Businesspeople in the Mena region use summer as a time to recharge their batteries. One way to do this is a change of scenery; another is to crack open a good book.
We asked a range of business leaders for their plans on both fronts this summer. One theme that emerged is that being on holiday still means being in touch with the office – typically on a daily basis. And for a few, there is simply no time to get away from the demands of work.
Today our informal panel shares its holiday outlook; in tomorrow’s Business section, they pass along their summertime reading selections.
Mishal Kanoo, deputy chairman of the Kanoo Group conglomerate
I’ll be spending some time in London with my young children after Ramadan. They like London and so do I. We have a place there.
Avi Bhojani, chief executive of the Bates Pan Gulf Group communications firm
This summer I am travelling for a 10-day family holiday to Japan (our first time ever to the country) followed by a “refresh and recharge” detox fortnight in India. Throughout my holiday and detox I stay connected with work colleagues, although time zone differences affect my response time (from minutes to hours), which my colleagues have got used to.
Peter Janssen, chief executive, Landmark Hotels & Suites
The summer period in Dubai used to be considered low season for the hospitality industry but things have changed over the years as the city’s offer has evolved. I usually tend to take two or three short breaks over the summer to minimise my time out of the office. This summer I’ll be making short trips to India and The Netherlands, and will try to get some time on the golf course during the evenings here in Dubai during Ramadan. I hope to spend time with my family too and get some quiet time to prepare for the second half of the year. In today’s connected world I think a lot of us are always in touch with the office. I would say most people are happy to be in the loop even when they are away. I for one check my emails regularly and make sure I’m contactable via WhatsApp in case something comes up. Of course it’s important to let those who are left in charge to run the day-to-day work, and it’s important for those on leave to disconnect too – but being aware of what’s happening is never a bad thing.
Owain Johnson, managing director of the Dubai Mercantile Exchange
I will be away from Dubai for three weeks. I will spend one week in London catching up with friends and customers, one week in France attending a family wedding and the final week on the west coast of Wales with my extended family. I’ll be in touch with the exchange on a daily basis, except for the final week, where the weak reception in the Welsh mountains will give me a great excuse to switch my phone off for once.
Jo Rowbotham, chief executive of Te Whiti, a Bahraini consultancy on sustainable growth
I am going to New Zealand on July 8 for three weeks. I will check my emails daily, which might involve a bit of work/calls, but I hope to mainly rest and relax.
Mohammed Hussein, general manager for the dairy company Hyproca Nutrition Middle East in Dubai
This summer I will be taking some time off with my family in August, as this seems to be the most suitable time according to the work schedule. Normally, even if I am on holiday I tend to check my emails on a daily basis so I am able to stay in touch with my team for updates and urgent business issues. In case of emergencies, I also appoint someone from the team to take charge and make the tough decisions on my behalf. Let’s see how it goes this year. I am expecting to get some well-earned rest and a refreshing start once I’m back.
Omer Ghani, chief executive of Qmega, a solar-energy company based in Dubai
This summer I will be in Dubai focusing on building and growing Qmega further. I like being in Dubai in the summer because everyone is away on holiday, so the traffic is smoother and recreational facilities are more easily available. Being from Pakistan, I am quite comfortable with the heat. In fact, I prefer the heat to the cold.
Ahmed Salem, General Electric’s regional manager for oil and gas
I will be on holiday in Jordan, spending time with family and enjoying my mum’s traditional food. Then I will be heading to Greece to enjoy excellent Greek food and the culture. It’s sort of back to Greek history and the gods.
Roberto De Diego Arozamena, chief executive of Jeddah-based Abdul Latif Jameel Energy
My family has always spent our summers in Santander, northern Spain, as both my wife’s family and mine are from Santander and we have many friends there. It has a beautiful green coast and we enjoy boating and attend the annual festival that has classical music performances, ballet, opera and others almost every day. Even though I may be on holiday I am always available and do email, normally once a day. It helps me address any urgent issues and keep abreast of the business with the appropriate level of responsiveness. This does not interfere with my holiday, as I have always done this to stay in touch.
Alexandre Mussallam, chief executive of Dubai-based Enova (formerly MAF Dalkia)
We will be going to Brazil, to keep in touch with family and friends. We will be visiting Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte, where we have families. We should also have a long weekend in Campos do Jordao, an amazing spot to enjoy the winter in Brazil. Although the team is very capable and empowered to deliver our businesses, I usually keep in touch with the office on a daily basis through emails or call when necessary.
David Godchaux, chief executive of the Dubai-based property company Core Savills
I am planning to stay in Dubai this summer since I actually enjoy summer here, having spent the past 10 years in Russia. I also very much look forward to spending time with family during Ramadan. We have several important events and exciting project launches coming in September and October, and it will be a busy time making sure everything is on track. I have no other plans for a holiday until the end of the year, but staying in Dubai should be fun. We work very much as a team at Core Savills, and while many of our directors and consultants are going on leave during the summer, we are all generally happy to stay in touch with the office while we are away. Of course, we all on email and available on the phone if needed. We do encourage our employees to take some well-deserved rest during summer, and to take the pressure off while they are away – but then again this will be a relatively busy period for us as we gear up for the last quarter.
Emma Howell, head of marketing for the Middle East at Seatrade
For our summer break, my husband and I are returning to Croatia to the tiny town of Cavtat, where my sister got married two years ago. As Game of Thrones fans we’ll take a small water ferry to Dubrovnik, about 40 minutes away, and wander around the spectacular city in which the show’s King’s Landing scenes were filmed. We’re taking our break in late July, when it is the quietest time for me, but I’ll stay in touch with the office daily through email. I have some great colleagues who appreciate that a break is important
John Stevens, managing director for the property company Asteco in Dubai
I’m taking an overseas trip during Ramadan. It’s less disruptive for work and gives my two school-age children a break, as activities for them during this period are somewhat curtailed. I dedicate the majority of time to my family. However, I normally set aside an hour in the evening to check and respond to emails, normally just before dinner, and since this summer we are heading east it works particularly well, as the office is still working.
Charles Boghos, owner and founder of the Dubai-based online grocery Chez Charles
We’re expanding and in the middle of constructing a new facility, so unfortunately I’m unlikely to be leaving the country much. Our new central kitchen will be ready by the end of August and our new warehousing facility by mid-September. Although a holiday would be great, the prospect of completing these new additions to the business is more than enough incentive to stay.
Marina Zbinden, co-founder and co-owner of Avantcha, a Dubai-based purveyor of luxury tea
Unfortunately this will be the first summer we will be taking holidays separately; the business is still new and we need to ensure we maintain a presence here in Dubai. I’ve been lucky to enjoy a week off with friends at a spa resort in Bulgaria, while my husband Markus is heading to Ireland to go wild salmon fishing, combining that with a trip home to Switzerland.
* Compiled by LeAnne Graves, Michael Fahy, Frank Kane, Andrew Scott, Sananda Sahoo and Anthony McAuley
Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter