When Ajay Harjani was a young child, he had a dream of becoming a pilot. But that dream gave way to another reality when his dad opened a restaurant in Casablanca, and suddenly he fell in love with the hospitality world. “I went to hotel school at Les Roches in Switzerland and received my Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Entrepreneurship.”
Born in Jakarta, the 36-year-old hotelier got his first taste of working in the hotel industry as a receptionist at the Hotel President Wilson near Lake Geneva.
These days, Harjani is GM of the Hilton Garden Inn in Vaughan, having joined the 155-room hotel owned by the Easton’s Group at peak pandemic time. “My mission is to deliver exceptional experiences to our guests with light and warmth — so much so they’d have to come back for more.”
Harjani doesn’t discount the impact of the pandemic both on his property and the industry. “COVID-19 affected hospitality in so many waves: travel restrictions, border closures, labour shortages, and supply chain [issues].” But, he’s quick to add, “hoteliers are adaptable and this pandemic made us stronger.” He’s learned several lessons from the pandemic. “Take risks, think outside the box and don’t be afraid to fail. These lessons will help you grow and be stronger.”
Just as the pandemic begins to fade from view, Harjani is looking ahead to opening a new Hilton Garden Inn in Vaughan in 2024 given the original one is set to close its doors sometime later this year after being sold for condo redevelopment. “We plan to build a strong team to open a new Hilton Garden Inn in Vaughan,” says Harjani, a big believer that when it comes to hospitality, “there are no hacks and tricks.”
Keeping your team motivated is the key, says the affable hotelier. He does this by involving them in all facets of the operation. “My team is continuously learning and growing every day; they’re encouraged to come up with new ideas to make their job easier, and to make their workplace a better and a happier place.” It’s important, he says, to “continuously train your team to deliver exceptional service, speak to your guests and build valuable relationships.”
Harjani defines himself “as a team player and a true believer in growth and learning. I learned this from one of my previous experiences in Dubai at the Burj Al Arab; “Never say no and always try to find a solution or offer an alternative.”
While he’s earned a great deal of success in his young career, two of his proudest accomplishments include working for a seven-star hotel in Dubai and, at 25-years old, being the youngest GM of the Park Suites Hotel & Spa in Casablanca Morocco.
“Personally, success is being happy, healthy, and light-hearted while continuously learning and growing to make a positive impact that you can be proud of.”
BY ROSANNA CAIRA