George Dfouni, has more than 25 years’ experience in the hospitality and real estate fields, covering the Middle East, Europe and the United States. Prior to establishing his consulting and management company, Dfouni was the Chief Operating Officer of a company that owned and managed a group of 11 hotels and three dozen residential properties in New York, Florida and North Carolina. Dfouni is also a recording artist and a published author.
As we all know, businesses around the world took a big hit, do you think new businesses will open up despite not having the pandemic fully under control?
It’s very clear and evident that COVID19 crippled many industries worldwide, some more than others. The hospitality industry which is very dear to my heart suffered the most, and when I refer to the hospitality industry, I mean hotels, restaurant and the airlines. Many of those establishments closed for a short period of time, and other shut their doors forever, one example is the iconic Roosevelt Hotel here in the heart of NYC, it’s really sad to see.
It’s a very tough decision for a business owner. I don’t believe any businessperson would want to shut down or walk away, A business to its owner and investors is a breathing and living organism. As far as new businesses emerging now, all I can say is that I very hopeful. I consider myself an optimistic person. I believe that great things sometimes come out of tragedies like this.
What changes in the hotel industry have you seen over the past 12 months?
The changes we’ve seen over the last year were dramatic, some of them will eventually change again but others will remain with us. I think Local travel will be favored over international travel If you’ve considered a “staycation” or domestic travel in the last 12 months, you’ve hopped on this trend. Contactless is now everywhere. Staying at a hotel is a drastically different experience than it once was.
Avid travelers were accustomed to visiting the front desk and having contact with hospitality personnel through nearly every stage of the process. However, to promote social distancing and elevate property-wide hygiene, hotels have rolled contactless programs. If contact between guests and employees can be avoided, it will be. In many cases, this means using an app to check-in, get your key, or request services and finally sustainable travel will be prioritized, do you remember the first few weeks during the pandemic last year?
No one was commuting to work or flying across the world, and carbon emissions were at an all-time low. The positive impact of this on the environment was so significant that it made national news. As travel makes its come back, sustainable travel will undoubtedly be a priority. Hotel and other hospitality organizations will prioritize sustainable measures and regulations for an eco-friendly future.
Do you believe hotel companies will be able to recover and get back to business as usual?
Recovery to pre-COVID19 level could take until 2023 or later for some. Many investors are providing similar views of hotel companies’ prospects, as seen in the underperformance of US lodging real estate investment trust (REITs). Hotel owners, as well as operators will need to adapt to this new norm.
I expect the economy class hotels to have the fastest return to the pre-pandemic levels, and the luxury hotels to have the slowest. Some smaller hotel chains that are micromanaged and not heavily leveraged will do fairly well. One group in particular intrigues me, is Rami Zeidan’s Life House Hotels. Their approach and business model are unique and ahead of its curve.
Do you recall one tough decision you had to make in your career?
Oh, that’s interesting, one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make was choosing between two strong team members for a promotion. I personally liked one person better than the other, but I had to pick the person I liked less because they were more qualified to succeed in the new role. In a situation like this, I try to ensure that the person who I don’t choose gets the training or help they need in order to one day move forward.
Can you tell us about one mistake you committed in your life?
A very good friend once told me that I trust people too easily and I really should not. He was right. I have been credulous at times, and this has backfired on me in a very bad way.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?
Well, that’s a loaded question, and I would need hours to answer it. In the short version, I wish I could go back to 1996 and hit stop.
I should have gone with my gut feeling and I did not. It was a very costly mistake. To learn more simply pick up my memoir and read all about it.
What is the one book that you recommend our readers should read and why?
Well besides Hard Lessons, I recommend reading memoirs and autobiographies in general. I prefer nonfiction books and to pick one is really tough, but one book I highly recommend your readers to pick up is Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter
Does George Dfouni see himself as a successful Hotelier and Real Estate executive or as a famous Lebanese American artist?
Well, I view myself as both, this is where my slogan comes from, The Art of Balancing Profession and Passion. Both fields require you to be a people person. Hotels and Real Estate are in my blood. I am so in touch with those industries, it comes so naturally to me. It’s my livelihood. I am an extremely motivated and result-driven person and I know how to make a business successful.
On the other hand Music is my passion, I have no professional experience in it, it started as a hobby and I was successful at it and today I treat it as a professional hobby. All proceeds from my music career go to charity. I use my music to get the message out. My success in both fields should be credited to the great team and people around me.
You seem to shy away from discussing the legal situation you faced back in 2018, what’s the reason?
It’s really not a matter of shying away from it, I wrote a book on it, but the entire ordeal was so negative I chose to keep any negativity away from me. In summary, I trusted the wrong people.
It was a horrible judgment call on my part. I owned up to it. I paid the price, learned from it, and moved on. From a legal point of view If you look up the information about guilty pleas, you will find that a very large percentage of people that plead guilty will sign anything to get away from dealing with the costs both monetary, emotional, and physical that are involved with not pleading guilty.
Most people plead guilty because they cannot afford the costs of fighting the claims, investigations, indictments, threats, or whatever they are facing. I will leave it up to your readers to read between the lines.
What piece of advice would you give someone at the start of your career?
First and foremost, get to know who you really are. Don’t allow your insecurities to get the best of you. Surround yourself with people that can nourish your knowledge.
Look up and study successful people, you can learn from their mistakes. Remain focused and true to yourself and finally be tech-savvy.
What is George Dfouni’s plan for the future?
Despite the current situation, I truly believe that the future is going to be a bright one. My immediate plan is to remain focused and positive. Grow my consulting and management business or simply join a team that can help me grow further and I can inject them with my experience to further their success.
I am very open to whatever opportunities the future may hold. I pride myself in being flexible and adaptable. I think the best way of planning for the future is to make the most of the present. My professional experience and accomplishments cannot be ignored, I plan to use them to rebuild a new chapter that I can be proud of.
To learn more about George Dfouni – www.georgedfouni.com
The key is to ensure the goals I set are aligned with the five SMART criteria, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound, I have an anchor on which to base all of my focus and decision-making.