An LAU alumna with a Midas touch
“We changed the perception of the industry, every step of the way. Every time you create and even, every time people have the chance to exchange opinions and ideas, you make a difference- that’s how things evolve.”
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April 29, 2015—
Horeca, The Garden Show & Spring Festival, The Beirut Cooking Festival, Salon Du Chocolat, and Beirut Capital of Taste Initiative - it’s hard to believe one person can be behind so much. Joumana Dammous, founder of Hospitality Services, in fact boasts an even wider portfolio. In addition to organizing large-scale annual exhibitions, Dammous publishes three regional magazines - Hospitality News, Taste & Flavours, Lebanon Traveler - and offers event planning through her company.
It all started not long after Dammous graduated with a degree in Marketing from LAU in 1992. She had worked at a bank as a student but ultimately decided to follow in the hospitality footsteps of her father, who was then the dean of the renowned Hotel Management Institute of Dekwaneh. Following an internship in the U.S., Dammous returned home to help her father renovate the institute.
It was then that Dammous made an observation that would prove to be life changing, both for her and Lebanon’s hospitality industry. “Every time anyone in the hospitality industry had a problem, or was looking for employees or information, they would come to my father for advice,” explains Dammous. “And I realized at that point, that there was nothing for the hospitality industry - no conferences, no exhibitions, nothing – as we were just emerging from the war. So I decided to organize a five-day program of hospitality conferences, complemented by an exhibition that would cover the costs of bringing in the speakers.” That was how the first HORECA (Hotels, Restaurants and Cafes) conference came to be.
HORECA, which promotes new talents and services, was an extraordinary success, but Jammous hadn’t planned on making it an annual event. She married and moved to Paris, where she continued her training in hospitality management, without a clear strategy or plan. “While I was in Paris, people started calling me to ask when the next HORECA was taking place, which was not on my schedule! That’s how we organized a second edition and a third, and now we’re hosting our 22nd!” HORECA has been franchised in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and in Beirut the exhibition boasts 350 exhibitors and over 14,000 visitors per year.
One success led to another and Dammous went on to establish several influential events, magazines and websites. One of her latest publications is Lebanon Traveler, a magazine that unveils Lebanon’s hidden treasures and is also part of a live event that promotes rural tourism in the country.
Dammous credits her success to her father, her country and her education. “I was inspired by my father. He transmitted his passion for hospitality to me,” she says. “My company was a marriage between my marketing skills and my passion for hospitality and Lebanon. Our country has problems, but we have to try to make a difference every day. I also chose to go to LAU - an American university - and it opened new horizons for me. It gave me great teachers and great memories.”