The Somabay Endurance Festival was back for its summer edition, and it had so much to offer. During the festival, we were lucky enough to spend some time with Mr Ibrahim El Missiri, CEO of Somabay, and he was gracious enough to answer some of our questions. Here’s what he had to say:
- If the pandemic did one good thing, it proved that we don’t need to be tied to our offices to do our jobs. Do you think working from places outside Cairo, like Somabay, for example, is possible, or there are too many distractions?
For me, at least, I think the pandemic did that. I was based in Cairo and I used to come here for two days every couple of weeks. Now I spend 7 to 10 days every other week, and it’s more productive. In Cairo, I waste 30% of my time in traffic and even more time waiting for people also stuck in traffic. Plus, it’s a healthier environment, but it depends on your job. There are jobs that require you to be in Cairo. However, with the increaSsed connectivity, it’s much easier, and that’s why in Somabay, we’ve invested heavily in fiber connectivity and IT infrastructure. So, in my opinion, it’s pretty much doable, and I heavily encourage it. The hardest part about moving to places outside Cairo is education and facilities. That’s why we partnered with the UAE based GEMS, which have a huge network of schools, to help us bring the best form of education here to the Red Sea at Somabay.
- In interviews, almost all successful businessmen say that they work 22 hours a day, seven days a week, to achieve what they are achieving now, but in a previous interview, you mentioned that you enjoy your life and do stuff most people do. So how do you achieve such balance?
I can assure you that’s not the case. I do try my best to achieve a certain work-life balance, but being here in Somabay is definitely not a vacation. I’m on call 24/7, and this is where the negative side of the pandemic shows. It puts us in fire fighting mode all the time; there’s always a crisis, but despite all this, I enjoy it. What you’ve read probably is that I don’t think it’s work. My work life and personal life are now merged; I don’t know where one ends and the other starts.
- When the pandemic hit, the industry that suffered the most was tourism, there were no more flights, and people weren’t spending money on vacations because they had more important things to spend their money on. However, Somabay doesn’t look like it’s suffered as much. To what do you attribute the, let’s say, “quick recovery” of Somabay?
No, we’ve definitely suffered, but what we’ve realised is that the pandemic opened up an incredible opportunity. The kind of clients that we target usually invest in homes abroad in Greece and Spain etc. But they were suddenly stuck with no escape. So what happened was a real estate boom that balanced the hit we got from the pandemic. Egyptians that were stuck here and buying homes caused our sales to triple over the last year, which caused us to start building more restaurants and clubs. The pandemic changed the way we do business.
- When you’re successful in the real estate business, you’re expected to expand. So what are the upcoming investments and projects for Somabay?
Right now, we’re moving faster than we thought we’d ever be. We’ve launched three projects in a year, which is mind-blowing: Blanca, which is a prime beachside residence project, The Coves, an amazing place with insane topography and landscape, and finally, Bay Central, an expansion to the Marina, is the most luxurious side of Somabay. Last year we launched the Cabanas, which was a great success, people just loved it! You no longer need to get a fancy big home to enjoy Somabay; you can get a small place and access the beach. We also launched our new brand Somabay holidays and Stayr. You can check them at holidays.somabay.com. Basically, what happens is that you buy a place here, and we rent it for you. We’ll help you furnish it and take care of everything for you so you can generate income, and when you come back to use your home, you’ll find it in impeccable shape.
- How does an event with the magnitude of The Endurance Festival affect Somabay?
Last year we decided to start pushing a big sports agenda. Sports is now an integral part of our clients’ lives. It wasn’t always like this. In the past, people didn’t care much about sports, but now Egyptian parents are obsessing about it, and it’s paying off. We now see more Egyptian Olympic champions, and we have stars like Salah and others. People no longer want to just sit on the beach. They want more; they want to have a nice meal, work out, and have quality time, so we started searching for the right partner, and that’s where the TriFactory comes in. They have a good history and we wanted to bring them to Soma. It helps showcase the place, but it also interacts with our guests, even the ones in the hotels. We chose a route that goes through the entire area so that everyone could enjoy the race. We’re getting involved more in sports like Ocean Man, an open water swimming Championship, and we’re going to hold the finals in Soma. We’re planning on having a sports hub, we have a golf course and even a lawn tennis court, which, by the way, consumes less water than clay thanks to smart technology we have imported. It’s no longer going to be just fun and sun, that’s abundant in Egypt; we’re trying to be more.
We would like to thank Ibrahim El Missiri so much for his valuable time. It was such a great honour to have the chance to talk to him, ask all these questions, and get all those fantastic answers.