The Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino is one of the most iconic hotels in Cairo; its rich history and glamorous aura attract visitors from all over the world. Since taking the helm as General Manager last October, Jürgen Sterkau, has added a new energy to the already booming luxury hotel, as he builds on its strong reputation for impeccable service and legendary facilities. eniGma’s Ezz Al-Turkey sat with General Manager Sterkau to discuss his move to Egypt and his plans for the historic hotel at the start of a new decade.
Jürgen Sterkau landed in Egypt with a lifetime of experience in the hospitality industry, specifically at Marriott International, all over the world. His passion for the industry comes through in the sparkle in his eyes as he speaks about his service with Marriott over the past thirty-six years and his family’s long involvement in hospitality for years. “My family has a saying that ‘people will always eat’,” says Sterkau, himself a certified chef, adding with a smile, “There will never be a jobless chef, unless he’s lazy. I think that’s one of the key things that attracted me to the hospitality industry. Also, a lot of my family members have worked in hospitality. My brother is a chef, my sister worked in hotels for many years and my grandfather was a professional waiter in grand hotels.”
Since first joining the culinary team of the New York Marriott Marquis in 1988, German born Sterkau has been part of the Marriott brand worldwide, from Shanghai to Hong Kong and Bermuda, to mention just a few of his postings. Sterkau eventually became Director of Food & Beverage at the Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel, and shortly thereafter was promoted to Executive Assistant Manager of the JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur. He later moved to Shanghai to become General Manager at the Renaissance Shanghai Yu Garden Hotel and Renaissance Shanghai Yangtze Hotel. In 2017, Sterkau was promoted to the position of Managing Director of the Sheraton Grand Shanghai Pudong, a dazzling 1000 room Hotel complex. Then came, what he says, the exciting move to the legendary Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino. “Egypt, with its culture, architec
ture, and historical monuments, is so fascinating. The view from the Citadel, for example, is one of my favourite attractions so far,” says Sterkau.
Building on the Cairo Marriott’s impressive track record of excellent service and worldwide acclaim, Sterkau considers it his mission to make sure that the hotel always caters to every one of its guests. “Different guests have different needs,” he explains, adding, “There is the leisure traveller, whose focus is on the sights and the whole country experience; then you have the business traveller who needs a working table in the room and a reliable internet connection, in addition to enjoying their destination. Most importantly, I think what every guest is looking for is the recognition of his needs, and it’s our job to understand each of our guests and to know how to serve them. We have to read their minds. Guests will be happy when we consistently serve them with whatever they may need.”
Although it has only been four months since Sterkau arrived in Cairo, he has already developed a special bond with the legendary hotel. “In terms of size, the Cairo Marriott is not only the largest hotel property in Cairo, but in the whole of Africa. Being located right across from the foreign embassies, our hotel is seen by many diplomats as their social hub. They come here to meet, eat and sit on the Garden Promenade Café, which actually is an official and sometimes unofficial meeting place in Cairo, it’s quite amazing. Of course, Eugenie Salon and Salon Royal, are also very precious venues to Egyptians and to foreigners. The palace and the palace garden, with their rich history, make this hotel very unique. Our hotel has as a special charm, and its facilities are buzzing attractions. The lobby here is like a beehive, it’s got an amazing atmosphere!” Sterkau exclaims.
While being General Manager comes with its set of challenges, Sterkau has full confidence in Cairo Marriott’s hosts to help make his ideas for the hotel a reality, every step of the way. “My to-do list is longer than the time I have, so I obviously have to prioritise what I want to achieve. But I have to say, I have very capable senior executives who already understand where I’m coming from, even though I’m new. They support me and my ideas very much, and that’s good,” says Sterkau with pride, adding, “One of the differences between the Cairo Marriott and Marriott hotels across the world is that the Cairo Marriott Hotel has the longest serving loyal workforce, both rank-and-file and hourly associates, as well as managers. We frequently celebrate the anniversaries of people who have worked here for a long time. Everybody loves working here and they see it as their home and their palace. My predecessors were very strong in their management and they did amazing work that everyone is proud of. This is apparent in the hotel’s loyal workforce.”
With the Cairo Marriott already ranking as one of the legendary hotels in Africa and the Middle East, General Manager Jürgen Sterkau is excited to be associated with a hotel with such a rich history, starting as a palatial residence built by Khedive Ismail for French Empress Eugenie in 1869 through its longstanding reputation as a hotel famous for its charm, glamour and luxurious hospitality. In the few months since he has held his position here, Sterkau’s visionary leadership has already made a great impression on guests and hosts alike. There is no doubt that, under his management, this iconic luxury destination for visitors from all over the world will continue to prosper and reach even newer heights.