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Sergio Magnaldi is a legend in his
own lifetime and is synonymous with
Hatta Fort Hotel,  where he has
been ge...
r ‘r

* . 



Tell us a little about your family? 

Sandra,  my wife of so many years honestly
deserves a gold...
No wonder this great man was loved and
admired by everyone.  His presence alone,  his
wisdom,  his vision of the future an...
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Holding the Fort: Sergio Magnaldi #hattaforthotel in Society Dubai, September 2005


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Those were the days... In September 2005, Society Dubai ran an interview with long-time Hatta Fort Hotel General Manager Sergio Magnaldi. Find out more about the man who continues to hold the fort in Hatta!

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Holding the Fort: Sergio Magnaldi #hattaforthotel in Society Dubai, September 2005

  1. 1. PROFILE lg Sergio Magnaldi is a legend in his own lifetime and is synonymous with Hatta Fort Hotel, where he has been general manager for nigh on 22 years. So great is his affection for the idyllic retreat that he came out of retirement to oversee its refurbishment. Penelope Jane visits him on location You are a great ambassador for Italy as well as being one of the most experienced general managers in Dubai. Where do you come from in Italy and how did you get into this business? I was born in a mountain place in the Cuneo region, a rather famous locality for its radioactive spa waters and also offering, apart from different health rejuvenation facilities, an unpolluted, pure mountain air. its also worth mentioning that as the area is in Piedmont, it is renowned for its world- class food and rich wines. My first experience with hotel—life came at the early age of 10, when my then godfather took me under his wing and introduced me to the profession as a lift—boy operating a rather noisy, antiquated on, which had three sets of metallic doors to open, taking guests up and down in this old fashioned box. It was so very much in the style of Hollywood films of the 405 and 505. I must add I had a most appealing bright red—uniform, like a Cossack, with golden buttons and a super round cap. At that stage I also had lovely blond, curly hair, big brown eyes and a ready smile that could make anyone put their hands in their pockets and tip me with some liras. At the end of the day I made more money in tips than my father driving a taxi and mother who worked 18 hours a day in the family shop! By that stage I was hooked on hotel life and I’m so glad that I stuck to it. You must have many golden memories? Yes, those were the days! Even now, in my late years, you do remember certain periods, certain happenings, certain details and you relate to them with a sense of nostalgia. ... Where did you spend your summer holidays? A million dollar question but guess where? Here in I-Iatta because of my involvement with the final stage of our refurbishment. After the upgrades are all complete at the end of September, maybe we will escape to some quiet resort or a quick visit to the Isle of Man where I am a resident (please note it has nothing to do with the taxation system! ). How would you describe yourself? Open minded, flexible, tolerant, sensitive, cautious, stubbom at times. All the characteristics of a normal Taurean. I'm also methodical, a hard— worker and possess a good sense of humour which helps in any circumstances and I believe I am a good listener too. Can you describe a typical working day for us? It is all about preparing the platform that allows the hotel to work. Exchanging information and ideas with my associates, maintaining the high standards set -out, and most importantly maintaining client relationships on a personalized level. Running a hotel is very much a balancing act between the wishes and needs of the hotel clients, while catering to the public side of the business, the corporate sector and the tourists. Looking after these sets of interests is the biggest challenge we face on a day—to-day basis. After that there's the very real challenge of administering and maintaining the hotel to the highest standards. As such I enjoy the rich diversity of the job. No day’s ever the same. Guests do come here to enjoy and to relax and it's our commitment to make sure they leave completely satisfied and eager to return. SEPTEMBER 2005 27
  2. 2. r ‘r * . 3 PROFILE Tell us a little about your family? Sandra, my wife of so many years honestly deserves a gold medal to have lived and put- up with my Italian temperament (as she keeps reminding me! ) She is a most energetic, supportive, understanding person and certainly the greatest supporter of my profession. We have one daughter, Natalie. If you have been in Dubai long enough you will have seen her reading the news on Channel 33 for many years. Now she is happily married to Neil. They enjoy playing golf, polo and relaxing at home with Parky and Jerry (the two dogs) and a nutty cat called Tigga! How long have you been in Dubai? I arrived for the usual two year contract and that was November 1977. I have not signed the second contract as I must be certain I like the place before I commit myself for another 20 plus years. ..lnshallah I will be here for many years to come. I’ve been told that you retired in 1 998 but came back to Dubai in 2 003 . What did you miss about the Emirates? It is happening all the time to so many people. The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. We enjoyed our retirement on the Isle of Man and spending winters in Spain but somehow something was missing from our lives. We missed being with our Dubai friends, the social life , the weather, the hotel itselfand most importantly maybe missing Natalie and Neil. When asked to return to my gem in the mountain, the Hatta baby. I had no hesitation. l was fully supported by Sandra, I’m happy to say, and of course Natalie (she has now dog— sitting facilities with me being back! ) Having lived here for so many years, having experienced so many wonderful changes, met so many special and interesting people it is hardito re-adjust anywhere else, especially when all your family are here. I am told thatl am “a recycled teenager" and might as well continue to believe that! The Hatta Fort Hotel is a landmark which is associated with ‘escaping’ from it all. How have you maintained both the sense of luxury and its rustic appeal? It has been hard work, involving total commitment and a strong belief in the product itself. Success can only be achieved by continual improvement and support from the owning company and dedication from all the associates. The design of the hotel incorporates the beauty of the Arabic—mstic essence with the local elements. As a complete and exclusive mountain retreat with breathtaking mountain views it offers rest, seclusion, relaxation with rejuvenating massages, a variety of exciting outdoor activities like temperature controlled swimming pools, a vast array of leisure activities such as golf (driving range) skeet & trap clay pigeon shooting, field and target archery, mini— golffor the young at heart and tennis. , , ..‘~-‘$1.7/1”, }:Q 1', - 2B SOCIETY DUBAI ~~. i.t: - er- As the retreat is close to the red desert dunes of the Hatra region, the Hatra pools and the dried river beds not only makes it an ideal stopover point for wadi excursions but also qualifies the retreat as a destination in itself. You recently won a W'ha t’s On award as the Favourite Getaway Break Hotel in the UAE 2005. How did you feel? Sheer delight. In spite of increasing competition from other weekend— break hotels throughout the UAE, our hotel still has a magic all of its own as demonstrated by the readers of W/ haz's On magazine. Here tranquillity is not just a word, it's a way of life. Tell me about the latest renovations to the hotel. The refurbishment has been specifically designed to enhance the feel and the ambience of the rooms which in tum elevates the property’s strategic positioning as Dubai’s Exclusive Mountain Resort. In addition to the upgrading of the chalet—style rooms in the east wing, the refurbishment project has entailed the redesign of the main kitchen, the reception/ lobby, Jeema (the gourmet restaurant) and also the total glass enclosure with air— conditioning of the very popular Gazebo Café. The latter will have a new garden—look and an extended dining—terrace for light meals, sundowners and shishas in one of the most romantic corners of the property. At the moment we are just wrapping up the final stage which will see the completion of all renovations by the end of September, and I am really looking forward to introduce guests to the wonderful new innovations we have been creating here at the I-latta Fort Hotel. You have met and mixed with so many people over the years. What qualities do you admire in other people? Good manners, no arrogance and those who treat everyone (especially staff) in a decent, pleasant manner. I don’t like people with a sense of superiority. Who are some of the VIPs you have most enjoyed meeting? Certainly the most memorable experience was having the honour to look after the Father of Dubai, the late HH Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed al Maktoum, our then Vice—President and Prime Minister of the UAE. For several years, he came to the hotel while in residence at his private palace in Hatra.
  3. 3. No wonder this great man was loved and admired by everyone. His presence alone, his wisdom, his vision of the future and those eyes. .. I never will forget those eyes which could read your mind. Not many people like myselfhad the honour to be invited on so many occasions to sit next to him and share his food. Then there was the medwakh and the vestas matches and his pipe. .. but that’s another story for another time. Over the years we had the privilege to meet and welcome an array of so many different personalities and world renowned guests, maybe too many to mention. In our business we have the pleasure to enjoy certain “perks” which comes with the job and that's one of them. Do you think that Dubai has changed for better or for worse in recent years? I believe that the plans envisioned by the Ruling family and the innovative and dynamic policies of the Government offer so many opportunities to a myriad of different businesses coupled with a vibrant work environment to everyone to come to Dubai to pursue their careers. The excellent work elfnic, reliable infrastructure and the comfortable lifestyle all makes it more appealing as the residents here are used to. The growth has been quite phenomenal, and to see all the efforts Dubai has put into Tourism and Commerce has been most gratifying and everybody in the hospitality industry and the others has been richly rewarded. It is hard to believe how much it has changed over the last few years. Our regular visitors always tell us that Dubai seems a different place every time they come. It is sometimes difficult to keep up—to—date with everything that is going on. And one must keep abreast by reading all the press releases and magazines to make sure we know what is happening. This is an amazing place to be. Where else in the world do you see mega projects being realized and all in such a short time? The future is going to be huge. I keep telling family and friends I wish I was one or two decades younger just to see part of the finished master plan if it is ever going to finish! ! As an Italian you are impeccably dressed. What suits do you keep in your wardrobe and do you believe that the hospitality industry should be more ‘informal’ in style? Things have changed a lot in the last few years. People, including myself, prefer much less formality in the hotels and restaurants. We are opting for afar more relaxed style with lots of colours and atmosphere. In the hotel industry, we look closely at what people are wanting and try to adjust accordingly. As far as my private wardrobe is concemed I must confess I have a most elegant, stylish, and sophisticated better half and together with my daughter they are doing wonders. My wife has worked wonders to keep me abreast of the latest trends and colours. Effectively you are on a Working retirement, but how do you relax and what are your hobbies? Simply I enjoy working. Retirement is for other people, I am too young to put my feet up and retire. I have tried it and although I kept myselfbusy doing different things I missed the nish of adrenalin! Relaxing for me is 10 minutes of peace and quiet then I have to move, to do something, to squeeze the brain to find a new challenge, a new idea. On the occasional day—off which is always during week—days, I enjoy the facilities of the beach—club, to be under an umbrella, to read the dailies, possibly have a snooze, a refreshing drink and then a home cooked meal. Where do you like to socialise? Living most of the time in a hotel where every whim is catered for, on time away from the work place, home is the best and most relaxing place to be. ‘I , fix. . . ,, ,.. .a: g?: , . A.. _:. ,. s. ‘A , L: ‘ ‘ “I” H . ‘Lye A pleasant evening is to spend it with Natalie and Neil and some friends, with a nice meal, few glasses of Bacchus nectar and then to bed to face another challenging and exciting day. Are you involved in any charity initiatives? We support local charities by attending their functions and ger—togethers at different venues. Sandra and Natalie are very much involved with the Isle of Man Hospice and breast cancer appeal fund. Are you an optimist and if so, what mottos do you live by? I am a keen believer in creating an enthusiastic and switched—on team through a relationship built on communication, faith and trust. My motto seems to be simple; to take pride in my job. Is there anything which keeps you awake at night? Yes, a heavy late meal and possibly one too many glasses of the forbidden nectar apart from that I seem to be lucky because as I glance at the bed, half of my body already is in a sleepy stupor! Define happiness for me please. Happiness is peace of mind, it’s contentment. I am happy that I am blessed with good health and surrounded by a loving family and friends. nan- , «;. fp, r- as —_. 4'“) SEPTEMBER 2005 29