Newcastle’s Stuart Birkwood is the Curator, or General Manager, of Radisson RED Dubai Silicon Oasis - a property located in the heart of the smart city project known as Dubai Digital Park. Radisson RED is ‘refreshingly different’, ‘packed with personality and style’, and Stuart makes sure it lives up to the expectations of travelers, UAE residents - and their pets!
Stuart has extensive experience in the Middle East in roles with both Marriott and Starwood, and prior to joining Radisson was responsible for the recent openings in Dubai of Aloft Me’aisam, Element Me'aisam, and Aloft Dubai South.
How did you cut your teeth in the industry?
From the bottom up, starting as a barman/waiter/valet in the UK and USA and then via a management program with Hilton UK, before spending a wonderful 20+ years with Starwood in locations as diverse as Poland, Finland, Saudi Arabia, and now Dubai. I also spent 5 years in Quality Improvement (Six Sigma, LEAN Operations, Blue Ocean Thinking) across Europe and Africa learning about all parts of the business and this really gave me a great grounding to be a GM.
What do you like most about being a hotelier?
The possibility to be paid to see the world! If you’re open to a career that can take you to different countries and lets you explore new cultures it is such a great opportunity. The most inspiring part of my journey has been seeing how many of the great people I’ve met and had the pleasure to mentor or coach have then made fantastic careers for themselves.
What do you think 2021 will be like for the industry?
A year of recovery and new ways to do business. Bigger and bolder ways of thinking locally and thinking outside of the box with continuous change… don’t stand still or I’m sure you’ll be left behind. With of course a continued focus on safety. We also must ensure we take good ongoing care of our teams as 2020 has been such a challenging year for everyone - mentally, physically, financially - we can’t underestimate the toll that has taken on our crew.
There are a lot of hotel brands like yours in the market, why do guests want to stay at RED? What makes you stand out?
We believe that the last thing the world needs is another hotel that plays it safe or takes itself too seriously. RED is known for its forward-thinking style, strong design ethos, laid-back service and contemporary flair. RED stems from a new breed of hotel that rips up the playbook, offering a bold and playful alternative. A hotel with attitude and personality where guests can mix business with leisure allowing them to create their own experience.
What is your advice for anyone aspiring to become a good hotelier?
Get out of your comfort zone! Don’t keep doing the same thing… so if you’re in F&B get into Rooms, and vice versa. Get yourself invited into other departments and disciplines. And ask ask ask - don’t underestimate other hotel activities, get to know other roles and jobs and how they impact on you and how you can help them. Lastly, if there’s a problem look at yourself first - are you the problem? Could you change or adapt so that you tackle the root cause of the issue. And don’t take yourself too seriously… if you’re having fun then your team will be having fun, and if they’re having fun you can guarantee your guests are much happier!
Visit Stuart at Radisson RED Dubai Silicon Oasis