Hotelier interview with CEO of Queen Of Sheba Hotel.
Wednesday, 29th March 2017
Source : Joseph Fischer - Exclusive for 4Hoteliers.com

Hotelier interview with Mr Mickey Schneider CEO of Queen Of Sheba Hotel; 

J.F. Please give us a short summary of your curriculum and who are the people that have influenced and inspired you the most during your hotel career

M.S. My first position was purchasing manager at the King Solomon hotel (lsrotel), Eilat. Whilst studying hotel management, I began making my way through several managerial positions within the company. After six years I joined the Paradise/Sheraton Four Points (Starwood) in Eilat, as General Manager. This is where I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Tshuva who was the property owner at the time (and owner of the hotel I currently run).

Being part of Starwood, I was fortunate to receive amazing opportunities within the company, which included GM and opening of the Herods complex (Luxury Collection and Sheraton) in Eilat, followed by GM of Sheraton Tel Aviv, relocation to Boston to run a 940 room hotel, and after 14 years with Starwood, I moved on to run a 1000 room hotel in Manhattan, New York.

Subsequently, ran a company of 12 hotels based in Miami, with properties in Montreal & Arizona.
I returned to Israel to open the new Isrotel Royal Beach Tel Aviv hotel, and after a successful opening, I returned to the USA to run a hotel chain in South Beach, Miami.

2 years ago when I had the opportunity to join the Hilton Queen of Sheba hotel in Eilat, owned my Mr. Tshuva, I didn't think twice. It felt natural to return to Eilat and once again to work with Mr. Tshuva. For me, it was not a closure, but an exciting opportunity to lead the hotel forward.

During my career years I was privileged to meet many talented and influential people. Some guided the way and others coworkers whom I learned from. I can whole heartedly mention two who are fine leaders, mentors and career shapers for me.

Raffi Sadeh a natural born hotelier who inspired and motivated me, he recognized my ambition, and lead me through the path.

Raphy Weiner, who I owe a great deal to, as he supported and believed in my managerial skills and worked closely with me to ensure my success.

Both are in my opinion pillars of the hotel industry and part of the foundations of the Israeli Tourism industry and an inspiration to all hoteliers.

J.F. You have now successfully rebranded the Queen of Sheba Hotel from a Hilton flag under which it was operated for the past 17 years. What were and are the challenges you are faced with?

M.S. I believe that the success of a hotel lies with the people who manage it, their hard work, commitment to service and guest experience is what makes a hotel - a holiday home. The committed team working with the Hilton with years of experience remained. Our challenges were minimized to exceeding the Hilton umbrella which is clear in its highest service and guest experience expectation.
We now have to 'prove' to our guests that the Queen of Sheba willmeet their highest expectations.

There are ample challenges which cover all business aspects from media, social media, PR and all contracts, website, logo, standards, systems and more and creating and building these from scratch.
During my career experience, I successfully opened 5 hotels, however, in this case, it's definitely a challenge to transfer 17 years of Hilton DNA to a standalone hotel and new management company while continuing to operate a successful hotel.

J.F. You have managed the hotel under the Hilton flag and now under the owner’s own management company. What will be the differences?

M.S. It's challenging by all means, and I'm proud to bring my previous experience of hotel openings/turn arounds. This is an opportunity to adapt ourselves to the requirements of our clients, market segments and changes.

J.F. The Hotel is owned by one of Israel’s richest men " Mr. Itzhak Tshuva who owned among others the Iconic Plaza Hotel in New York City. From what you know, does Mr. Tshuva have plans to extend his hotel investments portfolio and if so, will it be in Israel or overseas?

M.S. The business relation between Mr. Tshuva and Hilton was successfully outstanding for a very long 17 years with the knowledge that this would come to term. Mr. Tshuva has great plans for his Queen of Sheba management company and has already started planning three hotels in Netanya, one by the Sea of Galilee and one in Ashqelon. With no doubt, our goal is to be a main player in the local market.
J.F. What was the reason behind Mr. Tshuva’s decision not to extend Hilton’s Management Agreement?

M.S. Mr. Tshuva has a vision to build his own hotel management company, which he felt that the time had come to fulfill it. We all know that Mr. Tshuva is a visionaire and we believe in the future of the Queen of Sheba.

J.F. The hotel has a large section of holiday apartments which were sold to investors under the “Hilton” brand umbrella. How are you dealing with the re-flagging of the hotel Vis-à-vis the residential units’ owners?

M.S. The apartments were sold by the owner's company "Assets of Queen of Sheba Limited Partnership"- Our apartment owners enjoyed the benefits of owning a Hilton managed property and now they will continue to benefit the luxury of owning a Queen of Sheba managed property, providing the highest standards, and well-kept property, including maintenance and upgrade of the hotel and facilities. Most of the investors accept the change, and have expressed their faith in the change.

J.F. On a personal note: you have worked for international as well for local brands in Israel and in the US. You are now back in Eilat, which is your career’s “starting point”. What do you like so much about Eilat ?

M.S. I was blessed to begin such an interesting and fulfilling career in Israel and continue the adventures of it abroad. I love the pace of the city Eilat, it has a fast beat which keeps you going day and night. Eilat is like a small Miami and it will always be home for us.

J.F. Eilat didn’t have much new hotel stock being built for over a decade, form your long years of experience in this resort, what do you think is needed to get Eilat back on the International tourism maps?

M.S. Over a decade ago I was one of the last GMs to open one of the largest hotels in Eilat and the city has grown tremendously since. There are many plans for Eilat, including a new international airport, a sports complex and water park.
I believe that a great boost to the city tourism can generate from a casino, golf course and convention center. These will attract new segments and create more job opportunities and development for the city.

J.F. Aqaba Jordan, the Jordanian Resort just 4 miles away has a lot of international hotel brands and further branded hotels in the pipeline. Eilat on the other hand, has seen in recent years international brands moving away. Brands such as SAS Radisson/Rezidor, Hilton, Sheraton, Golden Tulip. In your opinion, what are the reasons for this and do you see Aqaba as a competing destination.

M.S. I am very sorry to see the international chains leave Eilat as the city has suffered this los. Eilat offers 365 days of sun, the best beaches, the most beautiful diving locations and amazing attractions. No doubt Aquaba is growing competition and personally I hope that one day we will see the fence taken down and the two resort cities merge on the shores of the magnificent Red Sea.

Joseph - Yossi - Fischer the CEO of Vision Hospitality & Travel - international lodging & Travel Solutions and a regular contributor to 4Hoteliers.com with exclusive writing and views.

This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.

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