Olga Velceva Image Credit: © XPRESS/Pankaj Sharma

DUBAI: For Olga Velceva, life will never be the same again. The 23-year-old Moldovan had a dream: She wanted to work at the Burj Al Arab. Nothing else mattered. That dream took her from her home in Moldova, to university in Italy, and a front-office job from which she was hand-picked to live out her dream: A job as a Guest Services Executive at the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai.

Young dreamer

"In university, we'd daydream about where we'd be after graduation. I remember saying how amazing it'd be if I was Front Office Manager at the Burj Al Arab. This hotel is the only reason I came to Dubai. And now I've just won the David Campbell Trophy for International Receptionist of the Year for Burj Al Arab," she says.

With barely six months work experience at the Burj Al Arab under her belt, Velceva was surprised when she was chosen from nearly 20 colleagues to represent the iconic Burj Al Arab Hotel at the AICR Receptionist of the Year award in Dubai.

"The selection process wasn't easy," recalls the 23-year-old. "I was interviewed and put through role-plays. The main criterion was personality. We are the first contact with guests. People are living out a dream when they come here. And in the 10 minutes that we have with them, we have to create the perfect doorway to their dream," says Velceva, who was ecstatic at winning Dubai Receptionist of the Year (2011). In normal circumstances, she would have already lived out her dreams. But these weren't normal circumstances. Having won the Dubai award, Velceva automatically qualified for the international championship.

"I was representing not just the Burj Al Arab, but Dubai. I was aware of where it could take me," she says, referring to her dream of being a Front Office Manager. "I wanted to be the first person to bring this trophy to Dubai."

Settling in with contestants from 14 countries, including France, Switzerland and Singapore, Velceva was enthusiasm personified. The competition in Prague was similar to what she experienced in Dubai.

"The most important question they asked was how I would be able to increase the revenue of the hotel. To me, the answer is clear. I can up-sell a higher category of suites, provide transportation at additional cost, talk about the spa facilities we have, our seven restaurants … I have to be able to read the guest, to make out if it's a honeymoon couple, or someone celebrating a birthday… Everyone has their own needs and it's up to me to come up with suggestions to suit them… That's how a receptionist can bring in revenue," she says, with ambition in her eyes.

Today, her career could take her places. "I believe this award will open doors for me. The Burj Al Arab management is extremely supportive. We'll see what happens," she says.

"I'm proof that dreams come true. You just need passion"