Question time with Pakistan’s longest serving foreign General Manager of Avari Towers!


“I may not leave Pakistan as a better hotelier, but I would leave Pakistan as a much better human being,” says Gordon James Gorman, General Manager of Avari Towers (AT), Pakistan’s leading and tallest 5-star hotel situated at the heart of this metropolis.
Gordon, an accomplished international hotelier of Scottish origin who takes pride in leading what he describes them as the world’s 400 best hotel staffers and managers in Pakistan, talked at length about the challenges and opportunities faced by the hospitality industry in Pakistan in an exclusive interview with Pakistan Today last week. The hotelier, who enjoys a profound experience spanning over four decades in the hotel business, also detailed the prerequisites that make a hotel Number 1.
Dwelling on the modern customers tendencies in hospitality industry, Gordon said high power shower was the first on the list. “Our water pressure is the best in Karachi. It is hot and, sometimes, it even hurts like someone is taking a full body massage.”
Connectivity, to Gordon, stands second when it comes to customers’ liking in a hotel. “They want to connect with their families, businesses and the whole world,” he said recalling that there was no Wi-Fi in AT when he joined the hotel. “Now we have invested tremendously to offer in our rooms free and fastest broadband internet service needing no password!”
Other features of the AT, he underlined, are a smoke-free atmosphere, complementary mini bar, seamless check in and out, in-room check out, take-away snack packs, unlimited free mineral Nestle water, coffee making machines to make high quality coffee for businessmen and what not. “It’s all about service and the company’s values. It’s about delivering what you say we deliver,” the GM said.
The customers’ trust and confidentiality were other major factors his management was taking care of.
Gordon says the AT management maintains a Guest Satisfaction Tracking Index (GSTI) under which daily feedback is secured from at least 70 customers. As per GSTI, some 97 percent of AT customers were appreciative of the hotel’s sanity, cleanliness and values-oriented services.
Asked to give a breakup of his guests, Gordon said it was 50-50. Half of the guests were local while half were foreigners. “It’s a nice mix. We have great guests,” he cheered. “Our slogan is: Avari Shares, Avari Cares”.
Queried how he was taking care of the security issues in AT, Gordon was ready to take this interviewer on a short trip of the hotel premises to witness state-of-the-art security equipment installed around.
Backed by high-tech surveillance cameras and sophisticated detection tools, highly trained retired army personnel have been hired to guard the hotel against any incursion.
But, the most prominent feather, Gordon thinks, in his hotels’ cap is its highly dedicated staff.
Pakistanis related to the hospitality industry now had a clear idea of what excellent customer care stands for, he said.
“We have great people who are hospitable, highly educated, talented, skilful, committed and loyal,” said Gordon adding “I feel humbled by these brave people.” “There are, of course, some lunatics here, but don’t forget they are everywhere. In America, in UK, everywhere,” said Gordon who feels the ball was in the court of Pakistanis to “force the change”.
Concerned about the fast shrinking hospitality industry in the terrorism-hit country, the AT general manager firmly believes that peace, tourism and prosperity would return to Pakistan which, he says, is at the crossroads.
“You deserve to do better. You are under performing as a nation,” said Gordon citing negatives, like terrorism and extremism, decades-old mistrust on the Line of Control with India and preemptive drone strikes, as some of the major setbacks for the talented nation.
The present “lame duck” government, he said, was also keeping at bay investors from across the globe to sign business deals with a government which was undergoing a democratic transitional phase.
Uncertainties on politic-economic front, he said, were taking a heavier toll on the hospitality industry in Pakistan where tourism was next to zero. Gordon said January (2013) was the worst month for his hotel in terms of business, thanks to Long March of Dr Qadri and deadly blasts in Balochistan. “The country was on the brink of anarchy,” he deplored.
However, great thing about the people of Pakistan, who Gordon noticed had been bleeding since partition in 1947 and had now accustomed to it, was their “instant” recovery form a tragedy. “Tomorrow is another day. Let’s get back to work,” was approach of the terrorism-stricken Pakistanis, said Gordon.
On the flip side, Gordon said his hotel’s business during July-December (FY13) was recorded as best in last 28 years.
According to Gordon, the hotel business was a “tough game” in a tiny market like Pakistan. “You have four hotels present and the market is settled. Where are the fish?” Gordon looked worried while saying hotel business in Pakistan was depleting fats. “It continues to shrink at an alarming rate of up to 20 percent,” he said.
The Scottish hotelier, however, eyes Pakistan as an exciting investment opportunity where businesses from across the world had a noticeable presence. “They all are here and competing for mega projects,” he added. Gordon said Pakistan was legging at least 20 years behind the world in terms of infrastructure development, something making the country an attractive market for foreign infrastructure developers.
The talkative general manger of AT believes that the greatest risk for Pakistan is the “brain drain” as a large number of educated and skilled youth were flying abroad along with their families. “It’s a sort of demographic time bomb. So many MBAs contact me and ask for help in obtaining visa to go abroad. You are loosing the best of your bests,” Gordon warned.
The Pakistani youth, he said, were not ready to “gamble” in a country where politico-economic uncertainties had left them devoid of a good leadership and even hope.
Gordon also appeared unique in his view of the fulfillment of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that, he said, many were using just to raise their moral profile in the newspapers.
At AT, however, the manager has made each of the 400 staffers a stakeholder in the job by creating a charity fund, Tips for Life Foundation. Of the total CSR money, Gordon said, 10 percent is allotted to the charity fund and 90 percent is distributed among the hotels’ staffers as a tip or gratuity.