Mohamed Naoui: “I am very proud to be part of the great RIU project in Senegal”date_range 20 October, 2022 question_answer Leave your thoughts
Today we are going to Senegal to introduce you to Mohamed Naoui, the manager of the Riu Baobab hotel. Originally from Tunisia, he came to Spain in 2005, and in 2011 he began his adventure at RIU. He arrived in Malaga from Madrid and after an interview, he stayed! Since then he has grown with us both personally and professionally. That is why we know that there is no better way to tell you about RIU’s history and experience in Senegal than through the eyes of one of the people who knows it best.
– How did you start at RIU? Where were you before you went to Senegal?
In 2011, I started working in Torremolinos in a hotel called Luca Costa Lago. After that I worked in several hotels, including the Riu Monica. Then in 2013, I became assistant manager at the Riu Chiclana hotel, which is where I was working before I came to Senegal. It was there that I learnt the chain’s philosophy, which is now part of me and which I always try to pass on to all my teams.
– How did you feel when you were asked to go to Senegal?
I remember that when I was first offered the challenge I felt very nervous. I was facing a new and unknown destination. But later on, this fear turned into motivation and a strong determination that drove me to take this great project forward.
I accepted the position so that I could better myself professionally and as a personal challenge. I opted for a project in a totally new location, both for me and for RIU. Despite having left my comfort zone, every day I learn something new and enriching. It has been a great adventure on so many levels. Coming here has been more of a challenge than a change. I don’t like easy things and when, after several years in Chiclana, this opportunity came up and I didn’t hesitate, here I am.
– What is it like to open a hotel in a completely unfamiliar destination? What have these first few months been like?
At first, when I arrived, it was a huge challenge. It was an enormous professional effort, but more than that a personal one, as my family has stayed in Spain. Being far from home and facing the difficulties of a destination we had never been to before has been tough, but at the same it has been a very enriching few months. These are once in a lifetime opportunities.
I arrived in December 2021, to get to know the hotel and its surroundings. I talked to managers of other hotels in the area to learn from their experience about the unique features of our work in Senegal.
Another major task was to assemble the hotel team, and find leaders for each department. Working with the corporate departments was also very rewarding. I would like to highlight the work of the Purchasing department, without which we could not guarantee the RIU standard. They have visited us many times to get to know the market and to find suppliers that respond well to us.
In addition, I have become responsible for a hotel that is totally new in a destination that is also new for the chain. My approach was to adapt myself to the country and not the other way around. This is what I am transmitting to the staff. We are getting to know the country, the local market and the suppliers. At the same time, they are getting to know us.
– Now that a little time has passed since the opening, how do you feel?
I feel very proud and happy. Although we have had to overcome many obstacles, I now see that the entire team has become a big family that works together and helps each other. This is indescribably satisfying for me. The hotel is a new achievement for RIU and we are very happy.
– What have the biggest challenges been? What has been the easiest thing about being in Senegal?
Being a new destination, we have had to start from scratch in some aspects, such as staff training, waste collection and contact with local suppliers. But at the same time we have had to meet our standards. It has not been an easy task, but we are achieving it. Our needs are pretty much covered now. Nothing is sourced from outside Senegal, all our suppliers are local.
“ Know-how can be taught with time, but knowing how to behave is not something that can be taught, you either know or you don’t, and the Senegalese certainly know how ”
The easiest thing, without a doubt, was dealing with the staff. They are very kind and friendly. They are wonderful people and this is what has ultimately made it possible to create a great hotel, that its employees are good people.
– What is the best thing about Senegal for you?
Its people and its natural environment. It is full of charming places and great unspoilt beaches.
– How do you envisage RIU’s future in the country and what do you think the chain has brought to the destination?
Very promising. It is a destination with a great deal of potential and many wonders to discover. RIU has brought great value to Pointe Sarène and the surrounding area, which will help it to develop as a tourist destination. It is a very attractive new destination for guests who are eager to get to know other cultures and places.
– What kind of guests come to the Riu Baobab?
We are visited by guests of many different nationalities. A lot of local people come, especially at the weekends. For longer stays we are visited by guests from Spain, Belgium, France, Germany, and others. This hotel is perfect for families, couples or friends. Everyone is welcome and we love it.
– What is your day-to-day life like at the hotel?
I try to coordinate and address the needs of both guests and employees, so that the hotel runs as smoothly as possible. I always try to be available because that is the best way to provide quality customer service and to be able to help colleagues who need it.
– What is your goal for this hotel?
Well, I want it to work as well as my beloved Riu Chiclana, where I learnt “everything I know”. At the same time, I want guests to feel at home and return to their own countries knowing that one day they will come back to visit us again.
– Tell us about the experience that a RIU guest is going to have in Senegal.
They will get to know Senegal and all its richness, in both human and material terms. We guarantee them an extraordinary hotel stay, with good service, relaxation and the possibility of enjoying immense unspoilt beaches. In short, it will be an experience they will never forget. Thanks to surveys, we know that international clients are delighted with the product and the destination, especially because of the proximity.
It is interesting, because Pointe Sarène is a destination that surprises even local guests. It gives them the feeling that they are in another country. They are not used to this type of hotel and the way we work. They have been pleasantly surprised.
– What does working at RIU mean to you?
It is a real pleasure because RIU is a big family that has believed in me and which has given me professional opportunities that I am truly delighted with. For me, at RIU I have found colleagues who are my soul mates and guests who are my family. My thanks to RIU for giving me so much.
Mohamed has been fundamental to the success of RIU’s new project in Senegal. We would like to thank him for his dedication and professionalism, which have ensured that the Riu Baobab hotel maintains the services and standards of RIU. To him and his entire team.