Off hours: W Hotel – Al Habtoor City manager leaves his footprint

Peter Katusak-Huzsvar is the general manager of W Hotel – Al Habtoor City in Dubai, which “soft” opened in July. Born in Budapest, Hungary, the father-of-two previously opened a W in Doha and also worked in Russia and China. The 46-year-old has just celebrated his first anniversary with the Dubai W project, which overlooks the emerging canal and the Dubai coastline. Mr Katusak-Huzsvar says he is living his childhood ambition to run luxury hotels.

How do you spend your weekends?

When pre-opening a hotel, if you have free time you spend it in the hotel because there’s always something you still have to tweak, to perfect; to analyse the business. It needs a lot of presence. Your clients, you want to meet them. At the moment my off time is very limited and we are getting busy over weekends. I’m trying to be around to see the service, talk to clients and see what kinds of needs are there. I don’t want a hotel that has no soul, so your footprint has to be visible.

How did you become a general manager?

I was hooked on this business when I was pretty young, about 13. My uncle took me to five-star hotels when I travelled with him. I liked the ambience, the service and the whole feel. So I worked very hard. I knew when I started I would like to be on the top somehow, to run hotels, and I worked in almost every department and I had my goals. It also needs luck – the right time, right place.

What was the lowest point of your career?

You always have success stories and some stories that are not as successful, not so shiny. I am lucky that I haven’t had any lowest point, so far. And I hope – touch wood – I never have it. Of course, whatever I did, I always learnt, to help build myself. I always had to deliver the next performance. Probably I am lucky.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

It is simple: be passionate, work hard, love it. Never lose your goals, and hard work pays off. If you want to advance in the hotel business, it will pay off. It’s a beautiful business. You can travel, understand a lot of different areas – food and beverage, finance, sales, rooms division, you can be an engineer if you like, gain a lot of general knowledge. That helps you in life. If you don’t love it, don’t do it.

What is your most indulgent habit?

To go out somewhere and have delicious food. Or just to see a good football game. I went to Euro 2016 in France and supported Hungary. They participated in the tournament after 30 years. I had to be there and was fortunate enough to see the game against Portugal, an amazing game.

What do you have on your desk at work?

I’m trying to be clutter-free. I don’t manage that always but I’m trying to keep on there just my PC, my iPhone and a little notebook to write down things.

What is your go-to gadget?

My iPhone 6. You have everything on that.

What can’t you live without?

The W application on my iPhone lets me listen to cool music and see the latest happenings in the world. And I like to have my running shoes with me.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

If I have off time I am visiting a restaurant, trying to do some sport to get that physical balance between working hours sitting in a chair or walking around, to keep physically and mentally fit as well. Usually I hit the gym around 10 in the evening. Small things keep me alive and running, like driving to home. I used to live in the hotel in my previous jobs. In Dubai we decided to go into the Marina because there is a certain lifestyle. You can walk and be on the beach. You don’t have to jump into the car to do something. That helps to switch off and takes you away from the hotel. To be outside is a great thing.

If you could swap jobs with anyone who would it be and why?

Probably an explorer or an astronaut; exploring something that is uncharted. I would love to be travelling back in time and be someone like Christopher Columbus, to see what is unknown and manage that situation.

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