My passion for hospitality started at an early age. I grew up in a family that is honored to work seasonally in Hajj and has served Doyof Al-Rahman (guests of God) for many generations.
That sparked my own interest in hospitality, as I wanted to continue what my family does and make it my profession. I am Neda Zohair Fatani, and I am a hotelier.
I am an energetic and ambitious hotelier. I enjoy dealing with guests and I celebrate our differences. I dream of seeing Saudi Arabia setting the standards for hospitality around the world for business, leisure and spiritual travelers.
I was born in Makkah and raised in Jeddah from the age of five. I was the youngest child, with four older brothers. My late father, Eng. Zohair Fatani, was the head of projects and operations at the Muslim World League (MWL). My mother, Elham Ibrahim Fatani, is my coach in life. She is an artist who organized many events and had a number of interior design projects, another source of inspiration that opened my eyes to hospitality.
I was raised in a family that values individuality, education, gender equality, open discussion and independence. My parents raised all of us as equals and sowed the belief in us that success does not have a gender; everyone is capable of achieving their dream if they work hard for it. My aunts, Dr. Ibtisam, Seham, Dr. Eman, all lecturers in major universities in Saudi Arabia, have always been a driving force to keep us learning and growing.
My personal journey in hospitality started after I graduated from Dar Al-Tarbia Al-Hadetha School, got married and moved to the United Kingdom with my husband Eng. Suleman Fatani.
During my foundation year at Oxford Brookes University, I chose modules related to hospitality, and I excelled in them. I was still in a daze because the idea of a woman working in the hospitality industry in the Kingdom was new and not that popular, yet. However, in spite of all the challenges and risks involved, I enrolled at the Oxford School of Hospitality Management in the autumn of 2012. I remember my student advisor at the Saudi Cultural Bureau asking me twice if I was certain about the move; I was excited and was convinced that I could make it work.
Nonetheless, I was assailed by doubts and fears. Then I remembered a book my dad gave me when I was 11 years old, “The Iron Lady: A Biography of Margret Thatcher.” “Read her story and take her as an inspiration whenever you are in doubt,” he told me. I read the book and never looked back again.
Since then, with the great support I received from my husband and my family, my dream of working in hospitality has become a reality.
I graduated in 2016 with a degree in international hospitality management. I learned a lot from my course work and from the practical training I received at the fine-dining Brookes restaurant, from working as a waitress to serving under a chef and gaining culinary tips.
Working in such a prestigious hotel provided me with unparalleled experience and set me on the way to becoming a hotelier. I learned how to deal with guests and create my own personal touch.
I started my career as an entry-level employee at the InterContinental London Park Lane Hotel. Working in such a prestigious hotel provided me with unparalleled experience and set me on the way to becoming a hotelier. During this time, I moved between different work-streams to build a holistic hotel management competency.
I learned how to deal with guests and create my own personal touch. Meeting various nationalities taught me how to celebrate cultural differences and develop the skills to work in group settings with people from a range of backgrounds.
As my time in London drew to an end, I enjoyed every bit of this experience, even though commuting between Oxford and London was exhausting. However, I was excited to go back to my country and continue working in hospitality there.
Once I was back in the Kingdom, I received a call from the regional Hilton senior talent acquisition manager offering a job in Jabal Omar Hilton Makkah Convention Hotel, which I accepted. I started as an assistant convention center manager opening team at the hotel, moving up to becoming the convention center acting manager. It gave me very useful experience that added to my personal growth and shaped who I am today.
While working at the Hilton, I was honored to be chosen as an ambassador for the International Youth Foundation USA, representing Saudi for two years. It was also an honor to be the first Saudi woman to be nominated for the Hilton’s Shine 4D director development program. This is a program that develops managers to become future directors.
In 2019, the Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh, offered me a job to join as a Conference and Catering Service Manager. I was thrilled, as the Ritz-Carlton is among the top brands in hospitality worldwide, and has shaped how luxury hotels operate. I was ready for the exciting challenges on offer.
I believe that working in such a well-organized, feverish environment taught me how to become a leader and influence others to join the field of hospitality.
Being a mother for the first time was a major milestone in my life, as was my move to Riyadh alongside my daughter and husband. I hope my work will inspire my daughter to achieve greater things.
I am thrilled to see that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 includes reform plans for the hospitality and tourism sectors in our beloved country. This places major responsibilities on all of us in hospitality to be the agents of change, alongside our government, to make this reform a reality.