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Essential reading for hotel operators, owners, developers and investors


HR in hospitality Palazzo Versace

Designer dreams


A tourist’s haven

Revenue management

All you need to know

Top hotel Wellness A dedicated look at the regional wellness industry

VingCard Allure

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Top hotel Middle East is published in association with Signature Media LLC & Freizeit-Verlag Landsberg Gmbh.

Hospitality brand value SIGNATURE MEDIA FZ LLE P. O. Box 49784, Dubai, UAE Tel: 04 3978847/3795678 Email: Exclusive Sales Agent Signature Media LLC P.O. Box 49784, Dubai, UAE Publisher: Jason Verhoven Director: Deepak Chandiramani Managing Editor: Munawar Shariff Art Director: Tamara Eger Production Manager: Roy Varghese

Printed by United Printing Press (UPP) – Abu Dhabi Distributed by Tawseel Distribution & Logistics – Dubai

FREIZEIT-VERLAG LANDSBERG GMBH Johann-Arnold-Straße 32b+c, D-86899 Landsberg am Lech Postbox 101255, D-86882 Landsberg am Lech Telephone +49 (0)8191- 947 160 Fax +49 (0)8191- 947 16-66 Managing Directors: Thomas Karsch, Eckhard Lenz Contributor’s opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher or editor and while every precaution has been taken to ensure that the information contained in this handbook is accurate and timely, no liability is accepted by them for errors or omissions, however caused. Articles and information contained in this publication are the copyright of Signature Media FZ LLE & SIGNATURE MEDIA LLC and cannot be reproduced in any form without written permission.

Each hotel has it’s own way of taking care of its guests. Their brand identity is deeply embedded in all of its service platforms. The first translation of a management company’s brand, culture and identity is through its employee. And the employee is the face of the company to the many customers he/she meets in his or her daily working life. How are hotels going about hiring the right talent for it’s many varied roles? How is staff being trained in individual culture and practice? How are employees being taken care of in the short and long term? These and a few other questions are dealt with in our cover story on the most important resource for any company - their human resource (page 20). In our Hotel review section (page 33) we stayed at the very beautiful and glamorous Palazzo Versace located Dubai’s Culture Village area. We also spoke at length with GM Sandra Tikal about being the unique property that they are in terms of flamboyance in design, culture, gastronomy and experience. On page 36, we look at the many tourism initiatives being undertaken by the Thailand government to increase visitor number to the country. Robust government spending and a rebound in exports have accelerated the Thai economy in the first quarter of the year. More recent data shows that the positive momentum was carried over into the second quarter. Growth in manufacturing accelerated in May, and business confidence improved in June.“The recent decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union will likely have a limited effect on the Thai economy due their weak links in terms of trade and investment,”says Chalermsak Suranant – Director, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Dubai & Middle East office. In 2015, Thailand received tourism revenue of 35.2 billion Euros (AED 143.3 billion) from the international market, with a growth of 23 per cent over 2014, and visitor arrivals totalling 29.8 million, an increase of 20 per cent from 2014.“The focus for the year 2016 is to provide quality tourism, and enhance the image of Thailand as a ‘Quality Leisure Destination through Thainess’. All this and a lot more inside! Munawar Shariff Managing Editor SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 3






Hot business property

The Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights

10 NEWS All the latest from hotels in the region 20 COVER

The team makes the brand

A look at how hospitality brands build their teams. As they are the ambassadors who convey the distinctive brand culture to their customers


Palazzo Versace Dubai merges food, fashion and luxury into a hotel that caters to your most aspirational desires


A taste of Thainess

With new initiatives that target different market segments, as well as fine tuning the offerings for the existing traveller, Thailand is all set to achieve the ambitious tourism goals they set

42 The Middle East - hospitality’s fastest


Building Dubai’s first hotel

M. Zacky Hameed, he’s a hotelier and an old timer on Dubai’s hotel scene. He helped built what was then the first hotel in the city - the Dubai International Hotel in the early 1980’s

56 Hotel revenue management Justin Kaminski, Project Manager at HVS Chicago and

Breanna Smith, Associate with HVS Portland, report on how yields can be maximised at a hospitality property


Suited for summer

A fantastic collection of effective and revolutionary products that really work hard to give you beautiful and better looking skin

68 JOINING FORCES Dolce&Gabbana and Shiseido

Group sign a new license agreement for the beauty activities of the fashion house

growing region

Despite many challenges, the region is steadily growing




Hot business property The Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights

About Top hotel Undercover Building on the legacy established by our big brother publication - Top hotel - in Germany, Top hotel Middle East sets out to highlight all that is great and good about the fivestar properties in the Middle East, as well as the things that such prestigious properties should really do better. Top hotel has built its reputation on fair and balanced assessment of five-star hotels in Europe and beyond; we now pledge to carry on that tradition in the Middle East. We hope that by highlighting the good and the bad, we can help to raise standards across the region and recognise the properties that have clearly got it right.

We’ve all heard of the adage - location is everything. This applies completely to this new property right in the centre of town and also literally behind it’s big sister property the Grand Hyatt. The hotel is new, opened last year, and offers a value for money option for leisure and business



It was in the peak of summer that Top hotel decided to check this property out. What we weren’t expecting to see was the number of guests hanging around in the lobby. The hotel was really busy. Although it wasn’t fully occupied as is expected from properties in the city and country what with it being peak summer and most of the population away for the holidays. Having said that however, this hotel was still doing brisk business. Value for money can never go out of style and this is exactly what this hotel offers the business as well as the leisure guest.

RESERVATION Once the call was placed the hotel answered our call and transferred it to their central reservation desk. The lady was well informed and gave us room rates and options all of which matched the rates on the website. She gave us the choice to either make an online booking or through her. We picked the online options and headed to the property. Evaluation: Excellent

CHECK-IN The room was waiting for us. We were given a higher floor accommodation. We had picked the Deluxe room which was bigger than the regular room. It was 50 sq metres in size the regular room size is 38-40 sq metres. Once the formalities we re complete. We were told to proceed to the room and the bags would be brought up. No one escorted us to our room, which is usually the case in hotels around Dubai. Just an observation. Evaluation: Good



ROOM 2311 The rooms was large. It had a wide entrance with the mirror on the right and the bathroom on the left. The study was right across the entrance at the other far end of the room. Across fom the study was the bed and on the side was a small seating area. The closets were facing the bed. The design was pleasing to the eye with a very neutral colour palette of beige carpets and curtains and chairs. A dash of colour would definitely add some appeal. The mini bar was under the cabinet with the flat screen television and was complimentary. Again a surprise as most hotels don’t have a complimentary minibar for their guests other than tea and coffee making facilities which were present here too. Evaluation: Good

BATHROOM Again spacious with the shower stall with a regular and a rain shower head on the right as you enter and the bath tub beyond it. The wash basin opposite the door and the wc on the left. Amenities were by eco friendly brand Pharmacopia. Evaluation: Satisfactory

ROOM SERVICE We tried to order some dessert from the hotel’s very popular Mexican restaurant La Tablita. However, their policy does not allow them to package anything from their signature restaurant to any of the rooms. When we coaxed them to try for our sakes they came back to us saying that the restaurant did not have any take out boxes and if room service agreed to go to the restaurant and pick and pack our order and bring it to the room the restaurant would do it for us otherwise they wouldn’t. But when we called room service they checked with their manager who said that since La Tablita was their signature restaurant they would be unable to pack and deliver any food item from there to the room! Very disappointing. But of course we do understand their rules and regulations. Evaluation: Good

BREAKFAST AT SUFRA The breakfast buffet was again very busy. The egg station had a long queue! We got busy with the other things on the menu which was varied and had everything you would expect to see - Arabic breakfast, continental, Indian, Chinese, the works. And everything was fresh and delicious. Service was prompt. Evaluation: Good

CHECK-OUT 10.45AM Smooth and quick. The car was out in no time and we were on our way! Evaluation: Excellent



The Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights Reservation: Excellent

Top hotel ratings 0-20 - Un-satisfactory 21-40 - Poor 41-60 - Satisfactory 61-80 - Good 81-100 - Excellent

Check-in: Good Room 2311: Good Bath: Satisfactory Floor service: Good Landscaping: Good Breakfast buffet: Good

Top hotel Undercover opinion:

81-100 Excellent

Fitness: Good Corridors, elevators, stairs: Good

Total: 83%

Housekeeping: Satisfactory Check out: Excellent 0







JA Resorts & Hotels recognises the contribution of its top Emirati female employees UAE-BASED JA RESORTS & Hotels has highlighted the achievements of the Emirati female associates on its team, who have risen through the ranks and taken on leadership positions within the organisation. JA Resorts & Hotels’ Chief Operating Officer, David Thomson, stated,“We take great pride in nurturing and growing our local talent through our strong Emiratisation programme, and have implemented a fast track recruitment process to source, select and recruit

outstanding UAE National candidates. We are particularly delighted to see the strong work ethic and drive amongst the female employees on our workforce.” Rafiah Haj, along with her team at the Emirates National Development Programme of the Executive Office, was instrumental in the hiring of 3,000 UAE nationals into the private sector in 2007. She has continued her valuable work in her role as the Emiratisation Manger at JA Resorts & Hotels.

Dan Benzaquen brings guest experience expertise to new role DAN BENZAQUEN HAS been appointed General Manager of the five-star Mövenpick Tala Bay, an upscale family-friendly resort located on the shores of the Red Sea. A seasoned hotelier with more than 13 years of industry experience, Benzaquen brings his enthusiasm for re-defining the guest experience to his new role. “Hospitality is my passion,” said Benzaquen “and having worked my way through the industry ranks from a young age, I have developed a good grasp of what sets a good hotel apart from the rest – a unique guest experience and great customer service. My job as general manager is to inspire the team to deliver our service philosophy of Natural Enjoyment, ensuring guests share new experiences and create happy memories that last a lifetime.” Benzaquen holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Hospitality Management from the esteemed Glion Institute of Higher Education in Switzerland.


Rafia Haj - Emiratisation HR Manager and Sara Ahmed - Group Recruitment Executive.

Sara Ahmed, Corporate Recruitment Executive at JA Resorts & Hotels, joined as a Management Trainee in the Front Office at Oasis Beach Hotel in 2006, and has since risen to her current position.

Turkey looks to Gulf nations to support tourism IN THE LEAD up to the public holidays marking Eid Al Adha in September, the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism is looking to visitors from Gulf countries to offset the recent slump in the nation’s tourist numbers. Tourism is a critical source of Turkey’s GDP, but recent events have taken a toll on the sector. The ministry is Salih Ozer therefore turning to visitors from the Gulf region for support, in particular visitors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain, which have in the past represented the highest volume of visitors to the nation. “In spite of recent events, there are no security concerns in tourist destinations in Turkey. These facilities are, and will continue to be, completely safe. Hospitality services remain undisrupted and the comfort of foreign citizens visiting the nation continues to be a priority to us,” notes Salih Ozer, Attaché of Culture and Information from Turkey to the UAE. As per the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism created 580,000 jobs directly in 2014 in Turkey, which translates to 2.2 per cent of the nation’s total employment.

Ras Al Khaimah visitor numbers up seven per cent RAS AL KHAIMAH Tourism Development Authority (TDA) has revealed that total visitor arrivals between January and July 2016 increased by seven per cent, compared to the same period in 2015, with further indicators foretelling another successful year for the region’s fastest growing tourism destination. For the month of July 2016, the hotel occupancy for Ras Al Khaimah’s hotels grew by 36.7 per cent over July 2015, demonstrating increased demand for the emirate.

Historical Dhayah Fort

Haitham Mattar

According to Ras Al Khaimah TDA figures, in addition to the emirate receiving more visitors, the length of stay during the first seven months of this year also increased. Total guest nights grew by 15.2 per cent year-on-year, while the average length of stay in the Ras Al Khaimah’s hotels climbed 7.7 per cent.

MOTIONGATE™ Dubai appoints John Hallenbeck as General Manager MOTIONGATE™ DUBAI, part of Dubai Parks and Resorts, has announced that John Hallenbeck has been appointed General Manager, overseeing all aspects of the Hollywood-inspired theme park’s day-to-day operations. Originally from the US, Hallenbeck brings more than 25 years’ experience in theme park operations to his role, having worked extensively with Universal Studios theme parks worldwide. Hallenbeck joined Dubai Parks and Resorts in 2015 as Vice President of Revenue Operations, which provided him with a broad overview of the destination before assuming his role at MOTIONGATE™ Dubai.

As part of further plans to enhance the destination, Ras Al Khaimah TDA is also investing in world-class events and tourism products. Opening this year will be a series of new tourism offerings cantered on Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest mountain, as well as a busy calendar of sporting, leisure, cultural and business events.

SriLankan Airlines moves to a new location SRILANKAN AIRLINES has commissioned its new office premises in Bur Dubai. All of its commercial and business activities are now carried out in the second floor of the Sharaf Building, owned by the Sharaf Group, who has also been SriLankan Airlines’ General Sales Agent in Dubai since June 1, 2016. SriLankan Airlines, commenced flights to Dubai 35 years ago, which is almost from the time of its inception in 1979, and known then as Air Lanka, and still continues today operating a direct daily flight to the emirate of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, deploying a combination of its Airbus 330, A320 and A321 aircraft.

Centre - Mr Charitha Yattogoda Sri Lanka’s Consul General in Dubai (Right)Mr. Siva Ramachandran - Chief Commercial Officer - SriLankan Airlines


Insider guide to travelling for special occasions

InterContinental Dubai Marina

INTERCONTINENTAL HOTELS & Resorts® has released the Insider Guide to Travelling for Special Occasions, providing suggestions, tips and advice on how to plan the perfect vacation to celebrate special occasions. The guides include information about destinations and how the hotel can enhance your experiences while you are there. Said Bruce Ryde, Head of Luxury & Lifestyle, Brand Marketing – Asia, Middle East & Africa, InterContinental Hotels Group, “At InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, we are well-placed to provide tips and advice to help guests plan the perfect vacation for special occasions, and our industry experts give a wealth of advice on making the moment that much better.”The Insider Guides are available at InterContinental Hotels and Resorts across Asia, Middle East and Africa, and can also be read online: intercontinental/communications

Majid Al Futtaim to expand City Philippine Centre Ajman Department of Tourism increases budget by 44 per cent THE PHILIPPINES’ NEWLY-appointed tourism secretary Wanda Teo has announced she will efficiently utilise the resources given to her for the promotion and development of the country’s tourism industry. Said she,“We have gotten a substantial budget increase this year, up 44 per cent from the 2015 budget of 2.5 billion pesos (USD 53 million/AED 195 million) to a 3.61 billion pesos (USD 76.5 million/AED 281 million) sum for 2016.” No details have been revealed as to how the budget is to be allocated, but Teo added that information on activities and transactions of the tourism ministry can be accessed from its soon-to-relaunch website.


MAJID AL FUTTAIM has announced a comprehensive redevelopment of City Centre Ajman that will see the mall almost double in size, from 29,000 to 52,000 square metres. With an estimated cost of AED 600 million (USD 163 million), the expanded City Centre Ajman will feature 150 retail and dining outlets, as well as an expanded VOX Cinemas, with innovative 4DX screens, as well as specially-designed children’s theatres. The mall’s expansion is anticipated to conclude in the third quarter of 2017, followed by an additional refurbishment of the existing mall. Creating several hundred new jobs, City Centre Ajman’s redevelopment is a significant component of Majid Al Futtaim’s recent commitment to invest a further AED 30 billion (USD 8.2 billion) in the country by the end of 2026.

Musafir announces new partnership with Singapore Tourism Board MUSAFIR.COM HAS ANNOUNCED a partnership with Singapore Tourism Board (Middle East) to raise awareness of Singapore as a compelling leisure destination, and drive strong conversion of holiday packages to Singapore, as well as introduce new benefits for travellers in the UAE and beyond. Under the new agreement, Musafir and Singapore Tourism Board will converge and work towards diversifying the tourism culture in the UAE. They also aim to raise awareness on creating Singapore as the top destination amongst travellers out of the UAE. To mark this significant new partnership, Musafir has announced a range of attractive travel deals to Singapore ahead of the upcoming Eid holiday this September.

Atish Thapa




R Hotels inks fit-out deal for its Palm property R HOTELS HAS NAMED Fourzone Middle East as its interior fit-out contractor for its new four-star resort and spa in Palm Jumeirah. The 253-key property, which will be the first holistic health and wellness resort in the region, is expected to open doors in April 2017. The fit-out deal was signed by Samir Arora, the property’s preopening GM, and Ajish Nambiar, Fourzone Middle East’s marketing director. Fourzone Middle East is tasked to provide the complete interior fit-out solutions for the project – from production and sourcing of furniture and soft furnishings, and carrying out finishing works. In line with its concept, the general look and feel of the hotel will be organic, using design elements like wood, and utilising earth colours in the interior and furnishings.

R Hotels’ resort and spa at The Palm

R Hotels’ resort and spa at The Palm, Suite


Starwood expands Third International coffee and presence in KSA chocolate exhibition doubles in space to accommodate participants THE ORGANISING COMMITTEE of the coffee and chocolates exhibition, which is being held for the third year in a row at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Centre, from December 20th - 23rd, 2016, revealed that they are doubling the size of exhibition area as the total number of participants have increased. Participations varies this year among domestic and international, and specialist entrepreneurs in coffee and chocolate industry. There are also representatives of global chocolate companies in the region who are participating in the exhibition to enhance the visibility of their brands, and their strong presence in the Gulf and Arab market.

STARWOOD HOTELS & RESORTS Worldwide, Inc announced its further expansion in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the signing of a new Sheraton in the holy city of Makkah. Owned by Altayyar Travel Group Holding Company, Sheraton Makkah Jabal Al Kaaba is scheduled to open by the end of the year. The hotel is located close to the new expansion of the mosque, and will provide guests with special access and views of the Haram. Sheraton Makkah Jabal Al Kaaba will feature 414 rooms and branded service apartments, all outfitted with the Sheraton brand’s signature amenities and services, including its premium sleep experience. The hotel will also offer four dining experiences, as well as ample meeting and events space.

TIME Hotels appoints new Corporate Director of Revenue

Dusit and ACES Development to open DusitPrincess ACES in Middle East

TIME HOTELS HAS announced the appointment of Laurent Barelier as its new Corporate Director of Revenue Management and E-distribution, as the company looks to develop its strategy and implement growth plans. A graduate of the American College of Greece and holder of an MBA in International Hospitality Management from Cornell University, Paris, French national Barelier has over 17 years’ corporate hospitality experience, having worked for a number of successful international hospitality chains like Intercontinental, Accor Hotels, Wyndham Hotel group, etc. In his spare time Barelier is an active member of AIESEC, the world’s leading youth leadership development organisation, and the Dubai chapter of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI). He is also a member of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).

DUSIT HOTELS AND RESORTS recently signed a Management Agreement with ACES Property Development to operate DusitPrincess ACES Dubai, a new hotel apartment project within Jumeirah Village Circle, Dubai. This will be Dusit Hotels and Resorts’ sixth property in the Middle East. Strategically located overlooking the Dubai Marina Skyline, and offering easy access to the new Al Maktoum International Airport, the Palm Jumeirah, and other exciting shopping and entertainment venues, DusitPrincess ACES Dubai will cater to both transient and extended stay guests, promising elegant accommodation complemented by Dusit’s legendary Asian hospitality – creating a true ‘home away from home.’ DusitPrincess ACES Dubai will comprise of over 250 spacious apartments, ranging from studios to three-bedroom penthouses. Amenities will include: spa, various dining options, gym, sauna and pool with an open-air café. Laurent Barelier Corporate Director of Revenue Management and E-distribution SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 15

Jumeirah Group’s emiratisation initiative strikes gold #BeTheHost, AN EMIRATISATION initiative by Jumeirah Group, has been recognised in two categories at the 13th Annual International Business Awards, one of the most prestigious awards in the communications industry. #BeTheHost secured two Gold Stevie® Awards as the ‘Communications or PR Campaign of the Year’ in the Community Relations – EMEA and Travel and Tourism categories. Launched in October 2015, the social media campaign was aimed at leveraging Jumeirah’s position as the UAE’s leading home-grown hospitality brand and one of the top employers of choice for Emiratis. It was also launched to change commonly-held perspectives

on hospitality – from being a “service” industry to a “hosting” industry. With phenomenal engagement on Jumeirah’s Arabic Instagram account @ Jumeirah.Arabic, #BeTheHost helped to communicate the diverse range of career opportunities available to Emiratis in the hospitality industry. The campaign also emphasised the growing importance of the tourism and hospitality sector as a leading contributor to the UAE economy and a great source of national pride. Stevie Award winners were determined by the average scores of more than 200 executives worldwide who participated in the judging process from May through early August.

One&Only appoints Jerome Colson as GM of One&Only Seef, Bahrain ONE&ONLY RESORTS has appointed Jerome Colson as General Manager, One&Only Seef, Bahrain. In his new role, Jerome will be responsible for the successful opening in 2017, and for the on-going operation of One&Only Seef, Bahrain. Colson joined One&Only in 2012, and was the Hotel Manager at One&Only Le Saint Géran, Mauritius, where he was instrumental in running the operations of the resort alongside the GM, and oversaw the performance of all operational departments. Colson has over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry, and has spent the early part of his career working primarily in the Food & Beverage Division, in properties in Strasbourg, London and California.

Bank Muscat joins hands with Ministry of Tourism to host Sheikh Majed Al Sabah BANK MUSCAT, IN association with the Ministry of Tourism, is hosting Sheikh Majed Al Sabah, renowned social media personality, on a unique ‘Discover Oman’ programme. During the week-long stay, Sheikh Majed will explore Oman to discover the country’s wellkept secrets covering natural attractions, vibrant heritage and culture. Sheikh Majed has over six million followers on social media such as Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram. He travels widely, and engages in open communication with people through social media posts to highlight unique Arab traditions and values, as well as remarkable social and economic developments across the world. Bank Muscat hosts Sheikh Majed 16 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

New hotel manager at Chef Shigeki returns to Barfly Abu Dhabi with Angsana Lang Co BANYAN TREE HOTELS & RESORTS has announced the appointment of Hicham Najdi as Hotel Manager of Angsana Lang Co, Central Vietnam. In his new role, Najdi will be accountable for leading the hotel’s team to ensure delivery of Angsana’s vibrant hospitality, as well as overseeing the daily operations of the hotel, including business plans, recruitment and training, and food and beverage. A seasoned leader of multi-national hotel teams, Najdi is responsible for delivering Angsana’s high service standards alongside an exciting programme of activities, ensuring guests have a memorable stay. Najdi brings with him over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry, having previously handled diverse management roles at various hotels in Canada and Morocco, including Delta Trois-Rivieres Hotel, Canada and Novotel Casablanca City Centre. Prior to joining the Angsana family, he was GM of Marina Smir Thalasso and Spa Hotel, Morocco.

new culinary delights

BUDDHA BAR WORLDWIDE Group’s Japanese Corporate Chef, Chef Shigeki Limura, will return to the UAE in September to kick off his ‘Nikkei Tour’. The tour takes place till September 10th, and will be bringing something completely new to the culinary market of Abu Dhabi. The Nikkei cuisine gets its influence from the Japanese natives settled in Peru. Over a hundred years ago, Japanese immigrants arrived in Peru, creating their own food culture from the Incas. One of the popular dishes they prepared was ceviche, a staple Nikkei dish found in most Japanese-Peruvian restaurants, and the anticuchos, another famous delicacy. Food connoisseurs from all over UAE are promised world-class flavours and an authentic Nikkei experience only at Barfly Abu Dhabi.

Great F & B linen

Show rooms in UAE, Saudi, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, Lebanon, Windhoek please contact: or by phone +971 (0) 50 1543535 Kaechele Hotel Linen Laichingen Germany SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 17

Modern nostalgia gets a new edge at iconic Shamiana

SHAMIANA AT THE TAJ Mahal Palace, Mumbai, has reopened, with a fresh take on tradition. Since 1973, it has been known by locals and guests as an iconic stop for a delicious selection of international casual


food. This re-imagination presents a relaxed environment, fresh home-style food and service, which is informal in its style, but sincere and warm in its welcome to guests. The soundtrack of world music, curated

from all four corners of the globe, transitions moods through the day. Shamiana is an effortless convergence of casual chic – an all-day breakfast space by day; by night, it transforms into an easy-vibe evening venue that fuses indoor and outdoor. Exclusive to Shamiana is the Taj Autograph menu – signature dishes curated by Taj chefs from around the world. Try a bite of the Big Apple with the Cobb Salad from The Pierre, New York or delve into the British staple of Fish and Chips from St James Court, London. Chicken Bunny Chow – a South African street food tradition – is made from a hollowed-out soft bread bun filled with Durban chicken and vegetable curry, brought all the way from Taj Cape Town. Specialties from Taj Exotica, Maldives and Taj Samudra, Colombo bring their own Sri Lankan spice and Maldivian flair to the Shamiana table.

Qatar’s efficient and transparent tourist visa system QATAR AIRWAYS and Qatar Tourism Authority have signed an agreement with VFS Global, in the presence of Qatar’s Ministry of Interior. The agreement paves the way for an efficient and transparent tourist visa application system that caters to travellers from around the world looking to visit Qatar. The agreement comes as Qatar steps up efforts to attract and welcome more visitors to Qatar in line with Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030 (QNTSS). Qatar Airways and QTA will be working with VFS Global and MOI over the next months to establish the new tourist visa application process, after which full details of the new system will be announced. The steps taken are expected to increase Qatar’s openness ranking on the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index.

From left to right: Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Rashid Al Mazroui, Director of the Airport Passports Department; HE Akbar Al Baker, GCEO of Qatar Airways; Hassan Al Ibrahim, Chief Tourism Development Officer at Qatar Tourism Authority; Zubin Karkaria, CEO of VFS Global; in a group photo after the announcement.

Sarah Brooks appointed as Cluster Director of Human Resources RAMADA PLAZA JUMEIRAH Beach and Ramada Sharjah has appointed Sarah Brooks as the new Cluster Director of Human Resources. Brooks is familiar with the region and the hospitality sector, having worked with ACCOR Middle East in Oman, Ibis and Novotel Hotel in Dubai, Baglioni Hotel, Park Plaza Hotel, and Ibis Hotels Euston & Heathrow in UK. The experiences and skills she gained during this time has set her in good stead over the course of her career, and has strengthened her knowledge, understanding and capability to perform the function as Cluster Director of Human Resources. Prior to taking on her new role, Brooks worked as an HR Manager at Southern Sun Abu Dhabi, where she managed the successful selection and recruitment of the pre-opening team. She was also an active member of the Abu Dhabi HR Managers Network. Within her new role, Brooks will be fully in-charge in all Human Resources requirements of both hotels, and assist the Management in providing consultation from both an operational and strategic perspective, in addition to developing a culture that enables employees to perform in accordance to the hotel’s objectives and strategic goals.



team makes the brand The

A brand is built by its team. It is upto the team to carry the values of the brand to the customer. How are hospitality firms taking care of their teams? What are challenges organisations face building their teams in the region? Top hotel Middle East spoke to three HR managers about what it takes to get the right team in place, and keep them there




company is known by its team. And this is most true in the hospitality industry, where it is the employees who are living ambassadors of the brand they are working for. How easy, or difficult is it then, to find the right person to represent your brand, its value, and offer the best service to your customers? More importantly, what are organisations offering their people in order to truly take care of them and their needs and hence drastically improve loyalty levels. Top hotel Middle East spoke to three different properties - two of Anantara’s new properties in Oman the Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort and the Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara as well as Hilton group - to know more about how they select, train and take care of their teams.

ANANTARA Fatma Hilal Al Sinawi, Director of Human Resources, Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara

Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar - One Bedroom Cliff Pool Villa Exterior

When Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara was conceptualised, there was a need to recruit the right team. With many Anantara properties already in the region, the hiring decisions became easier. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 21


Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Antara

“We have recruited over 10 per cent of our team from within existing Anantara properties within the region, which has many positive effects - development of our people, team members who know our brand, and love to work with our brand, and trained team members who can help integrate people from outside the company into our way of working smoothly,” explains Fatma Hilal Al Sinawi is the Director of Human Resources at Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara. One of the key factors that sets recruitment at Anantara apart is their three-day orientation, which every team member goes through prior to starting work. This enables them to share their philosophies, and stories about the brand, and set the right levels of understanding of what they do, and why they do it.“Once the initial onboarding is completed, then we focus on role plays and very interactive sessions, so new people to the company can start to live and feel our values and commitments prior to actually serving any of our guests,”Al Sinawi adds. For senior employees, new Manager Orientation is provided. “The hospitality culture at Anantara is simple - heartfelt hospitality (in other words Nham Jai) - service from the heart. A well-organised training 22 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

One Bedroom Beach View Pool Villa

Once the initial onboarding is completed, then we focus on role plays and very interactive sessions, so new people to the company can start to live and feel our values and commitments prior to actually serving any of our guests

Fatma Al Sinawi - Director of HR AABS

programme, and interviews prior to hiring, along with a bio-matrix system for senior employees, ensures that all new employees know this. The Anantara properties reflect the culture of the resort location, making sure the guest experience and connect with indigenous local culture,”Al Sinawi says. In this part of the world, Al Sinawi feels the biggest challenge in recruitment is restrictions on nationalities and work permits, and the lack of a pool of qualified candidates.“To meet the localisation percentages from the

UAE, Oman and Saudi, we sometimes visit schools and universities to speak about the our industry. We also encourage internship from local universities and colleges, and to be active with our CSR activities to the society,” she adds. However, the cultural context, because of which locals are not really open to working in hotels, and them preferring government jobs over working in the private sector, is an inhibitor in this process.“Helping them to develop a personal career path, overseas


exposure, core training programmes, and online courses are available to all candidates to help them,” she states. Even though it seems like the region is producing many hospitability professionals, the industry still very much relies on bringing skilled labour from overseas, without developing as much talent through local programmes and affiliations with colleges and training institutes.“It is something we have been working on in Oman, and recently sent eight Omanis from Salalah to Thailand for a month’s cross exposure in our resorts. None of the team members had previous experience in hospitality, but have returned very motivated and enjoying being in their new roles,” she explains. Anantara also helps fresh graduates with their exposure programmes and management training for gradu-

One Bedroom Beach View Pool Villa (External) SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 23


Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar - Resort Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Director of HR - Sami Al Balushi

ates, offered for a duration of up to 18 months, to groom them to junior managers.“Additionally, we offer our team members the opportunity to do cross training in other departments, so they can progress in their career. They also have the opportunity to go to other sister properties so that they can share their expertise and knowledge,” she says. When finding the right candidate, Al Sinawi also has to consider authenticity.“We pride ourselves on our authenticity, so we always need to recruit certain nationalities and skill sets to carry out certain roles. For example, we are still working hard to recruit a Chinese Tea Master, which we will hopefully finalise soon,” she smiles. At Anantara, Al Sinawi tends to focus on recruiting a wide variety of nationalities, first locally, and then a multicultural team from overseas.“In Salalah, for example, we have over 43 different nationalities, with the highest percentage being Omani, and the rest a great mix of talent, with stories to share from all over the world, as far as the USA and New Zealand, as well as from within the expat community within the GCC,” she smiles. For senior positions, Al Sinawi does internal advertising through Taleo, and social media, such as LinkedIn, Caterglobal and Facebook. Recognition programmes and incentives are in place to retain staff.“People’s development and growth, in addition to offering the attractive packages, and ongoing 24 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

It is something we have been working on in Oman, and recently sent eight Omanis from Salalah to Thailand for a month’s cross exposure in our resorts

development programmes such online courses and other certified programmes also help.“We are very careful to follow the local labour law in each country that we work in, as well as reviewing the benefits in each country, to ensure we are aligned with the top competition, and are compensating all our team members competitively,” she clarifies.

Sami Al Balushi, Director of HR, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar

There are some factors that makes the hiring situation easy; and one of these is the reputation of the brand. As a global brand, Anantara thus finds it easier for them to find the right recruits.“Anantara is committed to finding and hiring the best person for each role, taking into account the needs of each job. This will mean the person with the most positive and professional attitude, strong language skills, as may be required in each country of operation, and evidence of either the technical skills needed to do the job – or the ability and potential to successfully develop those technical skills,” states Sami Al Balushi, Director of HR, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar. At Anantara, they follow the philosophy of wanting every guest to experience authentic luxury, with a feel of local culture and traditions, and the

historic heritage and natural beauty of the destination. Since every destination has its unique culture, each property is also different, but maintaining the same Anantara standard. For Al Balushi, the biggest challenge has been to hire the best people, who can also adapt to the life in the mountain.“We are also trying to fill in the position at the residence Al Jabal Al Akhdar with local manpower. In this way, the turnover will be less, and we will also help the community by giving young people jobs and developing them more,” he says. According to him, the region has a lot to offer when it comes to hospitality professionals. Institutions are offering short courses in hospitality, which are already a partner of some hotels. They are also offering on-thejob training, exposing them to the real hospitality industry.“We also have a programme for high school graduates, an internship programme for six months,” he adds. Most of Anantara’s employees fall into the operations category, like in food and beverage, kitchen, front office, and housekeeping, for which Al Balushi takes the help of some recruitment agencies.“Anantara believes in promoting from within. We wanted our employees to grow within the company. However, we are also advertising externally. We make sure that we provide them an environment they can call home. A benefit that is completive enough, and the sense of


Anantara is committed to finding and hiring the very best person for each role, taking into account the needs of each job

AAJA Canyon View Room

Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar - One Bedroom Cliff Pool Villa Bedroom

belonging,” he explains. In addition, keeping with the Oman Labour Law, Anantara also provides medical and life insurance, and the mandated end of service benefits.

HILTON Koray Genckul, Senior Director, HR, Hilton Worldwide Middle East, Africa & Turkey Hilton Worldwide has been present in the Middle East (including Egypt) for over 55 years as a preferred hospitality company and employer of choice for aspiring hospitality professionals. “Given our heritage, our understanding of the region, and our reach across multiple markets within the Middle East, including Egypt, we welcome interest from thousands of applicants every year, as we seek to match our fast-growing portfolio of 58 trading hotels and 74 pipeline properties with talented team members from around the globe,” says Koray Genckul, Senior Director, HR, Hilton Worldwide Middle East, Africa & Turkey. That said, they do not rely on the prominence of their name and brand alone –“we offer team members unrivalled career opportunities, and access to learning and development programmes across our award-winning

Koray Genckul, Senior Director, HR, Hilton Worldwide Middle East, Africa & Turkey

portfolio of hotels,” he adds. At Hilton, the learning and development framework is crucial to attracting the right talent to accommodate their fast paced expansion, with 74 hotels currently in the pipeline in the Middle East and Egypt. Which is why each and every one of their almost 25,000 team members across the region enjoy in-depth training and development opportunities, to ensure they are delivering hospitality in line with the high standards of the brand. “The type of training varies, depending on the team members’ role – from

on the job learning to more theory-based training. While we adapt our approach to the team member in question, we do offer company wide access to several programmes. This includes Hilton Worldwide University, which comprises five colleges offering over 2,500 learning programmes for team members. These programmes are delivered in a variety of ways, including e-learning, webinars, eBooks and articles, classroom training, on-the-job experiences, social learning, iPads, and apps,” explains Genckul. Across their portfolio of 13 brands, and more than 4,700 hotels internationally, Hilton is committed to delivering outstanding hospitality to become the first choice for guests, owners and team members alike. As a rule, they aspire to excellence, and thus hire team members that showcase the same dedication and commitment. “We instil this approach in our team members from day one, and empower them to make the right decisions to deliver on day-to-day requirements, as well going above and beyond to surprise and delight our guests. We promote a learning culture – whether on-the-job or in the classroom – and so, our team members are constantly receiving constructive feedback on SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 25


their service style. This way, we ensure our guests are being met with the same levels of hospitality they’re promised when walking through the doors of any Hilton hotel around the world,” says Genckul proudly. As a global hospitality provider, Hilton aims to bring to life the character and charm of the destinations in which they operate. In the business for over 97 years, and with a presence today in more than 100 countries and territories, Hilton prides itself on understanding the local nuances of their market. “We understand that our guests choose to stay in a Hilton hotel because they want the assurance of staying with a leading hospitality company. Therefore, we implement our global standards in every hotel around the world – but match it to the local culture and the demands of guests in each country. For example, our Chinese guest welcome programme, Hilton Huanying, is present in hotels that welcome a high propor-

tion of travellers from China. We have Mandarin-speakers in these hotels that are able to serve Chinese guests by speaking in their native language to create a ‘home away from home’ experience,” he explains. In an increasingly competitive market, opportunities abound for the employee. So, as Hilton looks at its expansion plans, globally, they are also taking steps to grow and develop their talent. The gap in supply of talented professionals presents a challenge in recruiting for the region’s hotel pipe-

line, in the lead up to major milestones such as EXPO 2020. To overcome this, at Hilton Worldwide, they are creating learning and development programmes, which attract hospitality professionals to a region. “In KSA for example, where we are seeing rapid growth, resourcing is especially important, and through increasing local team member representation in operational roles, namely in F&B, engineering and housekeeping, we are attracting and growing KSA talent into management and technical roles,” says Genckul. These efforts are driven by a series of strategic and long-term HR initiatives, including: • Collaboration with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage which resulted in signing a memorandum of understanding with His Royal Highness Prince Sultan Bin

Hampton by Hilton Dubai Al Qusais

To deliver the transformation of skills and talent across the region, and as we aim to become an employer of choice, we are working hand-in-hand with governments and industry partners to build local Team Member representation

DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai - Jumeirah Beach

DoubleTree Suites Bahrain Dilmunia Island 26 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

Hampton by Hilton Dubai Al Barsha


Salman to select and recruit future graduates of Hospitality scholarship programme (#YourJob_YourScholarship) for employment with Hilton Worldwide upon graduation. Throughout 2016 and beyond, they will be welcoming over 50 male and female graduates of this programme to their Saudi operations. • The Mudeer Al Mustaqbal (Manager of the Future) Programme aims to develop Saudi Nationals in F&B, Front Office and Housekeeping managerial roles in just two years’ time. In 2015, the programme was run in four hotels in three cities (Makkah, Riyadh and Dhahran), and yielded great results. The programme has admitted its first female candidate, as they aim to create opportunities for female employment in KSA. • They also support Saudi Youth@ Work – the result of a partnership between the King Khalid Foundation (KKF) and the International Youth Foundation (IYF). The programme has proved to be a great success, with 145 team members in KSA completing their Passport to Success programme - and 195 external youth exposed to it - as well as 23 Hilton Worldwide team members being trained as trainers themselves. • In 2015, Hilton Worldwide participated in one of the largest career fairs in the Kingdom - “TAWTEEN” in Jeddah. They are also active in attending Chamber of Commerce career days, and collaborating with the government funded TAQAT recruitment centre initiative, to ensure that they are able to identify and recruit many talented Saudi youth. Governments across the GCC have made very conscious choices in driving the private sector’s investment in developing and employing local talent as a means to diversify economic strengths.“To deliver the transformation of skills and talent across the region and as we aim to become an employer of choice, we are working hand-in-hand with governments and industry partners to build local team member representation,” he states. With a series of localisation programmes in place in KSA, Nationals are a core part of Hilton’s workforce. The success of the programmes mean Hilton Worldwide is now exceeding Nitiqat Saudisation quotas, and the

The region has a lot to offer when it comes to hospitality professionals. Institutions are offering short courses in hospitality, which are already a partner of some hotels. They are also offering on-the-job training, exposing them to the real hospitality industry

The Rosemont Hotel and Residences, Curio Collection by Hilton

The Rosemont Hotel and Residences, Curio Collection by Hilton



Hilton Dubai World Central

Hilton Salwa Beach Resort & Villas

Hilton Garden Inn Tabuk

company expects to continue similar positive momentum in the coming years, with the development of its 29 pipeline properties. With the sheer number of hotels and countries that Hilton operates in, they have a very diverse recruitment process.“Prior to any appointment, it is paramount for us to conduct detailed analyses of each role, and the skill set and experience required in order for a candidate to thrive in the position. For instance, if when we were looking for a General Manager candidate for one of our 39 properties in Africa, it is very important for us to select a candidate who has experience, and the right mind to navigate challenges and opportunities presented in what is a diverse market,” explains Genckul. He is also proud of the fact that more than 95 per cent of Hilton’s senior roles are filled internally from across Hilton Worldwide’s portfolio of more than 4,700 hotels.“At Hilton, we have talent development programmes for every level to prepare our team members for their next role and challenge. This structure helps 28 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

For more senior roles, we have regular talent review and readiness meetings among the senior business leaders, where we discuss each individual, his/her readiness, development needs and match these individuals to current and future vacancies

us to build a pipeline of talent to match our growing presence in MEA. For more senior roles, we have regular talent review and readiness meetings among the senior business leaders, where we discuss each individual, his/ her readiness, development needs and match these individuals to current and future vacancies,” he adds. With large numbers of hotels in the region and many more in our pipeline, it is crucial for Hilton to have robust succession planning in place. Their talent management and development activities are the biggest attributes to their talent retention strategy. Hilton is commended for its team member development activities, and is largely

Hilton Garden Inn Doha C Ring Road

accepted as one of the best school in the industry. “That said, our team retention strategies are not limited to training and development activities. Giving our team global career opportunities, providing enhanced team benefits and facilities are also key and major attributes of our ranking as the greatest hospitality company to work for the UAE, and the best company to work for in Turkey, according to Great Place to Work,” says Genckul proudly. In addition to their global benefits schemes – including health insurance plans – Hilton’s local benefits teams also works on enriched benefits plans for their team members across the Middle East, Turkey and Africa. This includes location specific retirement programmes, extended maternity leaves, work schedule arrangement, and longer weekends, to name a few.




Palazzo Versace Dubai merges food, fashion and luxury into a hotel that caters to your most aspirational desires. Top hotel Middle East chats with Sandra Tikal, General Manager, The Palazzo Versace, Dubai, to know more


Palazzo Versace is a luxury hotel in the midst of a number of established brands in the city. How do you differentiate the leisure and business experience on the property, and what are some of the initiatives that help in this? I think the answer to that is in the name of the hotel - we are Palazzo Versace Dubai, an exclusive fashion branded hotel. So, leisure and business guests can expect all the accoutrements of a traditional five-star hotel, augmented by gorgeous decor. Every single piece of furniture and fabric featured in the hotel is exclusively designed and tailor-made by the House of Versace, which is a major draw card, and sets us apart from our competitors. Being a destination hotel, the sort of

place that people travel to see, the idea is then supported by top notch services and amenities - the opulence of Versace encourages people to visit for the first time, and the superior experience enjoyed makes them return. Since you are still in the soft opening phase, what are your current occupancy figures, and have these matched up to your projected expectations for the first year of operation? Considering the fact that we are still in the soft launch phase, the numbers have been very encouraging. Palazzo Versace Dubai has already positioned itself as a premier luxury retreat for leisure travellers, and the figures we have seen in this first year have far


deliers, glassware and tableware from the Versace Home Collection invoke a sense of timeless romance, while the tailored menu selection enables the wedding couple to add their own stamp of personality to the event. The venue as a marriage destination has proved to be very popular for us, offering a truly distinctive wedding package in the region. How did you zero in on the location of the property? How are the road works and other developments still underway in the vicinity affecting the business? The location for Palazzo Versace Dubai was selected for two key reasons. One, it is located along the shores of the historic Dubai Creek, which gives the space a beautiful backdrop, and a real sense of ownership of the region’s past. Two, it is set in the heart of the Culture Village, 15 minutes away from Dubai International Airport and three minutes from the Dubai Metro Station - so it is very accessible to local and international patrons alike. The continued roadwork and developments are, at most, a mild inconvenience at times, but really have no impact on the hotel itself. The benefit of choosing this area, which is set to be the next centre of Dubai, far outweighs any surrounding construction or development downsides.

Main Lobby, Medusa Mosaic

surpassed any of our initial projected expectations. Your F&B outlets offer a very niche culinary offering. How have guests responded to the top notch gastronomic experience at the hotel? The current food and beverage offerings at Palazzo Versace Dubai have been very well received. At Palazzo Versace Dubai, we focus on curated dining - creating individual eating experiences for customised appeal. That concept feeds seamlessly into the identity of Palazzo Versace Dubai; we are more than just a hotel, and at our restaurants, you receive more than just a meal or drink. In addition, we offer eight Versacethemed restaurants and bars, with each

one offering something different. So, while the offerings at each location are niche, there are quite a few to choose from, and most tastes will be catered to within those eight establishments. I suppose you could call it a niche variety - a range of personalised experiences to be enjoyed within individual venues, each raising their own personal toast to the Versace brand’s signature works. What about weddings, is that a concept that the hotel promotes? Tell us more. Absolutely. The hotel actively promotes and welcomes weddings. The dramatic neoclassical architecture of the ballroom, where the weddings are hosted, offers a beautiful setting for any matrimonial celebration. The chan-

How does the hotel cut the fat in terms of spending, without altering the guest experience? A robust employment process, combined with a well-structured management tier means that no unnecessary hires are made. With a hotel the size of Palazzo Versace Dubai, manpower is very important. So, we ensure that everyone we employ is capable of doing the best job possible. This means that we don’t have any excess money being spent on unnecessary personnel, or, for example, have the sort of situation where two or three people doing a job that one person, with correct training, ownership and

The opulence of Versace encourages people to visit for the first time, and the superior experience enjoyed makes them return



Balcony In Room Dining Setup

support, can do just as well - or in most cases, even better. How good is your team? What challenges do you face in terms of the people that work with you in making the hotel a success every day? My team is the best. I have said repeatedly, to anyone who will listen, that a space like Palazzo Versace Dubai is utterly dependent on a strong, well-choreographed work force. The challenge faced is, quite simply, the necessity of lots of smaller departments working together to create a successful whole. Taking ownership of one’s role is important, but so is functioning together as a collective - harmony day in and day out is imperative for running a hotel as big and complex as this one. People come to the hotel expecting, quite rightly so, a magnificent experience. In order to provide that, there needs to be a seamless move from separate pieces to a cohesive, functioning entirety. Which is what my strong and dedicated team work tirelessly to achieve for each and every visitor. How is the hotel being promoted in other parts of the world? Which market do you think internationally is the biggest target audience for your hospitality? 32 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

Giardino, Grill Station

I suppose you could call it a niche variety - a range of personalised experiences to be enjoyed within individual venues, each raising their own personal toast to the Versace brand’s signature works

Being part of the already recognised Palazzo Versace brand means that we have an international identity, which is a definite bonus for a new hotel. Fashion lovers and the sartorial elite obviously make up some of the numbers who are drawn to the hotel. However, our reach is much wider than that. Our target audience is an exciting mix of fashionistas, leisure travellers, locals and business people. In addition, our high-end, yet varied food and beverage offerings, attract a section of visitors who are, what we call, gastronomic tourists. And finally, we have the event and wedding guests, who come from all over the world and stay for a night or two to enjoy the luxury of Palazzo Versace Dubai.

How has the Versace brand adapted to the region and its sensibilities? Throughout the hotel, there is a delicate fusion of Arab and Italian designs. The building itself is reminiscent of a 16th century italian palace, interwoven with subtle traces of Arab architecture. All of the furniture and decor has been specifically conceived by House of Versace for the hotel, and you can see that the Middle Eastern heritage has strongly influenced that iconic, Italian essence of Versace in the designs showcased. With regards to the sensibilities of the region, and the way they are perhaps different from international expectations, every effort has been made to create welcoming spaces for the diverse group of people here, and the accompanying eclectic mix of belief systems that visit the hotel.


PALAZZO VERSACE = luxury and grandeur The Palazzo Versace Dubai is delightful in every way. It’s such a huge enhancement to the local hotel experience in terms of what one expects and what service is on offer. It also is worlds apart from the hotel experience in terms of the exquisite fashion quotient and old Italian elegance visible everywhere inside


riving to the property you do expect it to be different and what you see is a very chic, grand, structure. It’s all about the grandeur, the architecture, the design, the interiors, the expansive space with the pillars reminiscent of a very Mediterranean, very Italian old world meets modern charm. Expect white and gold, huge spaces, glittering chandeliers, vibrant prints, mixed in with exceptional design aesthetics (of course it’s the Versace hotel) as well as muted colour backgrounds that help make all that vibrancy of the prints stand out even more. With 215 rooms steeped in luxury - parquet flooring, carved

columns, pastel furnishings, marble bathrooms, all enveloped in plenty of natural light - there is no facility for the comfort and pleasure of the guest which hasn’t already been thought of. We were checked into their Grand Suite overlooking the Creek. It was an expansive 130 sq metre one bedroom accommodation with a dining area, seating, study area and a powder room. A door led into the huge bedroom with a super king size bed furnished in Versace Home furnishings all finished with the finest silk. The dressing area had a very large walk-in wardrobe and a unique vanity with a Hollywood style mirror which we were informed was designed by Donatella Versace

Expect white and gold, huge spaces, glittering chandeliers, vibrant prints, mixed in with exceptional design aesthetics (of course it’s the Versace hotel) as well as muted colour backgrounds that help make all that vibrancy of the prints stand out even more SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 33


herself. The very large rectangular mirror lit up all around with small bulbs giving the right amount of light to work with while making up. The all-marble bathroom had a tub with a built in jacuzzi, separate shower area with a rain shower head and Versace amenities, of course. When Top hotel reviewed the property, we were informed that the Spa wasn’t open and the only restaurant open for lunch and dinner was Vanitas. Their all day dining restaurant Giardino was only open for the buffet breakfast daily. So we had lunch and dinner at Vanitas. Helmed by Chef Andrea Gaia the restaurant provides authentic simple Italian cuisine which is Pescetarian. Meaning food that includes the flesh of fish and other seafood but no other animal flesh. However, Vanitas does have other options for diners who prefer to eat other animal meat. We arrived almost at closing time for lunch yet Chef Gaia came out to meet us and talked to us about his background as well as asked us what we would prefer to eat if we had any specific allergies or concerns. He left us to choose from the menu or leave it to him to prepare his own selection of dishes especially for us in order to try a lot of the dishes on the menu. We went for the Chef’s selection and waited with excitement at what was in store for us. First up was freshly baked bread and tomato focaccia with olive oil and balsalmic vinegar, followed by thin slices of bread and chickpea and zucchini paste amuse bouche. Extremely flavourful and delicate in taste and of course everything came on the glorious blue and gold medusa head dishes from the Versace Home collection. This was followed by the Burrata very fresh, creamy with more grilled focaccia bread and heirloom garden tomatoes. Then came Grilled octopus with citrus bavarese, confit and shaved fennel. This was my first time eating octopus and I didn’t quite know what to expect. The flesh was melt in the mouth soft and succinctly flavoured and was perfectly complemented by the fresh flavour of fennel. Next was Risotto Alfredo which was a creamy mushroom sauce garnished with crispy chicken wings, white jus and parsley chiffonade. Heavenly and exactly the 34 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

Vanitas table

With 215 rooms steeped in luxury - parquet flooring, carved columns, pastel furnishings, marble bathrooms, all enveloped in plenty of natural light - there is no facility for the comfort and pleasure of the guest which hasn’t already been thought of

kind of comfort food that a bite of creamy risotto feels in your mouth. This signalled for a nap very soon. But we were informed that we weren’t done with the food yet! There was more goodness coming our way. What was next was the beautiful crisp Seared Branzino. The freshest and most delicately flavoured flesh of fish. And we were stuffed. But how could we not try dessert. And exceptional Italian dining meant Tiramisu and a rich chocolate cake from their pastry selection plus a platter of fresh fruit as well from the Chef. Excellent food and even better service. Very well informed staff who engaged very pleasantly with us and all other patrons eating there. The interiors of Vanitas is very avant garde and European, a play with white and red with white walls and red furniture. It reminds you of

the many glamorous and exclusive restaurants you might see in elegant Hollywood movies or read about in fashion magazines with equally well heeled guests dining in their hushed private spaces. Very magnificent. We were to have dinner at Vanitas as well and since we were leaving around 4pm we advised the server that we would definitely not be able to eat so much in a matter of a few hours. Dinner as well was a fantastic affair, we again went with Chef’s selections of specially created dishes. We started with bite-sized baby calzones and cheese pizza with mocktails made to order. The first dish presented to us by Chef Gaia was the Polenta e Baccala which was taggiasca olives and pachino tomato topped with the most glorious marinated tiger prawn. Then came, seared scallops carpaccio with madagascar pepper, banana shallot and fresh shellfish soup. Exceptionally divine and was gone as soon as it arrived. Our final dish of the day was the very exclusive Glacier 51 Cortoccio with puttanesca sauce, crispy potato fish cake and topped with black ink spaghetti. The


Executive Suite

Deluxe Versace Creek View Room


Glacier 51 Toothfish or Patagonian Toothfish, we were informed is a very sought after fish which is only available 2,000 metres below sea level beneath an inhospitable Heard Island which is located 4,109 km from the coast of mainland Australia. This fish is also only available on a select few top restaurant menus around the world. Not surprising then that it was available here. The white flesh of this fish with its melt in the mouth texture and almost sweet flavour are a definite must-try Our request for lesser courses at dinner did not hold for dessert, however. So Chef Gaia made sure we covered up the rest of the courses in dessert! We were given three different and most amazing dishes the Affogato (a chocolate dome over which hot espresso is poured to reveal vanilla ice cream on top of a chocolate sponge) followed by their Piedmont hazelnut and dark chocolate circle and Chef’s special hand made chocolates. A fabulous end to a very special day. The experience was one of a kind, Dubai needed this hotel and the way it takes the customer experience and expectation to the next level. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 35



A taste of



With new initiatives that target different market segments, as well as fine tuning the offerings for the existing traveller, Thailand is all set to achieve the ambitious tourism goals they set. Top hotel Middle East explores


he more mature destinations of the Middle East, such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, are set to become more affordable over the next 12 months as oil prices, currency fluctuations, and burgeoning hotel supply put pressure on everything from hotel rates to air ticket prices. The consumer today is a lot more price sensitive, and also has high expectations on service and quality of food. This will force operators to either live up to the consumers’ standard, or simply go out of business. The scene has changed dramatically in the last five years or so, where consumers now have more choices than ever before. Robust government spending and a rebound in exports were the main factors behind the acceleration of the Thai economy in the first quarter of the year. More recent data shows that SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 37


the positive momentum was carried over into the second quarter. Growth in manufacturing accelerated in May, and business confidence improved in June. “The recent decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union will likely have a limited effect on the Thai economy due their weak links in terms of trade and investment,” says Chalermsak Suranant – Director, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Dubai & Middle East office.


The focus for the year 2016 is to provide quality tourism, and enhance the image of Thailand as a ‘Quality Leisure Destination through Thainess’

In 2015, Thailand received tourism revenue of 35.2 billion Euros (AED 143.3 billion) from the international market, with a growth of 23 per cent over 2014, and visitor arrivals totalling 29.8 million, an increase of 20 per cent from 2014.“The focus for the year 2016 is to provide quality tourism, and enhance the image of Thailand as a ‘Quality Leisure Destination through Thainess’. However, there needs to be a balance between tourism growth and its social and environmental impact,” Suranant adds. The overall quality of the visitor experience is measured by average length of stay and visitor expenditure, which is why their target for this year is 60.6 billion Euros (AED 247 billion) in revenue. Of that total, 39.2 billion Euros (AED 160 billion) will come from international markets, and 21.4 billion Euros (AED 87.1 billion) from domestic travel.

The total visitor arrivals to Thailand in 2015 was 29.8 million, an increase of 20 per cent since the previous year. “Focusing on the Middle East market, tourism receipts in 2015 increased to USD 1.2 billion (AED 4.4 billion), showing a growth of 26 per cent. The number of arrivals from the Middle East also increased by 13 per cent, indicating extremely high average daily expenditure, and the length of stay reflecting the significance of this market,” he explains. The Tourism Authority of Thailand has recently launched the ‘Quality Leisure Destination’ through ‘Thainess’ with sustainable growth by creating ‘value-added experiences’, and striking the balance between revenue, community and the environment. “To ensure that Middle East travellers, as well as tourists from other Muslim nations, get the most out of their Thai travels, TAT is working with tour


operators, hotels and other businesses; such as, hospitals, health centres and restaurants to ensure the needs of Middle East visitors are met. Many hotels and businesses now employ Arabic speaking staff, and there are many restaurants in Thailand that offer halal dishes, both local and international. A mobile application has also been designed to help Muslim travellers find the nearest mosques, halal restaurants, and other facilities of cultural importance to Muslim travellers,”he informs. As a result of these efforts, the Master Card Crescent Rating Global Muslim Travel Index 2016 ranked Thailand second on the list of non-Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) destinations for the second year running. As

part of its expansion plans into this market, Tourism Authority of Thailand has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Emirates Airlines, under which they will put into effect a range of joint promotions to mutually increase tourism and visibility for Thailand through the Emirates Airline Global Network. “The promotions will focus on niche tourism markets such as: Green Tourism, Sport Tourism, Luxury Tourism, Weddings and Honeymoons, as well as Medical Health and Wellness. The agreement also involves the possibility of launching a new route from Dubai to other key tourism destinations in Thailand, such as Chiang Mai and U-Tapao in Pattaya. TAT is also actively

participating in various events, such as Arabian Travel Market 2016, International Medical and Travel Exhibition and Conference, and has been hosting roadshows within the region, including in Oman and Bahrain,” Suranant states. More than 75 per cent of tourists from the Middle East market are what is called FITs, or Fully Independent Travellers. Thailand is witnessing a surge in luxury travel products and services, which are perfectly suited to the Middle East

The agreement also involves the possibility of launching a new route from Dubai to other key tourism destinations in Thailand, such as Chiang Mai and U-Tapao in Pattaya



clientele.“Middle East travellers are renowned for recognising quality, and for seeking out family-friendly luxury offerings, all of which Thailand is famous for,”smiles Suranant. Targeting a different market segment though, TAT is looking to entice more female travellers to the country, with the launch of a special campaign. The Kingdom offers many attractions, with a wide range of activities, special offers, discounts and privileges from the variety of products and services and events aimed at women, whether travelling alone or with groups of friends, were to be arranged across the month of August. The Women’s Journey Thailand campaign is aimed at women travelling individually or in groups, as well as women visiting Thailand with family who might want to enjoy some


activities by themselves. “For the Middle East market, two female celebrities will be invited to join as ‘Thailand’s Middle East Angels’. They will become our Brand Ambassadors to promote Thailand’s image as a potential destination for female Middle Eastern travellers. These celebrities include Amy Kitchingman, a British TV presenter and emcee. She currently hosts her own travel show, On The Go, which airs on Physique TV. A fit and healthy travel show, Amy travels the world, influencing the audience to engage in a more active and healthier vacation. Our other choice is Sheikha Hend Al Qassemi, a multi-faceted Emirati, accomplished artist, successful entrepreneur as well as committed philanthropist. Her latest passion is Velvet, a monthly lifestyle publication


that provides a distinct medium for showcasing the rich diversity of the region, as expressed in culture, arts, and fashion,” Suranant informs. Thailand is complemented with a wide range of high-class attractions and experiences - dining, health, and wellness opportunities, combined with family friendly accommodation and attractions, and world-class shopping experiences.“These are all backed by the touch of Thainess, an innate hospitality that makes every visit to Thailand a unique and memorable experience,” he says. Thailand’s hospitality industry

reached new highs in 2015, enjoying its best year in over two decades, according to research revealed exclusively by leading research institute STR Global at Thailand Tourism Forum 2016, held in January this year at the InterContinental Bangkok. Thailand closed the year with an overall occupancy of 73.4 per cent, an increase of 13.6 per cent over 2014, as arrivals soared to near the 30 million mark, driven by the demand from the mainland China market. December was a particularly strong month as occupancy levels reached 77.4 per cent, the highest levels since 1995.

They will become our Brand Ambassadors to promote Thailand’s image as a potential destination for female Middle Eastern travellers



The Middle East - hospitality’s fastest growing region In 2015 the Middle East and North Africa continued to witness turmoil and instability, with conflicts in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen causing extensive damage. The perceived lack of safety across the region was further enhanced by terrorist attacks, of which some targeting tourists in places like Tunisia, Kuwait and Egypt. HVS’s Hala Matar Choufany and Christina A Zegrea have compiled this regional hotel survey. So while the UAE was covered in an excerpt from the same report in our July issue, below is the rest of the MENA hotel survey




or the Gulf Cooperation Council economies, 2015 has been a challenging year, and the outlook for 2016 remains somber, with growth forecast to slow to 2.7 per cent, down from 3.0 per cent in 2015. Prolonged oil price disturbance will most probably result in further government budget cuts and downward revision of the growth forecast past 2016. Overall, the regional growth is expected to remain below its real potential, as improvement of sociopolitical stability, regional conflicts, safety threats and the price of oil are not expected in the short term.


Following one of the strongest quarters reported in the beginning of 2015, the hospitality sector in Qatar witnessed a decline, with initial statistics for 2016 confirming a similar trend. In spite of strong demand growth of 28 per cent in 2015 following a 32 per cent increase in available supply, the overall hotel market witnessed a 3.3 per cent drop in occupancy, down to 70.7 per cent from 73.1 per cent in 2014. Supply pressure suppressed the ADR as well, which contracted by 5.6 per cent, resulting in an 8.8 per cent RevPAR decline. The branded hotel market reported a similar 8.8 per cent RevPAR decline, albeit this was triggered by seven percentage points drop in occupancy, while the average rate remained stable. Moving forward, the sustainability of the sector remains somewhat questionable in light of the considerable addition to supply committed by the authorities in consideration of hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup. With over 5,000 new rooms introduced to the market in 2015 and a further 26,000 rooms under construction, it is likely that the hotel market will experience challenging years ahead. The prospects are exacerbated as demand is negatively impacted by falling energy prices, government budget revisions and cancellations or stalling of key mega projects in the destination.

New luxury 5 star resort hotel Marsa Malaz Kempinski at The Pearl Doha, Qatar SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 43



The branded hotel market in Manama experienced stronger average room rates for the fourth consecutive year, reporting a 2.0 per cent increase to US$ 230 in 2015. However, occupancy levels dropped by two percentage points, to 53 per cent. The increase in average rate offset softer occupancy levels; however it was not sufficient to avoid the RevPAR fall of 3.6 per cent. The decline in occupancy came as a result of reduced corporate demand on the back of falling oil prices and slower economic activity. The influx of regional leisure visitors, particularly weekend visitation from Saudi Arabia, allowed the market to absorb the addition to supply, which included the Four Seasons Bahrain, Art Rotana and ibis Seef. With over 2,500 internationally branded hotel rooms scheduled to enter the market in the next years, pressure on occupancy and average rate is likely to be observed. Some of the effects may be mitigated by the mega projects currently in the pipeline, such as Dilmunia, The Avenues Bahrain, King Hamad Causeway, Marassi Al Bahrain and Bahrain Marina, which are expected to induce further demand.

Four Seasons Hotel in Manama, Bahrain 44 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

Philip Lange /

The branded hotel market in Manama experienced stronger average room rates for the fourth consecutive year, reporting a 2.0 per cent increase to US$ 230 in 2015. However, occupancy levels dropped by two percentage points, to 53 per cent

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Kuwait City

Kuwait City’s hotel market witnessed weaker corporate and government demand on the back of low oil prices. Nonetheless, the branded hotel market managed to achieve a similar performance in 2015 when compared to 2014, overall reporting a marginal 0.3 per cent decline in RevPAR. This was achieved on the back of demand patterns shifting, with upper upscale properties reporting occupancy decreases as a result of softer government activity and more price conscious corporate clients preferring to book midscale and upscale properties. The deteriorating condition of some upper upscale properties presents another factor triggering the demand shift to midscale and upscale properties, which offer a better value for price. As a result of the drop in occupancy, upper upscale properties had to drive average rate in order to maintain RevPAR, while the upscale and midscale properties saw an opportunity to increase slightly the rates in light of the additional demand. Based on the already limited demand in the market and with roughly a 50 per cent increase in the current branded hotel capacity scheduled to enter the market in the next few years, it is likely that hotels will struggle to maintain occupancy and average rate levels. This highlights the stringent need to further develop and diversify demand in order to ensure sustainability of the sector.

Kuwait City’s hotel market witnessed weaker corporate and government demand on the back of low oil prices. Nonetheless, the branded hotel market managed to achieve a similar performance in 2015 when compared to 2014, overall reporting a marginal 0.3 per cent decline in RevPAR


In spite of Jordan having a tremendous tourism potential on the back of its culture-rich heritage, the ongoing conflicts in neighbouring countries are taking a considerable toll on its tourism sector, especially leisure destinations such as Petra and the Dead Sea. Overall, tourist arrivals declined in 2015 by 21.7 per cent when compared to the previous year, reaching 1,894,094, of which 63 per cent represents Arab countries and domestic visitation. A strong commercial and political centre, the capital Amman is exposed to the regional conflict to a lesser extent, however the tourism sector still reports a declining performance, with the market witnessing a 2 per cent year-on year decrease in RevPAR. This was triggered mainly by the average rate contracting from US$ 153 in 2014 to US$ 150 in 2015. In light of the current safety concerns and economic challenges triggered by a staggering number of refugees hosted by the country, which is not expected to be addressed on the short term, coupled with more than 1,100 fivestar hotel rooms scheduled to enter the market during 2016 and 2017 (including St. Regis Amman Hotel, Fairmont Amman Hotel, Amman Rotana Hotel and W Amman Hotel). it is unlikely that the branded hotel market in Amman will observe a return to 2012 peak levels at any time during the near future. Riyadh Kingdom tower, KSA




With the petroleum sector accounting for roughly 93 per cent of budget revenues, it was expected for the corporate-demand driven hotel markets in Saudi Arabia to experience a decline in performance in 2015. During the year, oil prices fell to historical lows and triggered slowing economic activity across the Kingdom. The branded hotel market in Riyadh was affected to a lesser extent due to ongoing infrastructure projects, reporting occupancy levels of 55.3 per cent, which represents roughly two percentage point drop when compared to the previous year. However, the shrinking demand in the market placed some pressure on the average rate, which dropped slighly from US$ 247 in 2014 to US$ 244 in 2015. As a result, the RevPAR declined by 4.1 per cent for the year. Moving forward, over 8,700 internationally branded hotel rooms are scheduled to be introduced to the market in the next two years, with 1,500 rooms expected to be delivered during the course of 2016. In a scenario where oil prices are not expected to recover in the short term, the addition to supply will likely place pressure on occupancy and average rate levels. The challenges in maintaining occupancy and historically high average rates will be most directly experienced by older properties, which will not be able to effectively compete with new, higher quality supply.

With the petroleum sector accounting for roughly 93 per cent of budget revenues, it was expected for the corporate-demand driven hotel markets in Saudi Arabia to experience a decline in performance in 2015




Muscat continues to develop as a tourist destination, with the tourism authority launching a 25 year tourism vision and investing in large scale projects. The top ten tourism developments are estimated to have a total investment value in excess of US$ 3.3 million. Even though passenger traffic reported a milestone of 10 million passengers in 2015, the branded hotel market witnessed a slight drop in occupancy. This was on account of reduced corporate demand originating from oil and gas companies, and reduced leisure demand as a result of weak currency exchange rates in main source countries. As competition intensified, in order to maximise occupancy the average rates dropped by 8.2 per cent to US$ 215, thereby resulting in a softer RevPAR of 8.9 per cent when compared to previous year. Prospects for 2016 remain pessimistic, however, the market is expected to recover between 2017 and 2018 as mega-developments are due for completion and intensified efforts from authorities to promote the destination are expected to induced further demand. The goal is ultimately to attract 1.4 million international arrivals by 2019, up from 1.1 million in 2015. In recognition of the market’s potential, international operators are rushing to establish presence, with over 3,100 branded hotel rooms expected to be introduced by 2019. This includes Jumeirah Bandar Jissah, Kempinski Hotel Al Mouj, Mercure Muscat Azaiba, and Sundus Rotana Muscat.

Muscat continues to develop as a tourist destination, with the tourism authority launching a 25 year tourism vision and investing in large scale projects. The top ten tourism developments are estimated to have a total investment value in excess of US$ 3.3 million


Following the Arab Spring, the hospitality sector endured dramatic instability, and on the back of safety concerns a return to the peak levels achieved in 2009 was not possible. Nonetheless, in 2015 the tourism sector recorded positive performance, demonstrating strong resilience. As a result of increased international visitation, originating mainly from the GCC and corporate demand generated by the Suez Canal expansion, the branded hotel market reported an impressive 22 per cent year-on-year growth in RevPAR. This was achieved as a result of an 8 per cent increase in ADR, as well as six percentage points increase in occupancy levels. With major projects in the pipeline including the Nile Corniche Project, Citadel Plaza, Uptown Cairo, Cairo Gate and Mall of Cairo, the hospitality sector will witness a considerable transformation and be better able to position itself to cater to younger, more sophisticated travellers. While the majority of the upcoming supply constitutes luxury establishments, including St. Regis Cairo Hotel and JW Marriott Cairo Mena House, there exists an opportunity to develop midscale hotels as well as serviced apartments. Provided that sociopolitical and safety concerns are addressed, Cairo is poised for a recovery with the potential to reach peak occupancy and average rate levels, as major new developments are expected to attract sufficient international and domestic demand to mitigate the addition to supply. 48 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016


Tourist resort, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

Top Performing Hotel Markets The majority of hotel markets witnessed a downturn during 2015 with the exception of a few, including Cairo, Kuwait City and Abu Dhabi. In 2015, the highest occupancy levels were achieved by Ajman, followed by Dubai and Abu Dhabi, while the highest average room rates were achieved in Riyadh, Kuwait City and Jeddah, albeit at the expense of lower occupancy levels. The most lucrative hotel markets in 2015 were Dubai, Jeddah and Muscat, managing to secure the highest regional RevPAR, at US$ 180, US$ 172 and US$ 140, respectively.

over 14,000 rooms in the pipeline, while Rotana Hotel Management Corporation, Millenium Hotels and Starwood Hotels and Resorts contribute in excess of 10,000 rooms to the total development pipeline. These estimates are based on database figures made available by participating international hotel companies. Figure 28 provides an indication of operators in the region, as well as their contribution to the future room supply. In light of the considerable addition to supply, it is imperative for destinations to develop and diversify demand in order to ensure the sustainability of the hotel sector.

Development Pipeline

Revenue Mix

Irrespective of the socio-political and macroeconomic challenges, development in the region is inevitable and remains ongoing. Based on an existing database of roughly 150,000 rooms currently operating in the region, leading hotel operators are expecting to release a further 100,000 rooms between 2016 and 2020. Over 18,000 new rooms are scheduled to be introduced to the market during 2016 alone. The inventory is in various construction phases, and roughly 73 per cent constitutes additional supply in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, with the latter accounting for 41,000 new rooms. Oman boasts the third largest internationally branded pipeline, with roughly 5,000 new rooms in the planning and construction phases. As operators compete to increase their market share and presence, the pipeline for Hilton Worldwide is currently leading the development scene in the region, with a purported 20,000 rooms under development. AccorHotels demonstrates an equally aggressive strategy, with

Regional branded hotel markets are operating in a distinctive way based on specific realities, making the task of identifying a common trend a task not worth considering. While for hotel markets in the likes of Dubai, Riyadh and Jeddah the higher room revenue contribution to total revenue can be attributed to the strong RevPAR achieved, in Doha, the rooms revenue contribution is considerably softer on account of high food and beverage demand emanating from the resident population, as well as high food and beverage average checks. By contrast, branded hotels in Cairo account for an increased food and beverage share as a result of soft RevPAR achieved, which in turn triggers a reduced rooms revenue contribution. While the regional average for other income contribution to total revenue sits at roughly 4.2 per cent, the higher contribution reported for Manama is achieved as a result of limited beach properties. This in turn translates to a high number of spa and health club member-

ships secured by hotels with these facilities, which often times are charged at a considerable premium, thus inflating the spa revenues and the market aggregate. These estimates are based on database figures pertaining to internationally branded hotel companies and should be regarded as indicative only. GOP Performance On account of softer RevPAR performance and subsidy cuts in a number of hotel markets, profit margins declined in 2015 by roughly 2.0 per cent, with the exception of Cairo and Kuwait City. Cairo managed to report a five percentage points increase in profitability margin on account of an impressive 21.8 per cent RevPAR growth, while Kuwait City branded hotels operators managed to slightly improve their profitability margins by maintaining relatively the same RevPAR and better managing their expenses. Nonetheless, GOP margins in key regional destinations remain at high levels averaging 41.8 per cent in 2015. The highest profitability overall is reported in Kuwait City and Riyadh, with both destinations averaging 49 per cent - 50 per cent of total revenue, albeit energy subsidies were available in both markets. In 2016 the profitability in Saudi Arabian markets is expected to decline, as the authorities have increased domestic power, water and fuel prices in an attempt to boost the government budget, currently severely impacted by historically low oil prices. A similar initiative has been recently announced in Kuwait, however, no dates for implementation have yet been announced.

Outlook Cycles will undoubtedly exist, however several markets in the region have proven their resilience during challenging times, and any marginal improvements in macroeconomics, local political or local economic conditions will likely stimulate the regional tourism sector to renewed peak levels. In the meantime, in recognition of the region’s tourism potential, the World Travel and Tourism Council projects for the Middle East a total travel and tourism contribution to GDP growth rate of 4.9 per cent reaching US$ 328.2 billion by 2026. This will be sustained by tourism investments amounting to US$ 74.5 billion by 2026, at 5.4 per cent annual growth rate from US$ 41.8 billion in 2015 -Excerpt from HVS’s Middle East Hotel Survey. Full report on SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 49


Building Dubai’s first hotel



M. Zacky Hameed, he’s a hotelier and an old timer on Dubai’s hotel scene. He helped built what was then the first hotel in the city - the Dubai International Hotel in the early 1980’s. It is now the Le Meridien Airport hotel. Munawar Shariff chatted with him about his experiences and memories from back in the day


y memory of Dubai at the time of opening the Dubai International Hotel is as depicted in the picture of a stray camel resting beside the staff compound at the back of the hotel. My wife was too eager to get a closer look at the camel as she had never seen one before,” states Zacky Hameed. Hameed was part of the opening team at the Dubai International Hotel, one of the first hotels in the country.“Tourism in Dubai, as it is today, was the last thing on their (authorities) minds at that time. Then all they wanted was a good quality luxury hotel to attract international businessmen, who were involved in the infrastructure construction of the country. Dubai in particular. This was in the early 1980’s and ours was the hotel closest to the airport at that time,” he smiles. Zacky Hameed was, at the time, used to being at the busy Heathrow Airport terminals and its very popular hotels in the vicinity. He was selected to work for this first Dubai hotel because he had the experience of being part of the opening team of the 600-bedroom Heathrow Post House Hotel,

He was selected to work for this first Dubai hotel because he had the experience of being part of the opening team of the 600-bedroom Heathrow Post House Hotel, so he was ready for the challenge and work involved

so he was ready for the challenge and work involved.“I was part of the pre-opening team. We had the GM, executive housekeepers, maintenance team, and one or two others at the start. We were camping out at the Astoria Hotel, which I remember, had a bathroom bigger than the bedroom!” he laughs. The Dubai international hotel project was the brainchild of Abdulla Al Moosa, who Hameed believes was the first Emirati architect – he is the owner of Arenco. The massive wooden palm trees featured in the foyer, and the overall vastness of the reception area, was in itself a warm welcome to any foreign guest entering the hotel. The 3/4 atriums shot off the foyer. It was 400 bedrooms spread around two floors as SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 51


Hotel foyer, with the wooden palms.

they could go no higher, being close to the airport. The structurally sound buildings themselves lasted very well, with continuous refurbishing, modernisation and the building of the Royal Club to meet today’s luxurious needs. “All credit to Ranjan Nadarajah, a Financial Controller turned General Manager, who had hands-on operational experience, and a trained eye for detail at all levels, at all times, for the financial and operational sustainability. He has been the GM of this property for over 30 years, and he is still involved with the owning company. His love and affinity and loyalty to Dubai is incredible!” says Hameed, adding,“I would consider him as a pioneer of the hotel scene in Dubai.” Dubai International Hotel had contracted a Korean company to build the hotel. Hameed still remembers the blue uniforms, and long working hours they put in to complete the job on time.“I also remember an American who was a veteran of the Vietnamese war, who was the Project Manager. Occasionally, we used to visit the Korean team to taste their cooking. This project manager used to also regale us with his war stories of how they used to differentiate between their friends and enemies (the Viet Congs), who were all Vietnamese. They used to use trained sniffer dogs to identify the enemies by sniffing their sweat which would have spices from their food - as each tribe used a different set of spices in their food. There were many more such stories,” he muses. Setting up a new hotel is hard 52 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

in. es just put irs and tabl ha c e th g stin fee Shop, te e Hotel Cof th t a ife w Me and my

Stray camel, with the builders /workers housing in the background. work, every room, every element has to be shipshape and ready for the guests.“I remember we had gold plated taps in the Presidential suite - a novelty at that time, and perhaps even now,” he laughs. When the executives and the key staff arrived as needed, the opening team moved to the brand new Hilton apartments, adjoining the World Trade Centre, which was the tallest building at that time.“I remember an occasion when a shamal - a sandstorm - took us by surprise overnight, and we were marooned by sand. The only escape route, Sheikh Zayed Road, had become impassable,” he reminisces. Most of the recruitment for the staff was done from the Philippines – about 400 people. And the hotel opened on time.“We shook

The Dubai international hotel project was the brainchild of Abdulla Al Moosa, who Hameed believes was the first Emirati architect – he is the owner of Arenco

hands with H H Sheikh Rashid on the opening day, and made the GOP (gross operating profit) within a year,” he says proudly It was then time for Hameed and his wife to move on to greener pastures in Jeddah, where he started as Director of Personnel and Training at the Alhamra Nova Park Hotel, while his wife re-joined the British Embassy in Jeddah. According to Hameed, the Dubai hospitality scene has skyrocketed in the last 25-30 years. The Dubai government had a vision for the development of the tourism industry, and offered good incentives and concessions to multinational brands to pitch their tents here. Justifiably, the multinational investors understood the long term viability of investing in Dubai. And the timing was right, too, as the global economy was slowly shifting from the West to the East. “The never-ending growth in the


hotel sector, encouraged by new international brands like the Emirates Airlines, the Palm Jumeirah, Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa, coupled with the Government’s long-sighted vision of attracting a diverse range of industries and business sectors, have re-kindled Dubai to develop a sustainable economy, which, in my opinion, is the envy of the modern world,” he says. Dubai is changing rapidly, and operators are now choosing Dubai to establish their presence here. Also, most Europeans can now afford to venture out further than Spain, Portugal, Italy, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey for their annual holidays. The success of China and the Far East in the millennium has brought more scope to target a wider market, and the long term plan is taking shape nicely for Dubai. “Most of the affluent class patronise the luxury hotels now seeking a high end experience. But there are more people in the world who would like to visit Dubai, and would settle for functionality over luxury, but the cost of flights and hotel tariffs prohibit them the opportunity now,” feels Hameed. “In my opinion, Dubai’s tourism market needs more budget hotels as well, to attract all levels of tourists continually after the Expo 2020 (and for Qatar, after World Cup 2022).

There will still be a demand for the upper crust, high-end five star hotels, as they operate now. More upskilled staff in line with market standards will become a necessity for Dubai’s success in the luxury hotels, to exceed expectations with a ‘Satisfaction Plus’ service,” he adds. Additionally, Dubai needs to encourage package holidays, charter flights, etc, as they do in Europe and USA.“It would make good business sense to attract more and more tourists. Dubai has the infrastructure, the attractions, good airline connections, a fast metro service, and taxi transport. With more attractions in the pipeline, and the willingness of the forward-looking, tourism-centred government, and the populace, which genuinely accepts tourism, this long term plan is achievable,” he predicts. On a recent visit to Dubai, Hameed was particularly impressed by the rapid pace of development in Dubai, with the Palm, the Marina, and other new developments. This has helped Dubai create a WOW factor, which cannot be erased once you have experienced it. While he feels that most hotels and tourist facilities are well established, service standards differ, as Dubai is

generally perceived as a destination for the rich, high-end tourism market.“In fact, some luxury hotels seem to be striving hard to keep up to their high-end perceptions, and this is exposed in some reviews,” he nods, adding,“A luxury hotel is sold on ‘perceptions’. If the guest’s expectations are not met with as promised, either verbal, written or implied; and not offered or made available, the guest is entitled to complain, and the hotel may lose their customer for good. One must remember that it costs money to get a guest through the door for the first time. It costs you nothing if the guest returns to you again. That’s goodwill and good business practice - perceptions have to be met.” The hospitality industry in Dubai is changing at a rapid pace, as the present infrastructure is focused to facilitate tourism for years to come. “There seems to be a continuous effort to build more hotels to suit every need in the future. This will attract tourists into Dubai for a long period of time. Also, the Government’s forward thinking of the policy on tourism is excellent, and a right move in the right direction. It is great to know that they know what

It was 400 bedrooms spread around two floors as they could go no higher, being close to the airport. The structurally sound buildings themselves lasted very well, with continuous refurbishing, modernisation to meet today’s luxurious needs



Old Dubai

they want for the future of Dubai. The confidence I have is that they will achieve it fast, judging by my past experience of what I have seen then and now in such a short period of time,” he smiles. In conclusion, Hameed shares some of the most memorable moments of his career: AT THE BAHRAIN HOTEL SCHOOL: I had to teach a class of starters how to chop an onion. The chopping board, knife and onion were all in place and all the students stood side by side. Task one was to peel it. Task two - cut it into two halves, and so on. The teacher demonstrated one. This particular student who was a show off, placed the onion on the centre of the board, raised the chopping knife very high, and hacked the onion as if he was chopping logs. The two halves went flying. One landed outside the window, and the other half hit a girl on her eye, smashing her spectacles. Fortunately, she was not injured badly. I can never forgive that youngster, or forget what I’d seen! DUBAI INTERNATIONAL HOTEL: There was a minor fire in the executive staff lounge about 1am, after everyone had left. It was suspected that smoking was the cause. The fire authorities managed to control the fire, but the police wanted a list of everyone seen 54 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

Setting up a new hotel is hard work, every room, every element has to be shipshape and ready for the guests. “I remember we had gold plated taps in the Presidential suite - a novelty at that time, and perhaps even now,” he laughs

in there that night, just before the incident. They rounded up about seven people, me included. We were taken to the police station, and questioned individually. They couldn’t find out who did it, so by 3am, we were all locked up. Fortunately for us, a high ranking gentleman from the Ruler’s Office got us out at 10am the next morning. HOTEL IN SAUDI ARABIA: I had a late breakfast in the coffee shop of the property I was working in. I couldn’t get the sugar out of the sachets to fall freely, as it had dried up in the sachet. I

Deira Clock Tower, Dubai

checked all the other tables, and they were all dried up due to air conditioning. I was in a hurry to leave, and told one of the waitresses to “empty the sugar bowls, soften the sachets, and put it in the bowls”. Later that afternoon when I was passing by I just glanced at the sugar bowls and was shocked to see that the waitress had opened all the sachets, softened the sugar, and emptied all of it into the bowl! I learnt a lesson in communication skills. What I meant was for her to loosen the sugar inside the sachet, and leave them as they were inside the bowl. I should have demonstrated one, and showed her exactly what to do. You live and learn!


When the executives and the key staff arrived as needed, the opening team moved to the brand new Hilton apartments, adjoining the World Trade Centre, which was the tallest building at that time


Dubai clock tower, with my wife in the foreground

M. Zacky Hameed,

B.A.(Hon), MHCIMA, MCFA, M.Inst M Hameed started his hospitality career at Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, UK. He had the privilege of studying under famous lecturers cum authors like Harry Cracknell, Gerald Kaufmann, Peter Harris, Victor Ceserani and Kinton. He then proceeded to Cornell University in New York for further studies in hotel administration. On his return to the UK, he joined the Trust House Forte Group’s Airport Hotels division as a trainee executive assistant manager at Heathrow Airport, which was the busiest in the world at that time, with either a plane landing or taking off every minute of the day. Very similar to Dubai airport now. He was appointed food and beverage manager/catering manager after training, and worked at Skyline, Excelsior and Airport Terminals 1 and 2, and he was part of the pre-opening team of the brand new, 600-bedroom Post House Hotel in Heathrow airport, which was the biggest hotel in London. With hands-on operational experience, and armed with a sheaf of academic certificates, he became a lecturer in Lancashire. From here, he was offered a position as the Senior Lecturer at the ILO Hotel School in Bahrain, where his wife Pamela was employed as a lecturer in Reception and English. This was the first and only Hotel School in the Gulf. Here, they taught students from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Dubai. He learnt Arabic while working here, and is still in contact with some of his ex-students, who manage hospitality operations all over the Middle East. From here, he was offered a job by his old firm Trust House Forte for their first venture into the Middle East, which was the 400-bedroom Dubai International Hotel (now named Le Meridien Hotel), owned by late His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum. This was his second experience in opening a hotel. This followed the period of opening luxury hotels all over the Middle East to cater to the incoming guest traffic related to building the infrastructure of these countries. He was then approached by the Swiss International Hotels

Group, based in Zurich, to assist them with the opening of the Alhambra Nova Park, Red Sea Palace, Athalla House, Al Khozama, and Al-Jubai International, all in Saudi Arabia. As the Director of Personnel and Training, he was in charge of selective recruitment, executive and staff housing, HR and Visa affairs, and training and development of all staff. His responsibilities involved training the General Managers and Heads of Departments, and their families, mainly on the customs and traditions, and the law of the land, when working in Saudi Arabia. He conducted courses in Management and Supervisory Skills training, Induction courses, Social Skills and Complaints Handling, On-the-Job (OTJ) courses, and even Train-the-Trainer courses for the continuity of skills at department level. Any new staff recruited were made to undergo a couple of days training in every department to get to know the job of their colleagues, and to develop their interpersonal and inter-departmental skills. Personally, Hameed kept learning from his own students, and from his own mistakes. His methods were based on teaching, learning, and assessment, to ensure that the hotel’s standards of performance are maintained to cater to the set brand standards at all times. This needed a high degree of commitment to training from the GMs, HODs, and Supervisors to identify the training needs regularly (especially when a complaint arises, to nip it in the bud). Staff development is best achieved by training and re-training, which should be a continuous process and not just for pre-opening. Hameed is a strong believer in raising and maintaining the standards of the hospitality industry by teaching the unknowing, and reminding the knowing, that there is a way to reduce complaints and to increase the delivery of service to the satisfaction of every guest who is able and willing to pay for their expectations. Oman – 36 with 7,087 rooms Qatar – 47 with 13,323 rooms Saudi Arabia – 143 with 50,643 rooms SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 55


Hotel revenue

management 56 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016


Justin Kaminski, Project Manager at HVS Chicago and Breanna Smith, Associate with HVS Portland, have put this report together on how yields can be maximised at a hospitality property


oosely speaking, revenue management (AKA “yield management”), a cornerstone of successful hotel operations, follows a formula: sell the right product to the right customer at the right time for the right price. Hoteliers accomplish this by effectively balancing occupancy and rate strategies to maximise revenue.

A brief history of revenue management The concept and modern practice of revenue management originated in the 1970s when airlines began experimenting with new ways to fill seats without sacrificing ticket prices. To do this, they analysed historical booking patterns of individual and subgroups of travellers. Two of the earliest approaches took the form of overbooking flights and offering discounts to passengers who book early. Overbooking worked on the principle of predicting the number of passengers who would not show up for a specific flight and selling those seats again to new passengers. Airlines would analyse historical data for similar flights, looking specifically at how many ticketed passengers did not arrive, and overbook by the same number. This practice all but guaranteed that all seats would be filled on a given flight. To maximise potential revenue further, airlines also began to change ticket prices throughout the booking

cycle and gauge corresponding demand levels. Airlines would allocate a number of seats three or more months from the departure date at a lower ticket price, typically appealing to the leisure traveller to provide a base of business for a specific flight. As the departure date approached, airlines would increase rates to maximise yield, knowing most of these last-minute travellers (often commercial customers for whom the travel was necessary and inflexible), would pay the higher price.

Hoteliers adopt the trend These practices became known as “yield management,” and hoteliers did not take long to adopt them. The move made sense for hotels, which also looked to maximise revenues with a pricing strategy based on historical consumer purchasing analytics and demand trends. In the late 1980s, larger hospitality companies implemented similar strategies, and Sheryl E. Kimes’ oft-cited paper,“The Basics of Yield Management,” appeared in the Cornell Quarterly in November 1989. Today, revenue-management strategies are woven into the very fabric of successful hotel operations, and they continue to evolve.

Hotel revenue management For hotels, revenue management varies by asset type, location, brand, management, and ownership. Strategies, however, tend to focus on two segments of demand: transient and

Successful hotel operations have a formula - sell the right product to the right customer at the right time for the right price. Hoteliers accomplish this by effectively balancing occupancy and rate strategies to maximise revenue

group. These two segments serve as the foundation for the pricing and mix of business at a particular hotel. Hoteliers must understand each, as well as how they work together, to develop an effective pricing strategy for a hotel.

Transient business Transient pricing strategies are designed for individual guests staying at a hotel, whether for business or for pleasure. Essentially, transient guests are not affiliated with a group booking or a contract block agreement. This section presents a basic approach to maximising transient revenues, including effective pricing, segment pricing strategies, inventory management, and forecasting.

Technology, pricing, and guest satisfaction

Optimised, time-sensitive, and customer-targeted pricing strategies for hotel rooms are typically arrived at in one of two ways (or a combination of both). The first simply relies on experienced managers or management teams, who price rooms based on their knowledge of competitive products and pricing, as well as their property’s historical and forward-looking trends. These managers now have access to competitor rates through several sources that allow them to “shop” comSEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 57


petitor rates by searching published online travel agency (OTA) rates automatically. A strategy coming more into widescale use is to set pricing with the help of sophisticated software and revenuemanagement systems developed by hotel brands, management companies, and outside consultants. Today’s top hotel companies invest heavily in software that aids revenue-management decisions. Examples include HiltonGro (Hilton), One Yield (Marriott), and IDeaS and Duetto, which are independent systems used by many hotel franchises and independent hotels. The playing field has been levelled somewhat between branded and independent hotels related to access to these high-tech systems. The upfront cost of these systems was in the US$30,000 to $50,000 range until about four years ago, a prohibitive cost for most inde-


Beyond these, there are “metasearch” websites (e.g., Kayak) that provide a “one-stopshop” listing of hotel room rates, directing guests to either a hotel’s website or a third-party website for booking (whichever has the lowest rate or best meets the search criteria)

pendent hotels and small boutique hotels in particular, even given the higher average rates at such properties. With the advent of cloud-based systems and increased competition, these new high-tech systems can be acquired for an upfront cost of between US$7,000 and $10,000, with monthly fees now between US$6 and $10 per available room per month. Both methods rely heavily on evaluating the historical performance of a specific hotel, forecasted demand and occupancy, and vigilant monitoring of competitor pricing. The benefits of going high-tech include the ability to gather and monitor mass amounts of complex data on demand in real time, so that managers can accordingly adjust

pricing strategies based on market conditions and competitive moves. These revenue-management systems “learn” and provide suggested rates based on their analysis that no human can replicate. The technology cannot, however, be left untended, and even the most sophisticated systems and algorithms do not replace a revenue manager’s ability to gauge forces in the market that can affect pricing. These factors include the state of the local, regional, national, and global economies; demand and pricing levels induced by non-recurring special events; and general knowledge of market dynamics. Mark Lynn, head of HVS’s Asset Management & Advisory group in San Francisco, notes that, despite the vital data it produces,“the use of technology alone is a short-sighted approach. There are always unique circumstances


occurring in a hotel’s competitive environment that may not show up in the numbers.” Lynn argues that hotels must provide “price value” to guests, something that can be sabotaged by strict reliance on technology.“We have seen situations where the technology dictates the setting of outrageous rates based on high demand.”While guests may be forced to book one time, he says, they leave feeling coerced, and are unlikely to return.“There has to be a balance of logic and guest satisfaction injected into the rate-setting process,” Lynn says.

Pricing strategies suited to demand The level of support in setting room rates differs with a hotel’s product type, location, and brand. Management teams review and adjust rates daily - often frequently throughout the day - and make tactical decisions on rates over the next 90 days. It is extremely important to have longerterm strategic pricing guidelines in place that are determined annually in strategy meetings with hotel leadership. These long-term rate strategies serve as a basis for adjusting rates during shorter-term tactical initiatives. Typically, hotel management will employ one of the two following strategies to price rooms. The first is a“weekday versus weekend” strategy, with one guestroom rate for Sunday through Thursday and another for Friday and Saturday. Another approach is known as the “dynamic” pricing strategy. Used to maximise pricing during the highest levels of occupancy, the dynamic approach also allows the flexibility of offering lower guestroom rates on shoulder nights around peak occupancy days, as well as on weekends. Hoteliers will also home in on pricing for specific segments of transient demand, including commercial, leisure, government, and extended stay. Examples of pricing strategies specific to these segments are listed below. Special corporate pricing: Commercial guests, defined as those travelling on business, will frequently book within a shorter period, and typically have a larger budget for travel. Larger companies will often negotiate for spe-

cial rates given the high levels of business they produce for a hotel. These negotiated room rates may be offered locally or across multiple properties nationally and help establish a strong occupancy base for hotels. In markets with limited corporate demand, hotels will often offer one commercial rate for business travellers. Leisure packages and advance bookings: Leisure demand designates hotel guests travelling on vacation, visiting friends or family, and for other reasons not associated with a business purpose. These guests are characterised as price-sensitive travellers, prone to search for the best deal. Hotel management will offer a variety of special rates and packages designed to add value for leisure guests. These packages may include free amenities such as breakfast at the hotel or tickets to a show or other local attractions. Another pricing tool is known as the “advanced purchase rate.”This discounted rate normally requires an advance reservation with a full, usually non-refundable deposit, appealing to leisure guests with definite travel plans made well ahead of the date of travel. Contract agreements: Contract agreements are designed for industries that need a constant supply of guestrooms. For hotels located near an airport or a major seaport, for example, contract agreements with airlines or cruise ships can be an effective pricing strategy. Hotels with a large supply of guestrooms often benefit from these agreements, which can provide a foundation for consistent occupancy. It is important to note, however, that these agreements are often secured at lower rates given the large quantity of room nights provided throughout the year. Third-party booking agencies and online travel agencies: Third-party booking agencies and online travel agencies (OTAs) allow guests to book hotel rooms, along with flights, rental cars, and other travel conveniences, online. These entities typically operate in one of three ways. “Merchant” websites (e.g., Expedia, Orbitz) offer guestrooms for a given date from hotels in a market, and guests can search among selected hotels by name. Merchant sites then receive a commission for each guest-

room booked. Independent hotels can limit the number of rooms allotted to the merchant sites on any given day, but most branded hotels cannot. “Opaque” hotel booking websites (e.g., Hotwire, Priceline), by contrast, offer guestrooms by rate, without identifying the hotel by name until after a guest has chosen and finished the booking. Opaque sites allow hotels to offer deeper discounts without violating rate-parity agreements, which compel hotels to offer consistent pricing across the brand. Beyond these, there are “metasearch” websites (e.g., Kayak) that provide a “onestop-shop” listing of hotel room rates, directing guests to either a hotel’s website or a third-party website for booking (whichever has the lowest rate or best meets the search criteria). The graphic below provide some examples of each type of company, as well as some pros and cons of each from the perspective of hoteliers regarding third-party sites as a whole.

The benefits of going high-tech include the ability to gather and monitor mass amounts of complex data on demand in real time, so that managers can accordingly adjust pricing strategies based on market conditions and competitive moves

Direct bookings: Direct bookings through brand-managed websites have become increasingly popular at hotels, which offer special rates and conveniences to guests who book directly. Common offers include complimentary wireless Internet, a percentage discount, a complimentary room upgrade, late checkout, or other incentives. Direct bookings and associated rewards also help increase brand loyalty, as well as freeing the hotel from commissionable payments to third parties and the reduced risk of rate parity. Hotel companies have continued to promote direct bookings with advertisements and appeals to frequent traveller members. Major hotel brands including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group, Wyndham, and Choice have begun to aggressively encourage direct bookings at company hotels. The discounts offered by the brands are now a direct challenge to the OTAs and provide owners with the ability to increase the SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 59


average rates they would receive from the OTAs.

Inventory management In addition to determining pricing strategies for transient guests, revenue management involves management of the hotel’s physical inventory of guestrooms. Revenue managers maintain inventory through “straight-line availability,” that is, a process of ensuring that all guestroom types are available at all times. This allows guests to continue booking specific room types, as well as long-term stays, by ensuring a certain number of each type of room is available each day. Revenue managers must also recognise when certain room types should not be made available, such as on high-occupancy days. This allows higher-rated rooms to sell, maximising revenue. Some hotel companies now have revenue-management systems that help manage inventory, as well as pricing, by forecasting demand by room type and occupancy. Inventory management is especially crucial and complex during a property renovation, when a selection of the hotel’s rooms is out of inventory.

Forecasting Hotel management relies on accurate occupancy forecasts for the basis of hotel operation, including all staffing, supplies, and food and beverage needs. These forecasts influence minor and major decisions aimed at running a hotel as efficiently as possible. Similar to pricing, a hotel’s occupancy forecasts are made continually and based on reviews of historical data and current trends. The newest sophisticated revenuemanagement systems forecast by market segment so that rates per different channels and sources can be adjusted to maximise revenue. For example, revenue managers will compare the hotel’s year-over-year occupancy levels to gauge where bookings stand for specific timeframes. Management will also evaluate the more recent trends, such as the current guest-booking window and the 90-day room-night trends. 60 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

Optimised, time-sensitive, and customertargeted pricing strategies for hotel rooms are typically arrived at in one of two ways (or a combination of both)

While historical information helps guide the process of pricing and inventory management, a view on current trends is essential to gauge changes in the market (such as new supply and economic factors), as well as guest preferences and buying behaviors.

Meeting and group business

Meeting and group demand capture forms the second half of a hotel’s revenue-management strategy. Groups normally need a block of at least 10 guestrooms over a defined timeframe and may require meeting space, as well. These groups can include commercial or leisure guests and can book anywhere from 30 days to several years prior to their dates of stay, depending on the size and scale of the group and/or meeting. The following presents some considerations for an effective meeting and group revenue-management strategy.

Group ceiling A hotel’s “group ceiling” refers to the maximum number of rooms dedicated to group blocks for any given day of the week. This ceiling is defined, essentially, by how many rooms need to remain in inventory to maximise full revenue potential with transient segments. This can vary by season, market, and type of hotel. Hotels with fewer guestrooms relative to those in their competitive set should be more selective with their group bookings and careful not to displace more higher-rated business, while larger hotels have more flexibility.

Meeting space Revenue managers need to evaluate if and how much meeting space is needed when booking groups. Considerations for evaluating a group’s meeting space needs include: These considerations help determine whether and to what extent group bookings align with the overall revenue-management strategy at a

hotel. They also apply to determining whether a hotel can maximise revenue.

Displacement Displacement refers to the amount of business being displaced by booking meetings and groups at a hotel. Managers begin to gauge displacement based on an evaluation of demand from this segment in the current year versus the one prior, including which groups have been confirmed, which are tentative, and which are prospective. This is then compared against projected transient room-night demand and rates over the same timeframe, as well as local events that may produce spikes in demand. Hotel managers use a series of questions to evaluate the positive and negative impacts of group bookings, including how and to what extent meeting and group business may result in displacement. These include: • How much revenue will a meeting or group booking create for the hotel in the form of room nights, food and beverage, and/or meeting space rental? • Does the meeting or group booking threaten to displace higher-rated transient business? • Could taking smaller groups at a higher rate sell out the hotel in other segments? • Is the group a rooming list or a call-in? • Will the group sign a contract with attrition for rooms not occupied? • Does the group have a history at the hotel (or at another hotel) from which data can be drawn and evaluated? The range of such questions will depend on a hotel’s size, service level, and attributes of its market. However, focused inquiries of this type are essential to maximising revenues when bidding for group business.

Citywide events In metro markets with large, dedicated convention facilities, demand capture from “citywide” conventions becomes a central component to maximising hotel revenue. The biggest citywide events, such as the Super Bowl or the GITEX in Dubai, can create enough demand to saturate local hotels and


even expand to surrounding markets. The influx of demand from these kinds of events also allows hotels to command much higher room rates and capture definite lengths of stay. Smaller-scale, lower-rated citywide conventions and events can also generate significant demand; moreover, hotels can command higher rates through guests booking outside of a prearranged citywide group block or through transient guests booking at the same time as but not affiliated with the convention/event.

Revenue management and hotel evaluation Because they have so much to do with a hotel’s profits and operational efficiency, revenue-management strategies ultimately play into a hotel’s value. Although a valuation does not include an explicit assessment of a

hotel’s revenue-management strategy, some knowledge of a hotel’s successes and challenges in this regard is inherent to a comprehensive appraisal. The following chart examines how two revenue-management strategies, one extensive and the other more limited, give an appraiser a more thorough understanding of a hotel’s operation.


hotel brands. The importance of an experienced management team, however, cannot be displaced when it comes to using data to hone a revenue-management strategy focused on transient versus meeting and group business at a hotel. Overall, efficient hotel operations depend on revenue managers keyed in to all elements of a hotel’s dynamics, including rates, occupancy, demand, and competition. The right blend of smart technology, experienced managers, and well-honed strategies, in the end, forms the basis of successful revenue management for any hotel.

These factors include the state of the local, regional, national, and global economies; demand and pricing levels induced by nonrecurring special events; and general knowledge of market dynamics

Over the course of its evolution since the 1970s, revenue management has continued to challenge and reward hoteliers. Effective revenue-management strategies have become more complex in the age of fast-moving technological innovations, and software-based strategies that gather and draw from wide-ranging datasets have become the norm for


La Collection de Grasse

Jasmin & Bergamote Your guests would experience the finest L’OCCITANE creation…and bring back home a souvenir as an unforgettable moment spent in your property… La Collection de Grasse by L’OCCITANE EN PROVENCE amenities. Jasmin-Bergamote available in 30 ml, 50 ml, 75 ml and 50g soap bar. Honoring the heritage of Grasse, the perfumerie capital of the world, this inspiring collection brings together ingredients from close & distant lands to create exceptional fragrances, with superior Grasse expertise. L’OCCITANE created the refreshing Jasmin floral range inspired by selected refined ingredients: bergamot essential oil from Italy and jasmine absolutes from Grasse (France). Top noTe: Bergamot, Mandarin Middle noTe: Jasmin, Lemon leaves Base noTe: Santal, Cedar. An eco-friendly paraben free range (certificates available), satisfying your VIP guests, adapted to all genders from all over the world, with special ingredients, reassuring gentle formulas for all skin types ensuring sensorial textures and experience. To come: Turndown, VIP gifts, Green Tea scented range.

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Suited for


Working with the leading brands of skincare means getting to try one fantastic product after another. Once again we have a fantastic collection of effective and revolutionary products that really work hard to give you beautiful and better looking skin

COMFORT ZONE SKIN REGIMEN RENEWER MASK, 55ML, AED 437: A very smart product I must say. In about 10 minutes it give you really smooth, soft, skin. The exfoliating mask removes surface debris to reveal visibly smoother skin. Very pleased with the results.

ELEMIS BRITISH BOTANICAL BODY CREAM, 200ML, AED 210: Skin softening body cream nourishes and hydrates. Using ingredients from the English countryside such as lavender, chamomile, geranium and palmarosa all blend to give skin the moisture and care it needs.

ELEMIS HYDRA BOOST SENSITIVE DAY CREAM, 50ML, AED320: While this fragrance free cream is for people with sensitive skin it’s equally effective on normal skin. Disappears as soon as you apply it. Keeps face moisturised and matt. Hyaluronic acid locks in essential moisture. 64 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

BLISS LEMON + SAGE BODY BAR, AED 69: Another product in Bliss’s Lemon and sage line, this soap is delightful in the shower. It has a refreshing scent and unlike conventional soaps does not leave the skin dry after use. Enjoyed showering with this.

JUNE JACOBS PEPPERMINT HAND AND FOOT THERAPY: Peppermint wakes up any part of the body it is applied on. This is an energising and refreshing foot and hand cream which moisturises, cools and soothes. Perfect for the season.


DERMALOGICA OVERNIGHT RETINOL REPAIR, 30ML WITH 15ML BUFFER CREAM, AED 445: This is a hero product by Dermalogica. When you see the results that retinol brings on the face when used daily you will be shocked in a good way! This is the only product out there with pure active retinol that increases the production of collagen literally erasing fine lines and skin damaged by sun exposure. You need this in your life forever.

BLISS FAT GIRL SOAP, AED 88: This isn’t your regular bath time soap. It’s shape is like a stimulating massage bar with nubs and extracts of caffeine and peppermint to invigorate, stimulate as well as slough away dead skin.

JUNE JACOBS RAPID REPAIR HEALING CREAM, 47ML: The story behind this cream speaks a lot about its exceptional healing qualities. Created by June Jacobs to fight the consequences of harsh chemotherapy on her skin - she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and is now in remission - this product is wonderful to say the least. Moisturising and healing, this cream is a must have. What’s more is this cream can be used on hands feet and anywhere on the body.

L’EAU D’ISSEY PURE, 90ML, AED 515: This scent is the essence of summer captured in a bottle. Light, fresh, lingering without overpowering. It’s almost not there but it is very much there. Pure, fresh, light, summery just what you need for warm summer days. It’s just like fragranced water. It’s soft, feminine, familiar and comforting. The colourless perfume adds to the overall lightness and the shape of the bottle is like a drop of water. Pure, transparent, fresh and beautiful. The best thing about this summer!

CLARINS V FACIAL INTENSIVE WRAP, 75ML: One of Clarins’ revolutionary products gets a revamp. This facial contouring wrap is like a mask that drains excess fluid from a puffy face. We all get puffiness from time to time for a variety of reasons. This mask really gets the job done though. You need to apply this on the lower part of your face from under the cheekbones till the base of the face leave for 10 mins and you will really see a difference in the facial contours, a more prominent jawline. Wow!



Suited for

SUMMER Guerlain My Supertips collection:

GUERLAIN STOP SPOT, 15ML: A newer version of Guerlain’s original Creme Camphrea created circa 1870, this one is packed with ingredients like salicylic acid and camphor that exfoliate blemishes and reduce redness. Spots are gone in no time.

GUERLAIN SUPER LIPS, 15ML: Softening, smoothing and plumping the delicate skin on the lips, this moisture tube helps your lips look their best even in this harsh, drying summer weather.

GUERLAIN MIDNIGHT SECRET, 15ML: A travel size of the legendary cream that works overtime to make your sleep deprived skin look like it has had a rested and peaceful night. This handy tube is the magic you need on your skin after a long and nasty day.


GUERLAIN CREME SOS, 15ML: This cream is a saviour for the face and any part of the body that needs some extra tlc. This product kind of cocoons the skin and gives it extra calm and nourishment. For overly dry, dehydrated, fragile skin can be used morning and night.

GUERLAIN RADIANCE IN A FLASH, 15ML: Does exactly what it says. You need to look extra special, alert, pretty, radiant? Apply this cream, dab some powder and you’re good to go. Illuminating the face this cream diminishes the bad and elevates the good of your facial skin.


JANE IREDALE SMOOTH AFFAIR FOR EYES, EYE SHADOW/PRIMER IN LEMON: This mineral make up brand takes care of your skin all the while it is on your skin. Summer colours are vibrant and beautiful. This one is a beautiful eye-popping (literally) lemon which brightens up the face. ELEMIS SMART CLEANSE MICELLAR WATER, 200ML, AED 203: Gentle yet effective, this is one of the best micellar cleansing waters in the market today. The smell is very subtle yet comforting. One cleansing pad soaked with this water removed almost all makeup after a long day. Round two had almost no remnants of makeup. Definitely great for days when you are too tired for the entire night time regime.

JUNE JACOBS PEPPERMINT MOISTURISING FOOT MIST, 200 ML: Apply after the peppermint moisturising cream to kind of lock in the moisture. Feet and hands feel refreshed, new, energised. A must have finishing treatment to feel extra special.

ELEMIS BRITISH BOTANICAL SHOWER CREAM, 200ML, AED 203: This limited edition shower cream to celebrate 25 years of the brand has all the ingredients of the English countryside and smells divine. When used together with the British Botanical Body Cream (reviewed below) it gives us a perfectly moisturised feeling long after the shower. Illustration on the tube exclusively created for Elemis by Amanda Ross.

NATURA BISSE NIGHT DUAL TREATMENT INCLUDES THE DIAMOND EXTREME OIL 30ML, AED 800 AND THE DIAMOND EXTREME MASK 75ML, AED 550: This is a fantastic treatment by the brand the oil and the mask work on the face all through the night for radiant, rested, beautiful skin each morning. What it does is provide a deeply nourishing treatment for skin when used twice weekly, it can also be used every night as an intensive programme for skin which is in need for extreme care.

Yet another winner!



Joining forces Dolce&Gabbana and Shiseido Group sign a new license agreement for the beauty activities of the fashion house


ignalling a new era, heralded in by the partnership of two of the biggest beauty and fashion brands, Dolce&Gabbana and Shiseido Group have officially signed an exclusive worldwide license agreement. The agreement includes development, manufacturing, distribution of Dolce&Gabbana’s fragrance, make-up and skincare lines and products by the Shiseido Group. The collaboration officially starts from October this year, if all official formalities are completed on time. Shiseido Group is one of the largest beauty groups in the world, ranking number 5 worldwide. Supported by Masahiko Uotani, Shiseido Group CEO, this partnership confirms Shiseido Group’s vision for 2020, a mid-long term strategy for accelerated global success through both organic growth and acquisitions. ‘‘We are so proud to enrich our portfolio of prestige brands by such a beautiful luxury fashion brand. The license agreement is aimed at strengthening our brand portfolio for the sake of future top line growth, which is a part of my Vision 2020 for Shiseido Group. The collaboration of our two companies, with their heritage rooted in such diverse cultures as Mediterranean style and Japan, opens excellent opportunities for creating new exciting values.’’ says Uotani. “The standards, values, coherence and quality of Shiseido Group perfectly mirror the positioning and path that we have decided to take with Dolce&Gabbana. Hence, signing the license agree-

ment with Shiseido represents the ideal choice for the development of our future projects. We are sure that the level achieved by the Dolce&Gabbana fragrances thus far, already well-established and significant, will be further enhanced thanks to this partnership with Shiseido, and we anticipate that together we will be able to fully develop the potential we believe we have for growth in makeup and skincare. We are therefore very happy to announce this partnership, and enthusiastically look forward to collaborating on future projects,” say Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. The negotiations for the agreement were carried out by Shiseido Group EMEA, Shiseido Group Fragrance Centre of Excellence, led by Louis Desazars, President and CEO of Shiseido Group EMEA, and President and CEO of Beauté Prestige International. Dolce&Gabbana’s beauty license will be managed from Paris, Shiseido Group’s EMEA HQ.“I am very happy and very proud to welcome such a prestigious brand in our portfolio. For us, it’s a unique opportunity to collaborate with an extraordinary and inspiring brand in order to bring to life unique creativity and new product experiences. We expect considerable synergy effects from this alliance, as it will take full advantage of the organisation scale of Shiseido Group EMEA HQ,” says Desazars. By making full use of Shiseido Group’s R&D ability, it is anticipated that Dolce&Gabbana will enhance its product lines, not only in fragrance, but also in make-up and skincare, a business that has around 400 million euros (AED 1,638 million) turnover in 2015, only in the beauty activities. Shiseido Group will expand its position in the luxury beauty industry, and will significantly increase international turnover. In this transaction, J P Morgan Limited served as financial advisor to Dolce&Gabbana Srl, and Rothschild Global Advisory served as financial advisor to Shiseido Group.

The collaboration of our two companies, with their heritage rooted in such diverse cultures as Mediterranean style and Japan, opens excellent opportunities for creating new exciting values



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Dubai Showroom P.O. Box 500466, Design House, Al Sufouh 1, Dubai, UAE Tel: +971 (0)4 430 7465 Fax: +971 (0)4 430 7469 Email: Web: SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 69

Visit our Stall at the Hotel Show! Venue: Dubai World Trade Centre Dates: Sep 17-19, 2016 Stall no: 5C221


Top Hotel Middle East is a bi-monthly business journal for senior level hoteliers, hotel owners, hotel investors and investment companies, a...


Top Hotel Middle East is a bi-monthly business journal for senior level hoteliers, hotel owners, hotel investors and investment companies, a...