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Aviation & Hospitality Group get some words of wisdom

posted 19 May 2010, 10:01 by Unknown user   [ updated 19 May 2010, 10:16 ]

Jamil Wafa At The British Business Forum At The Movenpick Hotel
Jamil Wafa ‘Self-Made’  article featured in The Arab Times May 19th 2010‘Ambition, Honesty, Perseverance Main Keys To Success

KUWAIT CITY, May, 17: You’d think that being director and chairman of more than ten companies in Bahrain means that the person is born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but you’d be wrong. Prominent Bahraini businessman, Jamil Amin Wafa, is ‘all that’ but he has worked hard for many years to achieve his successes. 

Ambition, honesty and perseverance through the many challenges of the business life are the main keys to success, says Wafa, but you have to be determined and know what you are doing, as long as you don’t cut corners right, left and center.
“There is no magic formula for success. If you are on the right track, you can never go wrong... Don’t let any upheavals deter you either,” he said.

Jamil Wafa, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Bahraini United International Agencies (Unitag) Group of Companies, was the guest speaker of the British Business Forum — Aviation, Travel and Hospitality meeting Sunday evening. The meeting was held at the Movenpick Hotel — Al-Bida’a and was organized by the United Airlines. 
Wafa spoke about the aviation industry in the region, his life experiences and business ventures that began with working with the BOAC (British Airways) in Kuwait. He inspired the many members and guest of the aviation, travel and hospitality industries with his many stories of successes as well as failures which were overcome with determination and focus.

Born to Palestinian parents, Jamil Wafa was among the 1.2 million Palestinians who were forced to leave their home country when he was 17. After arriving to Kuwait via Beirut to be with his brother who worked at the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), Wafa was fortunate to meet with a Palestinian lawyer called John Asfoor who set him up with best career move of his life. 
 “I arrived to Kuwait on Nov 26, 1949. I was 18 years old and I lived in a place that belonged to BOAC (British Airways) called SQ6 with other crew members and senior officials near Al-Sabah Hospital. John Asfoor gave me my first job and I started as a telephone operator at Al-Ghanim Group then as a typist/ junior clerk at Yousef Al-Ghanim Travel Agency,” Wafa recalled. 
The agency was the only travel agency in Kuwait except for Abdullah Al-Mulla Al-Salah who represented Middle East Airlines. Wafa, along with other two employees at the travel agency did plenty of miscellaneous work and after he was promoted in 1956 he created the well-known Eagle emblem for Al-Ghanim Travel Agency.


In 1960, the office expanded and Wafa established the first Arab travel agency in England, on fourth Baker Street in London. 
“My life in Kuwait was very hard. I was stateless for a long time but I worked for Yousef Al-Ghanim and BOAC for 28 years and no other employer. Due to this discipline and attitude I was promoted to be the first Arab district sales manager to handle the BOAC office in Lebanon,” he explained.
Wafa was granted the Kuwaiti citizenship by Abdullah Mubarak Al-Sabah for his work; “In 24 hours I was given the nationality. I kissed the ground because I was reborn out of the blue. Thanks to Kuwait, this has made my life. Where I am now started in Kuwait,” boasted Wafa.
After many years of hard work and dedication, Wafa was the only Arab national who was selected to undergo an extensive one-year training program in management development in England. When training was completed, BOAC promoted Wafa to the position of marketing development manager of the Gulf area based in the Bahrain.


In 1974, Wafa was appointed as the system sales manager for Gulf Air, which was established then as the National Flag Carrier of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Abu Dhabi. From then on, the rest is history as they say. 
“I had to give up my Kuwaiti nationality for the Bahraini one then. I came to see Sheikh Saad Al-Sabah due to that and he was very upset with me. That discussion was difficult for him and for me, but it was my future and my luck. I had to make a decision and subsequently it was the right one,” he said.
Wafa established the Unitag Group of Companies which caters for the travel industry then, in 1982, turned his attention to the insurance industry with the National Insurance Company. Through Unitag, Wafa established many organizations useful to the service industry and Bahrain in general. Throughout his career, he was recognized with many awards including the National Order of Merit from France in 1977.

With over 60 years of experience in the aviation industry, Wafa recognizes that aviation in the region is headed in the wrong direction. According to Wafa, the airlines of the region are not making money because aviation in the Gulf is fragmented. 
“The whole of the aviation industry is going through recession right now. United Airlines filed for Chapter 11 three years ago and now they are the largest U.S. carrier. But is it making money? It is not. No airline is making money with the fuel prices going up, landing fees, handling fees, catering, salaries, all components are now difficult. You also have to cater for your staff’s well-being as cost of living is going up,” he said. 
 Wafa added that although aviation was united with Gulf Air which was the National Flag Carrier of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Abu Dhabi, each country wanted to create its own airline and now traffic is being diluted between lots of airlines, more than necessary. “The Gulf should not have more than a couple of airlines really,” he said.

Wafa added that the only one who is making money is Emirates Airlines because they offer the whole package to customers. He advised that the more united aviation in the region is, the more it can get into the market. “Gulf Air is a 60 year old airline and now we are loosing 1.5 million dollars a day. Travelers as well have been reduced by 30 percent due to their financial dilemmas,” he added.
Jamil Wafa credits his success to a number of factors. He explained that he was lucky to have started his business at the right time, at the right place, and with the right people. “The Gulf was just coming up; the barrel of oil was 1 dollar at the time. Now it is 78 dollars. People had different values and principles back then that were more honorable. They have changed now,” he said.

Wafa added that a principled person has to recognize who was instrumental in their success. “A man called John Asfoor was instrumental in my success. Kuwait opened the door for me by giving me nationality and Lebanon taught me a lot about everything. I am grateful to the countries I’ve lived in and hopefully I’ve picked the best from all of them,” he said.
“I credit my discipline and attitude to BOAC. I am now 78 years old and I still work every day in Bahrain. I employ 950 people, it is a big company but I am a man who has his hands on, always communicating with my staff. Whatever I am now, I did not inherit. I was self-made. I am a man of ethics, integrity and I handle my own affairs. The only time I will stop is when I drop dead,” he concluded.


By: Nihal Sharaf