Pam Wilby started her career as a receptionist at the Penta hotel in Heathrow before moving on to the airport's Post House hotel and the Cumberland hotel at London’s Marble Arch. She moved to Dubai 16 years ago to work at Le Royal Meridien and was rapidly promoted to general manager. She is now GM of both Le Royal Meridien and Grosvenor House West Marina Beach with responsibility for 1,500 staff and is also overseeing the building of the latter’s sister hotel Grosvenor House – The Residence, which opens next year.
I only went to Dubai for two years originally to do a hotel opening, but I realised it was such fun to wake up to the sun every day, so I stayed.
People thought that because I was a woman it would be difficult to get on in the Middle East, but it’s not. You can make anything happen here; there are no job’s worths standing in your way and no such thing as ‘it’s not my job or I can’t do that’.
I was the first female to be employed as a hotel general manager in Dubai. It doesn’t make any difference being a woman and working here, although some think it does. The people here respect you for what you are and what you do, not because of your sex.
It was a challenge being promoted to GM. One minute I was on the executive team and then suddenly I was the leader. You have to change yourself, certainly, but you also have to ensure everybody’s with you by making them part of the change.
Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa was named the ‘World’s Leading Beach Resort’ at this year’s World Travel Awards. The way I look at awards is they are a way to motivate staff. When we win they are the real achievers.
Success is down to working as a team and really valuing the people who work for you. You can’t do anything without them.
I believe in trying to promote from within. We have two awards nights for our staff to show them how much we value them. It has become harder to keep staff however as there have been so many new hotels opening up here recently.
When I worked in London I didn’t know what a customer was. I didn’t have time for guests, because we were too busy pushing bits of paper around. When you work in a resort hotel you have more time to meet people and it’s so rewarding. You get their comments first hand and it gives you that extra pat on the back.
The problem with being a woman in the hospitality industry is sometimes it’s difficult to have your career and a family. Our industry is so dominating. It’s one where you never seem to go home, so it tends to be one or the other for women.
I’ve devoted my life to the hotel and I’ve been given such a wonderful opportunity to open and run a hotel in Dubai. I don’t know if I would have got that opportunity in the UK.
I have a theory that you either love this industry or you hate it and if you hate it you shouldn’t be in it.