Joe Issa: old hotel hand

Joe Issa, the man who was last week named “Young Hotelier of the World 1994” by the International Hotel Association (IHA), is elated, not just for himself, but about what the award means for Jamaica’s tourism industry.

“The award means that with regard  to the future of Jamaica’s tourism industry, there are young people here who can not only catch the baton but run with it at an even better pace than the person or persons who pass the baton to them,” said Issa.

Joe Issa: old hotel hand

For himself, ‘Joey’ – to his friends – said he felt “elated, great, fantastic”.

He told the Observer in a telephone interview from the Sans Souci Lido  hotel in Ocho Rios on Sunday, that what made the award more pleasing to him was the reaction from all the people who had worked with him along the way. “They were extremely excited because they felt they played a part in helping me achieve this. Some were even more excited than me. It was very satisfying.”

The IHA award goes to persons (one make and one female) who are recognised for their professional achievements, commitment to excellence and service to the community.

Issa, who is just 28-years-old, is the General Manager of Sans Souci Lido, which was acquired last November by SuperClubs, the hotel management company led by his father and veteran hotelier John Issa.

SuperClubs currently operates four all-inclusive hotels in Jamaica and one in Cuba.

Despite his age, Joe Issa has considerable experience in the hotel industry, having started working in the family business when he was 13 years-old. “I used to help fold napkins, carry luggage, work in the telephone operators’ booth at our different family hotels,” he said.

From there, he went to work with Trust House Forte, now known at Forte Hotels and which owns and operates over 800 hotels including the Jamaica Pegasus in New Kingston.

“I worked with them at the Grovsnor or Grovesnor?? House in England, the Forte Village in Sardinia, Italy and the Jamaica Pegasus.”

He said he found it very difficult to learn while working in the family business, as his supervisors would overlook his mistakes because he was the boss’ son. So he went to work outside the family business for a few years.

He made sure that he got hands-on experience in all aspects of hotel operations – in the kitchen peeling onions, potatoes and cleaning squid; in housekeeping, cleaning bathrooms and bedrooms; on the receiving dock; in purchasing… the entire gamut.

“As a result of that training and experience, it made me stronger as a manager, because at the moment nobody needs to tell me how long it takes to make a room, because I have done it myself and I know. At the same time, it allows me as a manager to have the background knowledge to know what is reasonable to expect from people and what is unreasonable.”

One of his major community service achievements is the ‘Global 2000’ programme which has successfully twinned local and overseas schools in an effort to improve the educational facilities here.

So far, under the programme, Sheffield All Age school in Negril and Three Hills All Age in St. Mary, along with the Grand Lido and Couples hotels, have been twinned with Broward Elementary school in the U.S.A.

“We told the people at Broward Elementary that it’s not just the books and the funding that we wanted. We wanted to establish an exchange programme with teachers, start a penpal programme between the students and even get parents from the PTA up there coming down here to work and help improve the schools, rather than them just sending the money and have somebody down here do it… just so we get that cultural exchange,” Issa said. “We started small and it has grown nicely to the point where it has been recognised by the Florida State Board of Education which gave the programme an award for ‘Most Promising Intercultural Programme’.”

The Young Hotelier Award of the world award will be presented to Issa during the IHA Annual Congress in Sydney, Australia October 26 this year.


Source: The Observer