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Essential reading for hotel operators, owners, developers and investors



DESIGN A look at current design trends

The restaurant business

A chat with Gates Hospitality

Creating benchmarks

Service comes first at ONYX Hospitality

The island home

Banana Island Resort by Anantara

Top hotel Wellness A dedicated look at the regional wellness industry

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

Hospitality design 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: B Raveendran Production Manager: Roy Varghese

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This time’s cover on design takes a look at latest trends in the country and region. Speaking of hospitality design things are evolving at a significant pace in tune with the requirements and evolution of our world. Technology is such a huge factor intertwined with all we do in our daily lives. Hospitality design is changing to reflect that to cater to the new traveller, who is a bit more casual, seeks a more authentic experience, does not necessary needs the frills, is more focussed on comfort, health, authenticity and to be able to use all the gadgets that make up his/her daily life. And designers these days have reached beyond these into thinking of the next to make their hotels more relevant and future proof. Top hotel Middle East was invited to stay at the beautiful Doha island resort – The Banana Island Resort by Anantara. We have a detailed write-up of the experience. The visuals are truly breathtaking and are exactly as the resort is in reality. It is an escape from the real world as the resort has a number of unique facilities such as a movie theatre, a water park, wellness centre and umpteen cuisine options that manage to keep your mind away from routine things. In our magazine within a magazine Top hotel Wellness, we have spoken to the very astute businesswoman and entrepreneur Salina Handa owner of the Sensasia chain of spas around the country. Being one of the pioneers of the wellness industry in the UAE, she shares her passion for wellness and the drive with which she created her brand and how she plans on expanding internationally. And finally, from all of us at Signature Media, I’d like to wish everyone reading a very happy, successful and prosperous 2016! Happy New Year!

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.

Munawar Shariff Managing Editor






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06 TOP HOTEL UNDERCOVER A haven on the Palm

Rixos The Palm, is an expansive 230room property tucked away at the end of the east crescent of Palm Jumeirah


All the latest from hotels in the region


High standards of hospitality An interview with Peter Henley, President and CEO, Onyx Hospitality Group


Creating a comfortable space Claire Craig, Design Director, WA International, talks to ThME about hospitality design


Naim Maadad, CEO, Gates Hospitality, believes the success of a restaurant is in creating the perfect balance between costs and revenue


DUBAI’S HIDDEN GEM A review of charming Indian restaurant Ashiana


Hyatt Regency Creek Heights’ new Mexican restaurant – La Tablita – is a winner

44 HOTEL REVIEW The island home

The Banana Island Resort by Anantara completes a very successful year this January. Top hotel Middle East visited the island and came away enamoured

52 TOPHOTELPROJECTS.COM International investments landscape

Only around 25 hotel chains will operate globally in the long term and mega deals are expected this year


Salina Handa, Founder and MD, Sensasia Urban Spas, talks about what makes her brand stand out


A signature treat June Jacobs Signature Facial at the Ahasees Spa, Grand Hyatt is a treat

62 PRODUCT REVIEW Winter skin care

For extra nourishment, protection, 4 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

moisture, these superlative products provide the much-needed tlc for dry, rough, dehydrated, winter skin


Non aggressive skin care Endermologie’s Cellular Regeneration Treatment is a revolutionary method of rejuvenating the skin cells using the LPG machine


Natura Bisse’s Essential Shock line of products and treatments are effective and addictive

68 COMMUNITY Passing it on

Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham extends further support to Dubai Centre for Special Needs (DCSN)





A haven on the Palm

Rixos The Palm, is an expansive 230room property tucked away at the end of the east crescent of Palm Jumeirah. While currently offering a top notch experience to its guest, the hotel will deďŹ nitely beneďŹ t with the addition of a few more touches to enhance further the guest experience


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.


Founded in the year 2000, by Turkish hotelier, Fettah Tamince, the Rixos hotel group has grown to 26 properties worldwide in the last 15 years with two more properties currently under development. Being a Turkish brand, the highest number of hotels are in Turkey. The brand concept - All inclusive - All Exclusive – represents the hotel’s image.

RESERVATION Checking for hotel rooms and prices at the end of the year is always a challenge so imagine finding a five star hotel on Palm Jumeirah offering accommodation and breakfast at AED 1,020.00 including taxes and the Tourism Dirham! It was what Christmas dreams are made of! Speaking to the reservation executive at Rixos the Palm was also very rewarding because he offered a better rate than the many online portals I was browsing. Definitely put a smile on my face and I couldn’t wait to arrive at the property. Evaluation: Excellent

CHECK-IN I arrived after a full day of work, and had informed them that I was going to be late so was expecting all to be smooth, however, it was one of those days! The room keys did not work when I finally went up to the room. So I went down to get that fixed and was told by the reception desk that I should accompany the luggage clerk and he would



use his access card to open the room for us. Once inside, I realised I had forgotten something in the car and hence had to go back down. After retrieving my stuff, when I went back to reception to ask for new keys, they were still not ready! There was an issue with IT apparently, I was asked to wait, the manager was called who also assured me that the issue would be sorted asap. However, I kept waiting and was finally again accompanied by one of the staff with their access keys to the room. The room keys finally arrived around one and a half hours after checkin! Evaluation: Not Satisfactory

ROOM 1520 The room was huge. It was a Premium room, 65 sq metres in size.It opened up to a spacious area with the bathroom on the left and closets on either side with the passage in between the closets leading into the room. There was a king bed on the left and the television with a console under it holding the tea and coffee making facilities and the fridge and mini bar below. I noticed there weren’t many options in the mini-bar with just a few chocolates and drinks. Also, the tea selection was limited and had only the mini-powdered milk sachets. (You would have to order room service if you wanted better tasting tea or coffee or even some real milk - as informed by housekeeping staff when I enquired about this.) After the bed there was an equally large area with a very large three-seater corner sofa and opposite that a cute seating area with two comfy couches and coffee table. Then the balcony with two-sunbeds looking out into the Palm and the swimming pools and the beach below. Decor inside the room was minimalist with elegant parquet flooring. Brighter lighting would help, however. Evaluation: Good

THE BATHROOM The bathroom as the room was expansive with a large free standing bathtub as you entered on the right and a double vanity right opposite the entrance and two separate cubicles for the shower and the wc on the left of the entrance. The bidet in the wc enclosure was leaking, however. Guest amenities were from Floris London. Evaluation: Good



ROOM SERVICE Since there weren’t many tea and coffee options, I ordered a cappuccino and a tiramisu around 9.04pm and was told the dessert and coffee would arrive in 10 minutes. It came in around 15 minutes and was well prepared and presented. Evaluation: Good

BREAKFAST BUFFET AT A LA TURCA RESTAURANT The main restaurant at the property, A La Turca, served a huge variety of breakfast options with quite a focus on Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisines including all the usual breakfast items. International cuisine items were limited however. It was busy with many families and guests. Unfortunately service was quite slow! Evaluation: Good

CHECK-OUT 11.25AM Smooth and swift as expected. Evaluation: Good

SOME MORE FEEDBACK While the hotel has many exclusive advantages being a five star property at the end of the east crescent of the Palm, the property could do so much more in terms of providing a better experience to its guest. Guests will be happy with the current level of engagement by staff but little touches could be included in order to provide memorable experiences for guests. As little things are what stay with guests as welcome gestures that might increase repeat business for the hotel.

Rixos the Palm, Palm Jumeirah Reservation: Good

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

Check-in: Not Satisfactory Room 1520: Good Bath: Good Floor service: Satisfactory Landscaping: Good Breakfast buffet: Good

Top hotel Undercover opinion:

61-80 Good

Fitness: Good Corridors, elevators, stairs: Good

Total: 65%

Housekeeping: Good Check out: Good 0







Largest Hilton Garden Inn outside America opens in Dubai HILTON GARDEN INN, Hilton Worldwide’s award-winning brand of midscale hotels, and Majid Al Futtaim, the leading shopping mall, retail and leisure pioneer across the Middle East and North Africa, have announced the opening of

Hilton Garden Inn Dubai, Mall of the Emirates – the second largest Hilton Garden Inn in the world, and the largest outside of America and the first LEED Gold hotel by Majid Al Futtaim in Dubai. Boasting 370-guestrooms – 132 of which

Mourjan Marinas – Lusail City fast becoming the chosen home-port for marine operators MOURJAN MARINAS – Lusail City, Doha’s premier yachting destination, is fast becoming the chosen homeport for marine operators to operate their activities, with three commercial operators now on board; Almargan Tours, Blue Marine and Doha Yachting. Almargan Tours is a yacht chartering company in Qatar which provides luxury boats and yachts for cruising. Blue Marine offers a full line-up of water sports activities from Mourjan Marinas – Lusail City in a bid to make waterbased sports more accessible to the local community. Doha Yachting, formed in 2012, provides luxury boats and yachts for sport fishing and cruising.


Mourjan Marinas – Lusail City is owned and operated by the awardwinning Mourjan Marinas, which offers innovative development and management solutions for marina lifestyle destinations worldwide. It was recognised as a regional-first for its ecofriendly management practices upon receiving the International Clean Marina Accreditation in 2014.

are interconnecting – Hilton Garden Inn Dubai Mall of the Emirates is perfect for families, groups and business travellers alike. The hotel features a comprehensive range of guest amenities, including a health club, outdoor pool, business centre, and ample flexible meeting spaces. All rooms boast the brand’s signature bedding featuring fresh, white duvets and crisp linens, and a spacious and clutter-free work desk with an ergonomic desk chair - proving to guests why Life’s Better at the Garden™.

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor holds talks with French Consul-General KHALAF AHMAD Al Habtoor, Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group, welcomed the French Consul-General to Dubai, His Excellency Majdi Abed at his office in the presence of Mohammed Al Habtoor, Vice-Chairman and CEO, Al Habtoor Group. His Excellency Majdi Abed

called on Al Habtoor to discuss the Emirati student scholarship programme at La Fémis, one of France’s top film-making schools. Endorsing the initiative was Mohamed Bendjebbour, Regional Audiovisual Attaché at the French embassy. Al Habtoor and the French ConsulGeneral to Dubai also discussed

opportunities for collaborating with French scriptwriters and filmmakers on future projects. Interested applicants in the Emirati student scholarship programme at Le Fémis should apply by sending their CV and Cover Letter to mohamed.bendjebbour@

Oberoi Dubai’s ‘Shop Till You Drop’ for DSF 2016

MAKE THE MOST of one of the biggest shopping and entertainment extravaganzas in the Middle East; the Dubai Shopping Festival with the ‘Shop Till You Drop’ package at the award winning The Oberoi, Dubai, available from January 2nd, 2016. Tailor-made for the discerning guests, the ‘Shop Till You Drop’ package includes complimentary scheduled transfers to Dubai Mall. Once there, guests can shop to

their heart’s content, taking advantage of the shopping bag collection service that will deliver purchases back to the hotel three times a day. Additionally, The Oberoi, Dubai will provide a dedicated shopping concierge desk with information on deals of the day and best tips. The package includes accommodation in a Deluxe room. One of the key features of the room includes access to

Ajman Tourism Development Department and HMH to recognise exhibitors AJMAN TOURISM Development Department (ATDD) and Hospitality Management Holdings (HMH) have announced special awards for exhibitors participating in The Ajman Palace Hotel Wedding Fair, being organised under the kind patronage of H E Sheikh Mohammed bin Faisal Al Qassimi, on January 20th and 21st, 2016. Recognising excellence in the wedding industry, both entities will be presenting three awards each under the theme ‘Inspire’. All categories will be meticulously judged and aligned with international standards. In addition to the main awards, there will be other trophies to engage visitors on the event’s online and social media platforms, such as the ‘Bride’s Choice Awards’. All exhibitors will also be receiving a special certificate for participation.

24-hour butler service, to assist with every last detail, such as the packing of purchases, the booking of personal stylist consultants or arranging private viewings in exclusive boutiques. Guests will also enjoy a daily buffet breakfast for two at Nine7One, the hotel’s world cuisine restaurant in addition to AED 200 hotel credit daily for redemption across all three signature restaurants and at The Oberoi Spa.


ACICO - Hotels Sector launches Nassima Royal ACICO - HOTELS sector has announced the launch of its new luxury brand Nassima Royal, situated in Dubai. Eng Nabil AlKhaled, Chief Operating Officer for Hotels sector, defined the project as “the core investment of the group in the Emirate of Dubai”, due to an increase in the number of tourists within the region. ACICO is a listed company with a broad portfolio of activities and interests. The Nassima Royal Brand represents a unique and lifestyle experience featuring impeccable design, exceptional cuisine and a refined level of hospitality, in addition to offering high levels of service, delivered by genuine and passionate brand ambassadors. In order to continue to expand, strengthen the brand and deliver an exemplary guest experience, ACICO are currently enhancing the properties facilities, which will include a contemporary remodelling of the lobby space in the coming New Year.

Ramada Beach Hotel Ajman bags 2015 Gold Circle Award from RAMADA BEACH Hotel Ajman was named as one of the recipients of the 2015 Gold Circle Awards from The 107-key four-star hotel is the first property in Ajman to earn the esteemed recognition from the online booking portal.’s Gold Circle Award winners are selected based on various guidelines including consistently high customer feedback on the website, followed by quality of the content, competitive pricing, effective use of the’s Yield Control System (YCS), and commitment to delivering the best service to Agoda customers.


Hotelbeds launches MaxiRoom HOTELBEDS HAS launched its new and improved hotel partner portal MaxiRoom – a faster, smarter and easier to use extranet, designed to drive maximum occupancy through Hotelbeds’ leading channels of distribution. Maxiroom provides hoteliers’ with much greater autonomy and control; created with the aim of significantly improving usability and functionality to help its partners easily optimise their performance across Hotelbeds’ worldwide markets and channels. Highlights include a global dashboard providing hotel partners with a complete overview of all their inventory, while allowing them to make instant adjustments to the presentation of their products.

Egypt Tourist Authority launches dedicated Arabic campaign – #thisisegypt THE EGYPT TOURISM Authority (ETA) has unveiled a new campaign titled This is Egypt (#thisisegypt), to drive growth in the tourism sector. In a change from previous ETA campaigns, #thisisegypt will be digitally-led, focusing on peerto-peer advocacy and under-pinned by digital media spend, whilst traditional advertising methods will form a secondary promotional level. Targetting the Arabic traveller from the Middle East region, #thisisegypt will harness the power of digital in a region where internet penetration is 5.8 per cent higher at 48.1 per cent than the world

average, and social media sites such as Facebook play a significant role in 88 per cent of internet users’ daily lives. The campaign focuses on personalising the Egyptian experience by encouraging the wider Arab audience to consider the variety of holiday that which can be enjoyed in Egypt, from a vibrant city break in Alexandria or Cairo, to luxury beach getaway in Hurghada or Sharm El Sheikh. The campaign will highlight past-times, which particularly resonate with an Arabic audience, from shopping and dining to enjoying luxury accommodation and exciting nightlife.

Sofitel Dubai Downtown wins ‘World’s leading hotel service’ at the WTA SOFITEL DUBAI Downtown has won the prestigious ‘World’s Leading Hotel Service Award’ at the Grand Final Gala Ceremony of the World Travel Awards 2015, held recently in Morocco. The highly commended accolade recognises the commitment to excellence demonstrated by the property’s ambassadors, and cements its reputation as a world class business and leisure destination. The hotel has succeeded in building stronger bonds with its guests thanks to its consistently high standards of service and its ability to create genuinely memorable experiences.

Intercoil unveils The Bedroom INTERCOIL INTERNATIONAl is welcoming customers to The Bedroom by Intercoil, the new retail concept currently being introduced across its retail outlets in the Middle East. Expanding its portfolio of products beyond its range of premium mattresses, The Bedroom by Intercoil is a one-stop destination for everything from full bedroom furniture suites, to the finest bedlinen, soft furnishings and accessories. With a full range of bedroom furniture that includes headboards, nightstands, wardrobes, dressers, and even prayer chairs in a selection of woods and contemporary finishes, Intercoil also offers a bespoke manufacturing service to create a customer’s dream bedroom in whatever style and material they prefer. Part of a rollout programme to introduce the new retail concept across the region, the first The Bedroom by Intercoil stores are now open in Al Barsha, Jumeirah, Mirdif City Centre, Jumeirah Beach Residence and Al Ain Mall in the UAE, with an additional three outlets in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Bawadi Mall expected to open by the end of 2015.


Gateway asserts its presence with an increase in the number of contracted hotels

GATEWAY HAS FURTHER strengthened its position by increasing the number of hotels contracted with the online booking engine. Gateway’s portfolio now offers over 200,000

hotels worldwide, with new offerings including 2,500 guest houses, lodges and hotels in South Africa; 5,600 hotels and ryokans in Japan, and 85 hotels in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Senior global industry leaders attend launch of Global Restauraunt Investment Forum

Recent additions of more than 5,600 accommodations in Japan are spread over 847 different Japanese destinations, including cities like Tokyo, Okinawa, Osaka and Kyoto.

THE LAUNCH OF the 3rd annual Global Restaurant Investment Forum was held recently in London, bringing together the industry’s key players to discuss the exciting new programme for this year’s event. The launch welcomed over 70 senior global leaders, including attendees from COYA Restaurants, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, Condé Nast and The British Hospitality Association. The GRIF, which will be held in Dubai in March 2016, facilitates investment decision-making within the restaurant space. The forum showcases the hottest restaurant concepts from around the globe, and facilitates the connection of attendees with investors, owners, franchisors and senior hospitality professionals to assess the state of the hospitality industry and secure deals for the coming year. As an exciting new interactive feature, GRIF 2016 will hold ‘Dragon’s Den’ style sessions in which a panel of experts will evaluate a selection of industry concepts and projects for investment. The panel of experts include representatives from Bowmark Capital LLP, Gourmet Gulf, Overture Capital, Hutton Collins Partners LLP and Marka.

The Address Hotels + Resorts voted as ‘Best Hotel Chain in the Middle East’ at Global Traveller Awards 2015 AT THE PRESTIGIOUS Global Traveller Awards 2015, The Address Hotels + Resorts has been recognised as the ‘Best Hotel Chain the Middle East’ for the third consecutive year while its flagship hotel, The Address Downtown Dubai has been named the ‘Best Individual Hotel in the World’ for the fifth year in a row. This takes the total number of awards won by The Address Hotels + Resorts and its individual properties, since the launch of the first property in 2008, to over 150, covering all aspects of operations including


F&B, Spas and brand experience. The Global Traveller Awards 2015 are chosen by over 22,000 readers online and through ballots. Targeting frequent business and luxury travellers, the magazine’s annual surveys are acknowledged as the best in the industry. The awards recognise the true essence of hotels and define the standards that make them stand out from the others. Photo Caption - Cat Cora presents the award to Caroline-Jane Houston, General Manager of The Address Downtown Dubai

Shangri-la hotel, Doha welcomed guests from December 2015 FROM DECEMBER 2015, Shangri-La Hotel, Doha started accepting reservations for bookings at the 50-storey five-star hotel, which offers a celebratory opening rate starting from QAR895 nett per room, per night. Guests may also book the ‘Eyes on the Horizon’package at rates starting at QAR1045 nett per room, per night. It includes access to the hotel’s Horizon Club, the largest executive lounge in Doha, located on level 42, with 360-degree panoramic views and a choice of privileges.

Developed by Al Rayan Tourism Development Company W L L, Shangri-La Hotel, Doha towers over the West Bay district, the capital’s modern business hub. Its accommodation and lifestyle amenities are complemented by hospitality from the heart with a blend of Asian and Qatari traditions. In a nod to one of Qatar’s proud traditions, the building is designed to resemble a falcon’s head, an element echoed by the falcon that welcomes guests at the main entrance.

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Radisson Blu Hotel, DMC, improves guest Wi-Fi coverage RADISSON BLU HOTEL has now deployed wireless infrastructure from Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company, to deliver secure, seamless, high-speed, wireless internet connectivity across its hotel rooms, suites and public areas. The implementation has resulted in improvement in rating of Wi-Fi services, and drastic reduction in volume of IT help desk calls, besides the fact that the design of the Access Points (APs) blends seamlessly with the hotel aesthetics and AP management, monitoring and troubleshooting has become centralised and simplified. Aruba’s team of network professionals conducted a detailed site survey and determined that while 802.11ac solutions would be required to support high density environments, such as meeting rooms and public areas, its 802.11n Rushdy Mubarak, IT solutions would be sufficient for Manager at Radisson coverage in guest rooms. This Blu Hotel, DMC meant the hotel could meet guests’ demands for a reasonable cost. Central to the success of the Aruba deployment was its ability to meet the hotel’s demands for the next five years.

JetSmarter launches premium scheduled JetShuttle flights in the Middle East JETSMARTER HAS now announced the launch of its JetShuttle service in the Middle East. Starting December 2015, JetSmarter users can reserve seats on direct, scheduled flights six days a week between Dubai, Riyadh, Kuwait and Jeddah on Embraer Legacy 600 aircrafts. Clients seeking seamless travel between each destination will benefit from eliminating hours at the airport, as well as alleviating travel time from their schedules. Each JetShuttle flight can accommodate up to 13 passengers, and is free for JetSmarter members. Complete with white glove treatment from start to finish, travellers will be offered elite services, including assistance from the JetSmarter Member Experience Team, at each point of transfer, as well as exclusive catering services before take-off and in-flight.


Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Media City

Re-visit the heritage of UAE at Zaman Awal AL BOOM TOURIST Village has revealed its new extension, Zaman Awal, and re-opened its doors to locals and tourists alike, showcasing a refurbished venue. Zaman Awal refers to bringing back old heritage with a new twist; the restaurant within the venue will serve Emirati food in a modern yet traditional setting. Al Aref boat, also called Al Boom, is an 80-year-old boat that was used by the local forefathers for traveling between Dubai and various parts of Asia. Currently in the process of being established as a maritime museum, the lower deck is devoted to traditional artefacts, and the upper deck as an Arabian inspired coffee shop. The Freej Village’s architectural and modern design is inspired by the famous cartoon sitcom and uses its

characters at various locations to mark buildings. Some of these buildings are used as heritage sites while others are available to hire for retail purposes, and will be used for different festivals and events planned at Zaman Awal. Another interesting addition to the venue is the Dara ship, also known as the Gulf’s Titanic. Very few people in the region are aware about the history behind this ship, adding it to the venue will allow people to learn more about the travel history of Dubai.

Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum is Double Winner at the European Hotel Design Awards MANDARIN ORIENTAL, Bodrum has won in two categories at the European Hotel Design Awards 2015, Architecture – New Build and Interior Design – Spa & Wellness. Held annually to celebrate exceptional hotel design and architecture, this year’s awards ceremony took place in London on November 23. Nestled on a beautiful hillside, surrounded by olive groves and pine forests, Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum was the only Turkish hotel to be honoured after a rigorous selection process. Designed by internationally acclaimed Italian architectural studio, CitterioViel & Partners, Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum has hosted many distinguished international guests.

St Regis Hotels & Resorts and Arquiste Parfumeur introduce the Scent of St Regis

Katara Hospitality scoops three esteemed accolades at the WTA KATARA HOSPITALITY received three prestigious awards at the World Travel Awards – ‘World’s Leading Hospitality Company’ for the third year running,‘World’s Leading Hotel Suite’ for the Katara Suite at Excelsior Hotel Gallia, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Milan, and the coveted ‘World’s Leading Landmark Hotel’ for The Peninsula Paris. Accepting the awards on behalf of Katara Hospitality was Salem Al Kubaisi, Chief Corporate Services Officer of the company. The awards recognised Katara Hospitality’s outstanding contributions to the hospitality industry globally through continued development of iconic luxury hotels in Qatar and key destinations across the world. With 45 years of hospitality expertise, Katara Hospitality continues to expand its worldwide portfolio which has grown to 35 owned and or managed hotels, and is focused on achieving its target of 60 hotels in the next 10 years.

ST REGIS HOTELS & Resorts unveiled Caroline’s Four Hundred, the brand’s first-ever bespoke scent, in the Middle East with an exclusive scent dinner at the newly opened St Regis Dubai in Al Habtoor City. Hosted by St Regis together with Carlos Huber, the creator of Caroline’s Four Hundred, the gastronomic experience was curated by acclaimed scent critic, Chandler Burr. Chef Stephane Buchholzer, Culinary Director of Al Habtoor City worked with Burr to combine the crème de la crème of fine dining with the olfactory arts in a seven-course feast. During the interactive dinner with 40 VIP guests, Burr introduced the respective perfumes that inspired each of the gastronomic creations. The St Regis Dubai Scent Dinner marks the launch of Caroline’s Four Hundred across all four St Regis properties in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The St Regis fragrance will be featured at all of the luxury brand’s hotels and resorts around the world, and will be retailed as a candle, followed by a room spray in spring of 2016.




igh standards of

hospitality Peter Henley, President and Chief Executive Officer, Onyx Hospitality Group, speaks about the high standards of hospitality at his organisation and how service is at the core of their company’s culture 18 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016


Amari Doha, Qatar Exterior

Amari Havodda Maldives Beach Pool Villa

What is your current growth strategy, and which regions are you focusing on?

Breeze Spa at Amari Phuket, Thailand

Private Island, Amari Havodda Maldives

One of our goals here at Onyx Hospitality Group is to take our 50 years of successful hospitality experience beyond Thailand. We began with the revitalisation of the Amari brand, introduced the select-service OZO brand, and acquired Shama, which is a serviced residences brand. Today, we have a portfolio of 58 properties, including 20 under development, and have a strategic plan to reach a portfolio of 81 hotels, resorts and serviced apartment complexes by 2018. Our primary focus for expansion remains within the Asia-Pacific and Arabian Gulf region. Other than our home market of JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 19


Oriental Residence Bangkok Lobby

Thailand, we have growth and expansion plans in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives,Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Middle East. You have a property in Doha, Qatar. What about the UAE and other MENA countries? What kind of a project would attract you?

We will be putting a bigger focus on growth and expansion in the Middle East in the coming years, following the success of Amari Doha, our first hotel in the region. The introduction of Amari in Doha is part of a strategic plan to pave the way for our future growth in this market. Asian brands like Amari resonate well in the Middle East, and travellers from this region to our Thai destinations have a strong regard for our brands and our hotels. In fact, the UAE is among our top five country 20 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

The introduction of Amari in Doha is part of a strategic plan to pave the way for our future growth in this market

source markets across the entire Onyx portfolio. Other than expanding our flagship Amari brand, we also see strong potential for the development and growth of OZO and Shama in this region. OZO has seen initial success as a select service brand, and is already exceeding mid-marketing expectations. With the increasing demand for high quality and internationally branded select service hotels in key urban locations like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Muscat, we see the potential to expand OZO in this market. In the long stay and serviced apartments sector where Shama operates, there is a rising demand for properties, resulting from more Fortune 500 company expansions in this region, and the increase of travellers to key cities for medium to longer term project work and assignments.

What is your opinion on the hospitality landscape in Dubai and Abu Dhabi?

Historically, international branded hotel development in these two cities have focused on the luxury segment, with the mid-market and select service segments dominated by local players, and huge growth potential in the extended stay segment. We recognise the potential of this fast-changing hospitality landscape, and are in negotiations with various parties on opportunities to introduce our Shama and OZO brands in the UAE. What plans does Onyx have for the Middle East region and Africa?

One of the emerging markets we are closely looking at is Iran. As a country rich in historical and cultural treasures, and home to 19 UNESCO-registered sites, the easing of visa rules is opening


Amari Havodda Maldives Overwater Villas

OZO Colombo Sri Lanka

the door for the return of foreign travellers to Iran. We are studying this market and exploring opportunities for growth to meet the increase in demand for tourism infrastructure and hotels, and the market’s receptiveness towards Asianrun international hospitality operations. Tell us a little about the industry challenges Onyx has faced, from 2009 till date.

I was appointed President and CEO of Onyx Hospitality Group in 2008. At that time, we had 14 properties in Thailand. Since then, we have expanded our flagship Amari brand beyond Thailand, entered Greater China with our acquisition and expansion of Shama, and introduced a new select service concept in OZO. Today, we are a multi-brand company offering accommodation choices for a

broad segment of travellers and guests. We have 58 hotels in operation or under construction in 11 countries across the Asia-Pacific region, and are on track towards having a total of 81 hotels open or being developed by 2018. Our brand portfolio spans a range of hospitality segments, from select service properties to mid-scale hotels and resorts, and luxury hotels and residences. With this growth, there are several industry issues that we think have to be addressed. Top of the list is – and always will be – people, and the ability for the industry to attract, retain, train, develop and promote people in what is still a very people-intensive business. It’s a 24-7 business, and it requires shift work and hard work, which is not quite the way the modern generation wants to work. It’s about making the jobs and the work environment relevant to the current generation.

Every Amari property highlights the flavours and textures of its locality, with energetic contemporary spaces to gather, and unique menus designed for sharing among family and friends

The next issue is data. How do you manage that data and use it to improve the performance of your hotels, and to communicate better with your staff, owners and partners? We have to use it to improve, and to identify the challenges we think might stop us growing, and there are teams within our organisation trying to figure out the answers to those questions. How are relationships with owners/ investors managed?

We have a close and personal relationship with our owners and investors, and our current owners appreciate our involvement in the business and our passion for the industry. Unlike the larger companies who deal with a wide range and large number of investors, we are human sized, and that means we are able to remain approachable, personable and nimble. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 21


As we are hotel owners too, we attract partners with a similar vision – focused on profits, on running assets with a touch of Asian hospitality, and on creating positive guest experiences. Do investors/owners of family businesses want to be more involved in your management style?

We work with owners and investors who are passionate about the hotel business, and are well regarded for our personal and nimble approach to owner relations. Our owners trust our management expertise and acumen, and choose us because of our solid track record and success over the last 50 years. At Onyx, our management processes are straightforward and savvy. Our owners see this in our competitive, owner-aligned fee structures, simple and transparent contracts, and costeffective business practices. We want our partners to enjoy working with us, and to profit from doing so. Our aim is to nurture long-term relationships with our owners and investors, and to grow together with them.

Executive Room, Amari Watergate Hotel, Bangkok Thailand

How are you, as an experienced and highly successful management company, able to stay on top of forecasted trends, in keeping the guest engaged and satisfied, and having the edge over the competition?

We maintain a close relationship with our guests and with our hotel-based colleagues to observe the changing needs of travellers. We have seen that habits are changing, and have identified several key trends including:

are keen to get introduced to and connected to the destinations they visit. At Amari, we offer Destination Amari recommendations for all our locations, and on arrival, guests receive the services and recommendations by an Amari host. At OZO, we offer Destination Guides and useful content on guest lectern in our lobby areas, and our vocal local programme encourages guests and team members with similar interests to connect and share insights.

1) Travellers want the basics done well – There is an increasing appetite

3) The quest for authenticity and sharing – When it comes to dining,

among travellers for the essentials done just right. A great night’s sleep, energising mornings, good connectivity and well-designed personal space. We created OZO in 2013 to meet this trend; there are currently five OZO hotels in operation and more being developed. We provide high quality beds for the best possible sleep experience, nutritious breakfasts, rooms with flexible workspace and integrated connection panels, informative and interactive lecterns in public areas, and a redefined hotel lobby.

travellers are keen to experience the true taste of our locations with their friends,

2) Connection to our destinations –

Other than a great hotel stay, travellers 22 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

Overwater Villa Exterior

family or colleagues. Our Amaya Food Gallery dining concept for Amari curates a selection of authentic street food in a lively, casual and social setting. Amaya Food Gallery is now available at Amari Dhaka, and will feature soon at Amari Koh Samui, Amari Havodda Maldives, Amari Watergate Bangkok and Amari Johor Bahru. 4) Flexibility - Guests, particularly those from the Middle East and those travelling as families, appreciate the flexibility of full service from hotels and the option to self-cater/prepare their own meals. Our Shama serviced residences, and fully-equipped


Oriental Residence, Bangkok

residence style suites in properties like Oriental Residence Bangkok, Amari Residences Bangkok and Amari Phuket Ocean Wing, offer this level of enhanced flexibility. Guests have the option of ordering room service, as well as access to fully-equipped kitchens in their own suites. What is your take on all the new players in the market?

We are a new player ourselves, and have noticed that Asian-based brands are well received in the Middle East due to our points of difference. The Arab market has always been intrigued

OZO Colombo Sri Lanka

by Asian culture, and that makes companies like ourselves stand out from the more-established western hospitality companies. How relevant are the brands under Onyx when it comes to catering to the millennial traveller?

Onyx brands have evolved its positioning, product and service over time to cater to the millennial traveller. Amari, our most established brand, celebrates the colours and rhythms of modern Asia by creating memorable experiences that embody the spirit of local culture and enhancing the

Overwater Villa Bath

renowned traditions of Asian hospitality. Every Amari property highlights the flavours and textures of its locality, with energetic contemporary spaces to gather, and unique menus designed for sharing among family and friends. Guests are also offered access to Destination Amari, which provides recommendations on what to eat and where to go, shop and play in each location. OZO, our newest brand, is all about delivering restful nights, energising mornings and all the tools to help our guests connect with the immediate destination and the world beyond. Guest rooms feature smart design focused on convenience, practicality and style, while modern lobby and public areas are where guests interact with savvy team members who are knowledgeable about the area. Breeze Spa, available at selected Amari locations, is a fresh take on the Asian spa experience designed to appeal to newcomers as well as experienced spa goers. It is built around the premise that happiness is one of the key foundations for wellness, and features an innovative mood therapy treatment concept that’s all about having fun and feeling good. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 23



First impressions through

ector, r i D n g i s aig, De Claire Cr Munawar to s lk ta l, a n o ti WA Interna and the , s d n e r t n ig ut des Shariff abo pitality s o h ’s n o i the reg changes in design landscape.


laire Craig had been with WA International (WAI) in London for two years before relocating to Dubai to oversee a couple of her projects, this was almost 20 years ago, since then the Dubai office has continued to grow with a strong design team of 40 plus extremely talented international designers and an equally exceptional technical team. WAI is currently working on numerous projects, in particular, one in Business Bay, an existing 23 level shell and core office building which is being converted into a hotel. Because of the lovely high ceilings between floors and large column free spaces WAI were able to plan wonderful and extremely spacious guest rooms averaging 62 sq metres each.

The Address Downtown Dubai



The concept for the hotel was based on the natural elements that make up the buildings of Dubai, that being, sand, cement and water which are the base materials for concrete. From a design perspective Claire believes it is important for the designers to be involved in the project from the very beginning.“Working together with the architects and structural engineers from the start to ensure we have impressive entrance and reception spaces, dramatically positioned staircases and great inside/ outside spaces is our responsibility. This is always best achieved when we 26 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

Working together with the architects and structural engineers from the start to ensure we have impressive entrance and reception spaces

innovative with our interior architecture and selected finishes, such as forming arches in plaster board and applying an inexpensive concrete paint finish or filling an entire wall with a statement graphic image instead of expensive marble cladding”. Furnishing trends too have changed, vintage and retro pieces are very fashionable at the Risala, Lobby Lounge Entrance moment, but what Claire finds most interesting in design today is the demand for“all”white interiors. Hotel operators are a little concerned about maintenance issues, but the desire for clean, fresh white interiors is very popular at the moment, especially for the guestrooms. It’s a welcoming change from the dark themed interiors from a decade ago. Lobby Lounge There is a tendency now for owners to treat the design process of their hotel as they would their homes. It’s an interesting but often unique challenge for the designers to create spaces, Hotel Apartments Entrance environments and places to meet both the operators brief and the start a project with the architects from owner’s vision. WAI currently have a initial concept and planning stage. few projects underway including the There is unfortunately the notion that Westin in Business Bay, an impressive interior design comes in much later property with 1,700 guestrooms, the in the process,”says Claire who also Renaissance, also in Business Bay mentions,“We love working on luxury and the interiors of the Dubai Opera five-star hotel properties, however House, several refurbishments - one the lower budget three and four star which is in progress at the Royal projects are equally as fun. There often Mirage - and a Hyatt Regency in Addis is a strong brand direction in the guest Ababa, Ethiopia. rooms which must be adhered to with The completion of a project depends some“sense of place”enhancements, on many factors, one of which is the however our approach to the public management team from the client. areas is still to create original avant“Working with a well organised project garde spaces. With smaller budgets management team helps ensure a we often need to be even more


timely and successful completion. We are fortunate in Dubai to have a great selection of suppliers from the across the globe and a skilled workforce of talented contractors, as a result projects like the One & Only, The Palm, was constructed in just over 24 months. Our Address Downtown project was completed in just over four years. It has 63 floors.” While Claire has been doing this for a long time she is far from bored and in fact loves all aspects. She loves the new challenge each project holds and her team hold the same aspirations. “We are presently working in Addis Ababa and knew very little about the country; from our research we 28 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

Furnishing trends too have changed, vintage and retro pieces are very fashionable at the moment, but what Claire finds most interesting in design today is the demand for “all” white interiors JW Marriott Absheron Baku - Pool


About WA International

JW Marriott Absheron Baku - Guestroom

discovered Ethiopia experiences, the largest yearly migration of bird species in the world. It was apparent in our research as well the influence of these lovely birds on the people of Ethiopia. The patterns and colours from the birds’ feathers are found in local fabrics, wood carvings, jewelry, furniture pieces and architecture.” The Park Hyatt Zanzibar property is a UNESCO World Heritage site, WAI was tasked with completely refurbishing the existing building as well as adding a new separate wing of 60 guestrooms. During the research WAI discovered this beautiful tropical island had been ruled for almost 200 years by Oman. The Omani influence

on the architecture of Stonetown was of significant importance. The Park Hyatt Zanzibar now was once the residential home of a wealthy Omani merchant. WAI had also been approached for a couple of new projects in London, two buildings will be converted into luxury furnished apartments. One of the buildings, a very old brick carriage house with heritage listed facades has been transformed by the design team into loft–style apartments. WAI was to maintain the old brick façade as well as internally preserve the walls in feature areas, the result, a vintage retro London theme also served as the inspiration for the furnishings.

WA International is an award winning interior design consultancy renowned for the design of luxury hotels and resorts in the Middle East, Europe and Africa. The Dubai office was established in 1996, and has built a reputation of innovation, originality and exceptional style. Their team combines extensive international experience with dynamic creativity and an appreciation for aesthetics and materials to create exceptional interiors. WA International prides itself on the precise interpretation of their clients requirements, within integrated parameters of budget, feasibility and programme. This is enabled by their team of experienced designers, using an extensive and updated reference library, attention to detail, and solutions that are exclusive, avant-garde and viable, incorporating the latest technology and global trends. They owe their success to Design Director, Claire Craig, and their philosophy - to stay loyal to the client’s brief, and meet operator’s requirements of functionality, while creating an interior that exceeds the highest international standards and provides a unique and memorable experience for the guest. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 29


One&Only The Palm Resort - Suite Terrace

WAI takes on a diverse range of projects from refurbishments to new build and Claire expresses they are all initiated with keen enthusiasm. Refurbishments can be a little more difficult, especially older properties where structural drawings are no longer available. “We often need to survey these spaces ourselves which can involve demolishing ceilings, walls etc to establish where existing structural columns and beams are. For our Zanzibar project we spent several days in 40 degree heat with 90 per cent humidity surveying the old structures. Walls where a half a metre thick and not straight, but the experience drawing up this historical building was fascinating. There were however a lot of onsite decisions required as it was almost impossible to properly record every detail from the original structure. New build projects are definitely easier starting with a precise set of drawings where all the structure is very clearly indicated.” With an international portfolio of projects and a diverse team, WAI have established relationships with both local and international suppliers who keep the studio up to date with the latest trends. The studio works closely with their suppliers and 30 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

manufacturers to source and create new finishes, furniture, equipment and lighting.“We are lucky to have sizeable projects which are not only financially beneficial for our suppliers but can result in truly original pieces for our interiors,”adds Claire. For Claire life doesn’t get any better than in Dubai,“Dubai is such an amazing city, when I arrived 20 years

ago Dubai was barely on the radar, today it is not only globally a sought after holiday destination but a great place to live and work. Architecturally, Dubai has also made its mark on a global scale and being part of Dubai’s unimaginable construction growth has been a truly incredible experience for me and my extraordinary team,”she concludes.

The Park About Claire Craig Hyatt Zanzibar Design Director, Claire Craig, established WA International’s main offices in Dubai property is a in 1996. Almost 20 years later, WA International has become one of the region’s most well-known, award winning interior design consultancies. Claire leads a team UNESCO World of international design professionals, successfully having contributed much to the Heritage site, interiors of many iconic properties in Dubai, across the UAE and abroad. Claire brings to the team an enthusiastic approach to design, and a keen WAI was tasked leadership with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Having worked previously in with completely Canada, USA, Saudi Arabia, London and Egypt, Claire embodies the true spirit of an refurbishing the international and culturally diverse designer. It is her knowledge and experience of the region, and her passion to the region’s existing building culture and traditions that are noted and respected by all, clients and colleagues alike. as well as adding She has witnessed the evolution and growth of this region, and her contributions to helped make the UAE a world class hospitality and travel destination. Projects like the a new separate Address Downtown, One & Only the Palm, to name but a few, are testament to the high expectations of the discerning traveller. wing of 60 With a background in architecture, it is her love and passion for all things design guestrooms that has led her to this profession - a keen sense of space, proportion and scale, with an eye for detail, never afraid of exploring new concepts, ideas and materials, thus creating exceptional, original and distinctive interiors and destinations.


‘Sohat’ Water from Lebanon


Bringing a sparkling joy to mealtimes Sanpellegrino, the Italian sparkling natural mineral water bottle is a pleasure to your eyes and taste buds. It is one of the most loved brands by top chefs around the world. S.Pellegrino sparkling mineral water is an extraordinary combination of pure water and minerals that gives a clean refreshing taste with medium-size bubbles making it the perfect complement to many fine food and wines. It comes in 12x1 packaging and is available in both plastic and glass type bottles. HORECA Trade is the official exclusive distributor to food service channel in UAE. For more information, contact:

Originating from the ‘Falougha’ mountains ‘Sohat’ is the most renowned natural still mineral water in Lebanon and surrounding region. The water is bottled directly at source and is low in mineral content. The name ‘Sohat’ stands for good health and carries a beautiful message on the art of leading a healthy life in a modern and innovative way. It is already available in the market in two different sizes, the 1L and 33cl. It is a very light tasting water and is recommended for all family members especially to infants and children. HORECA Trade is the official distributor. For more information contact:



Ashiana by Vineet –

Dubai’s hidden Ashiana by Vineet at Dubai Sheraton Creek is one of the oldest restaurants of Dubai. The charm of the restaurant remains coupled with delicious authentic Indian food by international celebrity Michelin starred Chef Vineet Bhatia


shiana restaurant recently reopened (in April 2014) after a US$50 million renovation of the entire hotel it is located in - Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel and Towers. It was a week-night when we visited, and there were two other families enjoying their meal. Being possibly the oldest restaurant in Dubai, this was my first time here having heard a lot about it from my parents and their friends. Looking at the menu, you are spoilt for choice at the many wonderful things that you can eat. Really! And the things we ordered were mouth-watering, exceptional to look at and satiating and fulfilling to eat. First was the Aloo tikki then we ordered the chops, the raan Lucknowi, the chicken tikka and the prawns chettinad along with a bread platter and a mutton biryani. The food arrived promptly and was exceptional. I had expected good food but this was phenomenal fare, indeed! The dessert options were tempting but we decided to pass. However we were presented with a dessert platter with a mix of all the best sellers, two different kinds of kulfi, a cheesecake made with Indian flavours, gajar ka halwa (carrot dessert) and not surprisingly it was gone before we knew it. And we thought we were full. But with dessert like that, a full stomach apparently isn’t full enough! And we cannot wait to go back!




aving been in the hospitality industry for around 35 years in various leadership roles, Naim Maadad has the confidence, experience and exposure to do what he is doing. As Chief Executive Officer, Gates Hospitality, he is chasing his passion in a field that is much more than a career – it is now part of his life. “Modern day consumers have made it their lifestyle to eat out two to three times a week. They are continuously emboldened to try out new cuisine and experiment with their food habits. This shift in lifestyle ensures that life is being enjoyed to the fullest, and eating out is a part of this experience. The current culinary scene, however, is still evolving,”he says. The UAE, specifically Dubai and Abu Dhabi, remains the front-runner amongst other GCC countries in terms JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 33


of growth potential when it comes to revenue. Due to the high expat presence and business opportunities, restaurant businesses have more of a probability to sustain success. Specifically, Dubai’s central position drives the large volume of business, and while many other cities are trying to replicate the success, they have not been able to match it yet. “During the past 12 months, we are seeing that it has become ‘fashionable’ to own and operate a restaurant. This has led to a situation where the industry has opened to a wide spectrum of investors who are willing to put in their money into the business. There needs to be a cautious approach though as it’s not so easy to successfully operate a brand, because it involves a lot of intricacies,” advises Naim. The market is buoyant and active, with a variety of culinary offerings 34 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

Due to the high expat presence and business opportunities, restaurant businesses have more of a probability to sustain success.

on all fronts.“However, due to the booming scene and competitiveness of the restaurant business in the UAE, chefs must be prepared to customise menus according to their guests’ desires, even if that requires altering their recipes or vision,”says Naim. Not to mention that globalisation of foods and fusion of cuisines are on the rise, as the UAE is a melting pot and home to many nationalities. The restaurant options in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are enticing as diners have so many places to choose from and enjoy. With many large brands opening up in Abu Dhabi, the emirate has started establishing itself as a dining destination as important as Dubai. “In addition, in the past few years, Dubai has seen

an increasing focus on high-class cuisine, where an abundance of chefs who have the prestigious Michelin-star awards are in residence,” he muses.


The Government of Dubai has made every effort to make the business process easier. The process to start up a business has been simplified with a single window assistance for new investors to come and start their companies in the city. “The Government also organises a lot of activities and festivals, such as the Dubai Food Carnival, Dubai Food Festival, Taste of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, amongst others, which have become so popular that people plan their travel into the city around these events. This attracts foodies in huge numbers, both locals and tourists, from all over the world to enjoy an entirely new level of culinary experience. This directly benefits tourism as well as the hospitality/culinary

industry by fuelling the volume of business into the region,” Naim says. To take advantage of the positive climate, one needs to have a running business here.“This involves a lot of intricate details, and unless you’re aware and in the game, it can be a real challenge to sustain the success of a restaurant business. The country is going through a steep development, and as in any sector, there would be the growing pains. There are a lot of rules and regulations to be followed, and all efforts are being made by the authorities for the betterment of the citizens and longevity of quality lifestyle,”states Naim. Like with anything, it takes time to get the ingredients you want, and the quality you need. However, the convenience of doing business in Dubai means that for everything that is needed and required, there are

suppliers who are eagerly ready to assist – they can bring in whatever is needed, sourced locally or from any corner of the globe. “It is up to the individual owners and professional operators to know what is required for the business. Half the battle is won when one is clear on what the business needs. Dubai is the hub of development and construction. It is very easy to find precisely what is needed and procure the same at the most reasonable of prices,” informs Naim. The local scene is evolving in terms of produce and market based on one’s concept. It is up to the concept developers and operational management to know exactly what they need, locally or internationally. “A typical example would be watermelon. During summer, there is a huge requirement for it, so we import a big volume of them. This puts pressure on the economy, as there would be 10 litres of water needed to maintain the quality of juice generated. It is thus important to know the market, and have precise knowledge of seasonality of products. This allows you to revise your menu accordingly in order to ensure profitability. After all, seasonality can be a powerful tool for the restaurant, if utilised properly,” he explains. When it comes to running diverse concept restaurants, human capital is a huge challenge.“Not having access to seasonal casual labour or parttimers, unlike in other countries, is a major lacking point. Full-time staff come at a cost, which is huge in terms of accommodation and transport. This is a limitation when compared to other parts of the world, where casual part timers are available as per business needs,” states Naim. According to Naim, the market in the UAE is in its semi-mature stage, with rapid paced movement, and lot of suppliers queuing up.“What is lacking though is a larger variety available, and for pricing issues to be kept under control. Inflation can be kept under control in a sense by avoiding unnecessary imports of produce that can be grown locally in green houses and seasonal organic farms,” he adds. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 35





Essential reading for hotel operators, owners, developers and investors





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Ashiana by Vineet –

Dubai’s hidden Ashiana by Vineet at Dubai Sheraton Creek is one of the oldest restaurants of Dubai. The charm of the restaurant remains coupled with delicious authentic Indian food by international celebrity Michelin starred Chef Vineet Bhatia


shiana restaurant recently reopened (in April 2014) after a US$50 million renovation of the entire hotel it is located in - Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel and Towers. It was a week-night when we visited, and there were two other families enjoying their meal. Being possibly the oldest restaurant in Dubai, this was my first time here having heard a lot about it from my parents and their friends. Looking at the menu, you are spoilt for choice at the many wonderful things that you can eat. Really! And the things we ordered were mouth-watering, exceptional to look at and satiating and fulfilling to eat. First was the Aloo tikki then we ordered the chops, the raan Lucknowi, the chicken tikka and the prawns chettinad along with a bread platter and a mutton biryani. The food arrived promptly and was exceptional. I had expected good food but this was phenomenal fare, indeed! The dessert options were tempting but we decided to pass. However we were presented with a dessert platter with a mix of all the best sellers, two different kinds of kulfi, a cheesecake made with Indian flavours, gajar ka halwa (carrot dessert) and not surprisingly it was gone before we knew it. And we thought we were full. But with dessert like that, a full stomach apparently isn’t full enough! And we cannot wait to go back!



La Tablita – best Mexican in Dubai

La Tablita open now at the Hyatt Regency Creek Heights has the best Mexican food you will eat in Dubai. Headed by Chef Carlos Hannon, it’s a little piece of Mexico in Dubai. And the talented Mexican staff can even perform the best salsa in town!


a Tablita is my favourite Mexican restaurant in Dubai. Once you visit, it will be yours too! There are a lot of things that go into making of an unforgettable experience and here, diners are in for the real deal. The food is as authentic as if you are eating in Mexico. The staff is also Mexican, so you should expect complete participation when it comes to ordering your meal. Mexico has a great passion for food and the flavours and variety of grains used in its preparation is amazing. And here at La Tablita Chef Carlos Hannon


ensures that flavours are authentic guaranteeing a truly exclusive experience. We ordered guacamole with corn nachos, individual tacos, tacos to share, beef fajita with corn tortillas, more guacamole, salmon ceviche, more of the fish taco, the rib-eye steak with Mexican rice, the mango sorbet with chili and of course the churros with grand-ma’s home-made chocolate. The food is fresh and is usually to share. All arriving promptly. Drinks are very fresh with a hibiscus flower drink as well as a tamarind drink with rock salt and spices which really was


a stand out. They even have Mexican cola which you should definitely try, however that day when we were there they had run out. The ambience is rustic, cool, casual and relaxed. There are live cooking stations as well as a resident DJ. The day we visited there was an old Mexican black and white movie playing on mute adding an intrigue to the ambience. Once we were done and about to leave, one of the staff asked us if we wanted to watch a salsa performance and we were stunned! It was fabulous. What a multitalented group of people! Hence, can’t wait to go back! JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 39


Wake up and smell Pierre Debayle, Regional Manager, Nespresso Middle East Africa Caribbean, takes Top hotel through a journey with coffee and the upcoming trends in the business.


he Nespresso story began with a simple but revolutionary idea: enable anyone to create the perfect cup of coffee – just like a skilled barista. From this beginning 29 years ago, the Nespresso brand concept has revolutionised the way millions of people enjoy their coffee, and has shaped the global coffee culture.


Nespresso, which is part of Nestle, has been in the region since 2000, when their first boutique opened in Lebanon. “Coffee has always shared a deep connection and history with the Middle East. In fact, it is said that the origins of coffee can be traced back to the Arab world, and coffee has always remained a traditional


welcome drink for guests in Arab homes,�says Pierre Debayle, Regional Manager, Nespresso Middle East Africa Caribbean. However, there has certainly been a large increase in the number of people drinking coffee, especially portioned coffee in the region. This is primarily because more people are making informed decisions when JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 41


buying coffee.“There has been an increase in awareness and knowledge around coffee, spearheaded by passionate baristas, roasters and coffee specialists,” he says. Nespresso credits its success to their unrelenting focus on delivering the highest quality coffees to consumers and clients.“Nespresso transformed coffee from being a mere commodity to becoming a true sensory ritual, a premium experience. From high quality Grand Cru coffee sourced from the best beans in the world, carefully crafted and encapsulated, to provide perfect in-cup results, to easy-to-use machines, bringing contemporary designs into the homes of consumers, while allowing them to easily create the perfect cup of coffee cup after cup,” describes Pierre. Nespresso offers its professional customers eleven Grand Cru coffees all with distinct aromas, tastes and levels of intensity. Nespresso professional machines are specifically designed 42 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

Nespresso, which is part of Nestle, has been in the region since 2000, when their first boutique opened in Lebanon.

for intensive, high volume usage, and are adaptable to all space and venue configurations for quick and simple preparation of the highest quality coffees. “The ongoing innovations by Nespresso in the business-to-business sector continue to set the standard for customer care and provide a level of value added service unmatched in the industry. Each business solution is specifically designed to address the different needs of our professional partners – be it hotel, restaurant, café of offices - and to allow them to deliver the highest quality coffee and best service experience to their customers,” he adds. Nespresso has formed partnerships with prestigious culinary organisations and chefs around the world, with agreements over 15 international luxury hotel chains, working together to enhance the overall guest experience throughout their stay, including Club Med, Hilton Worldwide, Kempinski,

Pullman Hotels and Resorts, The RitzCarlton, SAS Radisson, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts and Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts,. Currently, Nespresso is served by over 750 star-rated chefs or equivalent, and is a recognised partner of prestigious associations such as Relais and Châteaux, Bocuse d’Or, Jeunes Restaurateurs d’Europe, and L’Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI). Nespresso is also served by 20 major airlines and over 3,000 business jets as part of their exclusive offering to customers, including Swiss International Air Lines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways and Emirates Airlines. “The GCC, including the UAE, and Turkey are still the most prominent coffee drinking countries, as it has long been part of habit and traditions of the people. It is also one of the fastest transforming regions, and this has definitely had its effect on coffee culture. This is primarily driven


by a rapid growth in hospitality and tourism, including lifestyle changes,” muses Pierre. “In recent years, we have seen consumer demand for gourmet and quality coffee ‘out of home’ increase dramatically. Today, as much as 40 per cent of coffee is consumed in external environments, as consumers seek premium coffee experiences driven by trends toward innovative and pure, single origin coffees together with original coffee-inspired recipes,”he adds. As for coffee machines, fully automated and user-friendly machines are more and more sought after. Nespresso is constantly innovating to develop new machines that will best respond to the evolving needs in the offices and for HORECA customers. “We have a full range of machines, from the ideal solution for any size business looking for quality and simplicity, to one that combines the best of traditional coffee-making

methods with the latest advances from Nespresso for high-volume establishments, delivering bespoke hot and cold coffee recipes and beverages at the touch of a button to delight all tastes and preferences,”he explains. Pierre expects the national and regional market for coffee, especially specialty coffee to grow. As such, Nespresso intends to continue to create delightful experiences by launching new products to provide solutions meeting customers’ needs in all venues. They will continue to share their passion and expertise by training chefs and sommeliers, to educate on coffee and further penetrate fine dining in their markets.“Our promise of consistent quality coffee will ensure that customers enjoy the ultimate coffee experience, cup after cup, as we act as long term business partners and accompany our customers to develop their business and provide coffee expertise and operational convenience,” he concludes. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 43


The island The Banana Island Resort by Anantara completes a very successful year this January. Top hotel Middle East visited the island and came away enamoured and planning the next visit. With 141 rooms, suites, pool and over water villas, the resort is a unique destination especially for GCC residents



he experience begins the minute one arrives at the Banana Island Resort by Anantara’s Shuwaikh Welcome Centre in Doha city. There is a specific fragrance the minute you enter. As I arrived, my bags were taken care of and I was led inside to await my turn at the reception desk. While I waited I was offered Arabic coffee and dates - the traditional regional welcome. The welcome centre was definitely a warm and welcoming space. I was checked-in and given the boarding pass for the 20-minute luxury ferry ride to the island property. Once on the ferry, there was complimentary wifi as well as refreshments. While we left the city behind, the island property’s many offers and activities were being played on a large flat screen at the front of the ferry. For the safety of passengers no one is allowed outside once the ferry is on its way. Two and Three Bedroom Overwater Villa Bedroom 2016 45 JANUARY/FEBRUARY


When we reached, the ferry expertly parked itself, and there was a vibrant live band playing a welcome song for all disembarking guests. There was another unique welcome - a rose water spray for the hands. And waiting to welcome me were members of the hotel’s management team! I was very honoured. I was introduced to my villa host who would be there to take care of all my queries and needs for the duration of my stay. How very posh, indeed! My room was ready and waiting and I was soon on the golf buggy being driven by my host to my Junior Suite. A very spacious 85 sq metre room, with a very large and comfortable seating area and an adjoining bedroom partitioned by a delicate wooden partition. The room even had a spacious balcony with couches for lounging outdoors. The en-suite bathroom was huge, too, with a free standing bath tub, a double vanity and separate shower area and a completely separate wc. I was then driven to dinner at Ted’s, a casual diner serving classic American fare. There was a jukebox playing and the menus even came in a mini juke box. The menu consisted of mainly salads, burgers, juices, shakes and dessert. I ordered the Mexican, which came with jalapenos, and guacamole. It was very juicy and very good. I was brought an apple pie as a welcome gesture by the team at Ted’s which was so sweet of them. The apple pie was deliciously warm and was served with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. A fabulous meal. The next morning breakfast was at Azraq - the all day dining restaurant. Extensive buffet with all the usual suspects, plus gluten free items as well. A separate station for kids on a table at their level! Outstanding. I had been told about the wellness centre at the property being the first of its kind in the entire Middle East and hence was keen to find out more about it. The wellness centre has a beautiful indoor botanical garden with many different secluded seating areas for guests to relax and unwind in. Back at the wellness centre I was greeted by the resident Ayurvedic specialist who analysed my diet, habits and lifestyle and conducted a test using a wellness barometre to find out the situation of fats good and bad inside my body. The 46 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

Al Shyoukh Terminal Interior

Al Nahham Entrance

Now if you look at the social media patron, you will see that our restaurants are being very well-noticed, and are getting popular.

results enable the doctor to advise on what kind and level of activity should be ideal in order to for example lose weight and gain better health, and decrease bad fats. It also indicated the number of calories to be consumed daily in order to reduce weight and also indicated the number of days it might take to come to the ideal weight level. Very interesting and insightful. The specialist then recommended an ayurvedic treatment in order to relax the body and help in resting and rejuvenating the muscles. The recommended treatment - the Pinda Sweda - was a deeply relaxing one hour massage administered by possibly the best therapist in the world. Yes, that’s a very big claim, but this therapist was an expert being more than a decade in the business. The massage is for relaxing, rejuvenating, strengthening, increasing blood

circulation, reducing stiffness, pain and enhancing sleep. Once the massage began and the warm oils were applied on the body, the sensation of the warm oils, is enough to transport the mind to a place where no thought of the everyday world even arises or occurs. The treatment was truly and thoroughly enjoyable and I was sad when it was over. After the treatment, I toured the property and found out more about the island. The shape is natural and looks like a banana hence the name. The property has been developed by Al Rayyan Hospitality and is being managed by Anantara. The property is a unique destination in the region as it is the only one that has over-water villas such as those in the Maldives and Seychelles. Guests at the property have access to unspoilt private beaches, a movie theatre, a bowling alley,


Al Shyouk Terminal Exterior

Bowling Alley

Couple Massage Room

Balance Wellness Centre

Dining By Design

surf pool, Cool Mint children’s club, Peppermint teens club, golf, RS formula V2 racing simulator and a host of water sporting activities. The day turned into evening and it was time for dinner at Nahham, the

island’s Arabic cuisine restaurant. It was a busy one that night and the weather was windy and pleasant. Live music was playing and lots of families were enjoying the food, ambience and atmosphere. The restaurant is facing the sea and hence has the best fresh catch of fish on display and for selection by guests wanting to eat seafood. Dinner was sumptuous, flavourful and very satisfying. This was my last night at the property and after breakfast the next morning, I was bid fond goodbyes by the management and staff at the property and my villa host who said he would wait for me to visit again and asked me to request for him when I returned. I definitely will! It was a fantastic experience and I will definitely be going back. Thank you Banana Island Resort by Anantara!

Q Lounge & Restaurant Floating Platform

Three Bedroom Seaview Pool Villa King Bedroom



Seaview Pool Villa Master Bedroom

Spa Treatment

Meeting every need Top hotel Middle East spoke with Thomas Fehlbier about how the Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara is a unique offering for a discerning customer, and his family


The Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara is on an island away from Doha city. How have initiatives at the hotel managed to capture maximum business?

At Banana Island, we have 141 luxury guest rooms, suites and villas, which are designed in splendid Arabian style, with signature Anantara touches, including 54 Premier Sea View Rooms, 16 Deluxe Sea View Rooms, eight


theatre. With dedicated facilities and fully qualified professional child minders, families are welcome at the Cool Mint Kids Club and Pepper Mint Teens Club, the perfect place to make new friends and socialise, play games and get active on the obstacle course. As for the dining options, you can take your pick from eight outlets that offer a mix of Middle Eastern, Italian and international cuisines, each at a spectacular location – the marina, poolside, by the shoreline, and on over water decks with tranquil views and soft sea breezes. Our aim is to promote a ‘family friendly’ environment at the resort, where every member enjoys being in one place, and the family gets to spend quality time together through fun and engaging activities. With this, obviously, we are mainly targeting leisure travellers that expect only the very best from Doha. However, we also think that business professionals travelling for corporate incentives, meetings, or conferences, may also want to take advantage of their time in Qatar and visit the resort, especially as we are only a 20-minute luxury ferry ride away from the busy city. How are you making the offerings attractive for both leisure and business guests, and how much of the revenue is generated from both, percentagewise?

Sea View Suites, 18 Anantara Suites and 34 spacious Sea View Pool Villas featuring the tropical indulgence of a personal pool and poolside cabana. Elegantly poised above turquoise waters, the eight two-bedroom Over Water Villas, and a trio of prestigious three-bedroom Anantara Over Water Villas, offer 360 square metres of luxurious space and a 62 square metre personal pool, ideal for families and

groups of friends, revealing views of azure sea and unforgettable sunsets from a spacious private deck. During their stay, our guests are spoilt for recreation options on dry land - tennis, beach volleyball and a fitness centre, to an entertainment centre with a nine-hole putting golf course, the first F1 racing simulator in Qatar, a floating hammock, an eight pin bowling alley and a VIP cinema

Qatar is seeing a highly encouraging growth from global travellers, and it is clear that the country has what it takes to appeal to visitors from across the globe, both business and leisure. Even though Qatar is traditionally perceived as a major international business hub, leisure travel is on the increase, and we expect this trend to gain further momentum. Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara is engaging in a full range of year-round marketing activities, including trade shows, exhibitions, B2B events with airline operators, travel agents and other industry partners, to contribute to Qatar’s development as a tourism hub. We have participated in various key regional and international events across Europe, GCC and Asia, and look forward to making our presence felt at many other significant events to reaffirm Qatar’s global position as a destination for leisure travellers. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 49


Two Bedroom Luxury Pool Villa Exterior Night

Cool Mint Kids Club

The resort is an ideal choice for travellers from the region and beyond, as the property provides guests with an amazing opportunity to enjoy world-class amenities within the setting of the natural environment. The resort is popular for its extensive wellness facilities, and serves as a wellness and holiday destination not only for the local and regional markets, but also for the western clientele interested in detox and body balance programmes, offered within a very relaxing environment with the sun, the beach and family fun. How much are your F&B outlets contributing to overall earnings? What are the new initiatives in place when it comes to promoting a different experience at the resort?

Our F&B earnings are a result of hotel guest usage, increase in hotel guest average checks, and increase of outside patronage from the community. Now if you look at the social media patron, you will see that our restaurants are being very well-noticed, and are getting popular. Our restaurants Azraq 50 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

We pride ourselves on our unique ability to exceed expectations and leave the couple and their guests with a memory that will last forever.

Riva Restaurant

(modern approach to all day dining) and Al Nahham (the unique fusion of Arabic-Mediterranean cuisine) are leading social media rankings, especially on trip advisor. Our Friday Brunch is regularly fully booked and enjoys great demand from nonresident day visitors. We are the first to have a dedicated Balance Wellness Centre, which is the first and only facility of its kind in the Middle East within a resort, offering holistic programmes for relaxation, detox, de-stress and radiance, fitness, weight management, yoga and alternative therapy, as well as pre- and post-natal and anti-ageing journeys. Therefore, we will certainly be developing offers to include wellness journeys combining healthy nutrition and other experiences for guests to enjoy. The resort features one of the first resort-based diving centres in Qatar so guests can already experience the beautiful underwater world near the island whilst diving and snorkelling. In the near future, we are planning to invest in the development of the marine life and coral around the resort.

The property presents both couples and families with a high-end holiday offering all year round, with access to some of the best dining and adventure sports options. How much of the revenue is generated from meetings, conferences and events, and how do you stay ahead of the competition?

Banana Island Resort Doha is mainly targeting groups for incentives and team building with entertainment and leisure activities, but can also cater small to medium size groups in the three multi-functional meeting rooms. Also, themed children’s birthday parties are popular at the resort. Tell us a little about your wedding packages.

With Banana Island Resort Doha, we promise the bride and groom a romantic story that unfolds in a series of personalised chapters, capturing the most momentous occasions, from an imaginative proposal scene, to a fairytale wedding with an exotic island backdrop, to the


Three Bedroom Seaview Pool Villa Terrace

Peppermint Teens Club

luxury honeymoon they have always dreamed of, followed by anniversaries to come. We believe that weddings are special and should reflect the dreams and desires of the two individuals involved. We want couples to enjoy every step of planning their special day, by working closely with our experienced team. We pride ourselves on our unique ability to exceed expectations and leave the couple and their guests with a memory that will last forever. How have occupancy rates in your hotel changed from the time the hotel opened till date?

Qatar is rapidly becoming an important destination for international travellers, with continued major investments in the hospitality and tourism sectors. Tourism plays a very important role in Qatar’s growth and evolution with planned investments of more than US$ 40 billion. Since we officially opened in January of this year, we have constantly enjoyed high occupancy

Ted’s American Diner

Q Lounge Pool

figures; as of now we have 85 per cent of our guests for leisure and approximately 15 per cent for business. It is worth mentioning here that in Qatar, and during what is considered to be low season – July and August - we have enjoyed very high occupancies in the resort. We had guests from all over the GCC, who visited the island to spend their summer vacation and enjoy the various activities. How have you managed to cut the fat in terms of spending without altering the guest experience from the time the property opened till date?

We have actually increased the team in reaction to the demand, but we do streamline all costs and review opportunities regularly. Tell us about your team.

We have recruited a young team of highly talented, multi-national associates to support the leadership team, which consists of well-

We had guests from all over the GCC, who visited the island to spend their summer vacation and enjoy the various activities.

experienced managers with ultraluxury hospitality backgrounds. How is the hotel being promoted in other parts of the world, and which is your largest market?

Travel agents play a key role in promoting any new destination or property. As any other important corporate segment, we work in cohesion with regional and international travel agents. and aim to develop mutually beneficial relationships that can further enhance Qatar’s global positioning. We welcome inquiries from all IATA, ARC and CLIA licensed travel agents and agencies based within Qatar or the region, and work with them to develop attractive package deals based on their requirements and needs. We are not only focusing on business travellers, but also want to capitalise on the leisure market and holiday travellers from across the GCC. We are creating the demand here, and want individuals and families to come and experience the resort and discover unparalleled luxury right here in Qatar. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 51

International investments landscape According to Professor Stephan Gerhard, a prestigious hotel market expert, only around 25 hotel chains will operate globally in the long term. More mega deals are expected in the next year. The acquisition of a large, western hotel chain by Chinese investors could occur in 2016 … here’s more from


ith the acquisition of Starwood, Marriott International now plans to increase its current portfolio to about 1.5 million hotel rooms worldwide. In the competition for the best hotel locations, the new, larger hotel group could be an interesting partner for real estate investors, due to digital sales strength and customer loyalty programmes. According to Professor Stephan Gerhard, a prestigious hotel market expert, this has an indirect effect on regional hotel markets. Although the prospects of other hotel groups are promising, Marriott-Starwood is now leading. World’s largest tower featuring a luxury hotel will open in Jeddah – the 1,000-metre-high building is to be inaugurated in 2017. After the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (828 meters high), the next highest tower worldwide will be built in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. The ‘Kingdom Tower’ will measure just over one kilometre in height, and will offer, among other things, a luxury hotel in the port city on the Red Sea. Owned by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, under his company, Kingdom Holdings, the first 26 floors of the approximately USD 1.2 billion (AED 4.4 billion) building have already been completed. Another part of what will be the world’s tallest tower will be the Four Seasons Hotel, with about 200 rooms and suites. On the 157th floor of the 200 floor tower, there will be a viewing platform for guests. The opening is planned for 2017.

Dubai is still booking – 44,000 new hotel rooms in the pipeline until World Expo 2020 Hotel construction in the UAE continues, with 164 new properties with a total of 60,200 rooms in the pipeline, most of them in Dubai (113 projects). About 44,000 new hotel rooms will be built in the shopping and entertainment metropolis on the Arabian Gulf. Tourism will continue to increase, through the construction of new mega malls and the ongoing



influx of foreign workers. In retail, new record sales are forecasted: USD 42 billion (AED 154 billion) last year. In 2020, this number should be USD 56 billion (AED 206 billion), as per the forecast. Dragon Mart, a large shopping centre featuring a variety of economical Chinese products, opened a new, 160,000 sq metres large extension recently. Besides the Dubai Mall extension, other projects worth a total of USD 2.6 billion (AED 9.5 billion) are under construction in Dubai’s retail sector. Dubai plans retail projects for nearly USD 4 billion (AED 14.7 billion). The biggest project is the many years debated Mall of the World; initiators being Dubai Holding and Emaar. In addition to the mall, a 100 hotels with 20,000 rooms and a theme park with Broadway, London’s West End, etc, are planned for the ‘First Temperature Controlled City’. The overall project will be implemented within the next 10 years, and will cost about USD 7 billion (AED 25.7 billion). The mall will open in 2017. According to official data, Dubai hotel rooms supply increased between 2008 and 2012 by 40 per cent, to 57,345 (excluding hotel apartments). At the end of 2013, there were 61,670 rooms in 416 hotels. Apart from the hotels, there were a total of 200 apartmenthotels, with 23,069 residential units in Dubai. The successful bid for Expo 2020 strengthened the importance of Dubai as a business hub and tourism destination of the region further. Construction of the 4.38 sq kilometre Expo site is scheduled to begin in 2016, and completed by 2019. The World Expo site, and the adjacent new Airport (Dubai World Central / DWC), will be part of an urban development zone, with residential areas, amusement parks, hotels, shopping centres as well as service companies (logistics, etc) and industrial enterprises.

transformation. New luxury hotels and residences will be presented with VR goggles in the future. So far, the industry presented destinations with animations or 360-degree images, but 3D technology will take this to a new level. Worldwide, about 2,100 new luxury hotels and resorts are in the pipeline. A large part of those could present their property to potential guests and marketing partners with this innovative technology. Hotel chains such as Marriott and airlines such as British Airways and Turkish Airlines apply VR goggles as an ‘Oculus Rift’ to inspire dream destinations. Up until now, you checked a destination and location of the booked hotel at tripadvisor. com; with Google Maps and Google Street View – according to experienced tourism professionals. That will change completely with 3D technology. Simply explore the hotel virtually before booking and explore the environment - that could be a major breakthrough in the future of travel. The German agency 3Spin already demonstrates how one can do this. For this purpose, the entire environment is recorded from top to bottom, from left to right. The 360-degree images can then be viewed by simply turning the head - the sensors of VR goggles detect the movements and show the appropriate image. With supplies like hand controllers, the VR goggles can be upgraded. VR-Marketing is still in its infancy, although powerful 3D glasses are already purchasable for a few hundred euros. For hotels itself, it will be worthwhile to record the hotel and the destination’s surrounding for the 360-degree view.

Hotel Construction Projects in the Middle East United Arab Emirates – 159 with 58,211 rooms Oman – 33 with 6,467 rooms Qatar – 45 with 12,089 rooms Saudi Arabia – 120 with 46,797 rooms

In Jeddah, currently 39 new top hotels with a total of 7,300 rooms are in the pipeline. An overview of selected hotel projects: Name of hotel – status of project – number of rooms – country - city Grand Hyatt Jeddah – 400 rooms – planned opening: TBA Hyatt Regency Jeddah – 240 rooms – planned opening: early 2017 Millennium Hotel Jeddah – 325 rooms – planned opening: spring 2017 One & Only Resort Jeddah – 150 suits – planned opening: early 2016 JW Marriott Hotel Jeddah – 325 rooms – planned opening: autumn 2016 Dusit Thani Jeddah – 215 rooms – planned opening: early 2018 Shangri-La Hotel & Residences Jeddah – 242 rooms & apartments – planned opening: early 2018

About Tophotelprojects is the leading data provider for hotel projects data worldwide. The database contains more than 5,000 hotel construction projects, with detailed information and contact data for the supplying industry. The multi-lingual team of Tophotelprojects gather project data and detail information from around the globe directly from developers, hotel operators, architects and interior designers. Learn more:

Discover tomorrow’s luxury hotels with VR Goggles The marketing in hospitality and tourism is experiencing a profound


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.

Contact: Myriam Redouane / 048128300 / 055a 710 4252/ /

Sensasia Spa

Salina Handa talks about her brand

Winter skincare Effective products

Natura Bisse’s Essential Shock Facial

At the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray

I Salina Handa


t all started one day in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. “Lucky for me, I am a golf widow. While Kavit (my husband) played the afternoon, I went in search of something to indulge myself. Right in the middle of the most glorious Shiatsus I had EVER had, I almost ached at the thought of not being able to have this when I went back to

Dubai. The idea struck to create my own sanctuary, that, if done correctly, I could also have so much fun in,�says Salina Handa, Founder and Managing Director, Sensasia Urban Spas. At the time, Salina was working in concept design and business development for a large packaging company. With a business and marketing degree, she knew how to


Taking the stress away

Salina Handa, Founder and Managing Director, Sensasia Urban Spas, talks to Top hotel about what makes her brand stand out, and what her success mantra is

‘package’ an idea and sell it. Now all she needed were the ingredients to make the product work. “I met Kavit back at the hotel that evening, and was bursting at the seams, desperate to tell him my idea, and hoping and praying he wouldn’t crush it by laughing,” she says cautiously. SensAsia is now in its 11th year, and has four locations, so

it’s obvious what his reaction must have been. Salina wanted to create a relaxed and ‘boutique’ ambience in SensAsia, but with exceptional standards.“My spa needed to have an approachable ethos, as opposed to the super luxurious spas that can be found so frequently. I wanted to target a younger audience – hence the

‘quirkiness’ of SensAsia and the tone/language of choice in all of our communication,” she explains. At SensAsia, they specialise in what they do, and proudly claim to be more than your ‘run of the mill’ salon offering every possible service. The journey to where SensAsia is today though, was not easy.“At the time of our first opening – which was JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 57


The Village spa in 2004 – it seemed gruelling. But now, when I look back, it was beautiful how things just fell into place. The concept came naturally, the design came from my own vision, which was brought to life by working with like-minded people. I sourced interiors from Thailand, and this was easy, as this is where I am from, and speaking the language helps. Human resources was the most challenging part, as well as Dubai’s laws at the time, only because there were not a lot of businesses like us in the market,”she recounts. But she is a quick learner, and soon realised that location is key, a lesson she has carried for the last 11 years. Service standards are also fundamental, 58 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

and this is something that must be nurtured every single day of operation. Clear and precise SOPs, supported by ongoing training, especially if you are trying to create a standard across multiple locations, is vital – there is nothing worse than a lack of consistency. “We employ over 100 people, and that’s including a wide variety of roles, not just therapists. FOH is a hugely important role, as well as the rest of the support staff. Equipment isn’t our area of focus, conceptually, so we may vary on this. We have very little equipment. In terms of products, we cherry pick brands to stock and incorporate into our treatment menu. At the moment, our key brands are Elemis, Mio


Skincare, Dr Dennis Gross and Eve Lom,” she explains. Therapists are SensAsia are trained for six weeks when they first arrive. They are then assessed every three months.“We have different levels of therapists, and they can only jump up the levels once they have successfully completed their training and have been successfully working on clients. We then assess if they are ready for further training, for example, in specific facial/product houses,” says Salina. She sources her team from recruiters and consultants in many parts of the world, and by now, has a steady stream of therapists applying directly as well. When choosing the right team member, Salina looks for passion more

than skill.“You can have a very skilled therapist with ‘zero love’ in her/him. When I sense this, I don’t hire, as my clients would feel it instantly. We can’t train that,”she smiles. With treatments, Salina takes client feedback very seriously.“We are constantly adapting treatments based on what our clients tells us they are looking for. An example would be ‘The Workaholic’, which is a 15-minute, ultra-calming head and temple massage that is a SensAsia Enhancement, which can be carried out before any other treatment. It came about after a conversation with our PR manager Sarah, who always has trouble switching off,”she laughs. Today, the SensAsia brand is all set

to franchise and/or equipped to operate spas for newer developments that don’t have the expertise.“We have realised that some companies are keen to get into the spa industry, because it has become expected by the market. But they need help to meet the criteria, and that’s when they should outsource to SensAsia,”she offers. Salina realises that people today are so much savvier when it comes to spas, especially in this region.“They know what they want, and have experienced it all around the world. They are welltravelled and expect the same levels of service when they come to Dubai,” she says. Which can make her work stressful, but then, she unwinds with a massage before bedtime. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 59

A signature June Jacobs Signature Facial at the Ahasees Spa, Grand Hyatt is a treat. One that not only feels good but makes the skin look great.



June Jacobs Signature Facial at the Ahasees Spa, Grant Hyatt Going to the Ahasees Spa is something which I really look forward to. This time it was to try the June Jacobs Signature Facial. I was first asked to be seated in a special waiting area where the lady from the reception explained the treatment duration got my signature and asked me to choose the music I’d like during the treatment and what signature tea I would like to drink after the treatment. I was then taken into the spa and treatment rooms. There my therapist showed me to the changing room and then we went into the prepared treatment room. The ritual begins with a foot soak, scrub and application of a fragranced oil. While the therapist did the foot soak and scrub she explained the steps of the treatment and asked me about any skin concerns I might have. The treatment began with a thorough cleansing of the skin followed by an inspection to know the skin concerns. The products were then determined. Since my skin was very clogged the therapist decided on a steam and extraction followed by exfoliation which was followed by the application of the Mandarin moisture mask. This is a clay mask that locks in moisture and leaves skin firmer and plumped. While the mask was on, the therapist massaged the hands and feet. and then removed the mask and applied the raspberry recovery serum followed by the moisturiser, eye cream and lip balm. The treatment was over and the result was beautiful, radiant and moisturised skin. Verdict: Very good! JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 61


JUNE JACOBS INTENSIVE AGE DEFYING BRIGHTENING EYE CREAM, 16ML: From the very effective Age Defying range, tis eye cream gets to work the minute it is on the skin. Eyes look fresher, under eye area is not puffy and the delicate skin looks protected.

For extra nourishment, protection, moisture, these superlative products provide the much-needed tlc for dry, rough, dehydrated, winter skin. You don’t have to wait for summer to get rid of dead skin cells covered under pullovers and shawls

JUNE JACOBS MANDARIN MOISTURE MASQUE, 111.4ML: This exciting clay masque is as if having a spa experience at home. The smell and the thick texture feels amazing on application. But the real excitement is on seeing the state of your skin once this masque is off. Clean, supple and great looking skin.

ELEMIS PRO-COLLAGEN CLEANSING BALM, 105G AED325: This is a deep cleansing balm which is better used on clean skin as this is not meant for make-up removal. This balm smells fantastic and can also be left on the skin for a few minutes as a deep cleansing mask.

BLISS HIGH INTENSITY 24-’HEAVEN’ HEALING BODY BALM, 225G AED155: A boon for winter skin, this healing body balm is thick and dense and you need only a little. What’s amazing is how it gently renews the skin and reduces dryness without that oily or sticky feeling afterwards. 62 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

BLISS LEMON + SAGE BODY SCRUB, 340G AED166.50: USe this scrub all over skin before the shower for exceptionally soft and smooth skin. Again, regular use will leave skin feeling fresh and invigorated as it alleviates dead skin buildup.


ELEMIS S.O.S SURVIVAL CREAM FOR MEN, 50ML AED352: This daily moisture cream, provides a potent boost to the skin, hence a little goes a long way. There is an instant visible improvement to skin texture as dryness is minimised and suppleness is replenished. ELEMIS PRO-COLLAGEN MARINE CREAM ULTRA RICH, 50ML AED670: This thick rich formula provide nourishment, moisture, suppleness to the skin. Continuous use day and night will greatly improve skin hydration levels and firmness reducing the appearance of fine lines.

DERMALOGICA MULTIVITAMIN POWER RECOVERY MASK 75ML, AED180: This mask is a keeper. It hydrates, exfoliates and the skin just drink up all the vitamins in this mask. Especially after a peel, this mask is food for the skin.

DAVINES MELU HAIR SHIELD 250ML, AED125: This heat protection spray for hair is very effective in making hair feel soft and smelling great. Made of lentil seed extract, it’s really gentle on the hair and does not weigh the hair down or make it look oily at all.

JUNE JACOBS NEROLI HYDRATING MIST, 200ML: This has got to be the best smelling, refreshing, awakening toner out there. And perhaps one of the reasons of getting up and doing the daily beauty routine is this toner. Smells fabulous and preps skin for receiving other products.

JUNE JACOBS LIP KIT: A set of three lip essentials a masque, scrub and a renewal cream, this lip kit has everything that will keep lips in top condition. On application of first the scrub, then masque and then renewal cream, lips are soft, smooth and ready for lipstick.



ERIC FAVRE PUSH-UP SCULPTING GEL 200ML: This is a very effective gel for the buttocks. It helps reduce the water content in the bottom hence giving it a tighter and more sculpted shape and look. So it definitely helps to use this as a supplement to your exercise regime.

DAVINES ALCHEMIC CONDITIONER, 250ML, AED95: This Chocolate conditioner meant for deep brown hair, left the hair feeling moisturised and soft while bringing out a brilliant shade to brown colored or natural hair. Also hair was exceptionally shiny and healthy.

NATURA BISSE DIAMOND WHITE GLOWING MASK AED330 100 ML: A highly effective mask that sucks out dirt which clogs pores revealing clean, bright, fair skin. This has also helped in reducing and eliminating pimples when used just when one is appearing.

DERMALOGICA AGE SMART OVERNIGHT RETINOL REPAIR 30ML, AED445: Retinol is proven as the only ingredient that clearly helps the skin in controlling both the internal and external ageing process. Results are miraculous with regular use. This is one product which you should use all your life.

DR DENNIS GROSS HYDRAPURE OIL-FREE MOISTURE: Hydrating, smooth, matte, this moisturiser helps relieve irritation. The Vitamin C helps in firming as well as is a defense against sun exposure. There is also an improvement in skin texture. 64 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016

BLISS PARABEN FREE VANILLA + BERGAMOT BODY BUTTER, 200ML AED134: Smells delicious, and leaves skin baby soft. Best results are achieved by regular use. Incidentally, this cream is also used in all of bliss’s professional massages


Endermologie’s Cellular Regeneration Treatment is a revolutionary method of rejuvenating the skin cells using the LPG machine and the potent Anti-Aging Serum to detoxify, wake-up and boost the complexion

Non aggressive Endermologie Cellular Regeneration Treatment This treatment is not one where you should expect to relax and unwind. In fact, this treatment awakens your skin cells to work better and hence make you look fresher and more rested. This treatment is a firm favourite of celebrities and is very popular during the Cannes Film Festival. Research suggests that results are very promising. You will see visible results – a healthy glowing complexion and a natural lifting effect. Skin radiance: x 2* Wrinkles smoothed: -34%* forehead lines -27%* frown line -29%* neck wrinkles Skin toned (face and neck): +97%* Softer hands: +72%* Fresh, velvety soft skin Skin feels energised Re-awakens a dull complexion Improves under eye bags and circles Brings back firmness

Reduces a double chin Totally pain free Lastingly radiant, youthful appearance – without injections or surgery, and without impairing your face’s natural form or expressiveness. The treatment begins with a thorough facial cleanse using the pre-treatment micellar lotion. Then the machine gets to work for the next 30 minutes, targetting different areas of the face and neck to lift, detoxify and firm. Different areas of the face need different techniques, movements and pulsation speeds. On the skin, the machine tool - the LPG Ergolift - feels like a vacuum interacting with the skin and stimulating it. After this the skin is exfoliated using LPG Peeling Technology with 10 per cent active ingredients. The skin is first cleansed using the micellar

lotion, followed by the application of the exfoliator. This is removed almost immediately and followed again by the application of the micellar lotion soaked on a cotton pad. This ensures all traces of the exfoliant is removed. After this the post-treatment collagen mask is applied on the entire face and left on for 15 minutes. While the mask is on the face, the therapist used the machine to do the same treatment on the hands. After the mask is removed, the anti-aging renewal serum is applied followed by the total eye care and the firming facial cream. The treatment left my skin looking and feeling fresh, bright, fair and very, very clean. Verdict: Very good! JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 65



An essential Natura Bisse’s Essential Shock line of products and treatments aim to target and relieve skin concerns that come with the ravages of daily life and time. The Talise Ottoman Spa at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray is the finest location to try this out

Natura Bisse Essential Shock Facial, Talise Ottoman Spa at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray When booking a treatment at this spa, guests have an opportunity to spend an entire day lounging and relaxing in the luxurious surroundings of the Talise Ottoman Spa. Truly magnificent, the spa leaves nothing out when it comes to providing guests with the ultimate spa experience. One which every tired soul needs to recharge and rejuvenate. Spread out over two levels the spa has separate areas for men and women with a dedicated couples spa area as well which can be booked privately by couples for an exclusive and personal experience. Multiple treatment rooms, an indoor salt-water swimming pool, hammam, snow room … you name it. Interior design and decor is opulent and decadent. An absolute treat of an experience from start to finish. Coming to the treatment, the Essential Shock range of products are a potent, concentrated mix

of bionutritional and regenerative elements that restructure skin and infuse new energy and life into it. Undoubtedly, the facial treatment does it all in the most effective manner. In my personal experience with the products, they are the only products that have an instant effect on the skin. The products do exactly what they claim to do and do so from the instant you apply on the skin. The facial I experienced was decided upon by my therapist – the very talented and insightful Michelle – considering all the concerns I had mentioned to her in our brief chat. She understood my skin’s requirements based on what I was going through and tailored the treatment to give my skin the balance and intense hydration it needed. My skin looked fresh due to minimised pore size. Resurfacing during the treatment gave my skin a glow and smoothness that made the pigmentation appear less prominent and an overall firmer and brighter appearance. Verdict: Excellent!



Passing it on

Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham extends further support to Dubai Centre for Special Needs (DCSN)


awthorn Suites by Wyndham reinforced its ongoing partnership with Dubai Centre for Special Needs (DCSN), and handed them a cheque donation amounting to more than AED 10,000 (USD 2,722). The cheque was presented by the hotel’s head of departments, led by General Manager Samir Arora, to Maya Choueri, Public Relations Manager of DCSN. Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham has been supporting DCSN for the past two years, which saw the property roll out various campaigns to raise funds for the organisation, including placement of donation boxes in the reception and restaurants, and voluntary guest contribution of AED 10 (USD 2.72) or more per stay. On awarding the cheque, Samir said, “Our team pledges to further our support to DCSN, to help enhance the lives of the children with special needs, through education and regular therapy. We are delighted to give back to our society through this campaign, and we will continue to encourage our guests to join our cause.”

Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham has been supporting DCSN for the past two years.




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The Beginning of a NEW JOURNEY HORECA Trade, the leading foodservice partner in the UAE, has joined hands with Perrier! - The French natural sparkling mineral water Famous for its elegantly-shaped green bottle, Perrier is the ultimate refreshment to quench all thirsts. It is in fact an extraordinary addition to HORECA Trade’s beverage portfolio. Raise a glass to natural refreshment!

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Top Hotel January February 2016 Issue  

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

Top Hotel January February 2016 Issue  

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