The Buzz: Cooks and housekeepers save the Cairo Marriott

By Thomas Heath
Monday, February 21, 2011

Globetrotter Ed Fuller, Marriott's president and managing director of international lodging, called in to update us on his trip to Cairo earlier this month in the midst of the country's political upheaval. Marriott has seven hotels in Egypt -- two in the Cairo area and five in the Sinai Desert.

"When we arrived at the Cairo airport [Feb. 5] by charter, there was a long line of U.S. Embassy staff who were in the process of getting Americans out," said Fuller, author of "You Can't Lead With Your Feet on the Desk." "They said for us to sign up on a document and get on the next plane. We said we were arriving, not leaving. One of the ladies said, 'You are crazy.' "

Fuller is a Vietnam veteran who has seen his share of revolutions during more than 20 years with Marriott, including last year's political uprising in Bangkok . He said the 1,200-room Cairo Marriott -- where most of the media stayed -- was threatened by looters during a period when the police disbanded but the military had not yet taken over.

"We had no armed coverage at the gates," said Fuller. "Our culinarians came out and backed up our security people with knives, and the housekeepers stood behind with brooms and shovels to hold the gates."

The Egyptian Army eventually sent tanks to the Cairo Marriott to keep the looters at bay.

Fuller and his team, including his head of security and the chief operating officer for the Middle East/Africa region, listened to the tales of many of Marriott's 4,000 employees on the ground there and thanked them for defending the hotel.

The J.W. Marriott in the suburbs, which has 550 rooms, served as an evacuation center for the Saudi Arabian government, which took 120 rooms a night.

Whatever hope the revolution brings for the long term, it's not good for business short term, Fuller said.

"It's bad," said Fuller. "About $13 billion worth of tourism is now gone. These hotels will come back relatively fast, but we will have a gap where the industry as a whole is negatively impacted."

Wine time

Local investor/entrepreneur Chad MacDonald, 47, owner of Dulles-based ServiceForce USA, hosted more than 100 entrepreneurs and business people at his Great Falls home last week, where the crowd sampled wine from David Keuhner's Destination Cellars and talked sports and finance.

The attendees are members of Accelerent, a business network with chapters in Washington, Baltimore, St. Louis and Nashville.

Included were Christopher J. Hagan of Goodwin Procter LLP, "Growth Coach" Ingar Grev, Titan Fitness President Jeff Skeen, Holly Star of MultiMedia Solutions, JB Creative Services President Jon Brothers and Calvin Bogertman of the Painting Co.

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