Walter Knight, Director - Hospitality Division, Farnek
Leading UAE-based smart and green facilities management (FM) company Farnek has appointed British national Walter Knight as director of its new hospitality division.
Knight will be responsible for structuring and developing a new fully functioning hospitality division, which will provide a comprehensive range of outsourced or third party services. Quite apart from concierge services, housekeeping, property operations, maintenance, energy consultancy (POMEC) and security, Farnek will manage central reservations and front office services.
Talking about how the new vertical will develop, Knight said: “Ultimately we are aiming for a ‘360’ service offering, which will not only embrace traditionally outsourced FM and manpower services we will also incorporate managing revenue driven services, such as central reservation offices and associated sales services.”
Knight is perfectly qualified to direct Farnek’s new hospitality division having had more than 15 years of international experience, across different operations, ranging from five-star to mid-market hotels and upscale apartments. As a sales and marketing director, Knight completed successful assignments for Hyatt in Kazakhstan and Avari in Pakistan, before taking up operational and general management positions in the UAE with Ramada, Holiday Inn and Citymax.
One of Knight’s more impressive achievements was creating the mid-market brand concept ‘Rove’ from scratch, on behalf of Emaar Hospitality Group, which culminated in the launch of the first property in Zabeel, in 2015. Subsequently, he was handed responsibility for the successful conversion and launch of the four-star, 244 bedroom, QE2 Heritage Hotel, the first floating hotel in Dubai.
Farnek has been supporting the UAE’s hospitality for over 40 years now and has amassed an extensive portfolio of hotel contracts, which include brands such as Marriott, Sheraton, Sofitel and Rotana. Add to that AED 7.5 million worth of recent contract wins and Knight has hit the ground running, especially after taking responsibility for Farnek’s latest contract win, the new Expo Village. Farnek’s scope of work will consist of managing the reservation services, concierge, front office services and housekeeping, for the 2,273 apartments within the Expo 2020 site.
“This will provide us with an invaluable commercial reference,” said Markus Oberlin, CEO, Farnek.
“Successfully managing the Expo Village apartments, will instill confidence in the market that we can close the circle - adding sales, reservations and complete front office services to our existing market proposition.
“And in Walter, we have a natural leader, with solid experience and a successful track record in both hospitality sales and operations. We are looking forward to realising our vision for a truly unique turnkey hospitality division.”
Forming an integral part of the hospitality division will be Farnek Consultancy, which since 2006 has been helping hotel operations become more sustainable. Farnek’s Hotel Optimizer software, can record, analyse and benchmark a hotel’s energy usage and utility patterns, which ultimately provides recommendations to reduce consumption.
Furthermore, Farnek is a preferred partner and auditor for Green Globe the worldwide sustainability accreditation system based on internationally accepted criteria for sustainable operation and management of travel and tourism businesses.
Another of Farnek’s unique qualities is its high degree of technical training and development, which affords a well-trained and cost-effective, tech-savvy workforce,
Indeed, Farnek’s HQ was the first FM facility of its kind in the Middle East, to be accredited by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC). Through that certification, Farnek has established an internationally recognised cleaning, disinfection, and infection prevention programme to combat biohazards and infectious disease - music to the ears of any housekeeping professional.
“Farnek’s credentials are beyond reproach and this is just one of many reasons, why I decided to take my career in this new direction. However, it is the outstanding commercial potential for this new division, that appeals to me most.
“I firmly believe that the trend for outsourcing will be adopted more broadly, right across the industry. This could give market entry to investors and or developers of typically smaller, mid-market, non-branded properties, who could simply outsource the entire operation direct.
“Indeed, if a number of smaller independent hotels were brought together under the same outsourcing company, they could consider collective bargaining with other suppliers and negotiating preferred rates with online travel agents and tour operators,” added Knight.