creation, and most certainly hard work. Every day is a new day, and boredom doesn't exist in my calendar.

What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?

"Work hard, dream big".

What, or who inspires you?

In our industry, we are lucky to be surrounded by exceptional talent, especially in this flourishing region. Every designer is an inspiration for me, and every new project brings a unique array of learnings and discovery. My motto is, "Let the experts do what they do best!"

How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?

Before 2020, the Rotana Projects team always made it a point to attend most major conferences and seminars in the region and beyond. For a few years, we also organized weekly "lunch and learn" sessions, where we would invite designers, specialists and suppliers and discuss the latest and the greatest in hospitality design over a quick bite.

Since the start of the pandemic, we've tried to compensate for losing those events by attending and participating in virtual panels and conferences. Here we've been debating and researching the future of a hospitality sector that was hit badly, with a very slow recovery trend, unfortunately.

What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?

Projects in new territories and places where hotel development is not a common thing, and where every aspect of the job is a new industry we are introducing to the market. These projects are a challenge, typically.

That is what makes our contribution to these societies and countries a blessing in disguise. We kind of pave the way, which is a good feeling and a sense of accomplishment, after all the hard work that comes with it.

You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?

OK, lottery won, money in the pocket, the split will be as follows:

$1 Million to a charity in Lebanon my wife and I support periodically.

$1 Million to my parents to secure their retirement years with a smile on their faces!

$1 Million to each of my 2 boys for their future days!

$1 Million to my lovely wife, no questions asked!

... and the rest to build a piece of heaven in Hiva Oa where I would spend the rest of my days, writing books, playing the trumpet and enjoying a serene life away from it all! Check it out - it's a beautiful island!

How do you switch off after a day at work?

In my spare time, I embrace my love for jazz and classical music and enjoy a good run or swim almost on a daily basis. A good glass of wine or a single malt nightcap with a bunch of friends is also a necessity to break away!

If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?

Beyond the speedy business recovery that we all hope for in the short term, I wish for the hospitality industry to evolve with the times. This evolution would include the future world metamorphosis and challenges and mean staying forever relevant, contemporary and ahead of its times.

What book or podcast should everyone know about?

I like poetry, both french and Arabic, especially Jacques Prevert, and I also enjoy reading Business books, especially after my INSEAD Executive MBA journey back in 2015.

A couple of books I would recommend are "Brick by Brick", the story of LEGO revival, "The Mom Test", and "The Tipping Point". These are my favourites.

How should people connect with you?

Telephone: +971/50 622 76 14

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