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Issue 01 • May 2012 •

Feature: The perfect storm: Why the time is right for budget hotels to move to centre stage Interview: Outcast Interiors: Why, when and how to go about a successful restaurant refurb Q&A: How many hotels can Dubai sustain? Industry experts, GMs and PRs debate the city’s maximum capacity

News and analysis for the Middle East’s hospitality professionals

Trends: 10 social media mistakes not to make; how to have an award winning spa, how the iPad is changing guest interaction Tenders: 19 exciting new projects across the MENA region


In association with:

Exclusive telecoms partner

Renovate to accumulate How older hotels are keeping up with the wave of new competition

Publication licensed by IMPZ, Dubai technology and media free zone authority

GLOBAL HOTEL INDEX: Asia Pacific 69.4% - Americas 63.7% - Europe 63.7% - Middle East/ Africa 65.1% (Average room occcpancy March 2012)




editor’s letter


data watch stR Global’s maRch Global hotel RepoRt


news the latest openinGs fRom the Uae and mena


tenders the pRojects in the mena ReGion yoU need to know aboUt now


opening soon easteRn manGRoves hotel & spa by anantaRa


the hotel show preview fRedeRiqUe maURell


cover story Renovate to accUmUlate – we look at thRee hotels investinG in theiR fUtURe


outcast interiors why, when and how to UndeRGo an f&b RefURb


du hospitality solUtions


budget hotels why the time is RiGht foR this sectoR to sUcceed


Q&a feature what is dUbai’s maximUm hotel capacity?


gM interview fReddy faRid, Radisson Royal talks Us thRoUGh his challenGes


trends the latest pRodUcts, seRvices and laUnches that will affect yoUR bUsiness


coMMent Rafik abasov talks aboUt his secRets to sUccess, no matteR what the indUstRy






MAY 2012

hospitality business middle east � 1


editor’s letter

‘success’ not ‘survival’ is on everyone’s lips says Georgina Wilson-Powell


elcome to the debut issue of Hospitality Business Middle East, your new byword for in-depth insight and quality news on your industry, that has an impact on your business; whether hotelier, service provider or supplier. What we’ve uncovered with all our features this month is a sense of cautious optimism in the market. From general managers to interior designers and industry experts, there’s the distinct possibility that the UAE could be through the worst of the downturn, and the notion of ‘success’ rather than ‘survival’ seems to be on everyone’s lips once again. Of course this month is all about The Hotel Show, and we look at how it’s staying one step ahead of the game to offer hoteliers something new (p18). The exhibition’s director is positive for the region’s future, after seeing an upturn in interior design and luxury companies exhibiting, and this trend goes hand in hand with the bumper crop of hotel refurbs under way at the moment, which aim to give older properties continued success, which we investigate more in our first cover story (p24). On the flip side, busy design studio, Outcast Interiors, talk us through what it’s like for a supplier to work on renovations in hotels (p28) and as well as also being optimistic, we discover that for them, the key to success is in the timing. For the market to remain successful we put the question of ‘What is Dubai’s maximum hotel capacity?’ to a series of industry experts, PRs and GMs, and the responses were overwhelmingly positive, you can read more on page 42. ‘Poised for success’ also extends to those emerging sectors like the muchhyped budget market. Having sat on

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publisheR: dominic de sousa GRoup Coo: Nadeem Hood assoCiate publisheRs alex Bendiouis Carol owen Georgina Wilson-Powell eDitoRial Group editor: Georgina Wilson-Powell / +971 50 574 2884 Contributors: dave reeder senior designer: Christopher Howlett Photography: Cris mejorada

success is not all about global chains but it comes at a personal level too the sidelines, beaten to a starring role by the global financial crisis, we get to the bottom of why now, budget hotels really have the best possible chance to make it to the top (p38). And success is not all about global chains and country wide markets, but it comes at a personal level too. Our Trends section looks at new products and services being offered by various suppliers in the industry that will help make a difference to you, as well as focusing on those services and facilities offered by hotels, who are getting it right. With this, our first issue, we wish you all every success and look forward to helping you achieve it for many years to come. GeoRGina Wilson-poWell GrouP editor

aDVeRtisinG alex Bendiouis / +971 50 458 9204 Carol owen / +971 55 880 3817 rekha d’souza shabs Khan MaRKetinG & CoMMuniCations marizel salvador Web DeVelopeR louie alma pRoDuCtion operations director: James rawlins Production manager: devaprakash DistRibution rochelle almeida subsCRiptions pRinteD by atlas Printing Press llC, dubai, uae publisheD by

Head office, Po Box 13700, dubai, uae tel: +971 4 440 9100 Fax: +971 4 447 2409 Group office, dubai media City Building 4, office G08, dubai, uae a publication licensed by imPZ © Copyright 2012 CPi. all rights reserved. While the publishers have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of all information in this magazine, they will not be held responsible for any errors therein.



16.8% $214.46 -1.7% iNcRease iN ReVPaR iN middle east fROm maRcH 2011

aVeRaGe adR iN tHe middle east, maRcH 2012

aVeRaGe ReVPaR iN ceNtRal ameRica, maRcH 2012


aVeRaGe adR iN ceNtRal aNd sOUtH asia, maRcH 2012

Data watch

Global hotel data review for march 2012 from stR Global MaRch 2012 vs MaRch 2011 keY fiGURes

9.4 %

iNcRease iN ReVPaR fROm maRcH 2011


iNcRease iN OccUPaNcY fROm maRcH 2011


decRease iN adR fROm maRcH 2011


iNcRease iN ReVPaR fROm maRcH 2011

asia Pacific Occ%


PeRceNtaGe cHaNGe fROm maRcH 2011
















101.01 92.34 2012


ameRicas Occ%


PeRceNtaGe cHaNGe fROm maRcH 2011















eUROPe Occ%


PeRceNtaGe cHaNGe fROm maRcH 2011















middle east/afRica Occ%


PeRceNtaGe cHaNGe fROm maRcH 2011















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69.49 64.65 2012



84.95 86.56 2012



114.07 96.34 2012




iNcRease iN ReVPaR iN middle east fROm maRcH 2011


OccUPaNcY Rise iN NORtH ameRica 2012


aVeRaGe decRease iN adR WesteRN eUROPe 2012


OccUPaNcY aVeRaGe iN tHe middle east 2012

yeaR to Date - MaRch 2012 vs MaRch 2011 asia Pacific Occ%


PeRceNtaGe cHaNGe fROm maRcH 2011






























eUROPe Occ%

adR 2011













middle east aNd afRica Occ%

adR 2011













ytD March 2012 Rev paR $120,00 $120,00 $100,00 $100,00 $80,00 $80,00 $60,00 $60,00 $40,00 $40,00 $20,00 $20,00 0 0

8 6 4 2 0 -2 ameRicas

iNcRease iN ReVPaR aVeRaGe fROm 2011


ytD March 2012% change 10

asia Pacific


107.23 97.61 2012

decRease iN adR aVeRaGe fROm 2011



PeRceNtaGe cHaNGe fROm maRcH 2011



74.64 75.71 2012

iNcRease iN adR aVeRaGe fROm 2011



PeRceNtaGe cHaNGe fROm maRcH 2011



60.95 56.71 2012

iNcRease iN adR aVeRaGe fROm 2011



PeRceNtaGe cHaNGe fROm maRcH 2011



96.26 89.85

ameRicas Occ%

keY fiGURes






Occ adR ReVPaR

8 6 4 2 0 -2 -4 asia Pacific



MAY 2012


hospitality business middle east � 5


52 uae news

NeW HOtel PROJeCts iN dUBai Will BRiNG ONliNe 25,000 NeW ROOms (source:

news in brief Jebel ali hotels to open four star hotel in Dubai Marina Jebel ali Hotels Group will open Ocean View Hotel, a four star property with 341 rooms and suites and five bars and restaurants as well as having an executive lounge. the already built hotel will open later on this year, and will feature a conference centre and six flexible meeting rooms.

abu Dhabi to host 2013 wttC the World travel & tourism summit will be hosted in april or may next year by the Uae capital. the summit is the biggest annual conference of travel and tourism leaders, with around 1,000 expected to attend.

aloft hotel to open in sharJah the second aloft hotel will open on sharjah Corniche in 2015. the property will be managed by starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, inc, in an agreement with amer eisa mousa al amri, the property will feature 286 rooms and the architectural and engineering consultants are QHC.

Sharjah home to multi-billion eco-tourism project Kalba will be home to investments of over Dhs1 billion, creating 5,000 new jobs before 2018. Announced by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), the three phase plan will include a lagoon development with retail and hospitality centres as well as three

Paramount Pictures to open luxury hotel Paramount Hotels & Resorts, who exhibited at ATM, has marked out Dubai or Abu Dhabi as potential destinations for its first five star licensed hotel from Paramount Pictures. Currently looking for a development partner, the Dubairegistered company could open a resort as early as 2015.

dubai exhibitions brought in 1.65million

five star hotel opens in bur Dubai melia dubai has opened in one of dubai’s older areas, offering leisure and business travellers a five star stay. the property includes 164 rooms, two board rooms and a 150 pax ballroom.

al raha beaCh hotel unDergoes $55 Million expansion the beach resort will give the resort an extra 144 rooms, constructed on reclaimed land. the extension will also include several new F&B outlets, a 900 metre beach, new pool, spa and gym.

MaDe for MiDDle east floor MaChines launCheD diversey’s taKsi new floor care portfolio is the result of careful R&d tailor made to markets such as the middle east. the scrubber driers, single disc machines and more have been built with the region’s high dust and extreme temperature conditions. tasKi machines reduce cleaning time by up to 15 per cent and improve productivity up to 40 per cent.

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and five star hotels. The Kalba EcoTourism Project is a collaborative effort from Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) and International Conservation Services. The government expects a 12 per cent return on its investment after the development’s completion.

the Palm Jumeirah will be home to the W brand

Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) has reported a spike in event related traffic year on year, with an additional seven per cent increase in exhibiting companies. Gulfood grew by 12 per cent, whilst Gitex broke records with nearly 139,000 visitors and 3,500 exhibiting companies.

The Palm to see new W hotel W Hotels Worldwide have signed an agreement with Al Sharq Investment LLC to open a W Hotel on Palm Jumeirah in 2016. The hotel will feature 283 stylish guest rooms, a spa, pool, fitness centre and eight F&B outlets and a business centre.

exhibitions bring in record visitors


news NUmBeR OF ReliGiOUs tOURists FOR UmRaH aNd HaJJ, saUdi aRaBia,2011 (source: saudi arabian tourist Board)

atm sees 7-10 per cent trade visitor increase The 19th Arabian Travel Market’s organisers Reed Travel Exhibitions recorded a seven – ten per cent increase in trade visitors from 2011, which saw 16,000 pass through over the four days. The exhibition also saw a seven per cent increase in exhibitors before it opened, with over 2,400 stands and 82 first time exhibitors. “The business buzz is definitely back, the regional travel industry is in an exceptionally buoyant mood and participants are positive and confident. Our decision to reconfigure the floor plan to a more easily navigable and convenient format this year has also helped to facilitate busier appointment schedules,” said Mark Walsh, Portfolio Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions. Tamara Khalil, Group Director

anD the winners are… MiDDle east worlD travel awarD winners: anantara’s Qasar al sarab won ‘middle east’s leading desert Resort’ st Regis saadiyat island won ‘abu dhabi’s leading Beach Resort’ st Regis doha won ‘middle east’s leading New Hotel’ and ‘Qatar’s leading New Hotel’ atlantis the Palm won ‘middle east’s leading Resort’

atm 2012 was a packed affair Marketing, Katara Hospitality, in Qatar, reinforced the renewed wave of business optimism. ”ATM was the right platform for us to launch our new corporate identity to the market. The show remains the prime vehicle for the regional industry to share its news, network with the key players and meet potential partners.”

tripaDvisor’s travel ChoiCe awarDs winners Jebel ali Hotel has won three awards in the family category. Jebel ali Hotel came in at 17, Palm tree Court & spa came in at 6 and Oasis Beach tower hotel apartments came in at 7. the Chedi has been placed as one of the top 25 Relaxation & spa hotels and one of the top 25 trendiest hotels in the middle east.

Geneva Model S


Swiss engineering inside a beautiful hand-crafted cabinet, the Geneva Model S provides everything you find in a conventional stereo. A pair of full-range stereo speakers, an iPod/iPhone dock, FM radio and an input to connect an auxiliary device. The “made for hotel” mode on the Model S can be enabled to set a volume limit at the desired level. The system can be accessed with or without a remote and also includes an auto alarm “off” function. The Geneva Model S is available in black, white, silver, and red.


One box. One plug. No remote required. Visit our showroom at: Shk. Zayed Rd. P.O. Box 32836, Dubai UAE Tel: +971 4 3431441 I Fax: +971 4 3437748 Email:

Geneva 1

5/2/12 11:19 AM

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hospitality business middle east � 7



NUmBeR OF tOURists tO aBU dHaBi iN 2011 (source: abu dhabi tourism and Culture authority)

Mena news

news in brief Qatar ‘CrosseD sworD’ shape tower to open for 2016 Katara Hospitality will build the iconic ‘intertwining’ property at the new lusail marina iconic development, 15kms outside doha. Featuring 800 units that will include a five star hotel, residences, retail and restaurants the development aims to open in 2016.

Coral hotels & resorts to Manage baghDaD hotel dubai-based Coral Hotels & Resorts and United iraqi trading Company will manage the Coral Boutique Hotel Baghdad in iraq. Based in Jadriya, the hotel is five kilometers from the international Zone and 30 kms from the airport. it features 80 rooms and suites and will open in the next few weeks.

Gordon Ramsay doha at the st Regis doha

Michelin star chef heads up two Gordon Ramsey outlets St Regis will host two fine dining experiences, Gordon Ramsay Doha and Opal by Gordan Ramsey, overseen by Michelin-starred Chef Gilles Bosquet. Gordon Ramsay. said “The restaurants are beautifully designed and I’m very proud of the team, led

by Gilles, who will be serving the very best of our traditional dishes as well as some exciting new ones.” Gordon Ramsay Doha will serve up a fine dining experience, Opal by Gordon Ramsey f will offer western classics in a relaxed bistro setting.

molecular gastronomy arrives in doha The InterContinental Doha The City has opened Strata, a signature lounge and restaurant, on floors 55 and 56 of the West Bay Tower, and will be one of the highest restaurants in Doha. Focusing on chilled seafood, the restaurant chef ’s are trained in the art of molecular gastronomy and will use techniques such as sous-vide and spherification to offer a unique dining experience in Qatar. Renzo Cavagliotti, General Manager said: “We’re bringing a new concept to Doha’s burgeoning gastronomic scene which will elevate and delight.”

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hyatt aDD three More sauDi properties to portfolio Hyatt have signed an agreement with Naseel Holding Company to open a trio of hotels in saudi arabia. Park Hyatt Riyadh, will open in the fourth quarter of 2015 and is being designed by skidmore; Grand Hyatt Jeddah is slated for early 2016, also designed by skidmore and Hyatt Regency Jeddah will also come online late 2015.

swiss-belhotel international expanDs Me offering two new locations will added in Oman, the Beach Bay Hotel by swiss-Belhotel muscat, a 32 room boutique city centre hotel will open in June 2012, whilst a swissBelexpress muscat will open Q1 2013, with 95 guestrooms. in saudi, the group will open the swiss-Belresort & spa sharma in the tabuk region, coming online in two stages, Q4 2012 and Q1 2013. 2013 will also see the group’s first property in erbil, northern iraq, a 108 room town centre hotel.

starwooD CoMMit to MiDDle east MarKet starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, inc. will bring four new hotels to dubai and two in saudi, as part of a pipeline of 40 new properties in the middle east over the next five years. molecular chef at strata

Precor welcomes the following Premier Brands as fitness partners in Q1 of 2012 Crystal Hotel, Abu Dhabi

Aviation Club, Abu Dhabi

The Gym, Ajman

To find out how we can deliver a superior fitness experience that builds loyalty to your brand contact the team at RAYMOND SPORT ABU DHABI: EMAIL:

+971 2 449 9196


+971 4339 1331


neW supply anD seRViCe tenDeRs project name: Corniche Hospital (abu dhabi) address: Corner of Corniche & salam street, Behind sheraton Hotel postal/zip code: 3688 Country: Uae phone: (+971-2) 672 4900 Fax: (+971-2) 672 0782 nature of work: Provision of coffee shop services for the Out-Patient department (OPd) in a hospital. Cost of tender documents ($): 30 last date of submission: may 27, 2012 project name: ministry of Health (Kuwait) address: arabian Gulf street, Kuwait City City: safat 13001 postal/zip code: 525 phone : (+965) 486 3685 / 486 3803 / 486 3574 Fax : (+965) 486 5287 nature of work: Preparation and serving of meals to hospitals and health centres - First Group Cost of tender documents ($): 8930 last date of submission: may 22, 2012

tenders all the essential information on this month’s new and existing projects

eXistinG pRoJeCts project name: mixed-Use development Project Obhur district project number: mPP2633-sa territory: saudi arabia Client: rayadah investment Company (saudi arabia) phone : (+966-1) 205 9911 eMail : Website: Description: design and construction of a 2.4 million square metre mixed-use development in Obhur, which includes (240 nos.) residential towers, (1,200 nos.) villas, a five-star hotel, hospital, clinics, mosques, commercial district, schools and municipal buildings. status: new tender Remarks: this project is at Jeddah in saudi arabia. Client has received prequalification entries for an infrastructure package on the residential scheme and is planning to issue tender documents for the contract by July 2012. local office of KeO international Consultants has been appointed as the project manager on this development project manager: KeO international Consultants (saudi arabia) Categories: Hotels, Construction & Contracting, medical & Healthcare project name: Premier inn Hotel Project education City

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project number: mPP2614-Q territory: Qatar Client: Qatar Foundation phone : (+974) 4454 0000 eMail : Website: Description: Construction of three-star Premier inn Hotel comprising four storeys, including (200) rooms. period: 2013 status: new tender Remarks: this project will be located within the education City development on the western edge of doha in Qatar and cover a total area of 14 square kilometres. Uae-based dewan architects & engineers has been awarded a consultancy contract to design and supervise the construction on this scheme. the hotel is set to open in 2013. Project manager: dewan architects & engineers (dubai) Categories: Hotels, Construction & Contracting project name: JW marriott Hotel Construction Project - Bahrain Bay Waterfront development project number: mPP2597-B territory: Bahrain

Client: remza investment Company (Bahrain) phone : (+973) 1782 2122 eMail : Description: Construction of 50-storey JW marriott Hotel on a waterfront development. period: 2016 status: new tender Remarks: this project will be located in Bahrain Bay Waterfront development. it is being implemented by local Khaleej Capital a joint venture of Qatar-based Business trading Company and the local remza investment Company. the scheme will consist of a 50-storey tower on top of a 5-storey podium, with three floors of underground parking. the development will cover a total area of 97,000 square metres. east side of the tower will contain 276 hotel rooms and related facilities and the west side will contain 96 serviced apartments. Five-storey podium will contain the banquet hall and meeting facilities, lobbies and common areas, in addition to 200 car parking spaces. the underground car park will contain 220 car parking spaces. Contractors have been invited to pre-qualify for the main contract on this scheme. local Yda & associates is acting as the design consultant.


project manager: Yousif dawood al sayegh Consultants (Bahrain) Categories: Hotels, leisure & entertainment project name: doubletree Hilton resort Project marjan island project number: mPP2581-U territory: northern emirates Client: mohamed ruqait real estate (ras al Khaimah) phone : (+971-7) 236 2221 Description: Construction of doubletree Hilton resort comprising (309) rooms, featuring (11) suites in the main building and (45 nos.) beachfront chalets, including two restaurants, a lobby and two bars, two swimming pools, a kids club, a health club and spa with five treatment rooms, and water sports facilities. period: 2014 status: new tender Remarks: this hotel will be located on one of the five man-made marjan islands, located off the alHamra area of ras al Khaimah. the Hilton Worldwide Group has signed an agreement with the client to build the hotel. Categories: Hotels, Construction & Contracting, leisure & entertainment project name: Fairmont Hotel Project-1 project number: nPr005-U territory: northern emirates Client: Fairmont Hotels & resorts (Canada) phone : (+1-416) 874 2600 eMail : Website: Description: Construction of Fairmont Hotel featuring (252) guestrooms. period: 2013 status: Current Project Remarks: this hotel will be located on the Corniche in ajman. abu dhabi-based firm seidco General Contracting Company has been appointed as the main contractor. the project is due to be completed by early 2013. Main contractor: seidco General Contracting Company l.l.C (abu dhabi) Categories: Construction & Contracting, Hotels project name: ramada Hotel tower Project project number: mPr1388-U territory: sharjah Client: Private investor (Kuwait) Description: Construction of ramada Hotel tower with two basement levels, a mezzanine level, three parking levels and 34 storeys of hotel rooms. status: Current project

Description: Construction of 36-storey al-Habtoor Palace Hotel comprising a 226-room luxury hotel, a fashion hotel with (424) rooms and a 996-room hotel, including a five-star spa, a sports academy, multiple theme restaurants, meeting facilities, a shopping arcade and a theatre showing productions from Broadway and las Vegas. budget: $1300000000 period: 2016 status: Current Project Remarks: this hotel will be located on sheikh Zayed road in dubai. it will be built on the property that is currently housing the metropolitan Hotel, opposite al safa Park. the new hotel will comprise two project name: nile ritz Carlton Hotel refurbishbasement levels, a ground floor, mezzanine floor and ment Project four-level podium with a 36-storey tower covering a project number: mPP2571-e total built-up area of about 372,000 square metres. territory: egypt Once completed, the complex will be one of the Client: misr Hotels Company (egypt) region’s most luxurious hotel and entertainment phone : (+20-3) 761 0586 / 761 0587 developments. Website: the landmark development will include: Description: Carrying out refurbishment/ - 1,600 hotel rooms, spread between three hotels modernising of the existing 13-storey nile ritz (lifestyle, luxury and main); Carlton Hotel. - an iconic las Vegas-style ‘aqua’ theatre; status: Current Project - a French provincial-inspired garden; and Remarks: this project is in Cairo. the hotel covers a - Food and beverage venues. total area of 64,000 square metres. a joint venture of local/australian joint venture Habtoor leighton local Orascom Construction industries and local arab Group (HlG) has been awarded a $515 million Contractors has been awarded the main contract to contract on this scheme. Under the agreement, HlG carry out structure rehabilitation works. lebanon’s will be responsible for construction of the integrated arabian Construction Company (aCC) has been hotel complex comprising a five-level podium, a awarded a contract to carry out the interior finishing 36-storey tower and a 25-storey tower within a total as well as the mechanical, electrical and plumbing gross floor area of 350,000 square metres. demoli(meP) package on this development. the $90 million tion of the existing metropolitan Hotel is contract will involve work on interior cladding scheduled to commence by end of march and finishing for all rooms, outlets, 2012, with early works likely to begin public places and the casino. the in June 2012. the development is contract is scheduled to be completed scheduled for completion in second in (18) months. BUdGet FOr CHedi half of 2016. project Manager: Hill international KHOrFaKKan HOtel PrOJeCt design Consultant Khatib & alami Conltd. (egypt) solidated engineering Company (dubai) Main Contractor: Orascom Construction Main Contractor: al Habtoor leighton Group industries (egypt) (dubai) Mep Contractor: arabian Construction Company Categories: Hotels, Prestige Buildings aCC (egypt) Main Contractor(1): arab Contractors (Osman project name: Chedi Khorfakkan resort Project ahmed Osman & Company) - egypt project number: OPr513-U Categories: Hotels, Construction & contracting territory: northern emirates Client: sharjah investment & development authority project name: al-Habtoor Palace Hotel Project (shurooq) project number: mPP2570-U phone: (+971-6) 556 0777 territory: dubai eMail: Client: al Habtoor Group l.l.C. (dubai) Website: phone: (+971-4) 343 1111 Description: Construction of Chedi Khorfakkan eMail: resort comprising three components - the fort, the Website: budget: $55,000,000 Remarks: this project will be built on Buhaira Corniche in sharjah. local al-Hamad Contracting Company has been awarded the main construction contract on this scheme and the work has commenced. local Bin dalmouk Consultants is acting as the main consultant. Main consultant: Bin dalmouk Consultants (sharjah) Main contractor: al Hamad Contracting Company l.l.C (sharjah) Categories: Hotels, Construction & contracting


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hilltown and town square. budget: $95000000 status: new tender period: 2015 Remarks: this project will be developed in Khorfakkan. the fort is located on the hilltop and will serve as the primary access point to the resort. it will contain restaurants, spa, gymnasium, business facilities and reception. the project has been carefully considered and thoughtfully planned to minimise the environmental impact, while maximising the social and financial sustainability of the scheme. its accessibility to other emirates is expected to make the resort a prime destination. Categories: Hotels, Construction & Contracting, leisure & entertainment project name: Jabal al akhdar resort Hotel Construction Project project number: 187/2011-O territory: Oman Client: Oman tourism development Company s.a.O.C (Omran) phone: (+968) 2477 3700 eMail: Description: Construction of Jabal al akhdar resort Hotel comprising two main buildings and a cluster of two-storey buildings with guest accommodation. budget: $35000000 status: Current Project Remarks: this project is in Oman. the front of the main buildings will contain restaurants, bar and kitchen facilities. the rear section will contain housekeeping, laundry and security facilities. it is understood that local dawood Contracting has been appointed as the main contractor on this project. Design Consultant: atkins international (Oman) Main Contractor: dawood Contracting l.l.C (Oman) Categories: Construction & Contracting, leisure & entertainment, Hotels project name: doha Festival City development project number: mPP2455-Q territory: Oman Client: al-Futtaim Group real estate (dubai) phone : (+971-4) 213 6213 eMail : Website: Description: development of doha Festival City comprising a retail centre, an entertainment park, two hotels and an auto park made up of car showrooms. budget: $1600000000 status: 2014 period: Current project

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Remarks: this project is in Qatar. the multi-use scheme will be located 15 kilometres north of downtown doha on al shamal road, one of the main arterial routes to the city centre and connecting doha with Bahrain. the complex will cover a total area of 433,847 square metres, while construction will be divided into three phases. Brands set to open stores in this development include iKea, marks & spencer, toys r Us, ace Hardware, intersport and other major regional retailers. Construction works have commenced on this development. iKea, part of Uae’s al-Futtaim Group, will be developed under the first phase of construction and the 32,000 square metre store is set for completion in fourth quarter of 2012, with the remaining elements of doha Festival City due for delivery two years later. local Qatari arabian Construction Company (QaCC) and amana Qatar Contracting Company have been appointed as the general contractors for iKea, while a joint venture of local Hamad engineering and Uae’s mohammed al-Futtaim engineering is carrying out the meP package. Main architect: arab engineering Bureau (Qatar) design consultant: dP architects Pte. ltd. (singapore) project manager: mace limited (UK) Financial consultant: Qatar islamic Bank - QiB (Qatar) Categories: Construction & contracting, Hotels, leisure & entertainment

Contracting; local/lebanese arabian Construction Company (aCC); australia’s multiplex and turkey’s nurol. project manager: Confluence Project management (abu dhabi) Categories: Construction & Contracting, Hotels, leisure & entertainment project name: Habtoor island resort & spa Project Palm Jumeirah development project number: BPr071-U territory: dubai Client: Habtoor Hotels (dubai) phone : (+971-4) 343 1111 Website: Description: Construction of Habtoor island resort & spa comprising 330 luxury rooms, including swimming pools, tennis courts and a spa. budget: $275000000 status: Current project period: 2013 Remarks: this project will be located on the Crescent of Palm Jumeirah in dubai. local al Habtoor engineering has been appointed as the main contractor on this scheme. Construction works have commenced on this development. Client is set to appoint a luxury international hotel brand to manage the resort. project manager: turner international middle east (dubai) Categories: leisure & entertainment, Hotels, Prestige Buildings

project name: Fairmont Hotel & serviced apartments Project project number: mPr982-U project name: Hotel Construction Project territory: abu dhabi project number: OPr548-U Client: national investment Corporation (abu dhabi) territory: abu dhabi phone : (+971-2) 681 8900 Client: Private investor (abu dhabi) Description: Construction of Fairmont Hotel & Description: Construction of a hotel serviced apartments comprising a 39-storey building. hotel tower consisting of (563) guest status: Current Project rooms, (144) services apartment units, Remarks: this hotel will be located (105) other apartments, (13) food at sector e-13, Plot no. C-8 in abu and beverage outlets, ballroom and BUdGet FOr al HaBtOOr dhabi. local s.s. lootah Contracting conference rooms, a swimming pool PalaCe HOtel PrOJeCt Company has been appointed as the and supporting facilities including main contractor. local Hannover Consultunderground and ground-level parking fro ing engineers is acting as the consultant. 1,300 vehicles. project manager: Hannover Consulting engineers budget: $410000000 (abu dhabi) period: 2014 Categories: Hotels, Prestige buildings status: new tender Remarks: this project is in abu dhabi and will cover project name: southern sun Hotel Project an area of 198,000 square metres. it is understood project number: OPr546-U that companies have submitted pre-qualification territory: abu dhabi documents for the main construction contract. Client: Prospective bidders include local firms arabtec east & West Properties (abu dhabi) Construction, dubai Contracting Company, dhabi



phone : (+971-2) 813 0000 eMail : Website: Description: Construction of southern sun Hotel comprising four basement floors, a ground floor, 4 podiums, 17 upper floors plus two service floors and roof. period: 2013 status: Current Project Remarks: this hotel will be located at Plot 1-e12 on mina road in abu dhabi. China’s China state Construction engineering Corporation has been appointed as the main contractor. Construction work is progressing on this development. Currently, 11 floors have been completed. south africa’s southern sun Hotels will operate and manage the property. project manager: Cumming international (abu dhabi) Categories: Hotels, Prestige buildings project name: al-rawdatain Gardens Hotel project number: mPr1348-iQ territory: iraq Client: range Hospitality (dubai) phone : (+971-4) 325 9995 eMail :

Website: Description: Construction of 12-storey al-rawdatain Gardens Hotel comprising (624 nos.) one- and twobedroom suites, including four restaurants, landscaped gardens, a business centre and public areas. budget: $100000000 period: 2013 status: Current project Remarks: this hotel will be built at Karbala in northeast iraq and cover an area of 55,000 square metres. three storeys will be used as hotel apartments, while the other nine will contain residential properties. iran’s tadbir Construction & development (tCd) Group has been appointed as the main contractor to build the hotel. Construction works have commenced on this development. the water table in Karbala is understood to be very high, so it will be a long and lengthy dewatering process. Currently, there are a number of wells pumping away for most of the day, and this is expected to go on for another month or so before they carry on with all the excavation work, shoring and creating the waterproofing membrane. shaza Hotels, a joint venture of Guidance Hotel investment Company and Kempinski Hotels, has been named as the operator. Main contractor: tadbir Construction & development

Group (iran) Categories: Hotels, Construction & contracting project name: arjaan rotana Hotel apartments project number: OPr531-U territory: abu dhabi Client: Bin Hamoodah Properties phone : (+971-2) 627 6600 eMail : website: Description: Construction of arjaan rotana hotel apartments. status: Current project Remarks: this project will be located near abu dhabi national exhibition Centre (adneC). local United engineering Construction (UneC) has been appointed as the main contractor. local dutch Foundation has been awarded a contract to carry out the piling works, while the local/turkish joint venture al-Habtoor stFa will carry out the enabling works in this development. Construction is progressing as per schedule. interior and finishing works are currently underway. Main consultant: Gazi awad architects & engineers (abu dhabi) Categories: Hotels, construction & contracting

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5/2/12 11:21 AM

maY 2012

hospitality business middle east � 13

eastern mangroves Hotel & spa, abu dhabi By anantara


et along Abu Dhabi’s protected Eastern Mangroves District and right in the heart of the capital, the third Anantara property in the UAE combines rich cultural traditions and natural beauty in a landscape that should find a ready up-market clientele Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa, Abu Dhabi by Anantara, is part of the larger Tourism Development & Investment Company development that sits along the 1.2 kilometre beach, accessible from Al Salam Street. The development OPeNiNG date (2012) also contains the Eastern Mangroves Residences and a retail and restaurant complex which will come online in Q4. According to Michel Koopman, Director of Operations Middle East for Anantara Hotels, Resorts &

above: the view of the hotel complex and the mangroves

June 1

14 � hospitality business middle east

maY 2012

Spas and General Manager, Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara, the property’s style won’t be far away from its existing UAE developments, “In keeping with Anantara’s ethos of incorporating indigenous culture into each property, the hotel’s interiors have been inspired by Abu Dhabi, with Emirati traditions and influences reflected throughout. It is set to appeal to leisure tourists, business visitors and residents.” The hotel will offer a range of accommodation, split between Deluxe Balcony and Deluxe Mangroves rooms and suites: Balcony Rooms (65sqm) enjoy panoramic views over the mangroves or the city Kasara Balcony and Kasara Mangroves Balcony Rooms (65sqm) are located on the upper floors of

the hotel with exceptional views and complimentary access to the Kasara Club Lounge Kasara Suites (125sqm) with private plunge pools If all that isn’t enough, the hotel offers a suite complex which can be configured to three, seven or ten bedrooms. The Royal Mangroves Residence (1,355sqm to 2,245sqm) also features: 50sqm private infinity pool Exclusive pool bar with mixologist Private chef Limousine and chaffeur Anantara are renowned for their spa offerings and the Eastern Mangroves property will be no different. The spa will offer ten treatment rooms, a Turkish hammam and a hair and


breakdown of expected guests 5%

20% 45%






nail salon. The spa will host a range of rejuvenating body treatments. In addition, the complex includes a full equipped gym and ladies only gym, with yoga and pilates facilities. The hotel also features an infinity edge pool, with views of the mangroves as well as the Kasara Club Lounge. For corporate and business guests, the hotel has not overlooked meeting and conference facilities, which include: A grand ballroom with can accommodate 320 pax with a modern majlis Six meeting rooms with up to date technology Business hub with normal services including printing, fax, mail and courier services The hotel complex will offer a range of F&B outlets, catering to relaxed, intimate and more formal dining, that aim to add become some of the best in the capital.

Mangroves lounge. A two floor meeting place style lounge, with views over the pool and serving mocktails, cocktails, Arabic coffee, desserts and dates. the shisha Deck. Offering shisha, freshly ground coffee and loose leaf teas.

the development in full

impressions. A stylish rooftop lounge with uninterrupted views of the Abu Dhabi skyline with LED on the rooftop line and front, which will change colour to suit the mood. ingredients. An all-day dining restaurant, with five show kitchens and a live sushi bar. It will also offer Emirati, Arabic and Asian dishes, using organic and fresh ingredients. pachaylan. The hotel’s signature Thai restaurant offering authentic and traditional Thai cuisine with interactive show kitchens. location

Adjacent to the Eastern Mangroves nature reserve, Abu Dhabi Five minutes to the city centre and central business districts via Al Salam Street 15 minutes to Abu Dhabi International Airport and Al Batean Executive Airport

eastern Mangroves nature Reserve eastern mangroves is the densest area of natural mangroves around the capital, spanning an area of 8.5km. the tdiC have planted a further 60,000 new seedlings to expand this area. the development has been constructed in accordance with the environment agency abu dhabi approved Construction environmental management Plan and environmental impact assessment.

above and left: the luxurious rooms come as double or twin options

eastern Mangroves promenade the high end residential and retail complex is set for Q4 2012 and will include: marina with 30 yacht berths Retail precinct with luxury boutiques dining precinct with restaurants and cafés two-phased high-end residential units (available Q4 2012 and Q1 2013)

eastern Mangroves hotel & spa by anantara po box 126888 abu Dhabi, uae tel: +971 2 406 1400 Fax: +971 2 406 1500

maY 2012

hospitality business middle east � 15

hotel show preview

it’s show time 13 years after the first exhibition, the annual the hotel show shows no sign of slowing down


espite everything the means, hotels are spending. Maurell hospitality market has been says the strength of the UAE market, through in the last few years, despite the last few tough years, The Hotel Show has expanded, can be seen by the expansion in the with a seven per cent increase from luxury market products and services 2011 in terms of exhibitor numbers. exhibiting this May. 2012’s show should have around 450 “The interesting mix you have in exhibitors from more than 30 Dubai is because it’s a leisure and countries, also up on last year. business destination. So from It expects growth in this the product side we’ve seen year’s visitor numbers too; a huge number of new which last year saw 10,500 products arriving and the increase in exhibitors visitors. The Hotel Show luxury brand section has from italY from 2011 director, Frederique Maurell seen massive growth. I think talks about the cautious we have 30 new exhibitors optimism of the market, and the when it comes to luxury, which is growth of the Dubai exhibition. really big. You’d think these kind of Even though the market has been brands wouldn’t participate at an event sluggish, Dubai’s positive kickback but that shows to me how positive the from the Arab Spring unrest elsewhere sector is in the GCC and the outlook in the MENA region, has meant a is positive.” 10 per cent increase on tourism, Despite the financial downturn, according to the DEPE, and that the show is seeing strong growth


Global and GCC visitor demographic 6% 10%

20% 31%



10% 6%

13% 12%




europe and UK

far east asia

saudi arabia





india and pakistan

arab countries excl Gcc africa




from international exhibitors who are keen to capture their slice of the more robust than Europe, GCC market. The show generally sees around a 60 per cent presence from regional brands but there has been an increase in the showcasing from international exhibitors, says Maurell. “We have had a 35 per cent increase from Italy, 15 per cent increase from the UK and exhibitors from France, Spain and Germany have all maintained their presence. This all shows the Middle East market is increasingly important for overseas exhibitors and to see double digit growth from there is fantastic. I think at the show this year we will see a very positive message from Europe about how serious this region is for them. We’re seeing our exhibitors come back to us and telling us how vital it is for them to maintain and grow in this region, if they want to ride out the crisis at home.” The Hotel Show’s exhibitors can also be optimistic thanks to an upturn in renovations and refurbishments taking place in the UAE. “What we’re seeing in the industry and from visitors is that there’s a shorter cycle of refurbing and we’re seeing the growth is there, the buoyancy is there, so people are investing in more refitting. 43 per cent

maY 2012

hospitality business middle east � 17

hotel show preview

of our exhibitors are in the interior design category, which is huge.” As well as the UAE market remaining strong, huge growth in Saudi Arabia has prompted the exhibition to open a sister version in Saudi, to cater for the building boom currently under way. “Saudi is something else, it’s so fantastic. We’re taking some of our existing clients there and helping them to get into that market. There’s certainly no way we can ignore the expansion of our brands over there. We’ve always had a good presence of Saudi buyers but we felt that if manufacturers and distributors were serious about tapping into the Saudi market, then they needed to go there and meet the people.” The Hotel Show has diversified in the last couple of years, moving into what could be in the future, stand alone award events, dedicated to recognising important industries within hospitality. This year will see a return of the Middle East Spa Awards, for its second year running. The awards this year have seen 77 entries of spas all over the region, competing for a distinction from their peers. “This feature has been really well received and is gaining some real momentum in the industry so this year to give the specialists a taste of an award winning spa, we’re holding it at last year’s winner, The Spa at The Palace in Downtown Dubai,” explains Maurell. “The response has been tremendous. Our show aims to be a platform for all areas of the industry

the hotel show in numbers 2011 exhibitor numbers

420 (including brands)

visitor numbers

10,550 unique visitors ; 14,801 (bpa audited)

percentage rise on exhibitors for 2010


percentage rise on visitors for 2010


no of countries visitors/exhibitors from

93 visiting countries/ 45 exhibiting countries

2012 exhibitor numbers - projected

approx. 450 (including brands)

visitor numbers – projected

approx. 11,300 (unique visitors)

percentage rise on 2011

the hotel show expects a 5-7% increase on overall unique visitors to the show

and we have five key sectors in the show but within that there are so many sub-sectors and we couldn’t forget the importance of the spa industry, so we wanted to recognise all their work with their own awards.” The Hotel Show is also running the Middle East Hotel Awards for the first year. The judges will be taking into account the overall experience, as well as product and technology use, in addition to the usual categories. “There are eight awards overall and we will be looking at the use of innovative products and supplies which makes the hotel the best for the

guest’s experience to create something different. We have a separate category for the integration of new technology and how successful this is, in terms of design, concept and execution for the consumer experience. We’ve had 58 entries, which is really brilliant for the first awards.” It isn’t just additional platforms that keeps the exhibition up to date, and interesting year on year. Each year Maurell looks at ways in which the key areas can kept fresh and interesting and help hoteliers stay one step ahead. This year sees the addition of the Experience sector – aimed at assisting

the hoteliers are under huge pressure to know what’s coming next in the market Frederique Maurell, the hotel show director

18 � hospitality business middle east

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hotel show preview

coming next. Guest retention is those in knowledge based service paramount and a lot of the suppliers roles like a concierge, so they can and products will give people ideas offer something different to the hotel’s to see where and how they can guests, which remains key in standing differentiate themselves.” out from competitors in the region’s Last year’s focus of The Hotel fierce market. Show was sustainability. This will “When we talk to hoteliers here, be continued to be pushed we found out you cannot just through the ‘Green Initiative’, be a hotel, you have to go which will highlight those one step further. You have companies who present to look at the different exhibitors at the hotel products which can categories and assess where show are in interior desiGn help sustainability in the their expectations are going, hospitality industry. because those expectations are “Being green is a key issue, going up all the time. We wanted to but we need to do more than just be highlight in a soft way how hotels can aware, it’s time for what we can do. offer more, whether it’s a helicopter We have at the show the facility to ride or a specialty wedding, the help brands create green plans, which hoteliers are under huge pressure to should be considered an investment. know what’s coming next.” By investing in sustainable products or “It’s all about the differentiation. It’s services, you cut costs, because you’re a competitive market and whatever cutting your energy bill. If you can you can do to make your hotel stand reduce that, you reduce your bottom out you should be doing. New brands line, and people need to look at it are coming in and new hotels opening not just for one year, but for five or so you need to think about what’s ten years. If you put environmentally friendly measures in place you save key costs and you get return on your investment much quicker,” explains Maurell. “There’s so much we can


the middle east market is increasingly important for overseas exhibitors and to see double digit growth from there is fantastic Frederique Maurell, the hotel show director do in this area, I’d love to have a whole ‘green’ area in the future. It’s an intelligent platform and we could have focus groups with F&B managers and housekeepers and help them create strategies to make a positive difference. The awareness is there now, it’s just convincing managers it’s a good investment.”

exhibitor and visitor numbers 2011-2012 420 450

Unique visitor numbers



exhibitor numbers

5000 3000


10,500 11,300 10000 6000

15000 9000

maY 2012

20000 12000

hospitality business middle east � 19

hotel show preview

exhibitors’ speaK


esert River, a distributor for luxury European brands, furniture and lighting for event rental, and Rikan, a luxury amenities supplier, both based in Dubai, share their thoughts of the impact of The Hotel Show on their annual business.

in this area! Sometimes the sales process may seem slow, but then suddenly you can get this big order which the client usually expects to be delivered yesterday! This can be challenge but at Desert River we’re up for it. Service levels can be poor in the region and as a supplier you can really stand out by offering your customer the best in both products and services. R: It’s a market with tremendous potential, more spending power than the other regions, namely the West and Asia, in the hospitality industry.

how important is the hotel show to your sales and marketing strategy? Claudia van der Werf, Desert River: The

show is an important element in our marketing calendar – the whole team is involved and we see it as a great opportunity to introduce our new collections to our target market. This year we will launch a fabulous range of cordless table lamps from Belgium, called ImagiLights, which we expect to be very popular. Riaz Khimani, Rikan: It works as a good source of advertisement and a good platform to meet our existing and new prospective clients under one roof.

What are your expectations for this year? Desert River: We expect to see old

Right: one of rikon’s products below: a display from desert river

friends and make some interesting new ones! The hospitality industry in the Middle East is extremely dynamic and we see a year-on-year increase in demand in funky and original items. Rikan: Same as last year, not to expect too much but hope for the best.

What did you learn from exhibiting before? DR: That the industry is alive and

What percentage of your business is done in the Middle east? DR: 95 per cent of our business is in

kicking, and that especially the new generation of hoteliers is looking for original and contemporary ideas to enhance their F&B outlets. Executive Chefs also tend to be very involved in the creative processes when it comes to having their food displayed – so we love talking to them as we have plenty to offer in funky buffets, chillers and display units.

What’s the biggest trend you expect to see this year? DR: That there will be light – lots

of it! Light – both functional and decorative – is so important to set the mood at a venue. Especially so-called ‘freedom of placement objects’ will be in demand – battery operated lamps, objects and chillers that can be moved around and be set to any colour mode desired. R: We expect to see more hoteliers visiting from the region, mainly from Saudi and Doha.

how is the Middle east different to other regions you work in? DR: Well there’s never a dull moment

20 � hospitality business middle east

maY 2012

the Middle East – as the exclusive distributor for premium European brands like Fatboy, ImagLights and Slide that is what is expected from us and what we are good at. R: 70 per cent. It’s very important.

is the Middle east still a growth market? DR: If the number of enquiries we

receive is anything to go by with then yes! There are always new hotels opening, and existing properties regularly change their F&B concepts. You just need to chase the business!

how much new business do you hope to source from the show? DR: In our experience it is very rare to

actually sign off on a deal there and then at a show but we find that in the year after taking part at a show we get a lot of customers calling us mentioning they saw us at the Hotel Show, sometimes people we did not even actively talk to. We use the show as a platform to stay in the focus of the hospitality professionals, and it is vital to do thorough follow up after. R: We never expect any actual sales to happen at trade shows, it only helps in tapping new markets through visitors from that region and meeting existing and prospective clients basis

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Casualife banquet furniture

Casualife has offiCes in australia, hong Kong, China and the united arab emirates. UNION TRADING COMPANY (LLC) offiCe: 3B Belhasa Complex, al Quoz, po Box No. : 85983 DuBai uae, tel: +971 4 347 6099, Fax: +971 4 347 7307 email:, Web: Casualife furniture international australia tel: +61 1300 23 1300, Fax: +61 3 9703 1699, email:, Web: www.CasualiFe.Com

coVeR outcast stoRY

Renovate to accumulate


older hotels are feeling the pressure to keep up with new properties. Renovations are key to maintaining and increasing market share


012 is not only seeing a wave of new openings, but a healthy selection of extensive renovations, from beachside properties to Deira stalwarts. No matter where the location, or the rating, there are common reasons behind the decision to refurbish. Competition is fierce in Dubai’s fast paced city and with more hotels coming online in 2012, existing properties have to up their game to stand out. Modernising USPs, updating technology and mechanical

issues back of house all give older properties a new lease of life. With the added pressure on the retaining of staff, investing in the hotel’s future has a beneficial effect on morale. An increase in market share, ADR rates and brand loyalty amongst guests should all be measurable indicators of a refurbishment’s success, with most brands saying a desire to increase guest satisfaction is one of the main catalysts to undertake work. A happy guest is key to maintaining position in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

There’s also outside forces at work, common to many hotels making extensive changes. Updated brand standards or new directives from global mother groups are a key focus to renovations, strengthening the overall brand offering in the marketplace, by bringing in slightly off-brand properties into the worldwide fold. We speak to three Dubai properties across today’s market, in the midst of different renovations, about the causes, challenges and benefits of their extensive refurbishments.

Dusit thani Dubai General Manager: James Wilson RooMs

174 Cost of Renovations:

in exCess of 50 % of annual Revenue


2001 lenGth of Renovation: FiVe months (maY 2012 – sept 2012)

ContRaCtoRs: inteRioR design studio

For the Dusit Thani, on Sheikh Zayed Road, the renovation of 174 bedrooms was a chance to bring the hotel in line with the global brand’s expansion, whilst updating the Thai influence of its heritage throughout. “The main challenge for us was the design brief. Being a Thai brand we want to ensure that our strong culture is present throughout a guest’s stay. Embracing such a traditional culture while creating a modern international touch was something which took time, but I’m pleased with the planned design,” explains Wilson. The work has been an opportunity to update the hotel’s technology. With guests’ expectations increasing over what is available within a hotel that will aid their own personal technology capabilities, this upgrade is an important one. Wilson explains, “We are very excited about

22 � hospitality business middle east

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integrating a multimedia hub into all of the guest rooms. This will allow guests to connect their electronic devices to the in-room TV easily.” The opening of many new hotels this year in Dubai, has put pressure on many existing properties, and Wilson recognises renovation as a key part of

a strategy to stand out. “Renovating is part of the success of the business. You have to invest in the upkeep and ensure that what you are providing is still in line with what your guests need and want. For us being in such a quickly evolving destination as Dubai, with so much competition, it is even more important, to ensure we stay ahead of our competitors.” “With any renovation the aim is to further increase your market share and to see an improvement in ADR and revenue. We wanted to offer our loyal guests a renewed Thai hospitality experience with the new rooms.” The challenge was not to disturb the guests’ experience as well as aligning the new design with the hotel’s existing offering. Wilson explains, “It is important that while we embrace our location we remain true to our company DNA.”

coVeR stoRY

le MeRiDien Mina seyahi General Manager: tolga sezer lacin Le Meridien Mina Seyahi has been operating with near complete occupancy since it opened in 1999. One of the most well known beach front resorts in Dubai Marina, the last few years has seen nearby competition increase with new openings on the Palm, Grosvenor House expanding and the addition of the strip of hotels along The Walk. Despite still having incredible occupancy rates, the hotel took the decision to shut completely from February to November 2012, to undergo a major refurb of all rooms, public spaces and F&B outlets. For Tolga Sezer Lacin, the complete shut down of the hotel was the most feasible option for renovation, both financially and practically, “You either take the hit at once or you do it bit by bit, closing several floors at a time. Because we’re not a tall hotel, only ten floors, it didn’t make sense for us to drag it out. It was cheaper to shut the hotel for six months. If you don’t shut completely there’s no way to hide those renovations and how you can provide a five star service to your guests, if this is the case?” The extensive renovations are also key to bringing the hotel in line with Le Meridien global standards, “It’s not the main reason, but one of them. Mina Seyahi originally wasn’t opened as a Le Meridien and it was off-brand,” he explains. The brand focused renovations include changing the Waves all-day dining outlet to a French brasserie called Latest Recipe, and creating an interactive meeting space in the lobby called The Hub, which will include a bar called Latitude. For Lacin, although occupancy was still at 98 per cent on the day before the hotel shut, the property had become tired and had mechanical issues, that only a complete refurb could fix. “We will be spending 50 per cent of our budget on mechanical issues. We

will be updating behind the scenes systems with up to date technology. 90 per cent of that will not be seen by guests but they will feel the benefits, for example, because of technical changes we’re making, the water pressure will be much better in the bathrooms,” he says. Of course, with the increase in beach front and Dubai Marina hotel properties, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi has also needed an aesthetic facelift to compete with newer openings, despite it not directly impacting occupancy so far, “If we’d left it any longer than we probably would have seen a negative impact on business and there are so many hotels opening with the latest

technology and trendy designers. We are surrounded by a lot of new openings and there’s a lot of pressure,” he explains. “We had a lot of comments over room décor and although we were clean and well maintained, we felt we had gone out of fashion.” Lacin also sees renovation as a natural part of a hotel’s cycle, “Any hotel operating at over 80 per cent should need a major renovation every seven years. I love it, it’s a chance to create something new.” Unlike the other two hotels, Lacin has had an additional challenge for his renovation, the redeployment of hotel staff. As part of The Westin and Barasti, six months before the renovations, no resignations were refilled across the group, allowing for the existing Mina Seyahi staff to be moved into those positions when the hotel shut. “We’re proud we didn’t terminate any associates for this renovation. We had a redeployment plan for February and when we reopen, about 60 per cent of associates will return to Mina Seyahi, and we will also hire new for some positions.”

maY 2012



Will Reopen With 220

Cost of Renovations:

100% of one yeaR’s Revenue


1999 lenGth of Renovation:

FebRuaRY 2012noVembeR 2012


bsbg consultancY, iiF

hospitality business middle east � 23


CaRlton toWeR, DeiRa


158 Cost of Renovations:

20% of 2011 Revenue


1977 lenGth of Renovation: maY 2011 – ongoing.

ContRaCtoRs: unaVailable

Group General Manager: hosni a. hadi Having been in the hospitality market in Dubai since 1977, the four star Deira Creek side hotel has faced a number of challenges in recent years, the most serious, the evolution of the city to the south, and holiday makers’ preferences moving to Dubai Marina and around. Hosni A. Hadi is no stranger to renovations, having overseen a facelift of the hotel’s façade five years ago, he knows that keeping his hotel rejuvenated is key not only to attracting more business, but retaining regular guests and keeping his staff. “If we don’t renovate our guests will fade and never come back. Renovation is key to our industry and there are three stages to the cycle. There’s basic maintenance, there’s renovation and there’s complete renovation, and as a hotelier we have to go through this process,” he explains. “In our industry, if you don’t spend you won’t have a business.” Last year, the Carlton Tower renovated most of its 158 rooms, two floors at a time, without closing the hotel. This year it will renovate the lobby area and a couple of its F&B outlets, at a cost of Dhs12 million. The beneficial effect, has been immediate, says Hadi. “There’s been an extraordinary change with great new revenue. We’ve seen a huge number of new clientele, new people interested in having contracts with us, we’ve increased our rates and we’re doing the best average room rate in town, amongst our competition. We saw excellent occupancy last year and we’re seeing the same this year but our rates are much higher, about Dhs100 more.” “If you don’t renovate in a certain period of time, maybe the business won’t be affected next year in a large way but people will fade away and it will be too late to get them back, your clients will be happy somewhere else.” The renovations took a few months to plan, from January until May 2011,

24 � hospitality business middle east

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with the work taking around six months. However, Hadi doesn’t believe in waiting until seeing a drop in occupancy, to carry out maintenance. “Most hotels spend three to four per cent of their yearly revenue in maintenance but we do more. I spend more than six per cent per year on having a maintenance team here all the time, including a permanent carpenter, so that when small things go wrong they can be immediately fixed. Our expenses might be high but guests can tell the difference.”

occupancy levels before renovation carlton tower: 87 % mina seyahi: 98% dusit: 84% 0






“We don’t’ wait to receive complaints from guests and this is our policy. Many hotels wait for years and years to act on complaints, and then it’s too late. We see all of our guest feedback as a gift, it’s the only way to maintain our business.” For a hotel in Deira, return business is essential and the Carlton Tower’s is around 20 per cent. Quality service and a modern facilities are two important issues where four star hotels can really beat the competition, meaning that for Carlton Tower, regular refurbishment is key. “It’s a must to renovate so the guests feel that they’re coming to a fresh hotel. It should never feel the same for repeat guests over a long time.” Hadi sees this trends as part of the wider Dubai landscape, “In the UK and US a hotel typically does a basic renovation every three to six years, then every ten years or so to do major renovations especially in F&B outlets and every 40 to 50 years a complete renovation. In Dubai, we tend do a complete renovation every five years.”

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Refresh that restaurant outcast interiors talk why, when and what to avoid above and right: the new Ruth’s chris steakhouse, the address dubai marina


n the current market, when investors want low risk projects and operators want to stay one step ahead of the competition, refurbing existing restaurants and bars is coming into its own. Outcast Interiors who are behind the transformation of Rive Gauche at The Address Dubai Marina into the second Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse take us through the benefits and challenges of refurbing. Dubai in 2012 is a very different market to the recent boom years. The city and its operators have matured and with this experience, comes a different attitude to what they want from their F&B outlets. Gone are the ludicrous fads and ever changing demands from disinterested investors who were looking for a quick buck,

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and in their place, more realistic, sensible operators who want to focus on quality and being part of the market for the long term. The collapse of the boom, was no bad thing, says Justin Penketh, Managing Director at Outcast Interiors. “It’s as bad now as it was crazy then, the downturn has been devastating but it’s no bad thing that it’s taking time to recover and really a refurb is the way to go for a lot of people. It removes all the risk, people are sickening risk averse at the moment, with good cause, and it removes a lot of nightmare scenarios you could go through as an investor in this region. That alone makes refurbishment an attractive proposition.” “In the old days, clients would say

‘I want a restaurant, what can you do?’ and we would team up with kitchen consultants, F&B specialists, uniform designers and it became a whole different operation for a design company like us and we hated that. Honestly people back in the day were opening restaurants so they could get dates with women, and huge amounts of money were being spent and lost and that really was exhausting. Because you weren’t dealing with anyone expert on the other side of the table, there was little appreciation of what you were doing.” Creative Director, Gavin Mackenzie adds, “The market is more sophisticated now, there was so much rubbish going on a few years ago. People were only looking at the


very very short term and actually all those people have gone bust, but a lot of the premises are coming up again for reuse now and are being looked at smarter people who have more experience in the region” In 2012 clients want value for money alongside quality, demonstrating their long term intent to stay in the market. “It is easier to work now, demand is becoming more sophisticated and people want more simplicity and quality, which is great, because that’s what we do,” says Penketh. “Clients are saying this refurb has to last at least five years, which takes away a whole raft of materials, not because they won’t last but they’ll look crap after two,” adds Mackenzie.

Refurbs are also becoming more popular as there’s less risk with an existing building and premier space is now at a premium, with new buildings slowing down. For Penketh, it makes more sense to work with something already there. “It’s easier to convert an existing structure than it is to build one from scratch. There’s not many people building hotels like there were, so you’ve got the existing hotels and the licenses they have which can be reused, so there will be more refurbed premises because you’ve not got the slew of new developments that you once had.” “Going with a new build is fraught with all sorts of danger. Taking new premises, you have to sign the lease so early in the process, can the owner guarantee that the alcohol license will be granted? It’s 90 per cent likely, but it would be a nightmare if it doesn’t come through. The investment is so much higher in a shell and core, and you wouldn’t get that money back if the license isn’t granted.” Outcast are seeing refurbs popularity go up and up and this will continue, “There’s so much appeal with refurbs because you know what you’re getting, the license is there, the M&E is in place, you can reuse materials and it’s relatively low cost.” This is demonstrated in their own current projects, all of which apart from one, are refurbs. “A lot of the projects we’re doing are the result of restaurants changing hands. Rather than looking out for new premises, people are watching out for those that are struggling and thinking ‘we can go in and do it a bit better and not have the expenditure of a shell and core fit out’; so it works financially with the constraints of the market.” For interior designers, the trick to a successful refurb is using the materials the existing outlet already has and using them in a new way, to keep costs down and the turnaround short. “You can walk into Ruth’s Chris

in the Address Dubai Marina and it looks like a completely different restaurant to the one that was there before but we’ve reused almost 100 per cent of the materials that were in there’” says Mackenzie. “The trick to changing brand is can you transform the place completely by using as much of the existing as you can and have no one recognize it when they go in. Otherwise, customers will feel like you’ve done it on the cheap. The reality of the perception needs to change to justify the brand change.” “It’s just how clever you are with the design. We could have spent another Dhs1.5 million and produced something that wouldn’t have helped the design any further. We used all the flooring, all the furniture, all the lighting, the bars, the back fittings. Everyone who knew the old restaurant

maY 2012

hospitality business middle east � 27


Main pic: Ruth’s chris steakhouse lounge at the address dubai marina

would struggle to recognise them though and that’s the trick,” explains Penketh. “It’s being really smart with what you’ve got already and showing the clients you can do that. That’s the trick of refurbs. There’s no point spending money on stuff you already have. You can do relatively little in a clever way and make it look like you’ve done a lot. Be smart, spend little and do it wisely.” Another key point for refurbs is getting the layout right. “There are very clear reasons why some places work and others don’t. And why does the new Ruth’s Chris work whilst the Rive Gauche was tired, dull and a hugely expensive fit out? Rive Gauche was extremely high quality, it was well done and expensive but the design was poor, the layout didn’t work. It’s not about how much money you chuck at a restaurant, if the design doesn’t work, it won’t work. Rive Gauche probably spent ten times what we did on the Ruth’s Chris refurb but it wasn’t money well spent. The skill for us is to bring about something new, from something old and for a small budget.” However it’s not just clever design. Timing is crucial when planning a refurb. Most restaurants and outlets operate on a roughly five year turnaround but knowing when to either go for a facelift or a brand change is a tricky business. “Clients need to realise when’s the right point for refurbing. Have you got something that works, it’s a design classic and never needs to change because it’ll lose customers or are the customers walking out the door and it’s too late?” says Mackenzie. Penketh adds, “Long’s Bar at the Towers Rotana has not changed since it opened nine or ten years ago. If Long’s refurbed, they’d lose all the charm that the place has and it’s a reminder to operators and owners, it’s a matter of timing and balance.” “There’s a band of time when it’s the right time to refurb. There’s a point when it’s profitable and right to make those changes, knowing when that

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time is is dependent on the operation. You can dilute a brand by accident sometimes. It might be brighter and shinier but a refurb can also put people off if it’s not done correctly and at the right time.” “The refurb you do has to be in line with the price points and the service offering otherwise customers aren’t going to go with it. It matters if you’re changing price points especially that the level of refurb matches.” An unnecessary refurb can be worse than none at all, and recognising when an outlet has got it right to start with and doesn’t need changing is also a skill that’s often overlooked, especially when Dubai historically has been such a flash, fast-paced market. “Operators need to be able to recognise that if a brand works, and the patrons are spending enough, then you don’t need to do anything. That’s very rare, but Long’s is one of those examples, it’s one of the only places in Dubai, that it’s got it right and it has been full every night since then without lifting a finger. There are a lot of tricks going on in that bar, which feels very natural, it’s very clever,” says Penketh. Once a refurb has been agreed however, the beauty of them is that they can be very quick. The structure is already there, the approvals are in place and work can begin in earnest. It’s important however, says Penketh, not to think it can be done overnight. “If you’ve already got all the authorities’ approvals then your programme can come forward by four weeks, but it’s still a new project and it will take a certain number of steps to get it to completion. It’s not as expensive as shell and core, but if the expectations aren’t managed at the start, and treated as a new project then problems can occur.” “Managing expectations is huge. You never want to walk in and say it’s impossible, but you do want to manage the timeframe that owners and operators expect. You can’t shortcut approvals and processes, and there’s a misconception that if you

double shift a site, it will happen faster. It won’t. It’s a sequence, it doesn’t matter how many people you have.” This meeting of minds between clients, operators and the design team is paramount to ensuring a project runs smoothly and to deadline. “A successful rebrand or refurb can help drive footfall into a hotel’s other outlets. Operators have to see it as an opportunity not as a threat to its existing F&B portfolio, you’re not creating competition. If you’re all on the same page then the whole process goes a lot more smoothly. The sort of places we’re involved with, there’s synergy both ways,” says Penketh. But refurbs at existing properties are always going to come with their own challenges explains Mackenzie, “It’s someone’s job in the hotel operation to ensure the guests aren’t disturbed but it’s also someone’s job to make sure that restaurant opens on time, so there’s always going to be conflict. It’s how that conflict is managed and that comes down to the experience of the contractors and everyone being sensible”

maY 2012

above: the bar at Ruth’s chris steakhouse

hospitality business middle east � 29

Hospitality solutions from du


ach hotel chain would like to deliver services that differentiate their brand and create a personalised experience for each guest, which is the most challenging for hotels. As hotels evolve, they look for new ways to delight their guests with services that are in demand and relevant. To do this they need partners who are able to work with them in this field and offer relevant services that can be managed, and are easier and more cost effective to implement and support. At du, we recognise this need and work closely with our hospitality customers to create a differentiated experience by offering a variety of Hospitality Services. Our hospitality solutions will make your brand stand out, and create a one of a kind, personalised experience for each of your guests. The ability to provide high-class entertainment services, internet access, content, and voice communications, both over high speed wired networks and wireless networks have become more important than ever before. Recent surveys show that the services most in demand by guests are Wi-Fi and internet access in general, both of which guests expect to be available for free. Bed and breakfast was previously considered the topmost priority. We lead the UAE market in providing these services in the hospitality segment. Here is an overview of what we can offer to our Hospitality partners.

(I) High Speed Internet Access (HSIA) For your guests, great internet experience is as important as good rooms. Our Bandwidth On Demand - HSIA Solution is designed with great care to provide guests the kind of experience they come to expect from five star hotels. The guest interface is designed to provide a sense of luxury combined with ease of use. At the same time, it anticipates the varying needs of different types of guests so that everyone gets what they wish to get. The hotel administration interface is power packed and flexible. It enables the hotel to customise its offerings to guests, and


provides a host of reports with the types of information that the hotel will need. • Fully configurable system including guest portal pages - The hotel controls the look and feel of the guest portal pages. • Manage the guests’ experience via the hotel’s PMS - Our solution allows you to seamlessly tailor your guests’ internet experience through the hotel’s PMS. Our intuitive interface allows the hotel to change the pricing, data allocation, time and speed of the connection via PMS database fields. (a) World-class bandwidth management

- Our intelligent bandwidth solution guarantees the highest average guest experience at all times. Our quality of service module automatically ensures that your guest’s connection is not affected by heavy users who are transferring high amounts of data at the same time. This key feature is proven and fully configurable right down to individual guest level to achieve the most consistent guest experience.

(B)Advanced billing engine

Our advanced billing engine allows per minute billing up to a maximum price cap and has the ability to measure an individual’s data usage. This also allows for both time and data portions to be charged separately. Guests have a choice of pricing plans and are fully informed of what service they will receive prior to being connected and charged.

(II) IP TV Apart from in-room broadband internet services, we also offer in-room entertainment services, with TV and Video on Demand. With these services, we present you Triple Play, which offers you data, voice and Video on Demand, all on your existing TV. We bring this innovative offering to your hotel, as a significant added value to the in-room broadband internet services it offers. With our in-room entertainment services, your guests no longer need to be restricted to surfing TV channels ‘pushed’ to them by channel operators, but instead can have a more interactive and personalised experience

by selecting content on demand and viewing programmes that they opt for. The television is converted to an interactive source of services like films on demand, music on demand, games, and information channels, to name a few. Entertainment n Demand

With our entertainment services, your guests have complete freedom of choice. Music, films, games and internet on demand means guests can have a richer and more relaxing entertainment experience. Benefits to guests

• Crystal clear picture quality in high definition • Outstanding TV viewing experience • increased satisfaction with overall hotel experience • Easy access to the information and entertainment content in a TV-centric environment • Second nature user interface navigation is fun not frustrating • Fast and easy view of all available channels and TV line-up • Ultra fast channel zapping



(III) IP Telephony IP Telephony is a sophisticated service that enables both improved customer service and improved efficiencies in hotel management. It simplifies and streamlines communication methods by integrating the Hotel IP network with phones, enabling centralized management and consistent communication features across the hotel. Guests have a cost-effective means of making long distance/international calls. This coupled with the in-room Wi-Fi services increases guest productivity and is an immense advantage for the business traveller. Maintenance costs are greatly reduced with a single IP network that handles data, in-room entertainment and IP Telephony. Hotel staff and management can use the service during business meetings and conferences as a low cost means of conferencing with other hotels across the world. As part of our solution, we assess your needs and requirements and provide a best-in-class telephony solution that includes voice-over Wi-Fi phones that match international standards. We also handle the backend design, preparation, deployment and subsequent maintenance of the IP network, so you can always be assured of a completely hassle free experience.


Companies are increasingly relying on video and virtual meeting technologies to cut costs, reduce carbon footprints, and improve productivity. This, along with the best voice rates, Pay by the Second tariffs, preferential calling rates to the world, integrated single bill and Power Bill (a sophisticated analytical tool), make for an overall attractive voice proposition for the hospitality industry from du.

(IV) Managed Video as a Service (MVaaS) Our Managed Video as a Service operates complex networks of video collaboration systems. We support standards-based systems, including full-immersion telepresence, single-screen rooms, and personal endpoints. Our managed video services support an open cloud, and our modular services are customisable and leverage worldwide points of presence. Our MVaaS solutions deliver powerful, high definition customer experiences across desktops, meeting rooms, ballrooms, immersive environments, and more. Here, faceto-face and personal interaction with customers is the key to success; we make this a reality with HD video solutions that bring hotels, resorts and customers together – just like being there.

frequently it’s a key factor in how guests decide where to stay and whether they’ll come back. As a natural extension for HSIA and broadband services, managed Wi-Fi is an area where we provide extensive expertise and experience in both implementation and management. (a) Site Surveys - Our professionals will conduct a

walk-through of your property in order to understand your needs and expectations and identify any potential issues to be addressed. (b) Wi-Fi network design and installation - Using

the Site Surveys, we develop a network design that will ensure your wireless network is reliable and cost effective. (c) Wi-Fi network enhancements - We can survey

your existing network and recommend strategies for enhancing reliability and reach. Whenever possible, we’ll work to use your existing hardware to minimize additional expenses while still achieving reliable wireless access.

Select from: (a) Video NOC Services: We provide remote system

monitoring and video conference management. Use our web portal for scheduling conferences, getting reports, and requesting support.

(d) Central Network Management - We will design your network to be managed remotely or on-site by your staff or a network manager. Your network can also be designed to be remotely managed by our technicians. We can also work with your staff to ensure their understanding of the wireless network as a resource and encourage its use to enhance efficiencies and convenience.

(b) Access and B-to-B Services: Using a common

dialling directory, create secure video communities among corporate teams, affiliates, suppliers, and clients. (c) HD Virtual Video Rooms: We host this economical reservation-less video conferencing service.

(e) Network Maintenance - All networks need routine maintenance to ensure optimal operations and wireless networks are no exception. Our solutions will maintain your network so you never have to worry about reliability or security.

(d) Webcasting Services: You can rely on us for

(VI) Managed Infrastructure Services

turnkey implementations that include the design, production, reporting, and archiving of webcasts.

Our Managed Infrastructure Services can help you meet the challenges of managing large or complex enterprise data and voice networks and simultaneously save up to 30% of the total cost of ownership. We provide an application aware communications infrastructure and service management solution that is maintained at peak efficiency and benchmarked for value. This will free up your scarce resources, allow management to focus on core business issues and deliver the following benefits:

(e) Public Room: Our Public Room offering enables

hotels to offer the service not only locally in the UAE but across the hotel’s chain internationally.

(V) Managed Wi-Fi Wi-Fi is changing the hospitality industry. It is shifting the way hotels run business and market themselves and



• Improved alignment of ICT operations with network strategy enabling reduced costs and improved performance • Standardise and simplify your communications architecture • Re-engineer the communications supply chain to gain economies of scale, gain vendor management cost reduction whilst maintaining competitive tension • Reduce the incidence of local business unit ‘network edge management’ activities through centralised device management • Simplify and reduce the costs of commercial and administration activities • upgrade to a single integrated IP network for voice and data applications. We can tailor an enterprise-wide infrastructure management solution that exactly fits the needs of your business. A solution that removes concerns regarding recruiting, replacing and maintaining the skills base of key personnel, or employing expensive contractors to fill gaps. You can select from a menu of services, ranging from management of devices, or opt for a migration to an enterprise service package that covers all your communications requirements, managed completely by us.

(VII) Managed Mobility Services Our Managed Mobility Services offer multiple mobile rate plans including Data Bundles and dongles for your guests. By providing you with all the services you require to fulfil your business needs from just one place, we all benefit. We serve all our hotel partners as a single point of contact for all services from the same single operator. These services include all communications devices for mobiles, data, broadband and all other related services and support. Our Business Mobile Plan offers freedom, value, flexibility and control over your expenses, as well as a choice of which plans best suit your guests. The key features of our plans are: (a) Privileged calls within the business: All du mobile

SIMs registered under your company with our specific plans will enjoy special calling rates to each other.

(b) One rate to all major international destinations: Enjoy discounted flat rates at all times on all

international calls. (c) One World, one rate on all incoming calls while roaming: Enjoy flat rate on all incoming calls while roaming

abroad to most international destinations. (d) The best prices for BlackBerry® services:


(h) Power Bill: Get near real-time reporting and analysis

on what you and your company spend with a click of a button.

(VIII) Professional Services This true consulting proposition meets your strategic goals, and lets you focus on your core business. Our competency, expertise and best practices are made available when you need them. (a) Tailored solutions

Professional services develop solutions based on your strategic business or technical requirement ascertained from working directly with our client solutions team. We focus on solving your business challenges using solutions specifically tailored for you. (b) Project management

Whether providing connectivity across the globe or delivering a multi-site IP VPN solution, our project managers are focused on delivering complex solutions on time, on budget and to your satisfaction. (c ) Service management

Our team of highly skilled service managers is dedicated to handle large and complex networks. For more information please contact your account manager or email us on:

Special discounted rates for BlackBerryÂŽ Unlimited Plans. (f) Pay by the SecondÂŽ billing: Only pay for the

seconds of any national or international calls you make. (g) Business and Personal wallet services for our specific plans: Use your Business and Personal

wallets to make pre-paid calls that will not show up on your monthly bill.

In a nutshell, our converged infrastructure has enabled the integration of voice, mobility, high-speed internet access, and TV entertainment services with existing back office systems creating one single architectural platform to support the latest smart room technology and luxury hotel experience. Offerings include the complete suite: high speed wired and wireless network for guests, IPTV, Triple Play, event recording, high definition video conferencing, telephony/VOIP, and video surveillance. We also offer an integrated software solution for network usage such as High Speed Internet Access (HSIA). Our vision is to help create hotels for the future by taking the best that technology has to offer in order to provide your guests with a differentiated and highly personalised experience. If you‘d like to know more, please contact by email on:




Main pic: Centro abu dhabi Yas island

a perFect storM


or Gavin Samson, Director MENA for Christie + Co the idea of budget hotels isn’t a new one. He’s been talking about their expansion since 2003, but in the boom times, despite the clear need for lower scale hotels, the focus of investors was firmly held by the five star and up market. Back then Dubai was still targeting the world’s elite, so a wider customer demand was held at bay. In these post-bust days, Dubai’s more Having been touted as the next inclusive tourism strategy, the rise of budget airlines and more risk averse big thing for years, the focus has investors, means that finally, budget returned to the budget market, hotels look like a sensible option for both travellers and investors. where a combination of factors, We talk to two fairly recent will make this segment’s sustained additions to the budget market, Centro from Rotana and Citymax success, almost guaranteed. from the Landmark Group to see whether they’re seeing these factors come to life. Centro currently have five hotels in the UAE, Citymax have three and both have plans for additional properties both here and in the GCC. “I think the budget hotel sector is really on an upward swing. Dubai has seen a sharp increase in the number of mid-market hotels coming online, make the country a more affordable option,” says Russel Sharpe, COO, Citymax Hotels. The rise in budget hotels and the rise in their occupancy levels isn’t surprising overall. The introduction of mid-market and budget hotels is proof of a market that’s maturing and diversifying. “The market took away the in branded budget focus from budget before the It’s a relationship that works Hotel rooms before 2015 downturn, but now Dubai’s both ways. become more affordable, and “Dubai’s proximity to huge with the hotel market maturing feeder markets has been helpful you’re seeing a wider range of hotels. to us. India and China provide an It’s a natural cycle,” adds Samson. enormous potential customer base for In addition to the attraction to us, especially with the emergence of investors wishing to risk smaller the middle class and their purchasing amounts, with higher ROIs, the power,” explains Sharpe. “Three growth of the budget sector is key in star hotels have widened the tourist attracting more visitors to Dubai and demographic, especially in Dubai, opening up new regional markets, where before it was all luxury.” both essential for the DEPE to hit its This is good news for investors. omer Kaddouri target of 15 million tourists in 2015. There’s now huge demand for a budget


36 � hospitality business middle east

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our biggest challenge is we can’t open enough hotels quickly enough

stay, both for business and leisure travelers and the three star model is a shorter return, lower risk option. Centro are seeing this firsthand. “Investors want to invest in all levels of hotels, and there’s a healthy investment into budget hotels. Three star hotels are being added into wider portfolios as investors are keen to diversify. They have less to invest and want a faster return. Our biggest challenge is that we can’t open enough hotels quickly enough,” says Omer Kaddouri, COO of Rotana.

Omer Kaddouri COO, Rotana

Gavin Samson Director MENA for Christie + Co

Russel Sharpe COO, Citymax Hotels

MAY 2012

hospitality business middle east � 37


Main pic: Citymax hotel , al barsha, dubai

“From an economic standpoint, the budget model is more sustainable than the luxury one, on an operational and an investment point of view,” adds Samson. And there are key reasons why. Three-star brands are popular amongst investors because they have a small competitive radius, if any at all, and you can have a number of the same brand in one city. Centro currently have two hotels in Abu Dhabi and are opening a third, whilst Citymax have two in Dubai. “Budget hotels are a good investment. The price of land should be cheaper, you’ll find them in secondary and tertiary locations in every city. They need less land, less public areas and less staff, so costs are lower, which all translates into a better level of investment,” says Samson. As Samson says, location is another point. For budget hotels, location isn’t as important, they increase in can be found in occupancy FroM a range of prime, 2011 at centro secondary and tertiary locations to attract different markets. “We’ve chosen the locations of the hotels based on the proximity to prime business and leisure districts to offer maximum convenience,” explains Sharpe. Centro works with a little more flexibility, “It doesn’t matter to us where we are, we have no template. We can work anywhere.” The operation of a budget hotel, also guarantees a quick return, says Sharpe, “We have also managed to keep our costs low and deliver maximum value to our customers and a five year ROI to our investors. In luxury hotels the risk factor is higher as the ROI takes longer, but the upside is your asset value on exit, rather than net profit.” Hardly a new model, budget hotels have been around for decades in the States and Europe, an evolution from the motel or roadside inn, but in 2012, their future looks expansive and sustainable, whereas a few years ago, the market had faulted…the


38 � hospitality business middle east

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customer base that it needs to fuel the excitement in investors wasn’t there, underserved by tourism marketing strategies and budget carriers. And sustainability is an attractive proposition, even with the buoyant occupancy figures of 2012, “The volume of money isn’t ever going to be as good as a five star hotel but they are a more sustainable business model through the downturn because of their price point and they’re much more cost effective to run,” says Samson. “Overall the levels of return

for the budget market are higher, it’s a less risky environment and the profitability levels are higher.” “There will be plenty of opportunity for three star hotels for a long time to come so the growth is assured, we feel,” adds Kaddouri. “If Citymax’s occupancy is anything to go by, which runs at 90 per cent on a monthly basis, it clearly indicates the need for a greater mid-market offering in the region,” says Sharpe. Centro’s occupancy rates are also up, ten per cent on 2011 and six-seven per cent


this year, there are just under 10,000 rooms from branded budget (three star) hotels. In 2015, there will be additional 6,000 rooms – 60 per cent growth in three years. And it’s not just the UAE that’s seeing this expansion. Doha, Oman, Saudi as well as Kuwait and Bahrain to some extent are all fertile markets for budget hotel growth. Centro have a pipeline of 25 hotels across the GCC by 2015, and its investors are especially keen on entering the Saudi market. Centro is the fastest growing brand within the Rotana group, with Saudi, the fastest growing country within their plans. “The Saudi market is exploding and needs hotels of all levels. We didn’t expect it to be so busy,” Kaddouri says. Saudi can be seen following Dubai’s overall pattern but with different driving factors, Samson says. The maturing of the market means diversification, to cater to the huge amounts of Saudi’s domestic tourists as well as to keep up with the development of the country’s secondary cities. Citymax also have a pipeline of 15 more properties across the GCC and Asia over the next five years. Again this is in line average montHlY with Samson’s forecasts oCCupanCY at CitYmax that a number of GCC countries, especially Qatar and Oman are developing a broader hospitality market to enable wider tourism strategies – the World Cup for Qatar, and the expansion of airports in Oman and the development of ADR on last year. Salalah as an international tourism The role of budget airlines such as destination. Flydubai and Air Arabia, who have But there is one challenge that expanded massively in the last three years, cannot be underestimated in the Samson can see looming on the horizon. The notion of value vs surge in mid-market travelers and the service. Budget hotels in Dubai still demand for budget hotels. GCC travel offer many more services and facilities is now easily available and low-cost, than their namesake equivalents in and that along with the Arab Spring Europe or the US, simply because turmoil elsewhere in the MENA guest expectations are higher in the region, has resulted in a positive Middle East. kickback in Dubai’s tourism figures. Both Citymax and Centro pride And more is yet to come. According themselves on offering high level to the research from Christie + Co,


2011 Gcc Distribution of hotel rooms 13%






5 star

4 star

3 star budget

2 star

1 star

guest House/ non-classified

services for the comparable cost, “Citymax is committed to offering the service and facilities that you would associate with a four star property, at a price that you would expect from a three star hotel,” says Sharpe. “We strongly believe Citymax is well positioned to offer a more cost effective option, without comprising on comfort or customer satisfaction.” “Our rooms are small – 22sq metres – but they look like five star rooms, we don’t cut on quality or on service, so it’s value for money,” says Kaddouri. “There will always be people who want a luxury hotel but three star doesn’t mean lack of service, or design.” But Samson adds, “What you need and what constitutes a budget hotel is different depending on the local demand. It’s value versus service and how to meet the expectations of your guests. This is key for markets like Saudi, which is even more demanding because of the way they travel, in large groups and have higher expectations. At what level hotel do you stop offering the service people expect?” But with occupancy up, rates creeping up, healthy pipeline plans and investors keen to expand, the best of times is here for the budget market

maY 2012

hospitality business middle east � 39


What is dubai’s max capacity? Gms, PRs and industry experts share their thoughts


ith a raft of new openings joining an already busy marketplace, we ask three panels of experts to discuss how Dubai as a tourist and business destination will cope with the new arrivals and how they see the next few years panning out, for their brand and the wider market.

Do you feel optimistic about the local landscape in 2012? alejandro bernabe: If the first quarter

is any indicator, we believe that 2012 will be a successful year. While there is both strong demand and supply in Dubai, preferred properties exist and we are lucky to be one of them for a number of reasons linked to value, offering, and convenience.

Wael el behi: The local landscape for

2012 looks very positive and I am very optimistic for the rest of the year. The focal point is to maximise opportunities and profitability through the current scenario and focus on giving Ramada Downtown a stable base along with increasing the number of franchisees for the brand. peter French: The expected arrival statistics issued by DTCM gives us all a sense of confidence. However, I have two concerns; the first being the number of hotels under development and the impact of this substantial room inventory growth in the next few years. The second is that the arrivals could be affected by worldwide airport restrictions, air space and seat availability.

General managers panel

alejandro bernabe, GM of Kempinski Mall of the emirates. With over 17 years in the hospitality industry – over a decade of which has been spent within the Kempinski fold – Bernabé is now heading Kempinski Hotel mall of the emirates’ talented team.

40 � hospitality business middle east

Wael el behi, executive assistant Manager, Ramada Downtown Dubai. Wael el Behi joined the Ramada downtown dubai in June 2011 after working with Coral Hotels & Resorts and suha Hotel apartments for nearly two decades in hospitality.

maY 2012

peter French, General Manager, Raffles Dubai & Vice president, eMea, Raffles hotels and Resorts. Peter French has been General manager of Raffles dubai since 2010. Previously he ran the mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong from 2004 -2009.

is the local hospitality industry recovering from the global recession? ab: Dubai unexpectedly benefitted

from the instability in the rest of the region. Dubai is stable; it is tourist friendly and logistically an easy destination to discover. The hospitality market is mature and people find both choice and value, so it is a good destination for both holiday and business travellers, which has meant that the rebound in Dubai’s case has been a lot faster than in many other markets. Web: It is now safe to say that the hospitality industry is booming like never before, when compared to 2008 and 2009. Hotels have been running on high occupancy for the last quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of this year. This scenario has created stability and optimism along, as it is backed-up with a ten to 20 per cent increase in Average Room Rates and occupancy rating. There has been an upshot in both leisure travellers as well as high occupancies with the opening of the new tourism markets. pF: The local hospitality industry had recovered but not from the global recession. Recovery has been influenced more by the Arab Spring and Dubai is seen by the GCC as a destination for both leisure and business travellers. Although the downturn seems now to be on the


Over next 10 years international tourism will grow to 10 per cent global GBP and be worth Us$10 trillion

Dubai Marina hotels have hugely expanded the city as a tourist destination

(source: World travel and tourism council)

upswing, we probably haven’t seen it return back to the pre recession days.

What pressure do new hotel chains opening in the city bring? ab: From the point of view of the

operator there is the constant pressure to be innovative. Innovation helps to keep you ahead of the crowd and position you as a leader, which is vital in a market like Dubai, which is very dynamic and hungry for novelty. From an owner’s perspective the pressure is to keep your property well maintained, renovate regularly to ensure it continues to remain relevant to a changing customer base, and to offer something fresh and attractive to loyal guests. Web: No doubt that new opening hotel chains will put more pressure on the guest and staff loyalty. It will impact as well on the Average Rate and occupancy levels. We would call this ‘positive pressure’, as it only gears us up for a better performance. However, being located in Downtown, we are confident of having some of the best travellers staying with us all throughout the year. pF: New hotel openings will definitely affect the ADR in the near future more than anything. To gain market share it’s inevitable that rates will be reduced to attract business. On a positive note, competition is always good and new

ideas, new facilities and bed space availability will enhance the attraction of Dubai as a whole.

in your opinion, how far along is Dubai to reaching its maximum capacity for hotels? ab: Capacity is elastic and the city is

still growing. If the supply matches the demand not just in terms of quantity but also in terms of quality there’s room for everyone. The market sneeds to grow in terms of the lower end of the price scale and in that respect capacity is far from being reached. Web: Consumer drive has increased the hotel capacity in Dubai. According to the DTCM, we have achieved a world record in occupancy and revenue level for the recent period. By 2015, Dubai is targeting 15 million visitors and it is very much achievable taking into consideration the business trend, the stability, infrastructure and sunshine all year round. Dubai is becoming as well a regional hub for investors around the globe. Based

Dubai hotel guests

6.56 7.26 milliOn in 2011

milliOn in 2010

on my many years of experience in Dubai I think the target would be to achieve the milestone of 100,000 room inventory to compete with the best cities in the world such as Las Vegas, Paris, London….etc and consequently to take their market share. pF: Without the current room inventory under development, Dubai probably would have already reached its maximum capacity during certain periods of the year within the next couple of years. However, with the number of hotel rooms in development or under construction, the maximum capacity will not be reached within the next five years.

What effect does having healthy competitors have on your business? ab: Healthy competition pushes the

established players to continuously better themselves and not get complacent. We create new offers, reinvent menus in our F&B outlets, and upgrade our services on a regular basis. In a way, while new players often compete on price, established players compete on reputation and service and in the long run that is more sustainable. More brands in a market may widen the playing field but it also allows the stronger players to shine. Web: Healthy competition helps us to identify our key objectives in much clearer perspective. Ramada Downtown has set clear goals and objectives. Maximisation with use of

maY 2012

hospitality business middle east � 41


existing resources is our key market prospects. Performance of our competitors gives us a clear analysis of the current market trends and travel performance of the season and year. pF: Healthy competition will always ensure ongoing reviews of one’s product and services which can only be positive.

What are your hotel’s plans for the future? ab: Kempinski Hotel Mall of the

Emirates continuously invests in its product and service offering to keep things fresh and relevant to guests. In that respect the hotel’s F&B offering is undergoing a complete revamp to create F&B concepts that meet the evolving demands of Dubai’s highly competitive F&B market. The rooms are also undergoing renovations and upgrades in terms of in-room entertainment and digital upgrades. We are excited about the new offerings and expect them to have a positive impact on our operations. Web: Ramada Downtown Dubai believes in aggressive online marketing and well established communication with every guest who has stayed and may wish to stay with us. We believe in brand awareness and have already enabled the Arabic version of our website for more convenience to our guests from the GCC. We are actively launching our Social Media Platform and will pursue guests to interact with us and also learn latest updates through this medium. Visibility on all smart mobile applications is another key point for us. Being hands on and active with corporate social responsibility is another step we have initiated. On-going projects will include an upcoming Virtual Tour on our website. pF: Continue to train and to ensure our colleagues provide the best possible service to our guests in a caring and thoughtful way and that facilities are maintained to the highest standards. Listening to our guests to ensure that we anticipate their every need and to create a sense of emotional luxury that is synonymous to the Raffles Brand

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industry experts panel

Mark Walsh, Group portfolio Director, Reed exhibitions. mark Walsh’s portfolio includes arabian travel market, the international Golf travel market and an expanded remit to to lead luxury and specialist shows for Reed travel exhibitions (Rte),who are the world’s leading provider of exhibitions in the travel and tourism industry.

Claude attala, Vice president business Development, Roya Consultancy. Claude attala is Vice President Business development of Roya international, a leading specialist hospitality consultancy firm offering unparalleled expertise to the hospitality, leisure, tourism and real estate industries in the middle east.

how much is the Dubai hotel landscape recovered from the global downturn? Mark Walsh: Last year alone Dubai’s 575

hotels and serviced apartments catered to 9.3 million tourists, a growth of 10 per cent over the 8.49 million in 2010. Of these, 7.26 million guests stayed in hotels, up from 6.56 million in 2010. Without a doubt the international tourism industry in 2012 is one of the most exciting, creative and dynamic sectors in the world today. Over the next ten years, this industry is expected to grow by an average of 4 per cent annually, taking it to 10 per cent of global GDP, or some US$10 trillion according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Claude attala: The Dubai hospitality landscape has shown impressive signs of recovery. Although consolidated numbers for the first quarter of 2012 have not been made public yet, according the latest available data from the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), Dubai topped the world in terms of hotel occupancy levels and average

hala Matar Choufany, Managing Director, hVs Global hospitality services Hala matar Choufany is responsible for the firm’s valuation and consulting work in the middle east and north africa. HVs is the world’s leading consulting and services organisation focused on the hotel, restaurant, and leisure industries.

revenue per available room (RevPAR) for January 2012. hala Matar Choufany: Dubai has benefitted from an increase in regional travel, redirected from the Arab Spring, especially from strong markets like Egypt.

how many more hotels can Dubai sustain and we will see continued growth? MW: Absolutely, we will see growth.

Dubai’s hotels topped the global hotel occupancy list with 86.2 per cent and average revenue per room ranking in January this year. This distinction has placed the emirate above Hong Kong, Sydney, London, Tokyo, Paris, Los Angeles, New York, Buenos Aires, Toronto, Madrid, Berlin, Beijing and Rome. You can chart the impressive growth over the last four years alone. Dubai stood at seventh position in 2010 and 2009 and fifth in 2008. As for average room rates, Dubai stood second after Paris on the list of destinations covered in the report at USD269.90 (Dh991), up from the fourth position in 2011 and 2010 with


We’re seeing growth in budget and mid market sectors, will this continue? MW: I believe the UAE has incredible

average occupancy over 2011 and 2012 across the hotel groups

72% 87%

72% 92%

75% 90%

KemPinsKi mall OF tHe emiRates

Ramada dOWntOWn





USD224 and USD218, respectively. Ca: Dubai is constantly evolving and developing world-class facilities. The key for continued growth is the diversification of the market. The emergence of budget airlines and budget hotels in the region has helped grow and widen the business segmentation. As long as the continuous initiatives taken by DTCM, Emirates airlines and the tourism industry will keep driving demand, it is my opinion that Dubai will continue to require new developments. hMC: It’s more a case of what it can physically sustain, there’s a limit to suitable locations, there’s not many more opportunities for prime locations, over and above what’s already been announced over the next few years. There might be another 10 – 15,000 rooms coming online and that should be sufficient. New properties come in and take old ones, ownership changes but that’s a natural dynamic.

how will the growth be sustained? MW: The number of foreign tourists




heading to the UAE this year is expected to reach almost nine million, which is a healthy 9 per cent increase on the 8.2 million tourists that arrived in the UAE last year. And there is clearly a growing demand for inbound visitors as both Emirates and Etihad are opening-up at least ten more destinations between them this year, and that’s not including low cost options FlyDubai, and Air Arabia. Also, according to a recent QNB Capital study, the total population of GCC countries should approach the 50 million mark by 2013. As long as there is a correlation between the growth of the airline industry and the rise in population, Dubai can keep on growing. hMC: Key are the airlines. Emirates and Fly Dubai have been crucial in attracting new markets to Dubai, whether through GCC travel with Fly Dubai or new Chinese and Asian markets on Emirates. The fact these airlines have grown more and more routes has helped especially through the last few critical years.

opportunities which need to be developed. The four-star resort sector has huge growth potential in the UAE, with vast areas of undeveloped beach frontage that will add to the emirate’s already diverse tourism offering. The fully-inclusive holiday and family package markets are also primed to become more of a focal point for management and owning companies. There are a number of untapped market segments, such as the singles or 18-30 market, emptynested couples, sports, medical, budget holidays and even back-packers. It’s amazing that Dubai does not have a wealth of four-star beach resorts, let alone extensive public beach facilities for economy travellers in order to fully cater to these growing market sectors. hMC: Budget and mid range hotels are not uncommon in developing markets and they tend to happen about ten years after the luxury market matures. Also Dubai has made big inways to attract the mid-scale visitor. Dubai’s not niche anymore, it’s not just about luxury or corporate so you need diversified products to cater for all.

sheikh Zayed Road needs to see morefour star properties

are budget or midmarket hotels a better investment than luxury moving forward? Ca: Both have equal opportunities,

however very different models, the budget and mid market hotels cost less to build, get completed in less time, cost less to maintain and are considered value for money by some of the corporate clients who have become more conscious of spending. However luxury hotels never go out of fashion and able to yield higher revenues based on their extended offerings. hMC: The budget and mid-scale market has fared better through the downturn as they require smaller investments and are more flexible over the rates. Access to investment is easier in the budget market. Prime land is limited so it’s easier for budget hotels to

maY 2012

hospitality business middle east � 43


Dubai’s set to expand to meet tourist demand

expand and investors revert to low risk investment in the downtown.

how much is Dubai’s hotel industry worth? eb: Hotel room revenues in the GCC

hospitality sector are set to hit $22 billion in 2012, rising to $27 billion by 2015, with revenue set to grow at a rate of 11 per cent from 2011.

pRs panel

What can abu Dhabi, Doha or other emerging cities learn from Dubai? Ca: Each new emerging market is

different and are faced with varying challenges and requirements, my recommendation is that new emerging cities should try to define themselves. hMC: Dubai has invested in making itself a brand, a lot of work has gone into the tourism infrastructure, not just roads but creating attractions and a tourist mentality. Everyone knows the destination, even if they don’t like it, they’re aware of it. Abu Dhabi and Doha aren’t there yet and their infrastructure couldn’t sustain the levels of tourism that Dubai has seen in recent years.

What is the biggest mistake you see hotel chains make in the local market? Ca: I would like to see hotels chains

place more emphasis on recruitment and training of Emiratis. hMC: I don’t really see them making any major mistakes. The rates strategy a few years ago, perhaps was an issue, as operators were going after short term profit and only looking months ahead, rather than years but this seems to have changed.

What pressure do new chains bring to existing brands? Ca: Faced with new patterns of

consumer behaviour the most successful brands will be those that are able to efficiently engage and clearly differentiate their offering. hFC: The biggest challenge to the hotel industry is recruitment and retraining. As new hotels open it puts pressure on the existing hotels to maintain staff or retrain new staff. This will not change over the next two – four years.

44 � hospitality business middle east

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Klara Zakis, Manager of pR and Communications, Mena, the Carlson Rezidor hotel Group. Klara Zakis joined the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group in 2010 and oversees the PR and Communications for three brands: Radisson Blu, Park inn by Radisson and Hotel missoni, this equates to 31 properties across the mena region.

Kapil aggarwal, Vice president of sales and Marketing, hyatt international, south West asia. Kapil aggarwal has served as the director of sales and marketing for Hyatt international’s south West asia division since January 2011. He oversees the sales and marketing function of Hyatt’s existing and pre-opening hotels.

how large is your hotel portfolio in Dubai? Klara Zakis: Within in the UAE we have

nine hotels; the largest portion of this is within Dubai, where we have five. Kapil aggarwal: Hyatt currently has three properties in Dubai, UAE: the Grand Hyatt Dubai near Dubai Creek, the Hyatt Regency Dubai in Deira and the Park Hyatt Duabi next to the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club. laura perez: Our current portfolio includes four hotels located in different parts of the city.

Who is your main customer base? KZ: Our main customer base is a

mixture due to our portfolio catering for both business and leisure travellers. We are currently experiencing a lot of GCC business due to the Arab Spring

laura perez, Director of Communications, Middle east - Movenpick. laura Perez joined movenpick in september 2010, after helping to launch the address Hotels & Resorts brand in the Uae. Before that she spent eight years with the Ritz-Carlton Group across the middle east, latin america and within the Caribbean.

deterring people from once popular holiday and business destinations. Currently our main feeder market within the GCC into Dubai, is Saudi Arabia. Outside of the Middle East our biggest feeder market is the UK. Ka: Across the various properties in Dubai we receive a variety of guests across many of the sectors you mention, which can fluctuate depending on the time of year. We have a strong and solid customer base across the various target markets, and we continue to provide excellence in accommodation and facilities to best service them all. lp: While each hotel has its own customer profile based largely on its location and services, all our hotels play host to a diverse mix. Our guest


profile also differs in terms of the purpose of visit. While location often does determine the business segment, we still receive a healthy balance of both business and leisure travellers across all hotels thanks to our variety of services and facilities that cater to each group.

Do you think Dubai will see continued hotel growth? KZ: Yes, I believe it will. The city is still

growing, the new airport will bring in more people than ever before, and the city will continue to be a world-wide hub. In addition the Arab Spring has seen some major companies relocate to Dubai and travellers from around the GCC will continue to favour Dubai as their destination of choice. Dubai continues to evolve its tourism strategy offering new experiences and incentives for the traveller, catering for both the business and leisure markets. Ka: With the easy travel routes and close proximity to many countries, Dubai and the rest of the UAE will continue to receive tourists who are coming for business and leisure however it is up to travel and hospitality providers to offer visitors with properties and packages that best suit their needs. More people today are looking for value for money as well as a consistently excellent stay. The recently announced plans for the Dubai Modern Art Museum and Opera House District, set to be located in Downtown Dubai, will contribute to attracting high-end cultural tourists seeking accommodation, contributing to sustained growth in the market. lp: Infrastructure and business developments over the years have helped Dubai grow into an important international business hub. This city has also been and continues to remain a preferred short-haul destination for visitors from other GCC nations. Along with this, we expect a large number of outbound travellers from China and India as a result of our strategic marketing campaigns which target these rapidly growing markets. China alone is expected to

Dubai hotel room revenue

$22 $27 BilliOn in 2012

BilliOn in 2015

ReVenUe set tO GROW at a Rate OF 11 % FROm 2011

produce over 100 million outbound travellers by 2020 while India recorded a significant 12.5 million outbound travellers last year. These positive market trends are indicative of continued growth for Dubai’s hotel industry. Our four existing hotels in the city have reported a positive start this year and we are expecting similar positive numbers for the remainder of 2012.

is there any area of the hotel industry you think needs to see growth? KZ: In Dubai I think the city could definitely benefit from further growth in its mid-market offering. These brands would attract further people to the emirate; those who thought they could not afford a five star break would be more tempted to visit if a wider range of hotels were available. Ka: Dubai is seeing a real push to promote itself as a destination for medical tourism, with a delegation from Dubai Health Authority taking part in a Medical Tourism, Wellness and Spa Congress in Jordan in March of this year. There is also scope for hotels to be active participants in medical tourism in collaboration with health authorities and hospitals.

how do you make your hotel stand out? KZ: One thing that has made us stand

out for both Radisson Blu and Park Inn by Radisson is our Responsible Business ethos. In Dubai we have run successful Responsible Business campaigns like The Box Appeal, which have garnered us much favourable attention both within the press and with the public. In addition we were also the first hotel chain in the region

to have all of its hotels and all of its brands eco-labelled. It took us less than six months to gain Green Key certification for all our hotels. This dedication to responsible and green tourism has definitely made us stand out. Our growth in the region has also been a key player in helping us to stand out in this competitive market. In the last 12 months, we have acquired properties in Dubai, Fujariah and Doha and opened the first Hotel Missoni in the Middle East. Ka: Known for its authentic hospitality attributes, Hyatt stands out by personally catering to each guest’s needs. We believe that hotel visitors are looking for an exceptional guest experience at an appropriate price point, and we think that Hyatt’s properties are ideally placed to deliver an ‘authentic hospitality’ experience at a competitive price. lp: Our company has clearly positioned itself in the upscale segment and is passionate about delivering premium service, culinary enjoyment and sustainable environments, with a personal touch. We are committed to achieving culinary excellence through attractive food and beverage concepts. We are not just a hotel chain; we are a collection of singular properties, each offering an exclusive experience.

What are your future plans? KZ: There is plenty of room for our

mid-market brand Park Inn by Radisson to grow. Dubai is also a perfect location for our Hotel Missoni brand. In regards to our core brand, Radisson Blu, our Business Development team is currently seeking opportunities for a beach front property to round-out our portfolio. lp: We plan to extend our reach in Dubai and have several new properties in the pipeline that will meet our guest demand and extend our range of services, including: The Mövenpick Hotel Apartments The Square Dubai, Mövenpick Hotel & Residences Jumeirah Lakes Towers, and Oceana Resort & Spa on the Palm Jumeirah

maY 2012

hospitality business middle east � 45

Gm iNteRVieW

so this is not a quick process. We try to give them time to relax and settle into their roles. So new openings can be a challenge because we can’t stop staff changeover.”

Dubai’s market conditions

“The additional room inventory coming up in Dubai this year, can be seen as a challenge, but it’s about how you look at it. If there were no activities being promoted or organised, then each hotel is eating from the same cake, but Dubai is good at promoting itself as a destination for all kinds of traveller, business and leisure, so there’s areas to compete in. There are continually events and conferences and tourist seasons that feed Dubai, which isn’t the same yet as Abu Dhabi.” “The government too are working day and night to chase new markets from South America and China, occipaNcy Rates iN there have been certain q1 uNdeR FaRid’s maNaGemeNt markets which have been relied on for the last 15 years, such as Europe, and that is starting to change, for the better.”

75% the exterior of the Radisson Royal, sheikh Zayed Road

the Royal touch

Freddy Farid, general manager at the Rezidor chain’s flagship property in dubai, the Radisson Royal, shares his views on issues facing the hotel industry today, as well as his hotel’s unique challenges


aving taken over the running of the hotel in February 2012, which was previously operated by Japanese brand JAL, Freddy Farid has years of experience in the MENA region to draw upon, having worked for Area Vice President for both the Rotana and Layia brands.

the human resource shortage

“We face the same issue as all hotels in Dubai, more properties opening, means staff moving about. We use

46 � hospitality business middle east

may 2012

recruitment consultants, agencies and our network of sister hotels to find exceptional new staff but it takes a lot to train staff professionally through your training programmes and if they come from other brands, then they’re trained to someone else’s procedures and standards. “New staff from outside the UAE also take time because you have to let them settle into the local community, understand the local culture and then give them room to learn the training,

new hotel openings

“I don’t see competition as a challenge. I see it as something healthy. A lot of hotels, especially, where we are, are offering a wide range of rates, with all types of clients from tourists to the MICE travellers. The only advantage hotels have is to find and use their USP. New brands are coming in in the next few months, which we’re waiting for, but they open different dimensions and different markets. We’re all going to benefit from it.”

Competitive pricing

“The challenge here in Dubai is the fierce price war amongst the hotels. This is a challenge because there is no regulation, but I understand that they want to keep an open market and the business is there for the hotels.”

Gm iNteRVieW

We are seeing 2012 as a massive growth year, occupancy is fantastic and the levels are great 2012 growth in the market

“We are seeing 2012 as a massive growth year, occupancy is fantastic and the levels are great. The Radisson Royal was obviously under different ownership last year, but in Q1 in 2011 occupancy was 38 per cent and this year for Q1 we’re seeing 75 per cent.” “We’re picking up 25 per cent of the MICE business from the Trade Centre, it’s been a fantastic year so far. The demand is there and the market is picking up again and our location is perfect for that as well. We’re targeting exhibitions and launching special offers. So there’s movement

and growth and we’re turning things around but hotels take time to mature and for the hotel to reposition itself in the market.”

potential 2015 slowdown

“I think there will be a certain slowdown by 2015 because by that time all the new openings will be set and hotel chains will have evaluated positions and investors will have taken their time to consider and see what works. The market needs to mature and it will take a while for these rewards to start coming in so it’s basically a wait and see and reassess the market. Unfortunately we are still living in a financial turndown so everyone is very cautious.”

Change in booking patterns

“The move to mobile bookings is affecting us, just like everyone else. Sometimes I can forecast at 70 per cent in the evening and I come in the next morning and we’re on 85 per cent, you just can’t tell what’s going to happen. In terms of forecasting it’s all very very short term now. No hotel manager can tell you what the forecast is going to be like in October, it doesn’t happen any more. It’s a short pick up and lead time and that puts a lot of strain on us as we have to work out budgets without forecasts really.”

Radisson Royal: the stats open from: July 2011 number of rooms/suites: 471 rooms spa facilities: cold showers couple treatment rooms Female relaxation lounge and treatment Health club Jacuzzi male relaxation lounge and treatment rooms outdoor pool sauna separate and co-ed locker rooms steam rooms number of restaurants: 4 icHo Restaurant and Bar - Japanese Restaurant 3 floors (sushi – teppan – Bar) indo thai Restaurant and Bar - indian and southeastern cuisine al mersat - arabic grills and seafood restaurant with live entertainment celsius - Buffet Restaurant other facilities: Kids’ club Health club outdoor swimming pool shuttle service

Development of it and social media

“The fast pace of IT is changing everything, and people have to wake up and use this technology. It can be challenging because every day there’s something new, and different ways for promotions and offers to be linked to social media, and for managers not from that background, it takes time for them to get onboard.”

establishment of the Radisson Royal

“We’re undertaking a massive marketing campaign to change people’s perception that this is still a Japanese destination, we’re much more commercial. We’re also repositioning all the

F&B outlets slightly, so we’ve changed the Gulf restaurant into a Lebanese outlet instead with entertainment to appeal to the local Lebanese market.” “The previous owners focused on Japanese cuisine and what we’re trying to do is to change a bit of the focus of the menus, adding different cuisines and looking at pricing structures. We’re also introducing theme nights, promotions and target activities. All these activities are working because we’re currently seeing an increase in monthly revenue by 55 per cent ompared to 2011. Our covers have gone up by 60.7 per cent in that same time.”

may 2012

hospitality business middle east � 47


trends: may 2012 the latest products, launches and services to make a difference to your business


Customer relations, Foh and administration


Quality audits: what are the benefits and pitfalls?

54 it systems

Guest-centric apps are changing the market fast

56 housekeeping and cleaning What makes an excellent Executive Housekeeper?

58 hR, recruitment and training

The pressure is on to find new low line staff

59 Marketing, advertising and branding


10 social media mistakes you don’t want to make

60 Conferences, events and weddings

How easy is it for wedding planners to work with hotels?

62 spas

How can you make your spa an award-winning one?

64 67

64 interior design and furnishings

Bathroom basics: what trends are proving popular still?


65 F&b

Bringing on a brand - why outsourcing F&B can work

66 health, fitness and sport

Watercooled looks to be the future of watersports

MAY 2012

hospitality business middle east ďż˝ 49

Quality audits: why should you invest in them? submitting to independent audits can be a worthwhile exercise, but what are the benefits and pitfalls?


he Hospitality Company organises quality audits as part of its comprehensive services for the hotel industry, and its consultants have at least ten years experience in their field. Eric van Wijk, the company’s Managing Director explains to us why regular independent audits can boost efficiency, and top line savings.

Do hotels in Dubai believe in regular training and quality audits of their staff? They understand there is a need for training, but do not always act on it. Development of your employees, employee engagement, commitment to corporate training programmes and daily training sessions as well as performance evaluation are often not carried out. There are excellent training and staff development

50 � hospitality business middle east

companies such as Learnpurple that can be of great assistance to those companies that believe in regular development of their people.

how does Dubai compare to europe or the us?

In these countries more training is done and it is part of overall professional career development, plus staff members have usually come from a different educational background, often with a hospitality focus. People in these markets are often more assertive, staff will ask for training and are keen to develop themselves. Hotels with a good reputation for staff development programmes and employee engagement will always be an employer of choice. As mentioned, staff in European or US hotels often come from a hotel, hospitality or

maY 2012

Hotels sometimes make things too complicated, have too many rules and don’t trust staff to make decisions

culinary educational path, and opting for a professional career in hospitality is a chosen career path compared to the Middle East.

What are the benefits for a hotel client to take part in an audit?

If the audits are conducted by industry professionals, on a regular basis, and reporting is structured in such a way that it provides detailed feedback on service delivery and reflects brand standards, then it can be extremely beneficial for a hotel. But it will only become beneficial if the the hotel acts on the outcome of the audit.

how often should they take place?

Measuring your quality/service delivery should be done daily by your own team – the hotel management really needs to live and breathe

Customer relations, FoH and administration � tRenDs

this process. Service audits, done by outside professionals should be conducted two to four times per year – this also gives you the opportunity to measure your progress. Cash audits and sales audits should also be conducted with the same frequency.

how long do you spend assessing an average size five star hotel?

In order to do a proper in-depth audit for a five-star hotel with multiple F&B outlets, room service, spa and leisure facilities, you need to allocate three to five days – staying in-house to properly experience the full range of service and facilities.

What can a budget or mid range hotel look to get out of a quality audit?

Exactly the same information as five star hotels. The auditor in charge needs to understand the brand and which market(s) the hotel is targeting, and therefore provide feedback on that specific set of brand standards.

Do you assess staff morale as well as their efficiency and training? As part of an all-encompassing audit process we assess happiness, knowledge and staff efficiency. When we undertake brand standard audits we look at daily training practices.

how much can a negative experience, because of staffing issues, affect a hotel’s customer?

A lot! Your staff is the most important asset a hotel or restaurant has. It is your staff, your ‘associates’ or your ‘ladies and gentlemen’ that make memorable experiences happen, that wow guests; as they are perfectly placed to exceed guest expectations. Most complaints that hotels or restaurants receive are about lack of service, the timeliness of service delivery, lack of knowledge, staff not being available or happy, or genuine human mistakes.

What’s the most common issue you find wrong with a hotel’s service?

It varies from hotel to hotel but classic

examples include commitment to quality service, not being trained how to anticipate and exceed guest expectations, taking shortcuts in service delivery and not living up to set standards, insufficient knowledge of staff on hotel services or technical skills, lack of understanding of cultural differences and not understanding what a guest wants.

how can hotels avoid these problems?

By selecting the finest people they can find, being committed to develop stars in every area, engaging their staff and training them in detail on the company’s mission, vision statement, core values and minimum service standards. Also, hotels and restaurants really do need to treat their staff in exactly the same way as they expect their guests to be treated. Salary scales and benefits provided by hotels are not always competitive to international standards and this also needs to be addressed, but is an issue inherent to the region.

Hotels and restaurants need to treat their staff in exactly the same way as they expect their guests to be treated

if there is a breakdown in the service commitment. The intent to return to a hotel or the same brand after a memorable stay and to a place where the staff is clearly happy and motivated, is much higher than in a hotel where the service was simply ‘OK’. We should be aware that guests always talk to their friends and family about their hospitality experiences, and word of mouth is a powerful supporter or detractor of your brand.

What are the benefits of mystery guests?

This only works when mystery guests are well trained industry professionals that understand the concept or the brand that they are visiting/auditing, otherwise it is a waste of money. Too many companies use inexpensive auditors – you get average feedback and no practical advice or solutions.

What have been some of your most radical suggestions to clients?

One client was a five-star resort in the Indian Ocean. We recommended that the hotel introduce a more creative product range in their gift shop. With a captive audience of over 100 high profile guests in-house every night, the paltry selection of items on sale had limited appeal. We recommended a rotating seven-day cycle of products from high-end fashion brands supported by an onsite fashion show event and changing window display presentation. With an average stay of seven nights it increased sales by 500 per cent.

What feedback do you offer clients?

We provide detailed feedback on the entire experience. We let them know what they do right so they can share that with their team and we identify those key team members who are doing things right. We let the management team know who these people are as they are true ambassadors for the brand. We also provide clients with ideas on how to improve service, efficiency and top line revenues. We provide quality feedback on culinary experiences as well. To keep the dialogue going and encourage a proactive response, we suggest ideas or solutions, develop an action list and that can help in key need areas.

in terms of cost saving, how much can your recommendations increase revenue? It’s not about cost savings, it’s about doing things right the first time, it’s about commitment to service and it’s all about ’living your brand’. Every recommendation is valuable whether it’s guest feedback, ideas from your team or the feedback from quality auditors. It’s difficult to put a value to an audit. But it certainly gives the hotel an opportunity to make things right and increase top line revenues if they ‘act’ on the comments made.

Where do you find the biggest issues with efficiency? Hotels sometimes make things too complicated, have too many rules, and do not trust their staff to make decisions nor empower them to make decisions. It is all about happy guests and instant guest ‘pacification’

MAY 2012

hospitality business middle east � 51

Mobile world M

Guest-centric applications are coming in fast, according to Hostech’s Jimmy Joseph obile platforms have long been viewed as the future in the hospitality industry, but up until recently attempts at introducing new hardware to host them have been sporadic at best, requiring significant investment from hotel groups. Hostech, a part of CADD Emirates Group, has ten years experience in providing IT solutions to the hospitality industry in the Middle East and is helping to lead the way in guest-centric mobile applications. These new apps look to revolutionise a guest’s interaction with a hotel and will bring with them a raft of cost-saving benefits in terms of targeted marketing and much more efficient personal service for hoteliers. Jimmy Joseph, Business Manager for Hospitality, talks us through iGuest, an application he has had significant interest in so far from several hotel chains in the UAE. “The moment a guest has made a booking the hotel can send the guest a username and password and

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integrate digital systems with human interaction to get the best results

Jimmy Joseph, business Manager for hospitality, hostech

maY 2012

they can access the application on their mobile platform, whether it’s iPhone, iPad or Android and they can start communicating with the hotel. If the guest doesn’t already have the application, once they make a reservation, the front office can send an SMS with a link where they can download the app.” Hotels can download the application from Apple’s iStore, whilst customers can start using the app immediately after they’ve booked to start registering preferences. From ordering different pillows or newspapers, registering any dietary requirements, booking the hotel’s services or ordering food or drinks to be ready the moment they check in, the application extends the hotel’s services to pre-check in. On check out, the application can allow a bill to be viewed and have ready to go, as well as allowing the guest to easily give feedback on their stay. The application will log any preferences, ready to upload to any hotel is then booked.

This type of guest-centric mobile communication will become more and more common in the market, relatively quickly, says Joseph. “This year will see a lot of hotels move into the world of mobile apps and it is customer driven. Last year, I didn’t think the market seemed very ready for these kind of solutions, but today it’s changing fast. I think mobile based systems will come in quite quickly. Customers are calling and asking hotels if they have reservation or fine dining apps and they want to use them.” What these applications also give a boost to, are two areas that general managers are keen on developing: individualising a guest’s experience of the hotel and targeted marketing. Joseph explains, “It’s all in the data. Guests are all about tailor making their experiences nowadays. So once those preferences have been established through the application, the hotels can make sure their service is a lot more efficient as they know what each guests needs and have it ready for when they want it.” “For marketing purposes, once you have the guests’ information you can send them relevant promotions and unlike email or SMS where you have to check it has been received, you know the customer’s device will be displaying it in real time.” But will this make human interaction redundant? Joseph doesn’t think so, “No matter how much you introduce technology, people still want to have independent human contact to deal with. For example you can introduce digital menus to a bar or restaurant but general managers still want their trained staff standing next to guests explaining the menu. Digital menus aid guests however who want to see their meal, and help staff to upsell. So you have to integrate digital systems with human interaction to get the best results.”

Find hostech at the hotel show, in the technology & sustainability zone, May 15 – 17.





ABU DHABI -‐ +971 2 449 9196

BAHRAIN -‐ +973 1 729 3981

DUBAI -‐ +971 4 339 1331

tRenDs � HouseKeePinG & CleaninG


rom managing a multi-lingual staff to million dirham budgets, the broad responsibilities of an Executive Housekeeper go much further than just cleaning. But low wages and a lack of appreciation of the key skills needed, can mean hotels don’t hire the right staff. Liz Lycette, from Lycette & Associates, who specialise in consulting on aspects of Housekeeping Management from pre-opening set up to customised audits and development workshops, talks to us about getting the role right.

What skills should a hotel look out for that make a stand out executive housekeeper? A stand out Executive Housekeeper is able to wear many hats. They require expertise in the 3 P’s – Profit, People and Product. In terms of Profit; they must be financially savvy and understand the requirements of running a department which often operates in the millions of dollars. People skills including being a strong leader and great manager of multicultural team are imperative. For Product, they must have a keen eye for detail; know all the technical aspects of their operation including linen, uniforms, carpets, flowers, plants, interior design, hard floors…

how relevant is experience in the local hospitality market?

Housekeeping operations seem to have the similar challenges no matter where you are; motivating a team who are doing often mundane and repetitive work, controlling costs and always delivering perfect quality for rooms and public areas are just a few. Perhaps one difference in the Middle East is that all staff are contracted from abroad and this presents its own unique problems.

What common mistakes do hotels make when hiring executive housekeepers? Paying housekeepers a salary which doesn’t reflect their level of responsibility and experience is a common mistake. Housekeeping is the non glamorous end of Rooms

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Keeping house the role of executive Housekeeper is vital to the smooth running of any hotel, regardless of size or star rating, but how do you make the right hire? Division operations; a well-paid and experienced Executive Housekeeper can make or break a hotel.

how far reaching should the role be?

Currently most Executive Housekeepers are in charge of the cleaning of the guest rooms and public areas. They are also usually in charge of the Uniform Room, Linen Room and linen operations. Other roles may also encompass the laundry operations, pest control, window cleaning, external landscaping and in some cases engineering operations. Since the advent of the Rooms Division Manager and the introduction of outsourcing agencies, some housekeepers’ responsibilities have been drastically cut.

in general, are executive housekeepers’ wages appropriate for their roles?

Absolutely not! An Executive Chef

maY 2012

a wellpaid and experienced executive Housekeeper can make or break a hotel

who usually has fewer staff, less responsibility in terms of budgets is usually paid a lot more than an Executive Housekeeper. This may be because most Hotel Managers don’t come from a housekeeping background and have little understanding of what the role really involves – “It’s just cleaning right?” If the rooms are not clean and well maintained, the guests will not return and if you are unlucky – they won’t tell you.

What extra benefits should hotels offer to ensure brand loyalty with an executive housekeeper?

liz lycette, lycette & associates

Exceptional Executive Housekeepers are a special breed; they have ‘housekeeping’ coursing through their veins. Successful housekeepers never stop learning; they are keen to find out about latest technologies to make their teams’ lives easier. They are not afraid

HOUseKeePiNG & CleaNiNG � tRenDs

the view from the floor

to admit being wrong and would benefit by getting the recognition they deserve. Most housekeepers would just appreciate being paid well for what they deliver. There are few opportunities for successful housekeepers to climb the corporate ladder and it is still uncommon for General Managers come from Housekeeping. Sometimes this may be a lack of ambition but it could also be that they are not encouraged, supported and mentored enough.

local experience helps you map your operational strategy all throughout the year

how is the role changing to meet economic and environmental concerns?

The role has diminished in some areas where a Rooms Division Managers may have authority over an Executive Housekeeper. With the introduction of outsourcing agencies, the housekeepers’ role may have less emphasis on staffing. However the housekeepers’ role of delivering

sharon buenaventura, executive housekeeper, park Regis Kris Kin hotel

clean and well maintained rooms and public areas in a cost effective manner will never change. Environmental challenges including training of staff in best practice, recycling and keeping energy, water and chemical usage to a minimum are key.

how many years experience should hotels be looking for in new hires?

This really depends on the person; there are plenty of Executive Housekeepers out there with over 30 years experience who may not be able to deliver. I would suggest a minimum of five years in Housekeeping with three years Senior Supervisory experience would be the average.

Do the skills the executive housekeeper needs change depending on whether hiring for a three, four or five star hotel?

Three and four star operations are very similar. For five star operations it is

MAY 2012

sharon Buenaventura, was hired as the executive Housekeeper at the Park Regis Kris Kin Hotel in dubai. she previously was at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel where she was awarded executive Housekeeper of the year. What makes an award winning executive housekeeper in your eyes? aside from someone who implements a set of policies based on his/her own advanced demands, an award winning executive Housekeeper must be passionate about service, a ‘people’ person who looks after his/her subordinates, understands the best process for the team, including the needs of other departments in order to deliver the best hospitality service it can for the benefit of guests. how important is experience in the local market? it is beneficial to know the local market, understand the business and demands from guests and clients and provide the service that has been guaranteed. local experience helps you map your operational strategy all throughout the year. What training courses are beneficial for executive housekeepers? Quality management: as it focuses on product and service quality and how to achieve and maintain it. how important is it for people in your role to keep up with technology? technology makes the housekeeper’s life easier. maximising the use of technology i.e. Property management systems, maintenance systems, other computer system and HK equipment is essential as it has increased productivity over the years.

more important the housekeeper has some previous experience.

is being multi-lingual an effective bonus? It is absolutely a bonus but not essential. It is always better to understand what someone is saying to you but most good housekeepers have a sixth sense and never underestimate the power of nonverbal communication!

hospitality business middle east � 57

tRenDs � Hr, reCruitment and traininG

You’re hired We take the pulse of the line level job market in the uae


012 looks to be a busy year with hotels opening across the board, but how easy is it to staff these new properties? We talk to Raj Bhatt, Director of online recruitment company and job board Hozpitality. com, who have on average 1,500 live jobs in the MENA retion. “The hospitality industry is looking for a highly skilled workforce to meet the growing needs of the tourism sector. Dubai has more hotels under construction than any other city in the world, according to a report by hotel projects tracker, www.tophotelprojects. com,” says Bhatt. What clients are looking for remains constant; identifying those who have previous experience in the local market, are able to speak English, are presentable and who have a positive

Dubai 2011’s hotel landscape

new markets are being explored like myanmar, Kenya and even Brazil

Raj bhatt, Director,

575 hotels and hotel apartment buildings (five per cent increase from 2010) 53, 828 hotel rooms 21, 015 hotel apartment flats (source: Wam news 7 march 2012) attitude, as the most employable. But there are several challenges facing the hospitality industry in 2012. The UAE’s recent and sustained growth, has thrown up an issue for those hiring new staff – the candidate pool – those that have the qualities identified above, has shrunk and those reliable staff who are already employed, are reluctant to leave posts.

“There were more candidates available in the local market last year due to the industry’s job cuts and the recession,” says Bhatt. “With a large number of new hotels opening, this number is constantly decreasing.” Also with salaries rising in candidates’ home countries and rising living costs within the UAE, the country isn’t as big a draw as it once was for people looking to move here for work within the lower levels of the hospitality industry. “It is getting difficult to get good and experienced candidates from these countries, unlike before,” says Bhatt. “But new markets are being explored like Myanmar, Kenya and even Brazil.” In order to facilitate these hires from abroad, Hozpitality offers a recruitment trip service through their associates. This way of hiring staff, especially for pre-openings, has become more popular, amongst hotel chains as hiring locally is getting increasingly difficult. “There are good candidates in the UAE but local recruitment has always been difficult due to visa restrictions and contracts for line level staff. Good candidates are already getting similar salaries and do not easily change jobs locally,” explains Bhatt. For candidates however, now is the perfect time to find a job, the market is increasing, not just in new hotel openings, but also the hotel apartment sector is growing. “Although luxury hotels are still a major employer, the hotel apartment sector is a promising one for candidates within the service industry,” says Bhatt.

top five line level candidates’ nationalities indian nepalese sri lankan Filipino Chinese

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marKetinG, advertisinG and BrandinG � tRenDs

stick to. Posting too much will tire the audience and can be seen as spam.

5. posting in clusters

Posts need to be spread during the day. Three or four hours between posts will make updates more readable and increase participation.

6. not knowing the key peak times

Reaching your audience involves knowing when your fans are online. To maximise the exposure of your posts, make sure comments are posted between 10am-11am; 12pm-2pm; 2pm-4pm.

Get connected

7. not having a customer service plan

social media – it looks easy but there are definite skills needed to make it work. ada renedo from social media consultancy, socialize, highlights the most common mistakes brands make, that can impact your business


ocial media is here to stay and there is practically no brand that hasn’t heard of both its benefits and dangers. As entertaining as it might sound, building and maintaining engaged communities is not as easy as it seems. Once a brand is on social media, it is exposed to critiques, queries and any thoughts the community wants to express. The barriers that used to protect a brand’s headquarters fall, and brands are closer than ever to their audiences. Having an efficient system in place to manage what happens behind the scenes of a community is key to portraying your brand effectively in the digital arena, keeping the audience interested and crises averted. Here are the top ten mistakes you should avoid:

1. not responding

Facebook is based on engagement and bi-directional communication. It is not an ATL medium or a broadcasting channel. Conversation is key and responding to the audiences’ queries is somewhat of a mandatory statement to stick to. With the new Facebook Timeline format, responses can either

be on the wall or go to a personal inbox which protects sensitive data.

if you don’t have anything intelligent to say, then say nothing!

2. not accepting critiques

Accept that when entering the social media world, critiques will come. There’s no point in arguing with customers. The way in which you respond to negative comments showcases your approach to dealing with your audience. Setting up a crisis communication plan before you enter the social media landscape for how to deal with these kind of comments will make responses more effective and reflect positively on your image.

3. Delete negative comments ada Renedo, socialize

Never ever do this! Negative comments need to stay on the wall. There is no better way to show commitment to your fans than approaching a negative comment with a proactive response and leaving the conversation on the wall for everyone to see.

4. spamming with numerous posts

If you don’t have anything intelligent to say, then say nothing. One or two posts a day is an adequate number to

MAY 2012

Brand pages are also about customer service. Instruct your team on how to address the queries and have a mechanism in place, such as additional company email addresses where fans can email their data or questions. A good response time frame is four to six hours.

8. not knowing what social media is right for your business

Market research is necessary to find out if your audience is on social media and which platforms they use. The better you understand where your community communicates, the great the opportunities you have to reach out to them.

9. not making use of all the measurement tools on offer It is key to pay attention to how your audience uses their social media platform. Facebook Insights offer a wide range of measurement graphics, including number of likes, demographics, source of traffic and stats on viewed items.

10. lack of passion

Social media marketing requires a passion to succeed. The digital era is all about technology and keeping up to date. A team that will devote time and that is passionate about social media should be the one managing your online community.

hospitality business middle east � 59

tRenDs � ConFerenCes, events and WeddinGs

the big day How easy is it for events companies and wedding planners to create the dream, in amongst regular guests?


ore and more hotels in Dubai are hosting weddings, as the city becomes more of a destination for the big day but organising large events within the confines of a working hotel, busy with it’s normal guests can be a challenge. Sarah Feyling, Managing Director of Couture Events talks us through her

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What do you think makes a great hotel venue for a wedding?

In short, one that meets the client’s needs in terms of location, budget and service. But from a logistics point of view one that has easy access to the venue for the build up and tear down of the wedding. Some hotels have restricted access between certain

maY 2012

hours or they only have one service lift to accommodate all the event space which can slow everything down for us considerably.

are Dubai hotels fairly receptive to hosting weddings?

They are more receptive than they used to be. Until the last few years many hotels just wanted the MICE market whereby they were selling the event space and the rooms. One hotel in particular wouldn’t confirm weddings until three months before the date in case they got a big group booking. This made it very challenging to do weddings in that particular hotel as the planning can sometimes start one year before the day, especially if it’s a destination wedding.

ConFerenCes, events and WeddinGs � tRenDs

how much interaction do the hotel’s events teams need to have with you?

Once we take over the management of a wedding we then take over the majority of the correspondence with the hotel on behalf of our clients. We work closely with them to ensure that both the hotel and the client are happy with the services and try to make everyone’s life a little easier!

What challenges are there for hosting weddings in Dubai?

For the overseas market a lot of people choose to come to Dubai because of the weather. Unfortunately Dubai can’t host weddings all year around, only from September to May. This of course limits the wedding season.

Another challenge is the legalities of getting married in Dubai. Unfortunately each nationality is faced with different rules and regulations as to what is deemed legal here and in their home country. So for those couples seeking to get legally married it can be difficult. However if they are just looking for a blessing then it can be easily accommodated.

how much has the wedding industry grown in the last few years?

With the growth of Dubai as a holiday destination it has also increased our enquiries for wedding tourism. With more hotels opening, the choice of location has increased combined with more competitive room rates, which makes it very attractive for overseas guests. Combining the aforementioned with the climate and level of service Dubai is renowned for has led to an increase in overseas enquiries in recent years. I also think that the economic downturn has encouraged couples to look abroad to get married so they reduce their overall wedding budget. All of these facts have contributed to the growth of the industry in the UAE.

but also as a luxury wedding and honeymoon destination.

some venues need to be more honest about what is and what is not possible

sarah Feyling, Managing Director, Couture events

I like working with hotels who have dedicated wedding planners on staff because they understand the level of detail involved in weddings as opposed to event managers who only handle corporate events. I think that some venues need to be more transparent and honest about what is possible and what is not possible. For example if a client chooses a venue that runs as a restaurant and not an event space they need to be very realistic about what is possible or not possible in the venue. I had a wedding once where the venue agreed to a set menu with choice of dishes for 100 people in an event space that normally ran its operation as a restaurant. Some guests didn’t get their main course until two hours after they sat down to eat! A realistic and honest guideline from the outset is a lot more preferable than having a disappointed bride and groom on the wedding day!

logistics issues faced by planners when using hotels

What more can be done to capture more of the international market?

The government and hotels should promote wedding tourism abroad like other popular wedding destinations such as the Seychelles, Thailand, and Bali. Dubai has all the right attributes for a discerning couple looking to get married abroad but not enough people know that overseas. More international promotion needs to be done to put Dubai on the map not only as a luxury holiday destination

in terms of the hospitality industry what would make your life easier?

no hanging points in a ballroom one service lift to service all the event spaces if there is a big distance between the loading bay and the event space Restriction on timings for the set up For local weddings, if there is no room for the band to play adjacent to the ballroom. as men and women celebrate separately, normally the male members of the band will perform separately in an adjacent room with the main singer in the ballroom. When there is no small adjacent room this can be very challenging especially if organisers have to run cables over a long distance

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hospitality business middle east � 61

tRenDs � sPas

10 steps to becoming an award winning spa spalution director and middle east spa awards judge sarah lumley shares her secrets to success


arah Lumley has been in the spa industry in the GCC for 22 years. In addition to setting up her own spa consultancy company recently, SpaLution, she has been busy auditing the 77 entries to the Middle East Spa Awards this year. She has given us her advice on what makes an award-winning spa.

hire the ‘people’ people

“It’s a people industry. Spas have to

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employ passionate staff who really love what they do, who want to make a difference to people’s lives and who want to be around people all the time. I’ve been to places where the therapist hasn’t even smiled at me, and they’ve walked through steps one to ten like a robot and not interacted at all. People skills can’t be taught and if you’ve got good staff, then you do whatever to keep them. They’re worth their weight in gold.”

maY 2012

hire highly skilled therapists

“Clients want genuine results and authenticity, so it’s not just about pampering, which means you need highly trained professionals who can deliver results. The market has matured, people are well travelled and they know what they want, which means they have high expectations and will be able to tell the difference between a skilled therapist and people who aren’t up to standard.”

sPas � tRenDs

the overall experience, where everyone should feel relaxed and special.”

invest in a decent bed

“It might be expensive, but don’t go cheap on the bed. If you’re going to do it properly and it’ll be there for a long time, it’s important. You need something multi-functional that doesn’t put too much pressure on your sinuses or forehead and clients need to feel comfortable. And it must be big enough, people’s bodies are changing and there are a number of bigger clients out there, they need to feel safe and secure.”

the Middle east spa awards

People skills can’t be taught and if you’ve got good staff, keep them. they’re worth their weight in gold

Discover your usp

“Each spa should find their USP that will help to bring clients back. But the USP has to be credible, a spa shouldn’t just break the mould in order to stand out, it’s got to be for a better reason than that. There are an awful lot of similar treatments in Dubai, with different names but the same steps and although some of that is customer driven, more places need to find their own niche.”

sarah lumley, Managing Director, spalution

Go the extra mile

offer an authentic experience

“Award-winning spas do more than look pretty, there has to be a concept there that goes hand in hand with the end user and the right location. Spa users are well travelled now and they want treatments which are credible and make a difference, rather than just being about pampering.”

spend time on the consultation

“For me it all starts with a fantastic consultation. Clients shouldn’t be left to fill in their own forms. A therapist should go through it with you, assess your needs and expectations and then personalise your treatment. It’s part of

For the second year running, the Middle east spa awards are taking place as part of the hotel show and will be held at the palace, Downtown. 77 spas have entered this year, lumley tells us why they’re important. “the awards add a credibility to the spa industry, and knowing there’s something out there that people want to win, makes everyone work a little harder. having been one of the first spa professionals in the region, 22 years ago, i’ve seen the industry change from when we weren’t even recognised by doctors to where it is today. the Middle east’s progress is phenomenal but there is still a long way to go in terms of being more strict on trade licenses, health and safety and qualifications.” “For those of us on the panel, we live and breathe the spa industry and we’re here to review the whole experience of the spas, not just ‘this is pretty’. We assess them from a comprehensive audit point of view.”

Know your end user and location

“Wherever you go, a good spa should help the client achieve something, it’s about going above and beyond for the client, with therapists offering advice or being able to suggest something beneficial for the client, which they can take away with them. Make it personal, it’s about therapists being able to give proper advice and help to their clients, rather than just pampering them.”

“If you don’t know your end user and tailor make the spa menu for them and your location, it won’t work. There’s no point having a Balinese spa offering three hour rituals in a business hotel in Sheikh Zayed Road, where 95 per cent of the footfall are busy men wanting to get their necks sorted out, or a deep tissue massage. Recognise your local demographic as well as the hotel guests needs and play to what they need.”

instill brand loyalty

“I’ve been to spas all over the world and I can count the number of hotel I’d go back to because of the spa on one hand. There isn’t a lot of brand loyalty here, but repeat business is key to build a reputation. Spas need to consider their clientele and work out what is best for them. In terms of cut price coupons, if you’re having to rely on these for repeat business, something’s not working.”

leave clients feeling refreshed and ready to go

“It’s all about how a spa experience makes you feel afterwards. It should make you feel like you can take on the world, when you leave. But for me an award-winning experience also starts the moment you walk in, and are given a seamless flow through the whole treatment process.”

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hospitality business middle east � 63

in comparison to ten years ago, bathrooms do command greater floor space within a development

Bathroom basics Guy Wilson at BaGno desiGn highlights 2012’s trends


uy Wilson, Managing Director of Projects at BAGNO DESIGN, a member of the Sanipex Group, has supplied landmark hotels in Dubai such as Raffles, Kempinski and the new St Regis hotel in Saadiyat Island and currently has a pipeline of projects which range from budget to luxury.

hospitality sector in Dubai, and along with this there is a definite move towards water conservation and the integration of the bathroom space into the design feel and theme of the room, making it effectively an extension of the living space with an eye on luxury in high end properties.”

Renovations are back in fashion

“Bathrooms are definitely receiving greater attention from architects and

“Renovation is the big news in the

bathrooms are getting bigger

the average amount spent on bathrooms in last year (source: hVs hotel Cost estimating Guide 2011) Quality

Construction and hard goods

soft goods














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this is reflected in the increased size proportional to the room in general, particularly in resorts. In comparison to ten years ago bathrooms do command greater floor space within a development.”

Don’t do away with the bath

“Bathtubs are very often a feature within modern bathrooms and remain an important component of luxury hotel bathrooms. We are however seeing shower only bathrooms in the budget segment of the market.”

embrace new technology

“Digital showers with chromatherapy are increasingly required, as are TV mirrors in hotel bathrooms, with electronic mixers and flush controls in public washrooms.” Guy Wilson, Managing Director, baGno DesiGn

Move away from metal

“Stone and natural materials are increasingly used in the bathroom area. Recent market trends lean towards back to nature designs with cleaner lines and a much more spacious environment. BAGNO DESIGN has responded with its recently launched own brand range stone basins and bath tubs – which are highly durable and available in a variety of shapes and sizes for any bathroom. Apart from the natural beauty of stone, its hard quality makes it durable, easily maintainable and very resilient.”

take into account full life value

“The best advice when looking to economise and maximise value in hotel bathrooms is to select carefully a reputable supplier with a proven track record in bathroom supplys within the hospitality segment and ensure that product selections are made with a clear perspective on full life value of product as opposed to price. Quality and durability are essential in hotel bathrooms as the lost opportunity cost of an unsalable room due to malfunctioning bathroom equipment far outweighs the perceived benefit of skimping on initial investment.

Food and BeveraGe � tRenDs


he 47 year old steakhouse brand, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse has recently opened a second outlet at The Address Dubai Marina. General manager Michael Szczepanski talks us through his Dhs3 million refit and the benefit of branded restaurants in hotels. Having only launched in the Middle East a couple of years ago, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse chain has made quite an impression, even from the slightly hidden location of The Monarch. The expansion to The Address Dubai Marina, and opening a flagship restaurant that can sit around 200 covers across a bar, lounge and terrace area, suggests the brand is ready to move up a gear. “It was a planned expansion, we have six licenses for Ruth’s Chris in the region. We have two in Dubai, we’re planning restaurants in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman – all are still in our agenda and we’d like to expand in Beirut. It’s an ongoing process, we’re looking at Abu Dhabi locations at the moment” explains Szczepanski. Location has been the key factor for the expansion. The Address Dubai Marina has everything Szczepanski was looking for. “The property is grand and the location is wonderful. It’s a prestigious brand for the Middle East and this particular location has so many great views. Our original restaurant in The Monarch, hasn’t got any views at all – I call it the pigeon hut – but we wanted somewhere people could sit outside and the Marina is the right location.” Although most hotel chains will have their own signature restaurants, Ruth’s Chris has found a niche with hotels that didn’t, and who want to use a global name to stand out from their competitors. Szczepanski is confident in the benefits to hosting his brand. “We are the biggest chain of luxury steakhouses in the world, we have 140 outlets now. The Address brand is a baby compared to us, we’re 47 years old and we are growing still, so we must be doing something right. In the first year in the Monarch we had over

Bringing in a brand outsourcing F&B has its benefits, says ruth’s Chris steakhouse

Dhs 3m

We are the biggest chain of luxury steakhouses in the world

reFurB Cost For tHe been without its restraints. 70 per cent business growth ProJeCt “Our refit took three months and we’re still growing. And and we have done a cosmetic we have had a few awards which is makeover. It was a tricky one because always great.” the restaurant existed before us, we But a partnership at this level is not inherited everything we needed, so without its complications, we had to convert it into a cosier “It’s an ongoing partnership, to feeling restaurant, which we have create a special conditions, to be accomplished in The Monarch. The flexible and we are very fortunate to designers have done a fantastic job – have this space,” says Szczepanski. they’ve brought the floors up in some “We have to do some things we’re areas and unveiled some chandeliers not happy about, and I’m sure there which weren’t being used to their full are some things the hotel isn’t happy effect before.” about but at the end of the day, the The refit was designed by Outcast most important person is the guest. Interiors, responsible for the original We’re in the service industry, for the venue, who created a new separate customers, not for ourselves.” lounge area (the old oyster bar is now Ruth’s Chris inherited the old Rive a drinks bar) with its own entrance. Gauche location in the Lobby level Customers can pop in for a more of the hotel, which gives them prime informal snack menu or drink if they terrace space overlooking the popular don’t fancy a full on Ruth’s Chris meal. marina area. But the refurb hasn’t

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hospitality business middle east � 65

in Dubai, Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa can offer residents and guests who want to take to the water immediate access to the calm waters of the Arabian Gulf. “Our location is fantastic, we’ve got 800 metres of beach front, more than any other hotel in Dubai and also the sea is very protected here. The water quality is better, with limited waves. We’re also going after Blue Flag status this year and we hope we’ll have that from October,” says Reinisch. In addition to the usual waterskiing style sports, Watercooled is the only centre to offer the South African thrill experience, the Zapcat. “It’s like Formula 1 on water and pulls 2 or 3 Gs round a corner. It has has been very popular in South Africa. They’re very exciting, people are a bit unsure what they are at first but once they’ve been on them they love them. They’re a full on thrill experience,” explains Rainbow. The multimillion dirham investment is part of a larger rejuvenation strategy at Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa, which has seen the hotel refurbish its main hotel and Palm Court rooms, add a mini golf course and will see the property add Jebel ali Golf Resort & spa and Watercooled will offer dubai something different 74 rooms, a fourth beach pool and more restaurants in 2012. A tie up between international equipment, has nine staff, Rainbow also has surfboard maker, turned watersports who have mostly been expansion plans for centre operator, Watercooled and brought over from the UK, Watercooled, which will Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa has and is RYA (Royal Yacht offer more unusual sports resulted in one of the most modern Association) certified. WateRcooled is open 365 daYs a YeaR as it progresses and also club and impressive watersports centres “It brings another racing for the Hobie Catamarans. in the Middle East. Both the five star dimension to our offering, we’ve “We’d like to get a club going where hotel and Watercooled are keen to always offered watersports, but before we can race against other clubs, and make waves with the recently opened we did it ourselves. Now we have bring other clubs up here.” multimillion dirham joint venture. this academy approach, people can “We offer sailing, waterskiing, actually now book a holiday with wakeboarding, wakeskiing, kitesurfing, us and book a sailing course to an What’s on offer stand up paddle boarding, yoga on a international standard, it’s added value Courses: powekiting, kitesurfing, sailing, paddle board, which has got people for them and us,” explains Frederik Hobie cat sailing, windsurfing, powerboating, really intrigued, and we’re also the Reinisch, General Manager. stand up paddle boarding, stand up paddle only place in the Middle East which “The inspector from the RYA said boarding yoga has a Zapcat,” says Chris Rainbow, when he was here this was the best Beach Club Manager. watersports centre he’d seen in 12 powersports: tornado donut tow, tornado The centre, found within a modern years, so we now have the best and multi tow, mastercraft Wakeboard, ski, wooden structure on the beach, is the most versatile hotel based watersports tornado charter with captain for hire, first for Watercooled, anywhere in the centre in the Middle East.” Zapcat experience world. It offers the finest international Unlike other beach-fronted hotels

making a splash We now have the best and most versatile hotel based watersports centre in the middle east

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COMMENT � Rafik abasov

Different game, same tactics Rafik abasov, a former investment banker, shares his secrets to success, no matter what the industry


just returned from my son’s birthday party. While there I was chatting with one of the other parents and waiting for the near inevitable question. I didn’t have to wait very long, “So how does it feel to be in the local retail business after a career in investment banking?” I’ve been asked this question so many times now. It comes from friends who have known me for years as often as from people I’ve only recently met. My answer is always essentially the same. During all my years in banking I was expecting someone to stand up, point in my direction and exclaim, “I’ve got it, he isn’t a real banker!” I am a mathematician by training, and throughout my career felt that banking was very similar to mathematics; in both cases we are trying to solve complex puzzles. My favorite definition of mathematics is that it is “a science about structures”. For any business, whether banking, retail or hospitality the challenge is the same: provide the customers with the most attractive product possible while keeping margins positive. To solve this puzzle one can look

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at any business as many interacting systems such as accounting, procurement, marketing, etc. The owner or manager of a business spends a significant amount of time trying to optimise and streamline the way the business works; how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Another challenge, again universal for any business whether banking or consumer-retail, is to discover and maintain its competitive edge. One successful restaurateur said, “To have a very popular restaurant is easy. All you have to do is to do everything as well as everyone else, and exceed customer expectations in one area.” But back to the retail business. Recently I relocated with my family from London, and ‘matured’ sufficiently to invest in a retail company in Dubai soon after. Dubai has established itself as a shopping paradise and a popular tourist destination successfully competing with many major cities in the world. Regrettably, despite everything Dubai has to offer, customer service can vary from amazing to astonishingly poor, sometimes in the very same hotel, shop or restaurant. I believe the

greatest opportunity for any business, finance or retail, is to provide the customer with consistently good service which dovetails with all the component systems of the business, operating and interacting in the most optimal way; solving the puzzle. Another lesson that I have learned the hard way from the investment banking and I think applies universally to any business is that one does not need to invent the products to be innovative. The customers are always the best source of new ideas, products and services. One final thought I would like to share with you is my firm belief that any business has to try to experiment and constantly challenge the well established ways in which they operate. ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ does not work really well in the modern constantly-changing business environment. Bringing ideas, strategies, people and processes from a very different industries is a challenging but potentially very rewarding exercise and can bring about tremendous results. So coming back to the original question – “How does it feel to be in retail business after a career in investment banking?” My answer is always the same: “It’s great! The challenge is the same – to grow a loyal happy customer base by offering the best customer service or product.” Rafik Abasov has 11 years of investment banking experience. His most recent position was Managing Director and Head of Fund Linked Derivatives (FLD) Trading in Barclays Capital. Currently Rafik is based in Dubai and is a founding partner of FINEX Management JLT. He is also the owner of Parasol Garden Furniture and just launched Voglia House & Garden boutique.






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Hospitality Business ME  

In-depth news and analysis for the Middle East’s hospitality professionals, wrapped up a in an intelligent, well designed monthly magazine.

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