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APRIL 2017 | WWW.HOTELNEWSME.COM April THE professional perspective for the hospitality industry

How Marriott’s merger with Starwood has given it an edge over the OTAs

Meet the Judges The Leaders in Hospitality Awards judging panel is announced

ATM and AHIC in focus A preview of the biggest dates on the hospitality calendar



April 2017


10 | NEWS A round-up of regional and global news 14 | Checking in MGM’s first properties in the Middle East; St. Regis Polo Resort opens in Dubai; Hilton opens Dead Sea resort 22 | GM Leaders Preview We unveil the agenda for our GM Leaders Conference on 3 May 24 | Leaders in Hospitality Awards The judging panel for the second edition of Hotel News Middle East’s annual awards ceremony is announced

30 10 News

30 | Cover story How Marriott’s merger with Starwood has given it an edge over the OTAs

14 Checking in

22 GM Leaders conference

24 Leaders in Hospitality Awards

April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME



April 2017


CEO Wissam Younane Managing Director Walid Zok Director Rabih Najm Group Publishing Director Diarmuid O'Malley Group Sales Director Fred Dubery

Group Editor, Hospitality Crystal Chesters

Editor Patrick Ryan Art Director Aaron Sutton Marketing Executive Mark Anthony Monzon

c o n t ribu t o rs Marouane Al Mandri


Photography Hayder Al Zuhairi

SUBSCRIBE PO Box 502511 Dubai, United Arab Emirates P +971 4 4200 506 | F +971 4 4200 196

38 | Brand new Hotel News is on location in Doha with Hilton’s first Curiobranded property in the Middle East 42 | Hard hat tour We take a first look at the Viceroy Palm Jumeirah Dubai 50 | ATM preview Experiential travel is on the agenda at the Middle East’s international travel & tourism event at Dubai World Trade Centre 58 | The kids are all right We speak to students from The Emirates Academy of Hospitality management about industry trends ahead of Arabian Hotel Investment Conference

For all commercial enquiries related to Hotel News ME contact T +971 50 55 97339 All rights reserved © 2014. Opinions expressed are solely those of the contributors. Hotel News ME and all subsidiary publications in the MENA region are officially licensed exclusively to BNC Publishing in the MENA region by Hotel News ME. No part of this magazine may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the publisher. Printed by Raidy Emirates Printing Group LLC


HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

On the web Keep up to date with all the latest news, features and much more on our website.

The shows must go on

It’s a packed agenda this season with two major Hotel News events, ATM, AHIC, HOTEC and The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia


patrick ryan Editor

@ThatPaddyRyan Follow us on our social media pages @hotelnewsme /hotelnewsme hotelnewsme


HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

usy doesn’t begin to describe the calendar that April and May present for the hospitality industry in the Middle East. Hotel News Middle East has a number of events on the horizon. First up is the GM Leaders Conference taking place on 3 May at the W Dubai Al Habtoor City and we have an in-depth preview of the event in this month’s issue. We are also previewing our Leaders In Hospitality Awards, which will be taking place on 17 May at The St. Regis Dubai. There are 16 awards up for grabs on the night and it’s an opportunity for the industry to allow its best and brightest to let their hair down and celebrate their achievements, so we thought it only right to have a Great Gatsby theme for the evening. The deadline for nominations is 13 April so it’s not too late to get your nominations in to us. Remember if you’re not in it... you can’t win it. Other major events taking place this month are Arabian Travel Market (ATM) which kicks off on 24 April at Dubai World Trade Centre and we preview the event in this issue, examining this year’s theme of experiential travel. We also preview the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), which is taking place from 25-27 April at Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah. It’s another event that’s a must for anyone in the industry. We speak to some of the students at Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management in

this issue to get their thoughts on the future challenges facing the industry ahead of AHIC. In addition to this, April will see the return of Hotec Middle East, which brings together hotel purchasing managers with key domestic and international suppliers. This year, the event is taking place in Azerbaijan and Hotel News Middle East, as Exclusive Media Partner of the event, will be on-site moderating the panel discussion. We take a look at the programme in detail in this issue. The fifth edition of The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia is another major hospitality event to take place this month in Jeddah and will provide industry professionals working on hotel projects in the kingdom with an opportunity to source the latest products, innovations and resources. As Media Partner for the event, we take a look at some of the major areas of growth in Saudi Arabia’s hotel industry. It’s such a packed issue that I just about have time to tell you about our cover feature. I sat down with Marriott International Middle East and Africa president Alex Kyriakidis who spoke at great length about how the merger with Starwood has transformed, not just his own company, but the entire landscape in the region. I hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as we did putting it together. Regards, Patrick Ryan

Regional News


For News, features and more, Visit Follow us on twitter for breaking news: @cbn_ME Follow us on Instagram to see what we’re up to: @Hotelnewsme Follow us on Facebook for up-to-the-minute breaking news Read the latest issue on:

Saudi Arabia appoints first female GM

The Rezidor Hotel Group has made history by appointing the first female general manager in Saudi Arabia. Maram Kokandi has been confirmed as the general manager of a new Park Inn by Radisson Hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, scheduled to open later this year. The Rezidor Hotel Group CEO and president Wolfgang M Neumann said: “We are very proud to be part of this 10

HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

historic appointment. We are committed to empowering our women in leadership at Rezidor, and this announcement is a momentous achievement, not only for our group but for the hospitality industry worldwide. “We are confident that this milestone, the appointment of the first Saudi female general manager, will inspire other women across the region to pursue their career

aspirations in hospitality.” His comments were echoed by The Rezidor Hotel Group area vice president for Turkey and the Middle East, Mark Willis, who said that female leadership is absolutely essential for growth of the group. “Today, we celebrate an incredible success of a Saudi Arabian woman and recognise her potential to lead in one of the most important and fast growing busi-

ness sectors for the country,” he said. “This announcement is a testimony of how the kingdom is progressing in this direction. We have already come a long way, from six female employees in 2014 to 84 today, with 12 in leadership positions.” Willis added that he believes Kokandi will go on to become a role model for Saudi women in the Middle East and across the world.

Regional News

Hotel News Middle East to host two major events this season BNC Publishing’s portfolio continues to go from strength to strength with two major hospitality events taking place in the coming months. On 3 May, at The W Dubai Al Habtoor City it’s the third annual GM Leaders Conference, which will see expert panels and discussions on such topics as battling the OTAs, attracting new markets and adapting to changing guest demands. The Leaders In Hospitality Awards returns for a second year at The St. Regis Dubai on 17 May. Awards that will be keenly con-

tested on the night include Leading New Hotel, Leading General Manager, Leading IT Manager and Lifetime Achievement Award. To find out more about speaking opportunities at our conferences or how to nominate your colleague/ hotel for a Leaders In Hospitality Award, contact or if you’d like to confirm your attendance then please email mark@ For sponsorship opportunities contact: or

GM Leaders conference



April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


Regional News

GO FIGURE Hotels in the Middle East reported mixed results in the three key performance metrics according to February 2017 data

Sharp rise in hotel bookings with tablets and mobile phones

from STR.

Nakheel awards contract for second hotel at Ibn Battuta Mall

US dollar constant currency, year-over-year comparisons:

Middle East Occupancy: +3.2% to

71.7% Average daily rate (ADR): -1.8% to

US$176.07 Revenue per available room (RevPAR): +1.3% to

US$126.25 United Arab Emirates Occupancy: +6.0% to

84.0% ADR: +1.4% to

AED714.04 RevPAR: +7.5% to

AED599.94 12

HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

There has been a sharp increase in the number of travellers from the GCC making hotel bookings with their mobile phones and tablets. That is according to figures released by accommodation comparison platform, HotelsCombined. According to HotelsCombined, over 70% of actual bookings in January this year were made using mobile devices, compared to 54% during the same period in 2016. HotelsCombined MENA regional manager Amer AlHalabi said: “Today’s travellers from the GCC are moving away from desktops or laptops when making their travel plans because of quick and easy access to their mobiles and tablets.

“Travellers rely on their devices as they offer them simpler search and easier steps when booking. It is particularly convenient for booking short holidays, therefore, we see an increase in the number of mobile bookings especially in destinations from our region.” It was also noted that the number of travellers who use their mobile devices and tablets when searching for hotels rose to 82% at the beginning of this year, against 73% during the same period last year. He added that travel companies relying on webbased services must develop or upgrade their own applications or mobile sites to cater to travellers’ demands and stay competitive in the travel industry.

Developer Nakheel has awarded a construction contract worth AED184.5 million for a second hotel at Ibn Battuta Mall to Parkway International Contracting. The 375-room hotel has a total project value of AED240 million and forms part of Nakheel’s AED3 billion hospitality expansion under which the developer is bringing 16 new hotels and serviced apartment complexes – with 5,300 rooms – to Dubai. The new hotel, which will be operated by Thailand’s Minor Hotel Group under its Avani brand, complements Nakheel’s first hotel at Ibn Battuta – a 372-room Premier Inn that opened last October. With a built-up area of 278,000 ft2, the 15-floor Avani Ibn Battuta Mall features an all-day restaurant, pool, gym and car park for 135 vehicles. It is located next to the recently-opened link connecting the mall to the Dubai Metro.

Regional News

Rikan confirmed as presenting sponsor of GM Leaders Conference

The biggest hospitality show in the world

Rikan has been confirmed as the presenting sponsor for BNC Publishing’s GM Leaders Conference for the third time in a row. Rikan managing director Riaz Khimani said: “We are an established brand in the hotel industry, but we strongly believe in staying in touch with the industry at every level. Right from the grass roots to the top leadership. “This conference offers the right platform to be in touch with the leaders. We as a company are always very keen to learn from our clients and study the ever changing trends in the market. At the same time we use our study to create new products to suit the highly demanding market. Budget hotels is a new growing market segment in this region and worldwide. Looking at this trend, we have specially created an economy range called Rikan Silver Line to cater to this growing segment.” Rikan General Trading specialises in a wide range of services including leather accessories for rooms like

guest folders, blotters, tissue boxes and remote holders. It also supplies metal and resin accessories for bathrooms, such as amenity trays, soap dishes and flower vases. Its F&B range includes custom designed menus, fruit trays, bread baskets, customised buffetware and table top accessories. “This conference allows us to study and understand the trends of the industry from the leaders, and for us to offer them new creations,” said Khimani. “We sponsored the same event in 2015 and 2016 and we are delighted be associated with the event this year.” For sponsorship opportunities at the GM Leaders Conference contact or fred@ To attend the conference contact and for speaking or panellist opportunities email

April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME

ADV_HOST_CateringNewsMiddleEast_90x242mm_Gennaio2017.indd 1


19/01/17 15:15

Checking in

AccorHotels and Rixos Hotels team up

Rixos Hotels and AccorHotels have announced they are teaming up for a long-term joint venture which will see both companies managing Rixos branded hotels and resorts across the globe. The agreement will see AccorHotels integrating 15 hotels into its network in markets including Turkey, UAE, Egypt, Russia and Europe. Rixos will, in turn, reflag five city-centre hotels to AccorHotels brands which will also be managed by AccorHotels. Founder and chairman of Rixos Fettah Tamince said: “Our collaboration is part of Rixos’ objective for further expansion and growth globally with a strong partner in the hospitality industry. “Combined with our partner’s strong brand portfolio, reservation and sales network supported by a wide range of digital marketing activities, Rixos will expand its current geographic footprint and customer base.” CEO and chairman of AccorHotels Sébastien Bazin said: “This new partnership has many benefits for us. It enables us to become a leading resort operator in a growing market and to complement our offer with attractive leisure destinations to our guests and loyalty members. “And moreover, we are going a step further in our ambition to be the best provider of multinature services to guests by operating hotels in major entertainment complexes which offers new opportunities both in terms of customer experience and development strategy.”


HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

Anantara opens first property in Europe

Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas is opening its first property in Europe. The operator and developer of luxury hotels, resorts and spas in Asia, the Indian Ocean, Africa and the Middle East, is preparing to launch Anantara Vilamoura Algarve. Located along southern Portugal’s Algarve coast, Europe’s first Anantara will offer a retreat overlooking the Arnold Palmer-designed Oceânico golf course. The property is currently operating as

Tivoli Victoria, with a number of key renovations being undertaken prior to relaunching as Anantara Vilamoura. 280 guest rooms and suites will be available and the refurbishment includes the main lobby, the spa and the gym. The resort will offer venues for numerous events from VIP dinners and weddings, to product launches and large scale conferences. The stand-alone conference centre can hold up to 800 people.

Checking in

Six Senses sets sights on Turkish Riviera

Six Senses is taking over the running of the Kaplankaya Resort on the Turkish Riviera. The resort includes residential villas, resort accommodation, a 250-berth marina and yacht club, a retail precinct plus additional dining, sport and leisure facilities. Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas president Bernhard Bohnenberger said: “Over the next year, the design, environmental and wellness operations will be enhanced to bring the blessings of Six Senses to the beaches of Kaplankaya.” The resort, which is owned by Capital Partners of Turkey, has a total of 141 guestrooms and suites in the main complex, plus 154 private resi-

PO Box 82424

dences located adjacent to it. Each guest room has been designed to complement the landscape using natural and responsibly-sourced materials. Capital Partners’ chief executive officer Erkan Erkek said: “We welcome Six Senses to the Aegean Coast and look forward to their contribution towards the grand vision of Kaplankaya, as the world’s premier coastal living community.” Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas operates 11 resorts and 29 spas in 20 countries under the brand names Six Senses, Evason and Six Senses Spas. Plans are afoot for the company to triple its portfolio in the next five years.

Mob: +971 50 1653920, +971 50 6561050

Emaar launches Vida Residences Dubai Marina

Emaar has unveiled Miami-inspired residences by Vida Hotels and Resorts in Dubai Marina. Vida Residences Dubai Marina consists of one to four-bedroom apartments and shares a range of amenities with the Vida Hotel, an upscale, contemporary hotel brand. Emaar Properties managing director Ahmad Al Matrooshi said: “Vida Residences Dubai Marina offers a distinctive lifestyle choice for residents who prefer waterfront living in a central location. With its focus on the nautical heritage of Dubai Marina, the homes


are ideally suited as first homes for long-stays or as a holiday home, thus appealing to both UAE-based and international investors. “Dubai Marina is one of the vibrant lifestyle destinations in the city and our new residences bring exceptional value for customers.” As part of the Vida Dubai Marina Hotel, Residences and Yacht Club, the residences reflect Vida’s trendy and chic boutique-style approach aimed at a new generation of business executives, entrepreneurs and leisure travellers.

April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


Checking in

MGM announces first properties in Middle East

US-based MGM Resorts International has announced plans to open two hotels in Dubai. The company has agreed a deal with wasl Asset Management Group to manage and advise on an MGM and a Bellagio at a 26-acre “premier destination resort” in Dubai, which it will operate on completion. President of MGM Resorts Bill Hornbuckle said: “We are excited and honored by the opportunity to introduce our incredible brands in one of the world’s fastest growing tourist destinations. This marks the first time we will offer multiple MGM luxury brands at a prime beachfront location. “This agreement, which makes us the development advisor and operator, reflects our commitment to remaining disciplined and focused in our investments while continuing to advance our brand of entertainment resorts in markets around the world.” The 26-acre prime beachfront development, which will also house MGM Residences, marks the debut of the MGM and Bellagio brand names in the Middle East region. 16

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wasl Asset Management Group Hesham Al Qassim said: “wasl is proud to be working in partnership with such an internationally acclaimed hotel and resort operator; it is a major milestone and we are very excited to be bringing MGM Resorts on our journey to making Dubai the world’s best city to visit, work in and live in. “The collaboration also fulfills wasl’s mandate to attract global hospitality players to Dubai, where we are constantly striving to raise the bar in the city by offering tourists, residents and visitors ever more sensational hospitality and entertainment experiences.” As part of the two million square-foot development, more than a half-million square feet will feature a theatre, a mix of culinary venues ranging from gourmet to casual dining, specialty retail shops, traditional and interactive museums, a beach club and adventure zones for both adults and children. The new property will include 1,000 rooms and feature 10 villas.

Hilton Opens Dead Sea Resort

The first Hilton Hotels and Resorts property has opened in Jordan. Hilton Dead Sea Resort and Spa is a 285-room hotel situated at one of the lowest points on the planet, some 41-metres below sea level. Hilton full service brand management regional head said: “The Dead Sea is one of the most unique places in the world and has evolved into a major hub of both religious and health and wellness tourism in the region. “As the first Hilton Hotels and Resorts property in the country of Jordan, this project marks an exciting addition to the Hilton portfolio as we continue to deliver distinct hospitality experiences to travelers from

around the globe.” Hilton Dead Sea Resort and Spa is located 45 kilometers from the capital city of Amman. General manager Elias J. Moukarzel said: “Hilton is a well-reputed brand that has an established presence in the region, and with the opening of Hilton Dead Sea Resort and Spa, we come to the Jordanian market with the highest standards delivering our founder’s promise of ensuring every guest feels cared for, valued and respected. “The new resort comes with a variety of unique offerings and we promise our guests an unparalleled experience coupled with ultimate service levels.”

Le Gray Beirut unveils extension for mice market Le Gray Beirut is aiming to attract the MICE market with a new extension opening next month. CampbellGray Hotels has invested significantly in business and events facilities, a new lobby lounge, an exhibition venue and 16 new guestrooms at its flagship property. Located in the heart of the Lebanese capital on Martyrs’ Square, close to the business district and near to the city’s prime attractions, the hotel will now feature 103 rooms and suites with two presidential suites sharing the fifth floor

and featuring private terraces. The hotel’s current facilities include a rooftop restaurant, Indigo on the Roof, PureGray Spa, as well as a state-of-theart gym. A spokesperson for the property said: “The extended lobby area underneath the atrium and its new lobby lounge will provide a welcoming space where guests can unwind with family and friends or catch up on work. A new pedestrian entrance will welcome guests into the new space directly on Weygand Street.”

Checking in

St Regis is going Polo

The world’s first St. Regis Polo Resort has opened in Dubai. Owned by the Al Habtoor Group, The St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club is the first property of its kind within the group. It promises a range of polo experiences as well as 136 rooms and suites, 25 St. Regis branded villas and six culinary venues. “St. Regis has a long association with polo and we are extremely proud that The St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club is the very first polo and equestrian resort part of the brand,” said The St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club general manager Andrew Henning. “Set in a calming environment that represents an escape from city life, the resort offers an experience similar to a luxurious country club.

The air is clean and the location is peaceful – the only sounds are those of birds and horses being led from the stable to the field. The St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club truly presents Dubai from a different perspective.” The new property features a horse riding school and polo academy with an expert team of fully qualified professional instructors catering to new riders and to seasoned equestrians. The St. Regis brand made its debut in the Middle East in 2011 with The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort in Abu Dhabi, before adding to its portfolio in the Middle East with The St. Regis Doha, The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, The St. Regis Dubai in Al Habtoor City, and now The St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club.

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April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME



A piece of Cake Hotel News Middle East catches up with emerging talent Guillaume Destouches, the 26-year-old Parisian assistant pastry chef at Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche Describe your first ever role in the hotel industry? My first job was as a cook at a pastry shop in Caen, Normandy. My goal was to ensure the quality of the pastries, taking care of the ordering, making sure it was organised and taking care of my staff. Who has inspired you most in your career? I started my professional career when I was 15 working at a bakery and pastry school in Paris. I was learning from people who were older and had a lot of experience in pastry. I am still learning a lot from Kim Gates, executive chef at Sofitel Abu Dhabi. How do you view the hotel scene in the region? The UAE market is very competitive. There are many great F&B concepts and professional chefs in the region. The customer can choose almost anything they want. What is the biggest challenge of your role? My biggest challenge is to maintain the high Sofitel standards for pastry. At Sofitel Abu Dhabi we offer classic French and Arabic pastries at our restaurants and cafes. What is your favorite aspect of your role? What I love about my job as a pastry chef is that it gives me the opportunity to always be creative and make new pastries and garnishes. I love Sofitel’s interpretation of modern haute cuisine, which centres around four key themes, each with strong links to France's signature dining culture, such as bread, croissants, pastry, grapes, cheese and charcuterie. If you could work in any hotel which would it be? My dream is to work at iconic properties like Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai or Raffles. In the UAE, I would like to work at the Burj Al Arab.

Experience: 2016 to present: assistant pastry chef at Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche, UAE 2014: Head pastry chef at Frederic Lalos 2013: La pâtisserie des ducs in Falaise.


HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

Talent: Appointments

New GM appointed at Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah Alan Stocker has been appointed as general manager of Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah. This will be Stocker’s third Waldorf Astoria property since joining Hilton in 2011, having previously managed an island resort in the Maldives and a city hotel in Beijing. Stocker said:“My leadership style is founded on ensuring high service levels and brand standards while maintaining a fun environment. I strongly believe that it is the team that makes the guest experience.”

He said his mission was not only to ensure Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah continues to be recognised as one of the leading luxury hotels in the Middle East but also to expand the brand awareness in a competitive market. The British national graduated with a degree in Hotel Catering and Institutional Management from South Devon College of Arts and Technology. He built his career with experience working in luxury hotels across the world throughout his decades in hospitality.

St. Regis Abu Dhabi appoints director of marketing The St. Regis Abu Dhabi has appointed Sona Shah to the position of director of marketing. Sona’s previous hospitality marketing experience includes roles with The Mayfair Hotel London as well as 13 Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotels in the UK, prior to joining Starwood Hotels & Resorts in January 2014. The St. Regis Abu Dhabi general

Time for a new business development director UAE based Time Hotels has appointed Mahmoud Al Zaibak to the position of director of business development as the company sets its sights on 10 new properties in the Middle East by 2018. The Syrian national has more than 17 years of corporate hospitality experience in senior sales positions having established numerous sales strategies and implemented business expansion plans for a series of international hospitality brands in the UAE and Qatar. Time Hotels CEO Mohamed Awadalla said: “Mahmoud brings a wealth of sales experience in strategy in pre-opening as well as general business acumen to this role, crucial

attributes as we aim to add a further 10 properties to our portfolio in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia by 2018. “Mahmoud’s skill set, paired with a sound understanding of the hospitality industry, will be vital for achieving our expansion goals.” Al Zaibak said he was particularly impressed by Time’s confidence in its growth plans over the next couple of years.

manager Moustafa Sakr said: “It’s a great pleasure to welcome Sona to the team, marketing and innovation have always been a fundamental core focus for our hotel. We are confident that her expertise will continue to drive and enhance our awareness and success in Abu Dhabi’s competitive hospitality market.” Sona has enjoyed an eventful ca-

reer in the Middle East with roles at Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel as marketing manager, and complex marketing manager for the conversion of The Westin and Le Méridien Hotels in Bahrain City Centre before she was promoted to director of marketing at The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa, which opened in February 2016.

Rotana’s new corporate vice president – revenue and distribution Rotana has promoted Sam El Asmar to the position of corporate vice president – revenue and distribution. El Asmar was previously corporate director of revenue. He joined Rotana in 2012 bringing with him 14 years of experience in hotel revenue management and distribution. COO of Rotana, Guy Hutchinson said:“Sam has been instrumental in putting together a dedicated revenue team for Rotana and his leadership and strategic insights have helped greatly improve our ability to forecast demand accurately and institute optimal pricing and inventory controls, enabling the company

to achieve consistent top-line growth and increased market share.” April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME



What makes a company a great place to work? Koray Genckul, senior director, HR operations, MEA, Hilton explains how investing in people is reaping dividends for Hilton


n March, Hilton was delighted to be placed in the top 10 of Great Places to Work UAE 2017 and to be officially recognised as the top hospitality company to work for in the UAE for the second year in a row. This followed our success at Great Place to Work lists for Saudi Arabia and Turkey last year. I believe there are three key factors that make a company a great place to work: offering a great environment, great careers and great rewards. At Hilton, we are committed to providing an inspirational physical environment for our team members. In the back of house team member common areas, known as the 'Heart of House', we aim to create a great environment with excellent facilities and food and beverage offerings. The Heart of House is the energy behind our operation and we are elevating the team member experience to equal the care and consideration given to guests. We create rewarding careers and meaningful opportunities for team members, and as a business spanning more than 100 countries there is a world of opportunities for career progression at Hilton. In addition, we offer our team members industryleading learning and development opportunities, including access to Hilton University, an online platform offering over five million hours of training through 2,500 courses. Finally, we offer team members world-class rewards and benefits. For example, last year we launched our Team Member Travel Program which allows all team members across the world discounted rates at our hotels. This has been a hugely successful initiative since its launch last year. In addition, 20

HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

About the Author Koray Genckul, senior director, HR operations, MEA, Hilton. Based in Hilton’s MEA Regional Office, Dubai - Genckul is responsible for human resources management across MEA, overseeing the recruitment, development and retention of team members. He has a wealth of experience in human resources specialising in talent acquisition, talent management and compensation and benefits. we pride ourselves in creating a familyfriendly environment and this month, we announced that we are introducing a minimum of 12 weeks’ fully-paid maternity leave for female team members in the Middle East and Africa. Staff are at the heart of everything we do. They are the Heart of Hilton because their hard work, passion and commitment are at the core of all our success. The Great Place to Work recognitions are a testament to this, and

the amazing culture we’ve built together, all centered on our company’s mission to be the most hospitable company in the world. We currently welcome guests to 41 hotels in the Middle East and have plans to open an additional 75 hotels in the region in the coming years. As we expand our presence, it is vital that we continue to be a great place to work by offering a great environment, great careers and great rewards.

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Event preview

GM Leaders conference


Returning for a third edition on Wednesday 3 May at W Dubai Al Habtoor City, the GM Leaders Conference hosted by Hotel News Middle East promises to be a morning of informative expert sessions, networking opportunities and a strong line-up of hospitality industry leaders taking part in thought provoking panels

Event details DATE and TIME:

Wednesday 3 May, 8am – 2.30pm VENUE: The W Dubai Al Habtoor City SPONSORSHIP: Contact dom@ or fred@ ATTENDANCE: Contact mark@ SPEAKING OPPORTUNITIES: Contact


xpected to welcome more than 150 hospitality professionals from across the region, the GM Leaders Conference will tackle the key topics, trends and challenges impacting the hospitality industry in 2017 and beyond. Attendees, sponsors and speakers at the forum will enjoy a morning of thought-provoking panel debates, expert speaker sessions and interactive workshops, with registration and networking to begin at 8am. Panel sessions include: “Adapting to changing guest demands”; “Battling with the OTAs”; and “Attracting New


HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

Markets”, with a strong line-up of speakers combining a wealth of hospitality industry knowledge and experience. There will also be expert discussions on how mergers and acquisitions are changing the landscape of the hospitality industry; how Dubai’s hospitality sector will continue to thrive after Expo2020 and how the introduction of VAT will impact the industry. A networking lunch will follow, allowing attendees the opportunity to meet with peers and learn more about the best new products on the market. On board as presenting sponsor is

Rikan. The company’s managing director Riaz Khimani said: "We are an established brand in the hotel industry, but we strongly believe in staying in touch with the industry at every level, right from the grass roots to the top leadership. "This conference offers the right platform to be in touch with the leaders. We as a company are always very keen to learn from our clients and study the ever-changing trends in the market. At the same time we use our study to create new products to suit the highly demanding market.”

Event preview


8.00: Registration and Networking

11.00: Panel Two: Battling with the OTAs

8.30: Welcome Address from Hotel News Middle East 8.35: Address from Presenting Sponsor 8.40: Keynote Speech: How mergers and acquisitions are changing the face of the hospitality landscape. 9.10: Expert Session: How will Dubai’s hospitality industry continue to prosper post-Expo 2020? 9.30: Panel One: Adapting to Changing Guest Demands

Guests are becoming more tech-savvy – doing everything online, from booking, to ordering food and providing feedback – while seeking out personalised service with a warm dose of humanity. Meanwhile, mobile-connected corporate and MICE travellers are demanding more creative and flexible entertainment options and facilities, and a rising demographic of health-focused consumers are seeking out the best wellness offers. How can hoteliers pair digital efficiency with human intelligence? How can they evolve their wellness offers and cater to the changing needs of MICE and corporate travellers?

The battle between hoteliers and online travel agents (OTAs) will continue in 2017, with each side vying for its piece of the pie. The big hotel operators, such as Hilton and Marriott have invested in major direct booking campaigns, however they cannot turn their backs on the huge distribution power of the OTAs. Meanwhile, the OTAs continue to seek hotel chains’ lowest rates so they can offer customers the widest range of choices possible. How can hoteliers reduce their dependence on the OTAs and get better terms? What role does loyalty play?

11.45: Expert Session: How will the introduction of VAT impact the Middle East’s hotel industry? 12.05: Panel Three: Attracting New Markets

How can hoteliers ensure they are creating content and delivering experiences that resonate with the lifestyles of new target markets, such as millennials and Gen Z; the rising Chinese market and returning Russians; and a new wave of pricesensitive travellers, attracted to the region due to a growing number of low-cost flights and threeand four-star hotels?

10.15: Expert session: A snapshot of regional hotel performance. 12.50: Lunch and networking 10.35: Coffee break

14.30: Close

event Sponsors Hotel News Middle East’s GM Leaders Conference is sponsored by some of the most influential brands in the industry. Sponsors of the forum will have the opportunity to network and get in front of the general managers and corporate hoteliers from the leading hotels and resorts in the region. To find out more about sponsorship opportunities, contact or

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April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


Event Preview

Event details Nomination deadline Thursday 13 April Event date and time Wednesday 17 May 7pm - late Venue The St. Regis Dubai Sponsorship and table bookings Contact and Nomination enquiries Contact

As the nomination deadline approaches, Hotel News Middle East presents the judging panel and categories for the second edition of the Leaders In Hospitality Awards, set to take place on Wednesday 17 May at The St. Regis Dubai Hotel News Middle East has carefully selected the judging panel that will preside over the second ever Leaders In Hospitality Awards, which celebrates the very best that the hospitality industry has to offer in the Middle East. Comprising some of the region’s key experts, the panel has extensive knowledge of the trends, opportunities and challenges associated with the business and a wealth of experience spanning operations, investment, development, education, marketing and consumer trends. 24

HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

Event Preview

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Categories and Judges Judge

Filippo Sona, director/ head of hotels MENA Region, Colliers Filippo Sona is an investment and development professional with 22 years of hotel operational and advisory experience gained from the UK, Europe, USA and MENA regions. Judge

Helen Morris, executive chef / senior lecturer, The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management Helen Morris has been a chef in leading five-star hotels and restaurants in the UK and London and she was a head of department in a leading education institute in London before joining Emirates Academy. She has expertise in fine dining restaurants, hotel kitchen management, food safety and hygiene and event catering.

April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


Event preview

Categories and Judges Category


Leading New Hotel A hotel that has brought an exciting new concept and energy to the Middle Eastern market. This hotel will combine creativity, originality and excellent service and can demonstrate exceptional performance. To be eligible for this award, the nominated hotel must have opened on or after 1 January, 2016, and be fully open and operational on the date of submission of the nomination.

Hala Mata Choufany, president, HVS Middle East and Africa Hala Mata Choufany has in-depth expertise in regional hotel markets and has had broad exposure to international markets. She maintains excellent contacts with developers, owners, operators, investment institutions and government entities.



Sustainable Hotel Award This award will go to a hotel that demonstrates excellence in sustainable practices across energy efficiency, waste management and social responsibility.

Leading Luxury Hotel The winner of this category will have demonstrated outstanding attention to detail and have raised the benchmark for luxury in the region. Customer service will be high on the agenda and the winner will provide guests with an experience that caters for discerning luxury travellers.



Leading Mid-Market Hotel The winner of Leading Mid-Market Hotel will provide consistent, comfortable and appealing facilities at affordable rates, in line with the operator’s brand standards. The award will go to a mid-market hotel that shows it can meet the requirements of a wide range of customers and those seeking alternatives to high-end options.

Leading Hotel F&B Outlet This award will go to an outlet that enhances the guest experience by providing an original concept and a high-quality food and beverage offering. With an emphasis on being original and creative, the winner will show an ability to compete with the best standalone restaurants on the market.


Hisham Farouak, CEO, Grant Thornton Hisham Farouak has advised multinational, regional and local family businesses on a wide range of issues and has been instrumental in developing the strategic direction of Grant Thornton as well as managing the overall business.


Leading Serviced Apartment This award will go to a serviced apartment that has shown it can deliver guest service that is second to none. The winner will have demonstrated innovation in customer service, amenities and products. 26

HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017


Leading Hotel Spa The winner will provide a range of treatments, facilities and amenities and put a strong emphasis on an outstanding guest experience. The leading hotel spa will demonstrate a dedication to health and wellbeing for both men and women.



Leading General Manager This award will go to an inspirational individual who has shown outstanding leadership abilities. The Leading GM will demonstrate a strong passion for hospitality, the ability to meet and exceed KPIs and a strong willingness to go above and beyond to deliver excellence.

Martin Kubler, CEO, SPS Affinity Martin Kubler is a hotel GM turned hospitality and service industries consultant with 20 plus years of executive-level management experience in three, four and five star hotels in Europe and the Middle East.

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Event preview

Categories and Judges Category


Leading Hotel Team The winners in this category can demonstrate excellent teamwork through efficiency, productivity, quality and communication. The judges will give extra recognition to those teams that have developed an innovative system or initiative to increase efficiency.

Naim Maadad, CEO, Gates Hospitality The man at the helm of Gates Hospitality, committed to the development of world-class hospitality, asset management and food & beverage products, has over 25 years of experience and has launched and operated internationally renowned hotels, resorts, spas and lifestyle restaurants.


Leading Executive Housekeeper This award is for an Executive Housekeeper who showcases excellence in ensuring rooms and facilities are always maintained to the highest standards. He/she will demonstrate superb communication and leadership skills, ensuring his/her teams share this commitment to quality.


Leading Procurement Manager The winner in this category will have demonstrated the ability to oversee a procurement programme that delivers excellence and value across the board with tangible results in line with the company’s strategy. Category


Leading IT Manager This category is for an individual who can show how they have helped their company stay ahead of the game with excellent decision-making abilities and by staying up-to-speed with the latest trends and technologies on the market.

Rising Star Award An individual aged 30 or under on the day of the awards, who is making waves in the Middle East’s hotel scene. This person demonstrates tenacity, creativity and the potential to make a significant impact on the region’s hospitality landscape.


Leading F&B Manager This award highlights the achievements of an individual who has showcased outstanding ability in exceeding KPIs, developing and enhancing hotel restaurant concepts, streamlining processes and team leadership. Category


Daniel During, principal and managing director, Thomas Klein International Hospitality School Daniel During has 20 years’ experience in the F&B and Hospitality Industry, covering all aspects from product and brand creation to operations managment.


HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

Leading Hotel Chef Open to executive chefs, this category awards a candidate who can showcase creativity, passion and culinary flair along with exceptional skills in overseeing an entire kitchen operation in an efficient, cost-effective manner. Category

Lifetime Achievement Award This award will go to a candidate who has dedicated his/her life to the pursuit of excellence across the hotel industry. His/her achievements will have made the industry a better place, not only for those who have worked with him/her, but for the entire sector.


Rabih Feghali, director, Roya International This third generation hotelier works for Roya where he is tasked with spearheading business development activity.

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Regional News

The merger between Starwood and Marriott International sent shockwaves through the industry last September. But now that the dust has settled, what exactly has been the impact? Patrick Ryan finds out in an exclusive interview with Marriott International president Middle East and Africa Alex Kyriakidis


HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

Cover Story


he merger between Starwood and Marriott International sent shockwaves through the industry last September. But now that the dust has settled, what exactly has been the impact? Patrick Ryan finds out in an exclusive interview with Marriott International president Middle East and Africa Alex Kyriakidis Marriott International has been the talk of the industry since last year’s historic merger with Starwood. The implications of the merger are huge as Marriott International essentially more than doubled in size overnight going from 25,000 rooms in the region to 52,000. Today that figure is almost 54,000. The company now has 17 brands in the region when, as recently as last September, it only had nine. Twenty-nine Marriott International properties are due to open in the Middle East and Africa region this year alone. The same merger has led to suggestions that one global loyalty programme will be created with over 100 million members. Kyriakidis says: "We

We renegotiated with our online travel agents what we think are industry leading terms for the OTA commissions and that is going to represent roughly a 10% reduction in OTA rates over the next two years and that’s direct bottom line contribution to our owners’ pockets.

Alex Kyriakidis Marriott International president, Middle east and africa will have updates about timing in the future but right now we can confirm we will not introduce a unified program this year." “Right now if you were to take the Marriott rewards programme and put

it alongside the Ritz-Carlton rewards programme, and the SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) programme you would come pretty close to 100 million loyalty members worldwide.” The merger, Kyriakidis says, will give guests a range of options like never before, at every price-point whether it be for business or leisure. “That is a very powerful proposition because it means our members can stay with us in our business hotels during the week, and through our loyalty programmes, enjoy a weekend away at any of our resorts across the Middle East and Africa,” he says. It’s impossible to speak with anyone in the hotel industry about the business without the spectre of the online travel agents (OTAs) looming in the background, so it is no surprise that the conversation turns to the impact the merger has had on the relationship between Marriott and the OTAs. He adds that it is important to take a hard look at the relationship between hotels and OTAs, especially since the merger has April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


Cover Story

strengthened his company’s position. “I need to put the OTA business in context,” he says. “If I look at my region, the OTAs across the board in Middle East and Africa, how many of those room nights are actually coming from OTAs. It’s a very important partnership because we value each and every room, we value the partnership. The OTAs have a role to play, they have gazillions to spend on online marketing and distribution and that’s great.” According to Kyriakidis, the merger has allowed Marriott to negotiate a better rate with the OTAs and that is a win-win for all parties. “One of the things we are focused on through the loyalty programme is encouraging more and more of our loyalty members to book with us through our direct booking channels and one success we have had in this area is member-only rates,” he says. “There is a perception that if you go to an OTA you get a better rate but actually no, we have very strict rules about the price of our rooms with the OTA and distribution partnerships where it cannot be a better rate through the OTA.” Being able to tell people they get a better deal directly through a hotel’s website than going through an OTA has been a massive boost, according to Kyriakidis. “That has stimulated a lot of interest in direct bookings. In 2016 we launched some great campaigns such as a 3-for-2 stay which meant in the summer months, in the holy months of Ramadan, when things generally go quiet, our hotels were buzzing because we went for marketing campaigns aimed strictly at our loyalty members,” he says. “The OTA relations in summary is valuable to us but the mission for Marriott International is to make it a winwin for the owners and the OTAs.” In addition to the benefits increased scale has had on relationships with the OTAs, Kyriakidis highlights other positive effects, such as maximising market share and increasing opportunities for staff. 32

HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

Alex Kyriakidis

Cover Story

The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa opened last year in Qatar

The merger in numbers


The number of MEA hotels in the combined portfolio of Starwood and Marriott


The number of rooms in the region as a result of the merger


The amount of new hotels in the pipeline to be completed by 2025


The number of MEA countries that Marriott International will have a presence in by 2025

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April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


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“We are the number one hospitality provider to Dubai for the Expo 2020 by some measure, so now we are in a great position to work with the Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) to promote Dubai because now with Starwood we have a presence in most of the emirates and that’s the kind of top line synergy that’s important,” he says. “It helps us maximise our market share so in 2016 while the UAE and Dubai lost 10 percentage points per available room we actually gained 6% revenue per room.” The first people to benefit from the merger, Kyriakidis says, are the staff who will now have opportunities that would never have previously been presented. “Scale for the sake of scale means nothing but what it means for our associates is that today we have 65,000 associates in the region and an expansion in the region,” he says. “It means the career growth for our associates is better than ever before. The more openings we have coming up means there are more opportunities to manage the business and for people to grow with us and be promoted in the region, so the first thing is the associates. We are looking to grow to cope with the pipeline increasing from 65,000 to 100,000 by 2020 so that means an extra 35,000 associates will join the company in the next four years.” 34

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Marriott’s merger with Starwood introduced a number of new brands to the group’s portfolio, including the Aloft (above) and The St. Regis (below), both set to open on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah


Dubai World Trade Centre 18 - 20 September 2017

GM Interview

Luxury Salalah goes

James Hewitson, general manager, Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara, explains how he intends to position the newly opened Oman property as one of the most luxurious resorts in the region How did your career in hospitality begin? I began my career with branded restaurants in the UK before moving overseas almost twenty years ago to set up branded restaurants in the Middle East. I remember well my interview in London back in 1998 with a gentleman called Hani Kafafi who first brought me out to the region and has had a major impact on my career in the hotel industry. After spending two years with branded restaurants I followed Hani, who was a hotelier by profession, into the hotel industry. Hani provided me with the opportunity to take my independent restaurant experience and use it when looking after multiple restaurant concepts under one hotel roof. The solid grounding I received has stood me in good stead as I have risen to general manager and some of Hani’s stories I use for inspiration for my team still today. What attracted you to join Minor Hotel Group? After quite a few years working successfully in corporate hotels in Kuwait, Bahrain, Bangkok and Malta I decided I wanted to change into luxury resort hotels as I had a taste for this while working in Malta. I felt that resorts were more suited to my skills, and most importantly I found I enjoy working in resorts. I joined Anantara in Koh Samui over six years ago as executive assistant manager and quickly managed to understand the DNA of the brand and what would drive success within Minor Hotels. I was given several projects to work 36

HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

worked my way up through the various ranks so I feel very close to the team and the daily pressures we work under and the highs we experience when things go well. I enjoy talking to the team and try to make sure that I am open and available for anyone in the team to approach. I do get upset when people make statements like, “I didn’t want to ask you this because you are the GM”. We should always be available to the team members and should understand their thoughts and feedback.

on in Mozambique and Phuket before being asked to set up the opening of a new flagship property in Dubai. Following the successful opening in Dubai, I spent some time again working on other projects and gaining experience in the Maldives, Mozambique and Doha before I was asked to open Anantara in Salalah as my first general manager role. Anantara provides the freedom to work and run our business but also provides the coaching structure to make us better business leaders by constantly challenging results in a healthy way. How has your past experience influenced your management philosophy? I started at the bottom and I have

What makes a great GM? I believe that general managers are very resourceful people. We work in very exciting environments where no two days are the same and we need to be adaptable to change very quickly in an everchanging work place. People skills are a key competency as we help influence the team and in turn their performance. Drive for results is another key competency, as we work in a competitive playing field and you can never rest on your laurels in this industry. What were the key challenges of the pre-opening phase? I have found that people and relationships are the keys to the success of any opening. Having a good balance between internal people who know the brand and external skill-sets provides a great combination to create some amazing stories with openings. Balancing all relationships between owner, contractor and consultants is another key challenge. Since it’s the project team’s goal to complete the

GM Interview

Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara

Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara

project and hand over to us, we must ensure we are given a fully functional, well-put-together machine or we will be dealing with headaches for years to come. What are your targets and expectations for this year? Our main target is to establish the resort as the first luxury product in the Dhofar region and drive awareness of the destination through PR and media exposure along with great guest experiences. We have revenue and profit targets for the owner that we have to achieve and to be able to do this we need to ensure all the revenue taps are turned on and yielding new business. Currently we are not taking from the existing business pot, so driving new markets and luxury guests is a key priority too.

What are your thoughts on the Oman hospitality market? There is a lot of support and new initiatives being driven by the government, and we are supporting their efforts with the opening of two Anantara resorts. I see only positive growth for Salalah hotels where we have seen occupancy growth year-on-year for the past three years. Even with new supply coming on to the market place, the existing hotels are showing year-on-year increases in occupancy and rate during 2017, so overall RevPar is increasing too. The new infrastructure of the airport and roads network is a massive boost and with the introduction of greater airline connectivity within the GCC, this will keep the current trends heading in the same direction.

Al Baleed Resort opened in November 2016, and is the first of its kind in Dhofar, consisting of 40 premier and deluxe rooms and 96 one-, two- and three-bedroom villas, 88 of which have their own private swimming pools. “The vision for the resort was created by Mohamed Al-Barwani and his daughter Safana al-Barwani – they wanted to create a resort that appealed to the GCC and international markets, so the privacy of the villas achieves this goal,” comments Hewitson. “The design reflects a coastal fortress and the make-up of an Omani village of years gone by, with the main house being the largest building where people meet for breakfast to share the news and village houses being the villas located on ground level below the tree line of 691 palm trees.” The resort has the first spa and hamam in the region and offers a wide range of treatments with therapists from Thailand, Indonesia, Tunisia, Jordan, South Africa and Nepal. The food and beverage offer comprises three restaurants: Sakalan, which means ‘land of frankincense’, an open kitchen serving buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner; Al Mina, a Mediterranean restaurant; and Mekong, Anantara’s signature Asian fine dining restaurant, which takes guests on a journey along the Mekong Delta with cuisine from Thailand, Vietnam and China. The 250m long beach has an array of nonmotorised water sports and there is a kid’s club, teens club and gym with a tennis court for guests. “Given the amount of pool villas available – the highest number of pool villas in the region – we are keen to position the resort as one of the most luxurious products and compete with the more established resorts around the GCC and beyond,” adds Hewitson.

April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


Brand entry

Curio makes an entrance Positioned adjacent to the Mall of Qatar there’s little doubt that Hilton is banking on the Al Rayyan Hotel Doha, Curio - A Collection by Hilton being a success. It marks the first entry into the Middle East of the Curio brand. Patrick Ryan spoke to the global head of Curio Mark Nogal and Al Rayyan Hotel Doha, Curio - A Collection by Hilton general manager Luca Crocco about the new opening and why they can’t wait to see the public’s reaction


HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

Brand entry

The living roompresidential suite


ith the football World Cup being held in Qatar in 2022 the country is going to be the focus of worldwide attention. But this is just one of many reasons why Hilton Worldwide decided to open its latest addition to the Curio brand in Doha. Curio Collection by Hilton global head Mark Nogal confirms that it is the first of several properties the brand has earmarked for the Middle East. The Curio brand appeals to someone who has been travelling for two, three or four nights, Nogal says, who wants to do some exploration of the neighbourhood where the hotel is located. The Curio brand was created to allow guests to find out more about the city in which they are visiting. The size of each hotel under the umbrella, varies from location to location — the smallest offers 32 bedrooms while, in contrast, the largest property holds 1,000 rooms. Nogal says: “Curio was started to help fulfil a niche that we saw where the traveller was changing. It was from this standpoint we began with our Curio properties, we’ve got a wide spread of properties but each one is unique to itself.

Pleasure in leisure Focusing on the leisure facilities, Crocco said there are 25 suites and 68 connected rooms. On weekends there is an emphasis on families who are attracted to the suites and rooms. The three inter-connected swimming pools are also firm family favourites, with a salt water swimming pool which is rare in Doha, as well as separate facilities for both genders with jacuzzies, steam rooms, an ice fountain and a sauna. He adds that other facilities such as the women’s only spa show that the hotel not only recognises, but is offering something that appeals to, the changing demands of modern travellers.

“While this hotel was the first to join the brand in the Middle East and Africa, we are looking at other opportunities to open additional properties in the region and will be opening a new hotel in Dubai towards the end of next year. There is great potential for Curio Collection to expand across the Middle East and Africa in key strategic locations.” Curio is a portfolio of independent upper upscale hotels and resorts targeted at travellers seeking authentic experiences. The hotels ben-

efit from being part of Hilton’s distribution system and Hilton Honors rewards programme. Doha was picked, says Nogal, because it is a city of growth and testament to this is the Qatar Vision 2030, which was launched to serve as a clear road map for Qatar’s future in terms of economic, social and environmental development. He points to the hotel’s proximity to the Mall of Qatar, the biggest in the country, as an indication of its appeal to tourists. “It starts with the name,” he says. “Each one of the Curio properties has an independent name and there is a story that goes behind it.” The property is located within the oldest district in Qatar. He adds that the Al Rayyan is synonymous with affluence in the region. Nogal says the hotel will fit right in with the local culture, which he describes as “unique”. He says: “It has been very well received by the locals. In the GCC, the hotel is timeless and has local traditions, which go hand in hand. There has been high demand, especially from the leisure point of view in the weekends and then of course the mid-week April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


brand entry

The lobby at AlRayyan Hotel Doha

is more on the corporate side in terms of demand. From the GCC, we are primarily attracting Qataris and then people from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.” Crocco says it is vital to ensure the hotel maintains the Curio ethos of enjoying an organic relationship with its neighbours and becoming a part of the fabric of the community in which it is located. He says: “That is essentially what we are doing with the brand, each property is part of the fabric of the neighbourhood. The team members who are on-site help the guest better understand those hidden areas, those local unknown elements. “So, if you are coming from out of town and you want to go for dinner and you are interested in going to a place where only locals go to, you will be able to do that. We are recommending what we have in the hotel, but if the guests want something else, we would be able to assist them with that as well.” Nogal says that from design to delivery, the local culture and tradition has been embedded in the project. A deliberate decision was taken to make sure the property was located away from where most of the hotels are in Doha, a touch, he says, that was appreciated by the local community. He says: “They were surprised that a grand hotel opened in this area, so they came to look at all the features 40

HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

The deluxe king room

of the Arabic culture. So, it was a huge success. I would not say we are traditional, we are a bit more on the modern side. “Curio was created two and a half years ago; now we have 33 open hotels and it was to help fulfill a niche that travellers are looking for – the independent travel experience – and what may have been leisure oriented has actually turned into a business orientation as well.” Being attached to the luxury court of the mall, Nogal says, has made

complete sense as it goes hand-inhand with the development and the growth of Doha. Crocco adds that the hotel will very much focus on the needs of the local community. He says:“I have been here for a year and a half in Doha and when I was talking with someone from the local community, he told me that we would appreciate if you had a place where we could leave the children to go for dinner or shopping, and we offer these facilities in here.”

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New opening


HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

New opening

Viceroy Palm Jumeirah Dubai is one of the most eagerly awaited properties of 2017. Patrick Ryan caught up with general manager Mikael Svensson to find out just what we can expect from one of the newest additions to the market in the UAE April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


New opening

Born to run a hotel With a father who worked for Scandinavian Airlines and two brothers who were also hotel general managers, it is clear that Mikael Svensson was born with hospitality and tourism in his blood. He says: “I grew up in Bangkok and lived for nine years there; it was very easy for me to decide which industry I was going to go into. Then I did the usual and went through hotel school in Switzerland and got the degrees and some experience. I joined Hyatt in 1994 and most recently I was at Park Hyatt in Canberra Australia and then after 21 years with Hyatt this opportunity came up with Viceroy. “Viceroy now kind of has the same philosophy and ideology as Hyatt did when it started up. It was a natural fit and felt like being able to go back in time and focus on developing the brand.”


HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

It’s easy to see The Palm as being a bit out of the way from the rest of Dubai. That’s a perception that Viceroy Palm Jumeirah Dubai general manager, Mikael Svensson, is all too eager to alter. He says: “The Palm is sometimes seen as being a bit far out and doesn’t have the same day-to-day interaction as downtown or even hotels in the Marina. I think we will be able to bridge that gap, not just for the hotel, but The Palm as a whole. “We are trying to enhance the attraction and appeal of The Palm, and that’s what all hotels here want to do. There is a great relationship between the hotels here and we want to tie that in a bit closer to what’s going on in the city.” The sheer volume of five-star hotels on the market makes it a challenge to stand out, says Svensson, but he is not

New opening

put off by this. He isn’t content to merely offer up a hotel that provides excellent services and facilities, he wants to bring the essence of Viceroy’s birthplace, Los Angeles – with an emphasis on relaxation and location – to Dubai. But what exactly does this mean? “Like any new hotel we hope we are bringing something special and unique to the market,” says Svensson. “What we wanted to do wasn’t go out and brand the hotel like so many others have done in Dubai, our idea was to build a hotel that represents the young, vibrant Dubai of today. Dubai today is very cool, it’s transitioned over the last 10 years and it’s a very happening, cutting edge city. “When you walk around the hotel it has a Los Angeles feel to it, a Miami vibe and that’s maybe where Dubai is, it has that cool representation without even knowing it.

BLVD on One

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16.01.17 10:19 April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


New opening

There are 447 rooms in the resort

“We want to bring that LA essence into what we do, whether it be a Napa Valley grape list or the LA spa scene or where the sands of Santa Monica meet the sands of Dubai and do something quite quirky with that. The designers for our uniforms are from LA so the look, feel and style is kind of LA inspired. It will be an essence of LA wherever you go which is great but it won’t be obtrusive and you won’t even know it, it will just add to the experience.” The size of the task that Svensson has taken on cannot be underestimated and that’s in the literal sense. With 447 rooms, 221 private residence, made up of two - three - and four-bedroom apartments, and 1,000 staff members this is a big project. That said, he’s more than confident about pulling it off and has come up with a unique way to make his staff share his confidence. He says: “We have gone to great lengths with a third party improv company to train the staff by homing in on their confidence and communication skills and allowing them to adapt to certain things and build on certain skills so they feel like they belong to this environment. You need to make sure you are always delivering on the brand promise but it’s great when you have those partners and neighbours with us from a residential perspective.” Avoiding the perils that come with 46

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What’s on the menu? The resort is banking on its F&B offerings being a hit with both guests and the local community. BLVD on One, which stands for Breakfast, Lunch and Viceroy’s unforgettable Dinner is a key part of the package. The Italian restaurant Quattro Passi is the first that acclaimed chef Antonio Mellino has opened in the Middle East. The Delisserie offers “the delicious tastes and homely aromas of a bustling neighbourhood patisserie with the convenience of a chic delicatessen”. The eighth floor is home to the wine bar called Elevate, which has panoramic views of the Dubai skyline. The offerings are rounded off by the Pool Bar and Lobby Lounge.

employing a large workforce is high on Svensson’s agenda as he was determined to hire the best available people, even if the options are limited. “Sometimes what happens, especially in Dubai where there are so many hotels with a limited workforce is that you are sometimes forced to hire in masses and what happens is you deliver a mass product. We are relying on each department to deliver something quite personal and in that way add to what Viceroy stands for,” he says. “It’s not just one industry (running a hotel) it’s 10 industries under one roof. It’s an engineering industry, it’s a restaurant industry it’s a housekeeping business, so there are so many different aspects of hotels that make it interesting and complex.”

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Chain Focus

Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts was founded in 1997 and currently operates 6,028 luxury rooms and suites in 21 hotels across nine destinations.


Upcoming properties in the MENA region

Abu Dhabi: • Jumeirah at Etihad Towers

• Jumeirah Living Marina Gate, Dubai

Dubai: • Burj Al Arab Jumeirah • Jumeirah Beach Hotel • Jumeirah Creekside Hotel • Jumeirah Emirates Towers • Jumeirah Living World Trade Centre Residence by Jumeirah Living • Jumeirah Zabeel Saray • Jumeirah Mina A’Salam • Jumeirah Al Qasr • Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf • Jumeirah Al Naseem Kuwait: • Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa


HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

• Jumeirah Business Bay, Dubai • Jumeirah at Saraya Aqaba, Jordan • Jumeirah Sa’adiyat Island, Abu Dhabi • Jumeirah at Saraya Bandar Jissah, Oman

Chain Focus

in focus

Alison Broadhead, chief commercial officer, Jumeirah Group

What were the hotel group’s key achievements and milestones in 2016? Jumeirah Group is committed to constant improvement and keeping the guest experience fresh. In 2016 we launched the Burj Al Arab Terrace, which offers Scape Restaurant and bar, two swimming pools, a beach and 32 air-conditioned, butler serviced cabanas. This was a world first in marine and off-site construction — the terrace was built offshore in Finland and transported to Dubai by sea. We also opened the seafood restaurant Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara and a new bar called Gold on 27. The final part of Madinat Jumeirah resort, Jumeirah Al Naseem, opened on 1 December 2016. This new 430-room hotel is a major addition to the appeal of Dubai as a holiday destination. What have been the key challenges facing the hospitality sector in general and how have you met these challenges? Like all hospitality companies we face challenges with changing currency situations and socio-political instability in regions around the world. However, our understanding of the markets and strategic planning means we aren’t caught unaware. We can adapt our sales, marketing, social media and PR campaigns to reach into existing and new markets as required. We have very close relationships with our travel agency partners and these relationships are very important and supportive when we are looking to attract new markets and new visitors into our properties What are the hotel group’s key goals for 2017 for the MENA region? Jumeirah Group has continued to grow as an industry leader. Jumeirah Al Naseem at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai opened in December 2016 and marked the completion of Jumeirah Group’s transformation of coastline into a major tourist destination. This

process began in 1997 with the opening of Jumeirah Beach Hotel and continued with the iconic Burj Al Arab Jumeirah and Madinat Jumeirah. Future expansion plans include Dubai and the wider Middle East, Asia and Europe. We have a robust and growing pipeline of exciting new openings including properties in Oman, Jordan and Jumeirah Sa’adiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, all set to open within the next three years. In addition, we have 10 projects under development in Asia with outstanding properties in Bali and Malaysia, as well as China where the Jumeirah Nanjing is set to open in Q3 2017. The stunning five bedroom Royal Residence Villa at Jumeirah Vittaveli in the Maldives opens in March this year. It offers a private beach and jetty, two private swimming pools as well as service quarters and is the perfect hideaway for extended families looking for luxury, privacy and seclusion.

How is technology dictating the way you run your business and liaise with customers? One of the most exciting digital developments for Jumeirah Group has been Jumeirah Inside. This virtual platform comprises 360° video and photography of all 21 hotels and has recently been updated to include the Burj Al Arab Terrace and Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara restaurant. The tool enables users to make hotel bookings, access never-before-seen footage, discover hidden gems and share them with the world across social media platforms. Developed in collaboration with Google, this was a hotel industry first and offers a fully immersive digital travel platform which is accessible through We are also incredibly proud of our social media outreach. Burj Al Arab Jumeirah recently reached over 500,000 followers on Instagram and Facebook – the largest following of any hotel in the world. April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME



A new experience Arabian Travel Market returns to Dubai World Trade Centre from 24−27 April, with the theme of experiential travel. Hotel News Middle East spoke to a number of key players in the industry about how hotels are not just a place to stay anymore but a platform for guests to immerse themselves in the local experience Bollywood Parks Dubai


he official theme of this year’s ATM event is experiential travel. This takes in the adventure, culture, heritage, wellness and spa, sport, theme park, halal and cruise tourism segments, which are currently trending, not only globally, but across the Middle East. ATM senior exhibition director Simon Press says: “Today’s travellers are seeking more than amenities and creature comforts; more than a sight-seeing tour and a picture beside a famous landmark. “The increasing trend is for an immersive style of tourism, which encompasses different areas of local life – culinary, culture, history, shopping, nature, sports, halal, theme parks, wellness and spa, medical tourism and extreme luxury – and can be the basis for a holistic travel experience, by connecting with a 50

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place rather than just visiting it.” The Middle East has a rich tapestry of offerings, Press says, from overnight stays in a stone house in remote Omani villages to a stroll around the Souq Waqif in Doha or alternatively for foodies, a tour of Old Dubai, in search of wholesome local street delicacies. There’s no question that experiential travel is high on the agenda, not just at this year’s Arabian Travel Market, but also with hotels across the region. Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort general manager Darren Darwin knows only too well the value of providing an experience that goes beyond the standard offering of hotels. "Anantara is renowned for opening the door to authentic, indigenous experiences, and as the highest five-star resort

in the Middle East, we pride ourselves in offering a multitude of incredibly unique activities that allow intrepid travellers to explore the nearby history, culture and spectacular landscape,” he said. “We have spent considerable time developing a host of experiences that mean our guests really get an insight into mountain life, from personalised trips to the local souqs and heritage sites to cookery classes, rock climbing, abseiling and archery.” Experiential travel is so vital to Darwin and his team that the hotel has also employed a “mountain guru” who grew up in a nearby village and has mapped out the surrounding landscape to identify new hiking trails. This allows guests to go off the beaten track and discover abandoned villages and hidden caves.


“The resort's high altitude means we're lucky enough to enjoy temperatures that are around 15 degrees cooler than the rest of the Middle East, providing a yearround destination and a place to escape and take part in activities during the sweltering summer months,” he said. “Our aim is to ensure that every guest leaves with interesting stories to tell and long lasting memories." Palazzo Versace Dubai director of learning and development Charlotte Moore said that experiential travel is an essential part of her hotel’s offering. “I do believe that travel is not anymore about seeing places, but more about connecting with people,” she said. “We believe that everyone is looking to be inspired, to be made to feel special and ultimately feel touched through an experience they have had. More than ever this is a priority for us as human beings. “Our cultural offering respects and appreciates our Arabic heritage. From offering falcon displays, to following local traditions, we are grateful to have locals as our guests at Palazzo Versace Dubai.” The newly opened Fairmont Fujairah is operating with experiential travel very much at the top of the agenda. General manager Omar Souab explains to Hotel News Middle East how the resort was built with the explicit aim of attracting experiential visitors from both the local community and internationally. He says: “We’ve chosen to operate in a destination that is lauded for its natural beauty and plan on offering a variety of activities like sunrise yoga, where guests can enjoy the valleys of the Al Hajar Mountains in the bright morning hours while exploring our cherished rugged terrain along the coast of Dibba. We’ll also soon be offering the sunrise breakfast, for an exclusive bespoke experience amongst the hidden valleys of Dibba.” The key, Souab says, is to ensure the activities are authentic and truly reflective of the local culture and heritage and that even extends to the hotel's menu, which has been created in partnership with local fishermen. “The days of travelling for a specific purpose are long gone. Today, experiential travel has created a strong demand for a personalised experience,” he says.

Omar Souab

Legoland is a new attraction for tourists

Anantara Cliff Pool Villa

April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


ATM PReview

Fairmont Fujairah Beach Resort

If there was any doubt that experiential travel is here to stay then you just have to look at the fact that two new hotels are opening, with that specific market in mind. Remmie de Graff is the general manager of Hilton Garden Inn, Ras Al Khaimah and he tells Hotel News Middle East what the modern guest is expecting. “The discerning guests of today are seeking experiences that will enrich their lives,” says de Graaf. “They want to discover local cultures and challenge themselves; be it by having more “me-time” to reflect, or to take on activities that will push them to their limits.” That’s why his hotel is positioned to offer guests activities such as rock climbing, abseiling, trekking into the mountains and visiting local mountain villages. “One of the developing trends is how travellers aspire to become more dynamic and informed citizens of the world,” he says. “They are pushing past preconceived notions and seeking new ways to understand the world and its multitude of culture from different perspectives. They are seeking inspiration, personalisation and a 52

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Remmie de Graaf


DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai Business Bay GM Remco Werkhoven

path towards self-discovery.” Experiential travel is also about getting a value-add for hotel guests and giving back to the community, says DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai – Business Bay general manager Remco Werkhoven. He says: “Everyone is looking for that little bit extra during their travels,

to experience the real thing and to feel like more than just a tourist. People are looking for an authentic experience with a purpose. They want to learn about the places they are visiting and improve their knowledge of the world.” It’s no longer enough for guests to simply go on a guided tour, they want to immerse themselves in local culture and interact with the community. “People are moving away from the word ‘tourist’ – People want to be travellers,” he says. “It is all about making memories and creating experiences that money cannot buy. More and more hotels are taking their guests ‘back of house’ through exciting and once-in-a-lifetime events. Purposeful travelling is also on the rise. The combination of ‘experiential travelling’ with ‘charitable travelling’ is becoming a trend with millennials embracing these opportunities. I notice that people are more and more in need of strengthening the communities they visit.”

April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


ATM Preview

What to look out for at ATM 2017

ATM will host a number of events that will be essential viewing to anyone in the industry, Hotel News Middle East takes a look at some of the highlights… • Expo 2020 Dubai: The Legacy: Monday, 24 April at 12.30pm The session kicks off proceedings at ATM and will assess the role of Expo 2020 in delivering the UAE government’s long-term vision for economic diversification. Panellists will discuss the core theme of sustainability as part of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Year of Sustainable Tourism Development; the potential legacy of the mega project; and the future of the UAE as a knowledge economy, a leading global city, and tourism destination. • The Real Deal: Why Selling Local Experiences Matters: Tuesday, April 25 at 4.20pm Panelists give hints and tips on how Middle East destinations can adapt to this trend, which is fast being adopted by travellers 54

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of all ages from across the globe. They will look at what steps destinations have taken to sell “the real Middle East” and how they can further enhance their experiential travel offering. • The inaugural ATM Global Halal Tourism Summit 2017, Wednesday, 26 April at 12.20pm This event brings together some of the world’s leading Muslim travel experts to discuss the nuances of this fast-growing sector. The global Muslim travel market was valued at $151 billion in 2015, representing around 10% of the global international tourism market and, by 2021, that value is expected to reach $243 billion. Uniting the industry’s leading halal travel experts, the Global Halal Tourism Summit will reveal the industry’s true scope and size, development strategies, and potential for future growth.

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900+ exhibitors from 50 countries 16,000+ vistors from 91 countries 500 fully hosted VIP buyers 10+ events and features

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Shifting gears Feras Hasinou, senior sales manager and fleet national manager of Cadillac at Liberty Automobiles Company LLC introduces Cadillac’s new programme aimed at tapping into the five-star hotel segment Cadillac Escalade


ith competition in the hotel industry fiercer than ever, the differentiator for the luxury-seeking customer is the services and extras a hotel provides that others don't. It’s about creating a flawless luxury experience that is complete from end to end. First impressions count. A guest’s first impression of a hotel and the service it provides can be built long before they’ve reached the front door of the hotel, starting as soon as they hit the tarmac. So the question is, how do you want to impress your guests right from the outset? If your hotel is looking to attract the luxury seeker, the sophisticated set, then all aspects of the customer’s journey should reflect luxury and sophistication. Looking to tap into the lucrative fivestar hotel market in the UAE, Cadillac has built a new strategy to push for a bigger share of the luxury fleet industry. Cadillac with Liberty Automobiles, the


HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

Feras Hasinou

luxury brand’s authorised dealer in the UAE, has assembled a team specifically for Cadillac’s fleet customers, tasked to implement the new strategy with the in-

troduction of new fleet models, service contracts and competitive pricing against the existing players in the market. Fleet national manager of Cadillac at Liberty, Feras Hasinou acknowledges Cadillac’s need to leverage existing infrastructure to bring a renewed, structured approach in dealing with the market segment. Cadillac has now implemented various purchasing solutions that include leasing and internal and external financing. The plan also supports bulk purchases, with hotels and fleet customers who can benefit from competitive pricing with a large number of purchases of vehicles. Further highlighting the intentions in the fleet segment, Cadillac has added new models that are part of its recent push to diversify its product offering, with the 2017 CT6 prestige sedan and 2017 XT5 crossover. “These two models set new standards of luxury in their respective segments. The CT6 brings with it the highest levels of craftsmanship combined with ad-


Cadillac CT6

Cadillac programme details • Four years or 100,000kms warranty, service contract and roadside assistance on all vehicles for fleet customers. • Variety of solutions for purchase, including leasing, internal finance and external finance from banks. • New car models– CT6 and XT5– listed with RTA as limousine segments with more variety in specifications for all models in terms of options and engine sizes. • Priority service at workshop with dedicated relationship manager and service advisor to take care of all after-sales needs • Courtesy car on request

Cadillac XT5

vanced technology, with thoughtful passenger comfort features such as heated or cooled massaging chairs, theatre quality surround sound and extra legroom, as seen in the Cadillac CT6. This can help to make a noteworthy impression on hotel guests. Meanwhile the XT5 is a completely new luxury vehicle for Cadillac, with a bold new design and a wealth of space making it the perfect vehicle for long journeys. Both are now listed with the RTA as limousine cars and available to our customers.” Further elevating the experience with fleet customers in mind, service contracts and warranty will be included in the deal, with a vehicle cover of four years or 100,000kms, with optional upgrade packages.

“With our service and warranty packages, we are elevating our customers’ experience and giving them additional benefits when purchasing our vehicles. We are proud to be one of the few auto dealers in the market that deal directly with hotels and offer aftersales services when it comes to fleet contracts.” Hasinou said. “Currently, most hotels work with rental companies to lease cars on their behalf, however we are looking to meet with the decision makers of the region’s five-star hotels to highlight our latest vehicles and packages and how we compare to their existing partnerships or other brands in the market today,” says Hasinou. Cadillac has recently gone through a shift, reigniting the brand’s ambition

to reassert itself at the pinnacle of the luxury car market. “In addition to bringing in new models, Cadillac is looking to change the public’s mindset around the brand, telling its story and using strong lifestyle and fashion ties, partnering with likeminded events and organisations like Sole DXB and Step Conference, two events that share the Cadillac mindset.” Hasinou said. Hasinou continued: “We also look to target the next generation of luxury car buyers; people who are looking for a global symbol of style, which represents the independently minded. We call them ‘Entrepreneurials’. They are not always entrepreneurs in the literal definition of the word, but they are successful people in their respective fields that share a common passion and a driven pursuit to realise their dreams and live their aspirations.” With the repositioning, competitive purchasing solutions and continued push of new Cadillac models coming into the market, the luxury brand looks set to make a statement in the hotel fleet market in the coming years across the UAE and wider Middle East region.

contact details T: 800Liberty or 8005423789 E: W:

April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


AHIC Preview

Looking to the future Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) returns for its 2017 edition at Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah. The focus of this year’s event is being a catalyst for change and with that in mind, Hotel News Middle East hosted a special roundtable with students from The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management to see how the next generation of hoteliers see the future of the industry

(L-R) Emirates Academy Of Hospitality students Rachael Gregory, Michael Jansen, Akshita Vibhakar and Giuliana Giardiana

Hotel News Middle East gathered some of the brightest young minds from Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management on 15 March to find what they think about the hotel industry and what they want to see from it in the future. What is the one area in which hotels can do more to appeal to younger people? Akshita Vibhakar: In terms of marketing you have to fix your social media! Stop being so robotic and giving everyone the same generic reply. Hotels really need to 58

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step up their game on social media, what better place is there to book than directly from the source? Some of the biggest brands don’t promote their social media all that well, they don’t have the handles well represented on their websites, and if the knowledge isn’t out there customers won’t come. Giuilana Giardiana: One of the main issues is the structure of the hotel industry. It is very difficult to empower the frontline staff, it’s very hierarchical. I agree it would be very strong and very effective but it is very difficult to do

something like that within big brands because they have a certain standard of brand identity. Rachael Gregory: Having brand personalities is important. This is how hotels can compete with Airbnb because people using Airbnb want to have that sense of being included in a community, that is something they can capitalise on. Akshita: Brands need to keep an eye on guests’ social media, for example they could send a bottle of bubbles to guests who have got engaged at one of your properties. If you do that they are bound

AHIC Preview

A hotel’s data security record is key when it comes to making a booking.

to take a picture of it and post it on social media. It would make such a difference and would cost you one bottle to get the word out and make your guests your ambassadors. If I saw something like that posted from a guest at a hotel I would listen to that more than pictures on TripAdvisor. It comes straight from the source; you’ve had a good experience, why won’t I? As millennials, where do you stand on the rise of Airbnb? Michael: I hate to be the pessimist but I really don’t think there is much that hotels can do. It is very clear this is what people want, it is not something you can protect yourself from and you will have to diversify and adjust. You would have to completely change the way a hotel runs to compete with Airbnb. Giuilana: That’s an issue you still need to address but Dubai is not as strongly affected as other countries where hotels are closing because of Airbnb. You have cities where the people within a community are starting to be hostile against tourism itself. Airbnb is a platform in itself and so it is much more difficult to create regulations. Rachael Gregory: Prices are going to have to drop with the changing markets. We have already lost the Russian

Airbnb is something that hotels can do little about according to the students.

market and the Chinese market is down and they were the ones paying for the luxury. Dropping prices is the only way to go. We are going to see a lot more three-and-four-star hotels because the five-star market has got so saturated we are going to have to give options. Not everyone can afford the hotels here, especially with Expo2020 coming up, we

have to give them the accommodation they can afford. Is data security an issue for young people? Michael: At the tender of age 23 my credit card is not so valuable that my life would be ruined if it were hacked. But hotels are not tech companies and it is up to the corApril 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


AHIC Preview

porate office to have access to the right sort of people to take care of it. If I knew there was a significant risk for me to stay at a property, after hearing that something could go wrong I would personally not stay there, I would definitely think twice. It is dangerous when you look at what’s going to be spent in a hotel each day and how many people are using credit cards. As the Internet of Things takes over, security protocol will definitely have to evolve. Rachael: We have heard stories about hackers breaking into a hotel’s system and controlling the AC – turning it up full blast and guests leaving because it is too hot. Speaking of the Internet of Things (IOT) are hotels embracing technology correctly? Akshita: We run the risk of losing out on the human aspect in hotels. You have to move ahead but a lot of hotels are taking it too far. They are making everything so personalised that people won’t interact with anyone else at the hotel, you could check in and out and realise you have not interacted with one employee from the hotel. Michael: A lot of hotels are jumping on the technology bandwagon and providing technology for the sake of it and don’t fully understand the application and benefits it can provide. It’s a case of “we know this big thing is coming and we need to be part of it”. 60

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Hotels aren’t doing enough with social media according to the students who took part in our roundtable.

The Internet of Things was a hot topic at the roundtable.

AHIC Preview

Don't miss... Jonathan Worsley, chairman of Bench Events highlights the sessions not to be missed at this year's AHIC We have a fantastic line-up of keynote speakers at AHIC 2017. The event will open on 26 April with a live-on-stage interview with Chris Nassetta, president and chief executive officer, Hilton Worldwide, moderated by Richard Dean, presenter of The Business Breakfast on Dubai Eye. Speaking ahead of the conference, Nassetta said: “The Middle East is a very important market for the hospitality industry, and Hilton sees tremendous growth potential here in the years ahead. I am honored to keynote AHIC this year, and I look forward to a great conference and many productive conversations with the region’s key leaders.” The morning of the 27th will kick off with “Coffee and a Keynote”. James Whittaker, distinguished

technical evangelist for Microsoft, is going to be addressing the impact of technology on the industry with a session entitled: “The Next Disruption. This Time Silicon Valley is Coming for You”. As Whittaker says: “If you don’t understand what is happening with technology then you will be at a huge disadvantage over the next decade.” In this unique opportunity to learn from one of the world’s leading technology experts, Whittaker will discuss what the hospitality industry needs to do to stay ahead of the curve. Below are some of the other highlights not to miss.


Global Catalysts for Change 09:30-10:15 Wednesday 26 April The ongoing digital revolution, Internet of Things, advent of the sharing economy and changing needs of the consumer are having a profound effect on the way we do business across the world. As we open AHIC 2017, industry leaders will speak about their perspectives on these trends


Stripping Away The Segments 11:45-12:25 Wednesday 26 April A new era of hoteliers are offering brands synonymous with a certain lifestyle, making traditional hotel star ratings redundant. What do these so-called disruptive brands that are winning over consumers in the US and Europe, offer investors? Are lenders in the Middle East ready to help investors think like entrepreneurs, or are banks limiting brand selection?


For the full programme and more information, visit:

Jonathan Worsley

AHIC’s PechaKucha Night: The Hotel of the Future 19:00-20:00 Tuesday 25 April Join leading architects, interior designers and technology leaders in this visionary session to kick off AHIC 2017. Using the PechaKucha format, each speaker will present their ideas using 20 images, with 20 seconds per image.


A 360° Approach to Asset Management: 09:00-09:30 Thursday 27 April Regional presidents of the Hospitality Asset Management Association (HAMA) gather on stage at AHIC to discuss how to implement an asset management programme that drives the value of the asset through a 360° approach, from investment, transaction and contracting through to operations.


AHIC Awards 12:15-13:00 Thursday 27 April At AHIC 2017, the annual AHIC Awards will celebrate the entrepreneurs driving growth in our industry and inspiring the next generation of hoteliers. We are honoured that AHIC’s patron, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, chairman and CEO Emirates Group, will again present the awards this year. The awards winners were voted for by the AHIC Advisory Board. In 2017, we will celebrate Ghaith Al Ghaith, chief executive officer of flydubai, winner of the AHIC Leadership Award and Sheikh Mubarak Al Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, founder and non-executive chairman, Action Hotels, recipient of the Industry Pioneer Award. Both are recognised for their leadership and entrepreneurship in driving the economy and midscale segments of the travel and tourism industry in the Middle East – industry sectors that are set to be hot topics at AHIC 2017. Don’t miss the Awards presentation and live-on-stage interviews with our winners.

April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


AHIC Preview

Branding the issue María Zarraluqui, global development managing director, Melia Hotels International, is speaking at AHIC 2017 on the topic of ‘Do you really need an international brand?’. Ahead of the event, she speaks exclusively to Hotel News Middle East about the growth potential for Melia’s Sol and Innside brands in the GCC ties for unique hotel value propositions. One area, which so far has only gained limited traction, is the mid- to upscale resort segment. Very few quality and internationally branded three-to fourstar resorts exist in the regional marketplace. Therefore we think that companies like us, with our relaunched Sol brand, have great potential in the area with our different sub-brands. All Sol Hotels & Resorts share the brand pillars across all concepts: location, signature pools, full F&B experience, unique guest experience and entertainment are the main drivers for our brand. In addition, each Sol Signature Concept adds special services and features to meet their customer’s expectations and to make sure their guests have the perfect holidays. Therefore, we can develop our concepts in these potential areas and diversify the current hotel portfolio.

2016 has been characterised by caution when it comes to hospitality investment; would you agree? How do you foresee investment sentiment evolving in 2017? From our point of view, we would say that 2016 has been characterised by economic pressures, paired with political uncertainty and an increase in room supply, which all had an impact on the regional hospitality landscape with increased pressure on rates and occupancy levels. Last year was also important for the decrease of governmental expenditure levels, as well as private 62

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and semi-governmental investors in the hospitality industry, who have certainly monitored the markets carefully. As in previous years, we expect a strong investor-driven focus to be on the quality, branded mid-market segments in the more mature and established markets. What are the biggest opportunities for investors and/or operators in the Middle East hotel market in 2017? As key destinations, such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha, are maturing in their respective hospitality development lifecycles, we still see plenty of opportuni-

What are the most exciting launches/developments/ projects you are planning for 2017? 2017 is going to be a very exciting year for us in the region. We will be opening the ME by Meliá in Business Bay in Dubai, which is part of the spectacular Opus mixed-use project designed by the late Zaha Hadid. We will also open our first Innside by Meliá hotel in the region in Doha. As the world’s leading resort operator we are also excited about an increase in our portfolio with the opening of two Meliá hotels in Saidia, Morocco, a Meliá lodge in the Serengeti, Tanzania and our market entry into the Maldives with the Gran Meliá Huravee.

100+ speakers confirmed Discover which critical topics will be tackled by a powerhouse line-up Visit today!

Abdullah Al Abdooli Managing Director Al Marjan Island

Robert Welanetz CEO, Majid Al Futtaim Properties & Acting CEO, Majid Al Futtaim Hotels

Chris Nasetta President & CEO Hilton Worldwide

Mustafa Al Hashimi Chief Executive Officer Hospitality & Leisure, wasl hospitality

Wolfgang M. Neumann President & CEO Rezidor Hotel Group

Alex Kyriakidis President & Managing Director, Middle East & Africa Marriott International

O r g a n i s e d by

P l at i n u m s P O n s O r s

Catalysts of Change

25-27 April 2017 Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai

Hotel Show Preview

Saudi Arabia sees surge in domestic tourism The hospitality industry in Saudi Arabia is thriving, with growth in domestic tourism, a boom in hotel construction in Riyadh, and Al Khobar emerging as a key player in terms of volume. Hotel News Middle East finds out more MÖvenpick Al Khobar


overnment-led investment is driving a surge in domestic tourism across Saudi Arabia, with experts predicting a 40% rise in the number of internal trips made between 2015 and 2020. The Euromonitor International Tourism Forecast report, prepared exclusively for The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia 2017, to take place from 4-6 April at Jeddah Centre for Forums and Events, has revealed record levels of domestic travel within the country. Following the announcement of Saudi Vision 2030 – the country’s plan to become the world’s leading Arab nation – vast initiatives have been launched aiming to encourage Saudis to explore all their country has to offer.


HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

This has led to an almost instant spike in the number of people travelling internally – and one forecasters now predict will see 40% more domestic vacations taken in 2020 than were made just five years earlier. Nikola Kosutic, research manager at Euromonitor International, said: “The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) is investing generously in boosting domestic tourism and launching a number of new initiatives. “Live Saudi Arabia, in collaboration with Saudi Airlines and Aramco, for example, encourages residents to visit historic locations, whilst Leave No Trace aims to raise awareness of the importance of preserving the natural beauty of the country.”

Other schemes aimed at boosting domestic tourism include The Colours of Saudi Arabia Forum, which organises various events and competitions related to photography. A tourism call centre is also now in place, providing intensive information about attractions and events across the country. “This is not to mention the famous Janadriyaha and Jeddah Ghair festivals, which are held annually and are attracting a growing number of visitors every year,” added Kosutic. It comes as no surprise that Riyadh is Saudi Arabia’s busiest city for hotel construction – with almost 50 hotel projects underway – and this is followed closely by Jeddah Across the country, the exclusive in-

Hotel show preview

dustry report reveals that 170 hotels and 60,395 rooms are currently in various stages of the construction pipeline. Hilton Worldwide is noted as one of the top hotel operators in the country, with Hilton Riyadh Hotel & Residences one of three new hotels the brand will bring to the kingdom in 2017. Kamel Ajami, vice president operations KSA at Hilton, said: “Our presence in Saudi Arabia goes back over 20 years. We have ambitious plans for expansion with up to 29 hotels in the pipeline and by the end of 2018 I expect to oversee double the number of hotels than I do at present.” Ajami attributes Hilton’s success in the market to providing guests with “variety” and “smart luxury”. He continued: “Each of our properties has its own distinct features and identity, which enables us to meet a variety of customer needs and outperform the market. “As a company we have invested heavily in digital innovation. Each of our hotels in Saudi Arabia is enabled with digital check-in and the ability to choose your preferred room via our Hilton Honors app. “This feature has been commonplace in the airline world for some time but we are pioneering it in our own industry. Ultimately, we are working towards providing guests with the ability to use their smartphones as their physical room keys, which is again an industry first.” Riyadh and Jeddah aren’t the only areas of Saudi Arabia experiencing a boom, however. Al Khobar has emerged as the third top area for hotel development in Saudi Arabia this year, according to a new report. With 20 hotel projects underway, the city has overtaken long-term hub for religious tourism Makkah (19 projects) – and now follows closely behind Jeddah (44 projects) and Riyadh (48 projects). Hospitality experts in the region are attributing the surge in hotel development in Al Khobar – part of the third largest metropolitan area in the kingdom – to the industry-recognised potential of secondary cities outside of Saudi Arabia’s key visitor destinations. Filippo Sona, head of hotels – MENA

Fairmont Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel, Saudi Arabia

at Colliers International, said: “Outside the kingdom’s major cities including Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah, there are around 22 smaller cities with huge potential for hospitality development of any kind. “Al Khobar benefits from its location, with a steady stream of business travellers due to its port. A seaside location with beach resorts and directly on the border to Bahrain, it also welcomes savvy Bahraini tourists looking to explore what Saudi Arabia has to offer.” He highlighted Jubail, a key industrial city, and Al-Hasa, a green area well-connected with Qatar and popular

with domestic tourists, as important emerging destinations. Sona commented: “Major hotel brands including Novotel, Park Inn and InterContinental are already placing these destinations on the global map. Occupancy rates are historically high across the country. “Tourism figures are on the increase and its some 27 million residents are travelling more than ever before. With 175,000 rooms in the market at present and several more hotels under construction, there is the potential to more than double the number of rooms through the opportunities presented through these secondary cities.” April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


Event Preview

Hotec Middle East 2017 Hotel News previews the annual appointment-based hosted buyer event, which will be held for the first time in Baku, Azerbaijan on 25-28 April 2017

The 14th edition of Hotec Middle East will be held at the Fairmont Baku Flame Towers in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 25-28 April. An appointment-based hosted buyer event, Hotec runs for three days and includes one-to-one meeting sessions between buyers and suppliers within a programme of networking activities. At Hotec Middle East, international suppliers have the opportunity to meet and talk business with some of the key hotel industry decision makers sourcing new and innovative products for their existing hotel opera66

HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

tions and new projects in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain and surrounding destinations. Different venues throughout the region are selected to host Hotec each year and Azerbaijan’s position on the border of the region and Baku’s location overlooking the Caspian Sea adds a new dimension to this edition of Hotec Middle East. The event will kick off with a welcome dinner and the following morning, attending delegates are invited to a brief educational seminar, which

includes a keynote presentation about the state of the hotel industry in the Middle East and a panel discussion. After this, suppliers will take their places at their tables in the main meeting hall for the first of two full-day sessions of scheduled appointments with attending buyers. Once meetings are over, a networking evening with dinner is planned off-site, giving delegates the opportunity to take in some of the sights of Baku. Following the second full day of meetings on Thursday, participants will enjoy some free time before get-

Event preview

ting together for the evening’s farewell reception and dinner. More than a 100 delegates are expected to participate in Hotec Middle East 2017. Over 20 product categories will be represented by suppliers from all corners of the globe, eager to spend quality time with the attending hotel owners and operators, designers and specifiers, and procurement companies. Visit or contact Stephen Pace-Bonello on ( for further information. April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME



Chilling tales In this month’s product news we take a look at the latest innovations in minibars

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Peltier Thermoelectric Minibar

The Minibar DM50NTE is the latest product from Dometic and the company is banking on the noiseless 50 litre class mini bar being a huge hit. What makes it unique, says Mohammed Muwafi, regional sales manager, is the fact it is not only noiseless but that it “sets new standards in efficiency and design”. “DM20 and DM50 are the world’s first noiseless 20 litres and 50 litres class drawer mini bars with an A++ energy rating,” he said. “DM50 is an award-winning design featuring an automatic slide-out tray for snacks and mini bottles as well as an adjustable spacious drawer for bottles and cans.” He added that Dometic’s drawer-style minibars are popular because of their unique design, great cooling performance, accessibility to guests and benefit to the hotel by being energyefficient. Both the DM50 and DM20 units work on a thermo-electric cooling system.

Hartmann Tresore Middle East is adamant that hotels will reap the benefits of the Peltier Thermoelectric Minibar. “ These Peltier technology minibars are energy efficient, silent and vibrationfree,” said Reiner Kaltenbach, Hartmann Tresore Middle East managing director. “These minibars have very low power consumption for as much as 96 kWh/p.a. Hartmann minibars are environmentally friendly and available in various sizes. “To make our clients feel more confident with our products, we are extending our standard warranty from one year to three years.” Reiner has also urged people to “watch this space” as Hartmann Tresore Middle East is lining up a number of deals with well-known brands within the region.



The latest Minibar launched by Onity is the Solution10+ model, which comes in a variety of sizes and options including a lock and wheels. In addition, Onity also offers the Solution model, which features a glass door option. “Onity minibars are backed by the leading provider of solutions for the hospitality market, with products in around 5 million rooms and 30,000 hotels throughout the world,” said Leire Iriberri, Onity Europe, Middle East, Africa marketing manager. “They ensure a totally silent operation thanks to their absorption technology cooling system. They have a very low energy consumption and feature thermal isolation through cyclopenthane. “It is well known that minibars have the advantage of generating incremental revenue for the hotel whilst providing a service to the guest. “Onity minibars integrate easily into any type of furniture, as long as the appropriate ventilation space is allowed.”

The Polarbar minibar is a product that’s built with the emphasis very much on the environment. “We have also created our minibars with the environment in mind, making them environmentally superior through the use of Cyclopentane in the insulation manufacturing process, so that the minibars are CFC/HCFC free, as well as with low energy consumption from the product itself,” said Manat Narang, Assa Abloy vice president MENA. “This makes it a great choice for hotels looking to implement eco-friendlier products as well as cut down on energy costs without sacrificing quality or product flexibility.” The Polarbar minibar comes in three different formats – glass, aluminium glass and standard. “We will continue our dedication to innovation, and create more technologically advanced products and solutions for our existing and future customers,” said Narang.

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Contact: W: E:


HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017


Avoiding the race to the bottom John Gavigan, managing director of Arpal Gulf talks about the importance of avoiding the temptation of cutting corners when it comes to laundry solutions The commercial and on-premise laundry (OPL) sectors in the UAE are quickly growing with some estimates saying there will be market growth of 20 per cent per annum. There’s no doubt the Middle East has the potential to emerge as one of the leading commercial cleaning industries across the world in terms of quality, innovation and environmental responsibility. If it meets its potential it should deliver major benefits to customers in terms of enhanced efficiency, reduced costs and access to the latest, most innovative laundry technology. But if this is going to happen the industry needs to put in place quality standards and regulations to put it on a par with the very best in international practices.

The commercial laundry sector across the Middle East, with the exception of hospital linen in some countries, doesn’t operate with many quality control standards. In a highly competitive, fragmented and sometimes cut-throat market, this is a high risk approach to follow. When there is no agreed standard practice in place and no real requirements for linen bug tests, it creates a clear risk to the end consumer and laundry employee. There is always the risk that soiled textile articles will create a source of pathogenic microorganisms. But it goes without saying that if hygienic storage and handling procedures are followed, the risk of disease transmission and cross-contamination between clean and soiled articles is vastly reduced. How-

ever this cannot be guaranteed when no standards are in place. For commercial laundry operators, neglecting to take every precaution in a highly fragmented and competitive marketplace is nothing less than a race to the bottom- it is essentially a vicious circle of overly aggressive price competition that is often at the expense of quality. This does not make sense to us as suppliers who are totally committed to delivering the highest quality standards to all of our customers. It dramatically increases potential risks to the wider public as well as employees. Laundry chemicals account for almost 5% of total laundry costs, it has to be asked: why take a risk on quality?

Hotel Division PO Box 26073, Dubai, United Arab Emirates Tel: +971 4 8841160, Fax: +971 4 8841164 Web:


Pure prestige in a timeless, noble design. This is the style of AIGNER cosmetics. Beautifully designed, subtle yet glamorous, simply irresistible. Two Unisex Ranges launched exclusively for luxury hotels, supplied throughout the Middle East, Aigner Evolution & Etienne Aigner. For more information please contact our Sales Team on +971 4 884 1160 or email

April 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME


Top 10

On the spot

Assistant PR and Marketing Manager at Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek Nikol Fomina What's the best thing about your job? The best thing about my job is the people I encounter on a daily basis. It is the family factor that plays the most important role in actually wanting to go to work every day. The freedom to think outside the box and share ideas with them is key, and to get those ideas through to people you need to be close to them.

What attracted you to this role? As clichéd as it may sound, the role chose me. However, if it hadn’t, I would have tracked it down and picked it for the very same reason – and that’s because of the people and the ability to work on interesting campaigns.

What do you do when you're not working? When I am not working I like going to restaurants with my friends, or hang out in other properties, all the while being extremely picky about their marketing content – not in a bad way of course!

What's the best advice you've ever received in the workplace? The best advice I’ve ever received was probably, “find something interesting and make it your own”. We live in a world where everything is all over the place, the ideas, the buildings, the trends…and even

people. It is very hard to focus on one thing. If we took more time to focus on one thing at a time and make it 100% awesome, everything would be awesome in time.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years I would like to reach a director role, where I could grow people and have someone enjoy their job as much as I do. I probably don’t see myself out of Dubai in five years on a permanent basis.

If you could stay in any hotel in the world right now, where would you go? I would go to Huka Lodge in New Zealand. Primarily because I’ve never been to New Zealand and also because it looks so homely, not like the super fancy hotels in Dubai.

Can you tell us why you wanted to join this industry? I wanted to join the industry because I find marketing material very interesting, you can always find me staring at someone’s menu design and content wise, thinking of ways to make it more interesting. PR is another world, so it’s interesting to work in another world without leaving this planet.

What would you say to someone starting out in your sector? Enjoy every day and grasp as much information as you can. Your day doesn’t stop and there are way too many interesting things you would hate to miss.

What's the worst thing about your job? The weekend!

BIN EID EXECUTIVE SEARCH & SELECTION (Specialised in 5* Hotel Sector) TWENTY (20) Years of Celebration *** TWENTY YEARS*** in Talent Sourcing in Hospitality segment BIN EID Executive Search is celebrating 20 years of existence. We thank our clients, candidates, well-wishers who directly and indirectly helped us in our wonderful & blissful journey. We also thank the Almighty, Bin Eid team members, ex-employees, associates and numerous unseen souls who supported us to navigate in our venture. We have touched and transformed thousands of individuals in our 20 years of spectacular journey. Thank you for the trust and confidence placed on us.

Our clients are currently recruiting for the following roles: VP-Operations-Asia, GM-hotels-UAE and Saudi Arabia, Corporate DOSM, DOSM, Sales Managers, Corporate Chief Engineer, CFO Please visit: to view the current jobs.


HOTEL NEWS ME April 2017

Hotel News ME - April 2017  
Hotel News ME - April 2017