Marie-Berengere Chapoton, who has recently taken the helm at Al Areen Palace and Spa by Accor as General Manager, talks to Behnaz Sanjana about her rich and varied experience in her field.
Marie-Berengere may own a French passport, but she considers herself a citizen of the world. “I’ve spent the last 20 years abroad, since the time I started a career in hospitality,” she says. “At Accor, I’ve gained cross-functional operations experience amidst different luxury brands and project management roles across 10 countries around Asia, Europe, the Americas and now, the GCC.”
The focus in her first month at the Al Areen Palace and Spa by Accor, has been on building a strong relationship with her team. Commenting on her leadership style, she says: “It’s all about honesty, openness, effective communication and empowerment. I lead by facilitating transparent and constructive team interactions, as well as developing talent and trying to bring out the best in every team member. Due to the exceptional global context, we have had to adapt and align our work style quickly to the current situation, but we are a strong, well organised and committed team.”
Marie-Berengere is delighted to be heading a key Accor property in Bahrain. “Al Areen Palace and Spa by Accor is a lush and exclusive villa-only resort. It is a rare spot in Bahrain where guests can walk amongst greenery, singing birds and a flowing rivulet in a garden area. Here, tradition mingles with modernity – a beautiful escape from busy urban life where guests enjoy privacy and serenity,” she says. “Every villa is appointed with a personal butler, private swimming pool and Jacuzzi. This makes us a truly unique and distinctive property.”
Bahrain has quickly worked its charm on this seasoned hospitality professional. “I’m amazed with the country and its people; its ancient soul and rich heritage,” she muses. “It is a melting pot of different cultures and people, truly a gem of the Middle East, thanks to the dedication of its wise leadership, the government and its various ministries. From intriguing historical sites to world-class recreational facilities – Bahrain has huge potential and the right steps have been taken to bring our island into the spotlight. We are very proud to work closely with Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority in this regard.”
Besides honing her technical know-how, Marie-Berengere’s exposure to various hotel departments has allowed her to sharpen her people- and talent-management skills. She says: “My corporate exposure in Paris, Dallas and Milan has been enriched by working closely with top executive members on strategic projects and integrating a full vision of the hospitality business model.” She acknowledges the Accor umbrella for investing in employees’ career growth, specifically for women to take up higher executive roles. “Our active international network for gender equality, RiiSE, supports the commitment of solidarity and combating stereotypes across five continents, promoting diversity and inclusion.”
In retrospect, Marie-Berengere recognises that her multi-cultural experience has given her the ability to assimilate appropriately, build relationships and connect to the individual. “I have had the chance of obtaining coaching, mentorship and sponsorship through my career and this in turn has provided me the tools to mentor others towards a positive, aspirational development path. Learning has been a continuing process. In the hospitality industry it’s all about people and how we create genuine connections every day with our team, guests, partners and stakeholders.”