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Kem Akkari – My life in hospitality

26 June 2009 by
Kem Akkari – My life in hospitality

Kem Akkari is the general manager of the Culloden hotel, Belfast.
A firm believer in personality and attitude, Akkari says: "You really need a great personality and a ‘can-do' attitude and you need to think about hospitality all the time and get a buzz from people having a good stay at your hotel.

"I did my baccalaureate in Tunisia and then went into the army - but I lasted for one day and realised I couldn't do it. I loved hotels and catering and was drawn by the lifestyle and idea of travelling. It was really exciting for a young guy to basically party my way round the world."

In terms of career, Akkari advises setting a target or goal every two or three years to keep progressing and challenging yourself - otherwise you can just stagnate where you are.

… My biggest high has to be my family - my Welsh wife, whom I met in Bahrain in 1980, and my three wonderful children, who are now 21, 17 and 15. That's definitely my biggest high. It's so wonderful to see them growing up and I'm so proud of them. Our house is on fire with law, music and politics - it never stops and it's wonderful.

From when I first moved to Northern Ireland, I always wanted to join Hastings hotels, so it was a big high when I got to the Everglades. But even more than that, I wanted to be general manager of the Culloden. Originally I said to the family I thought I'd be good for it and get it sorted, but they didn't think I was ready. Then, two years later, I got the call from Howard Hastings saying "the Culloden is ready for you if you want to take it on". That was fantastic.

I used to work for Scottish Highland Hotels and in 1988 my head waiter and head chef won Young Waiter and Young Chef of the Year. To see staff achieve like that, and know you've been part of taking them through and training them up and then seeing them perform in the regional and national finals - and then win - is unbelievable.

… I went back to Macdonald hotels at one point for six months and it made our life absolute hell. My son, who was eight at the time, left a note in his room saying he was going to catch the bus back to Newcastle (Northern Ireland). We found him waiting at the bus stop. We had lived in 11 houses in 22 years and my big mistake was I just didn't listen to my wife or my family. They think of here as home as people are so friendly so we came back and we've settled nicely.

When I worked Paramount Hotels we had an exclusive wedding for 200 people. At 4pm on the day we had a power cut, so we had no food, no lighting, nothing. We just opened the cellar and told them to have as much drink as they wanted and gave them salads and cold cuts. I felt so sorry for the bride and groom and just wished the ground would open up and swallow me, but they were nice and understood there was nothing we could do.

When I was at the Holiday Inn in Bahrain, Bony M was doing a show around the pool and there were 2,500 people gathered but an hour before the show an electrician electrocuted himself and died. The Bahranian authorities wanted to close the hotel and said we couldn't hold the show. It was horrendous, but luckily we got in contact with the hotel's owners and they eventually managed to fix it so the show could go on.

Age 50
Family Married with three children
Favourite holiday Chile
Drives Peugeot
Motto Every day is different in hospitality so you can never get bored. Enjoy every minute and always look for new ideas and different styles of presentation.


  • 2001 to present Hastings Hotels, Northern Ireland, general manager
  • 1998-2001 Burrendale Hotel and Country Club, Northern Ireland, general manager
  • 1996-1998 Macdonald Hotels, Forest Hills hotel/Lodges Resort, general manager
  • 1994-1996 Paramount Hotels, Shrigley Hall Hotel and Golf Resort, food operations manager


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