6 March 2020

Wafa Taieb is TUI’s youngest hotel general manager in Tunisia

The 34-year-old manages the adults-only hotel TUI BLUE Sheherazade

Wafa Taieb, TUI’s youngest hotel general manager in Tunisia, manages the adults-only hotel TUI BLUE Sheherazade.

Ahead of International Women’s Day 2020, we sat down with Wafa Taieb to talk about her journey to becoming TUI’s youngest hotel general manager in Tunisia. She tells us about her journey of self-growth, ambition and overcoming challenges. Due to diverse career paths in the hotel industry, we were curious to learn more about her background.

“I graduated with a degree in Hotel Accommodation and Hotel Management in 2008 and did my following experience period in 4 and 5-star hotel concepts in Tunisia, France and Morocco. It was very important for me to understand all areas of a hotel and see that all the hard work that goes on behind-the-scenes is what make the guests smile. Every area and every job in a hotel are important for its operations and the value it brings. When I started, I had a vision – I wanted to understand and experience every single department and know it fully.

I worked with housekeeping. I worked in reception. I work with guest relations. I worked with food & beverages, HR, accounting, marketing. I wanted to understand what each area requires from the teams. How much time does it take to do a task? What are their challenges? I believe the key to good management is understanding the details and the job of the people you work with. Practising and doing what they do and feeling what they feel. When I was a student, I worked with housekeeping for free during my holidays. There were days where I cleaned up to 14 rooms all day from start to finish, with the purpose of understanding how housekeeping works and how we can improve it. I had a goal to understand everything in the hotel.”

Setting goals

In 2013, as a newly appointed guest service manager, Wafa set up a new specific goal for herself to achieve. She was still fairly new in the industry, but she didn’t let that stop her vision of the future. “I was young but ambitious. Most hotel managers are of a certain age, but I told myself in 2013 – in 5 years, you are going to be a hotel manager – today that’s where I am. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do anything despite my age, I wouldn’t let it hold me back and I continued to challenge myself.”

After three years of working as a guest relations manager, Wafa moved up to an Assistant Manager position and just in time – in 2018, exactly 5 years later, she became the general manager of the hotel. “I was proud of myself but I never got to where I am because of luck, it was because I kept challenging myself and setting goals to where I wanted to be. The vision of my future decided how I saw my responsibilities. I always looked to improve everything around me, even if it wasn’t in my area of responsibility.”

The conversation naturally moved onto Wafa’s experiences of being a young female, in the hotel industry, where similar positions to hers are most often held by men. “We naturally always judge people before we meet them. Especially when you are a woman, you're often underestimated. I didn’t want my work to be defined by me being young, or me being a woman. I wanted my work to be defined by my scores, my guests’ satisfaction, my hotel rating and my results. I wanted people to see that regardless of gender and age, I can perform strong numbers and meet my targets. However, as I focused strongly on my career, I had to sacrifice some aspects of my life – family & children, by putting my ambition in the front. But it was all worth it. I set goals and visions and I met them, with my team, my determination and ambition.”

Building a network

When asked about what advice she would have given her younger self, Wafa paused for a moment to think and then continued with enthusiasm. “I would always recommend building a good network of people who want the best for you, who believe in you and who build you up. Always believe in yourself, you need to trust your own skills in order to make other people trust you. If people don’t believe in you, prove them wrong with results and behavior, not by your words and promises.”

Currently, Wafa’s hotel is undergoing changes to become a TUI BLUE. Becoming part of TUI’s global flagship hotel brand is something her team and herself are very excited about. “It will be a new challenge – a new concept, a new atmosphere. Our guests will discover new unique characteristics and I am sure they will love it. We will for sure continue to develop great results as we’re transforming our hotel into a TUI Blue. It’s modern, unique and fresh.”