By YM Sreekrishna Bhat
It was a brazen act that helped Gulf Hotel's top executive Mohammed Buzizi break into the industry.
After 10 years in jobs he was less than happy with, he was ready for something he could make a career of. When a friend suggested he apply at the Hilton, which was then just set to open its doors in Bahrain, Buzizi became interested.
But what long-term prospects did the hotel industry hold, the young man wondered. After all, he had the bread-winning role in a family that included his parents, two sisters and a brother.
Buzizi decided that the best way to get a true picture was to meet a top level hotel executive. Giving the impression he was a journalist, he fixed up an appointment with the then general manager of Gulf Hotel David Beswick.
Over the course of the one-and-a-half hour meeting with Beswick, Buzizi covered every aspect of the hotel industry. At the end of it all, the hotel chief asked innocently: "In which newspaper will the interview appear?"
"Newspaper? No, I am looking at jobs in the hotel industry and came in to get some information. There is no better person than you to provide me that," replied Buzizi.
Beswick would have had every reason to be annoyed with Buzizi's audacity, but once he had recovered from the shock, he tipped his hat to the young man's boldness.
The interview ended with Buzizi being offered a shot at a scholarship to study hotel management in the UK and later a job with Gulf Hotel.
Buzizi was born in 1945 to a humble, poor family which barely managed to survive on the income of his father, who was doing odd jobs at sea.
The cash-crunch did not stop his parents' aspirations for him. "In spite of the poverty, my parents, especially my mother, insisted that I should finish school no matter what."
Because of family constraints and as he was the eldest, Buzizi had to take up a job when he finished school. He took up teaching for a while and later got a job as an assistant at the Kuwait State Office.
His heart however was not in it and Buzizi finally decided to call it quits. "I did not see myself in these jobs. I could not make a career out of them," he says.
The interview with Beswick changed everything.
He was one of 32 trainees picked by the hotel, and quickly proved his aptitude for the work. When he was picked ahead of all the others for the scholarship to study at Brighton College, there was no doubt he richly deserved the honour.
The scholarship was a substantial one and so he had enough funds to support the family in Bahrain as well.
During the training, he had to sweep floors, cut onions, wash dirty plates, clean bathrooms and make beds. "This was to see for ourselves how the job is done. To compare and to think of ways and means to develop oneself," says Buzizi.
Once again he proved he was up to the task, and at the end of the training he was appointed assistant manager, front office. Buzizi was on his way.
He quickly progressed through the ranks, going on to become sales manager, executive sales manager and director of marketing.
Then in 1980 came the big honour when he was named the hotel's new general manager.
"I was the first Bahraini and probably the first Gulf national to hold the position at a five star hotel in the Gulf," says a proud Buzizi, who is presently chief executive officer of Bahrain Hotels Company (BHC), which owns Gulf Hotel.
Buzizi has every reason to be delighted to have been part of the Gulf Hotel success story.
"We are a single hotel competing with international chain hotels. The fact that I have played a role in this success makes me proud. Of course, it could not have been achieved without the support of the owners, management and staff."
Buzizi's stewardship has made Gulf Hotel a major player in the country, but he has even bigger dreams for the hotel. His present ambition is to put Bahrain Hotels Company on the international map.
"One day we should set up our own hotel chain and manage hotels under our umbrella. We are sowing the seeds of this project and are in the initial stages," he reveals.
"It is a difficult task when you have to compete with established chains. But we hope to have a breakthrough in managing a hotel away from Bahrain soon."
The hotel industry job is a very demanding one and calls for total dedication, says Buzizi who loves travelling, eating, good clothes, reading and swimming. "Being a bachelor, I am in control of my time. I can spare all the time that my job needs, yet do it with pleasure and with interest and enthusiasm," he says.
His advice to youngsters is: "If you do any job, do it because you like it. Once you think that way, you will be good at your job."
According to him, the key ingredients for a successful career are to be open-minded, accept criticism whether constructive or not and be humble when praised.
"You must also make sure you complete the job and do it right no matter how long it takes or how hard it is. Be honest with yourself and don't abuse the responsibility given to you."
Despite some recent hiccups, Buzizi sees a bright economic future for Bahrain.
"Hard times are not unknown to us. We have thousands of years of history. Before the oil boom, we were the first country in the region to have healthcare and education. We were the first to find oil. Today, we are not the richest in the Gulf, nevertheless we have an excellent standard of life and good infrastructure. I definitely see a bright future for Bahrain," says Buzizi.
He points to the tourism sector as the country's sunrise industry. "Today, we lack the infrastructure that leads to really successful tourism. But this has been realised by the authorities concerned and steps are being taken to address the situation.
"If we have the infrastructure, we in our neighbourhood have the biggest market. We should concentrate on promoting Bahrain as a destination within the region, where we have easy access, the same language and culture. We could do much better than we are doing presently by building the facilities to meet these needs," he adds.
Published in the Visitor's Complete Guide to Bahrain 2000