TALKING THE WALK
How La Ville is bringing something new to City Walk
Hotel News sets the agenda for the GM Leaders 2017
MARCH 2017 | WWW.HOTELNEWSME.COM
How hotels are embracing robotics and artificial intelligence
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10 | NEWS A round-up of regional and global news 16 | NEW OPENINGS Somewhere Hotel opens in Dubai; dusitD2 in Barsha Heights; Smartotels launches Form 22 | COVER STORY RISE OF THE ROBOTS: How the hotel industry is embracing robotics and artificial intelligence 28 | MARKET UPDATE A look at how qatar is gearing up ahead of world cup 2022
22 10 News
32 | GM INTERVIEW Hotel News Middle East catches up with Omar Souab at Fairmont Fujairah Beach Resort
16 New openings
28 Market Update
32 GM Interview
March 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME
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40 | NEW OPENING We take a peek at La Ville in Dubai’s City Walk 44 | CHAIN FOCUS Wyndham Hotel Group is under the spotlight as we profile the company 46 | GM LEADERS CONFERENCE A selection of the region’s leading general managers take part in a roundtable event to discuss the agenda for next month’s GM Leaders Conference 54 | MARKETPLACE A round-up of what’s hot in the world of bathroom products
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Transforming hotels This month we look at how the industry is embracing robotics and artificial intelligence to improve the guest experience
patrick ryan Editor
@ThatPaddyRyan Follow us on our social media pages @hotelnewsme /hotelnewsme hotelnewsme
HOTEL NEWS ME March 2017
an you do without the personal touch in the hospitality industry? That’s the question at the heart of our cover feature this month as we take a look at how the hotel industry is embracing robotics and artificial intelligence. It was a fun feature to research and write and it certainly opened my eyes as to how the industry is adopting change in ways that might not instantly spring to mind. When we think of robots in the workplace it’s easy to fall into the trap of imagining thousands of people being made unemployed to make way for supposedly cheaper and more efficient machines. That’s not the case in the hotel industry though as Hotel News Middle East got to hear firsthand how robotics and artificial intelligence is being used to make the guest experience more enjoyable, without being intrusive. Far from cyborgs running up and down hotel corridors, robotics and artificial intelligence is primarily being embraced to enhance the back of house operations for hotels. What is clear is that these are exciting times to be at the heart of hotels and that was emphasised at the roundtable debate that took place to launch our GM Leaders Conference next month. Some of the biggest names in the region took
part in the discussion about the burning issues facing the industry right now. There’s little doubt that Qatar is very much in the public eye these days, not least with the World Cup 2022 on the horizon, so there is no better time to take a look at how plans are afoot to transform the country into the leisure capital of the Gulf. We take a spin to Fujairah this issue, to catch up with the general manager of the Fairmont Fujairah Beach Resort to hear about his ambitious plans to create the leading destination in the emirate. City Walk has proved to be a hit with the public since it opened in Dubai last year. One thing was missing though, the popular destination was minus a hotel. That’s not the case anymore though thanks to the opening of La Ville, the boutique hotel that Marriott is confident will capture the public’s imagination. We also catch up with Alison Grinnell, the CEO of RAK Hospitality Holding, to hear about her plans to further reinvigorate an already thriving destination. Regards, Patrick Ryan
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Leaders In Hospitality Awards 2017
This year’s Leader In Hospitality Awards have been confirmed to take place on Wednesday, 17 May at The St. Regis Dubai. This will be the second year that Hotel News Middle East has hosted the event that celebrates the very best in the region’s hospitality scene. BNC Publishing CEO Wissam Younane said: "After hosting a very successful first edition of the Leaders in Hospitality Awards in 2016, we at Hotel News Middle East and BNC Publishing are really 10
HOTEL NEWS ME March 2017
looking forward to bringing together the best of the region’s hospitality industry for this event again this year. “The past few months have been, no doubt, a challenging one for hoteliers, but these circumstances have also caused the industry at large to become agile and imaginative in terms of bolstering their business, and that’s why the sector remains a robust, vibrant and exciting one. “With the 2017 Leaders in Hospitality Awards, we seek to
recognise these innovative players of the Middle East’s hospitality industry, and celebrate the region’s best concepts, properties and talent in this space.” There will be a host of awards celebrating the absolute best the region’s hotels have to offer, including Leading GM, which will highlight an outstanding hotel general manager. Also up for grabs will the Best New Hotel award which will be keenly contested by hotels that opened on or after January 2016.
The Rising Star award is another category set to attract a high calibre of nominee. It is open to anyone working in the Middle East's hotel industry aged 30 or under. Keep an eye on our website for a full list of categories or email email@example.com for further details. If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities, contact Diarmuid O’Malley: dom@ bncpublishing.net We look forward to seeing you on 17 May!
Chef Middle East demonstrates excellence
Paul Gayler MBE pictured with chef Georges Chinane
The next generation of chefs were treated to a live demonstration from internationally renowned chef Paul Gayler. The MBE award winner was performing at a demonstration day to launch Chef Middle East’s newly opened state-ofthe-art facility in Dubai Investment Park (DIP). Gayler spoke to Hotel News Middle East about the importance of the event. “I'm working with Chef Middle East through Braehead Foods and Made In Scotland.
The demonstrations showed it is not just about knocking back product it’s about educating,” he said. “People are travelling the world, but just because they come to Dubai doesn’t mean they want to necessarily eat Middle Eastern food. They still want to be eating European style food. That’s why the hotels here are grabbing onto those great chefs.” Chef Middle East CEO Steve Pyle said: “We’ve just moved into our new HQ at
DIP. It’s a 10,000m2 state-of the art facility. “It gives us a platform and the headroom as a business to grow. The other investment we have made is in people. Here in the UAE we have about 28 salespeople, all with a track record in food and hospitality. “We want to engage with our customers and imbue them with our products.” The event was a pre-cursor to Chef Middle East’s Vendor Show, which took place at the
Media Rotana on 21 February. The event offered a platform for chefs, bar managers, pastry chefs and purchasing managers to network and find out more about Chef Middle East’s range of products and brands. There were vendors from Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Italy and Spain in attendance, showcasing a range of products including seafood, meat, pastries, beverages and chocolates among others.
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AHIC on the agenda AT BAHRAIN BRIEFING The importance of government support for tourism as key to a strong and resilient hospitality industry was high on the agenda at a briefing in Bahrain ahead of this year’s Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC). The briefing in Manama brought together hoteliers, hospitality investors, owners and tourism officials to discuss the burning issues facing the industry ahead of AHIC which is taking place in Dubai from 25 to 27 April 2017 at Madinat Jumeirah. CEO of The Cohen International Group, Hyder Cohen said: “It was valuable to hear in the AHIC briefing that Bahrain understands these challenges and has concrete plans on developing a comprehensive tourism ecosystem
which will enable the kingdom to offer a diverse and cohesive product. “Creating bespoke products coupled with technologically enabled experiences will act as a key differentiator and will provide regional countries a unique selling proposition of their tourism product." AHIC 2017 will bring together more than 700 hotel owners, investors, developers, operators, consultants and
experts from professional services to debate the hospitality investment climate against a backdrop of global catalysts for change and the macroeconomic environment. GCC and global partners, Sabre commercial director Fredrick Bonnalt said: “It’s clear to me that Bahrain has a clear and determined tourism strategy for the next five to 10 years. “It’s very refreshing to listen to the vision, knowing that the government is standing behind this strategy to make Bahrain a top leisure and corporate destination. “These are difficult times from a geopolitical, as well as a financial viewpoint and to diversify the country’s economy will be vital; there is no doubt in my mind that Bahrain is implementing this strategy.”
Hospitality Technology Forum 2017 launched The inaugural Hotel News Middle East Hospitality Technology Forum is taking place at the W Dubai Al Habtoor City on Wednesday, 19 April. The inaugural forum will provide a platform for IT, security, e-commerce and engineering professionals to discuss and debate the major technological challenges, opportunities and trends facing the hotel industry in 2017 and beyond. Exploring the latest solutions for streamlining the guest experience and enhancing the efficiency of back-ofhouse and front-of-house operations, the forum will offer attendees the opportunity to take part in workshops, hear from the experts, and meet with the region’s leading solutions providers and thought leaders in hotel technology. Contact email@example.com for more information. 12
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Hospitality Technology Forum Media inforMation
April 19, 2017 W Dubai Al Habtoor City
High staff turnover concerns in Dubai hotels
The high level of staff turnover is becoming an increasing worry for Dubai hoteliers. Figures released by hotel asset management specialist TFG Asset Management revealed the financial impact of high staff turnover on the hotel industry in Dubai. TFG’s study, entitled 'The Impact of Staff Turnover on a Hotel’s Income Statement', surveyed industry stakeholders, including global hotel management firms with a significant presence in Dubai. It revealed that a 30% turnover rate could potentially reduce a hotel operator’s gross operating profit (GOP) by AED6 million ($1.63 million) per annum. TFG head of asset management Mariano Faz said:“The challenge facing Dubai-based hoteliers to retain their best staff can be immense in the face of increasing competition from new operators entering the market and the expansion plans of existing rivals. “In a market with such vast opportunities, job seekers have considerable options, making it challenging for hoteliers to attract and
retain the best talent.” He added that with the influx of new supply and increased competition for experienced staff, the issue of high staff turnover has become an increasing concern for Dubai’s hoteliers. According to the research, some of the likely factors can range from a lack of faith in management, poor relationships with colleagues, and a lack of career development opportunities. It was found that entry-level staff were also more likely to switch jobs more regularly than middle and senior-management employees. “Given the fierce competition for staff, hoteliers will often rush an appointment without considering that person’s real-world qualifications for the role,” he said. “A better approach is to consider a potential candidate based not only on their experience, but their attitude and willingness to embrace the corporate culture and their perceived long-term ambition to develop their career with the operator.”
Mﬁﬁﬁﬁ Mﬁddﬁﬁ ﬁﬁst FZﬁ ﬁnd ﬁfrﬁﬁﬁ ﬁ Gﬁﬁd & ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁnd ﬁﬁrﬁ ﬁ Shﬁ Zﬁyﬁd Rdﬁﬁ ﬁﬁﬁﬁdﬁng ﬁﬁ ﬁfﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ
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Experiential tourism to generate billions
Global Restaurant Investment Forum partners with AccorHotels
Amir Nahai, CEO food & beverage, AccorHotels
The organisers of Arabian Travel Market (ATM), have predicted experiential tourism will generate AED236 billion by 2026. Travellers, more than ever before, have an array of choices available to them and are looking away from the more traditional beach and sight-seeing holidays. Some are soaking up culture and custom, while others, especially regional visitors more familiar with Arabic culture, are clearly opting for thrill-seeking adventures and experiences,” said Simon Press, senior exhibition director, referring to a report issued by Colliers International, called The UAE Hospitality Market “That message is coming through loud and clear from many of the travel professionals attending Arabian Travel Market this year.” The report said that hotel supply in Dubai has increased by 6,700 keys in 2016. It also said that occupancy rates are up to 78%, with the average length of stay remaining close to the same level as 2015 at 3.6 nights. The report reads: “It is expected that the length of stay will further grow as the city increases its theme parks and entertainment offerings. A greater family appeal is expected to drive overall spending as well.” ATM takes place from 24-27 April at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
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The Global Restaurant Investment Forum 2017 (GRIF), an annual networking and intelligence event for the international restaurant and hospitality community powered by Michelin, has partnered with AccorHotels for its fourth edition. GRIF, which will be held from 10-12 April 2017 at Fairmont The Palm in Dubai, will provide a macroeconomic overview of the F&B industry. Jennifer Pettinger-Haines, managing director, Middle East, Bench Events, organiser of GRIF, said: “GRIF facilitates investment decision-making within the restaurant space and showcases the hottest concepts from around the globe. When selecting our partners, we are committed to supporting companies looking to make a real impact in the industry. AccorHotels is making bold steps to revolutionise its F&B and we are excited to witness the unveiling of new concepts from the hotelier at GRIF.” It will tackle issues such as concept development, finance and lending, investment feasibility, scaling up for sustainable growth, creating a food culture and catering to the digitallyfocused customer. The event brings together more than 300 industry professionals for interactive culinary tours, networking receptions, a franchise masterclass and a conference programme, which explores investing in the restaurant and food service industry. Dedicated to sharing best practice and insights, the line-up of speakers for the 2017 edition of GRIF includes Amir Nahai, CEO food & beverage, AccorHotels, who will be interviewed live on stage about the international
hotelier’s F&B strategy on 11 April. Speaking ahead of the event, Nahai said: “Rethinking and redefining our food and beverage offer is a critical element of AccorHotels’ transformation and we are committed to demonstrating that hotels can be market-leaders in the restaurant business. With close to 8000 restaurants around the world, our goal is to position our F&B offer as a truly differentiating factor for our guests, our partners and our employees. “Our focus is on ensuring food and beverage is more localised and less commoditised,” continued Nahai. “It is about creating concepts tailored to each marketplace in which we operate and developing home-grown F&B. The question we ask ourselves about every concept is, ‘does it matter to our guests?’” The topic of restaurant conceptualisation will be an important one at GRIF 2017, where panel sessions include: What’s Hot in the Restaurant World; Creating a Food Culture; Demystifying Restaurant Development; Hotel F&B; Smart Design; and The Blueprint to Developing a Successful Concept. Nahai added: “Our merger with FRHI Hotels & Resorts has certainly accelerated our focus on F&B and provided additional know-how, talent and systems in this specialism. It’s therefore very exciting to host GRIF at Fairmont The Palm, a hotel for which we are currently creating a very exciting new restaurant, bar and beach club concept.” He concluded: “GRIF is one of the leading international restaurant investment conferences in the region and at AccorHotels, we are committed to furthering the development of the industry globally to meet the needs of today’s diner.” In addition to the high-level agenda, GRIF 2017 will present the second edition of the Global Restaurant Awards, which give recognition to the businesses behind the world’s leading restaurants and brands. To find out more, visit www.restaurant-invest. com and www.global-restaurant-awards.com
ADNH posts profits Of AED244mn Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH) PJSC has posted net profits of AED244 million for 2016, an increase of 3% on the previous year. As a result of these figures the company will now pay out a dividend for the sum of AED100 million, which is the equivalent of 10% of the nominal value of the issued share capital. The company’s net profits for 2016 amounted to AED244 million, up from the AED237 million that was posted in 2015. An ADNH spokesperson said: “The 2016 results were achieved in a very challenging market while the city continues to experience growth
GO FIGURE In January 2017, hotels in the Middle East region reported a
2.7% occupancy decrease to
Khalid Anib, ADNH chief executive officer
in supply of hotel rooms, expressing its commitment to delivering excellent guest experience throughout its hotels and across all sectors, while growing the shareholders returns.” ADNH’s hotel division alone posted AED844 million in total revenue and
AED76 million in net profit during 2016. The retail division generated a total revenue of AED196 million and recorded net profit of AED79 million. The transport division posted a figure of AED294 million in total revenue and AED35 million in net profit.
Travel and tourism To boost Saudi GDP by $81bn Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism sector is projected to contribute more than $81 billion to the GDP of the country by 2026. That is according to figures that have been released by the World Travel and Tourism Council as it gears up for this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) which revealed there are an additional 61,224 hotel rooms in the pipeline across Saudi Arabia. Senior exhibition director ATM 2017 Simon Press said: “Plans are already well underway to achieve this target. The government has appointed the board of the General Entertainment Authority, and Six Flags has revealed exciting plans to expand into the country, with the first entertainment park scheduled to open as soon as 2020-21.”
68.4%, an 8.4% ADR decline to
$177.81 and an 11% RevPAR drop to
$121.62 Press said that Saudi exhibitors will have a strong presence at this year’s ATM with a number of high profile projects in the spotlight. These include the opening of two major shopping malls in Riyadh: Mall of Saudi, with 300,000m2 of retail and entertainment space, a snow park and hotels, and The Avenues Riyadh, a $1.9bn shopping complex. Kingdom Tower, which is projected to become the world’s tallest building when completed, is another project
that is expected to be a major talking point at the event. Despite a drop of 4.8% in occupancy rates in Saudi Arabia in 2016, according to STR, Press says he expects 2017 to be more positive. He pointed to a particularly strong focus on leisure, religious and domestic tourism as the country looks to increase the contribution from the non-oil sectors. ATM takes place from 2427 April at Dubai International Exhibition and Convention Centre.
UAE January performance Occupancy: +0.5% to
81.1% ADR: -8.0% to
AED711.80 RevPAR: -7.5% to
AED577.09 March 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME
Somewhere Hotel opens in Dubai
Somewhere Hotels has opened the doors to its new 301-room hotel in Dubai’s Barsha Heights. Somewhere Hotels corporate office general manager, Abdullatif Kabbara said: “Following the global success of Somewhere Hotels, we are very proud of our continued growth, with our second property in UAE located at the heart of Dubai’s residential and business area. “As a mid-market runner in the Dubai hospitality sector, we offer consistently great value and a high-quality experience that both solo travellers, couples, business men and women love and return back to time and time again. “In essence, through reliable and affordable offering, our mission is to satisfy our visitors’ needs during the time they spend at the hotel.” The location of the newly established hotel provides the guests with easy access to public transportation. In close proximity, guests can take the city’s metro and tram to Marina Walk, Jumeirah Beach Walk and Mall of the Emirates. The hotel includes a dining area where guests can choose between a variety of dishes. The venue also features a conference room equipped with the latest devices for business meetings and gatherings. The brand is currently operating in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Greece.
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Rotana opens first hotel in Africa Rotana has opened its first hotel in Africa with the Kin Plaza Arjaan in Kinshasa,the Democratic Republic of Congo. The luxury five-star hotel has 101 rooms, studios and suites as well as three food and beverage outlets. Rotana president and CEO Omer Kaddouri said: “Rotana has been increasingly looking to markets in Africa to drive business growth and expansion, and today we mark a major milestone in our efforts to extend our geographical presence in the continent. “The opening of Kin Plaza Arjaan by Rotana marks a significant step in the further development of Kinshasa’s hospitality industry, and will enhance the city’s positioning and credentials as a destination that offers comfortable accommodation to visitors. The five-star hotel will bring a new standard of refinement and guest comfort to Congo’s fast-growing hospitality sector.”
He added that Rotana’s entry into the Democratic Republic of Congo will open up significant employment opportunities for Congolese nationals in the hospitality industry. Rotana currently has a number of projects under various stages of development across Africa including Marrakesh, Luanda, Nouakchott, Dar es Salaam and Lagos. It has also announced plans to open 17 new hotels by 2018 including seven in the UAE, four in Saudi Arabia, two properties each in Oman, Turkey and Iraq.
dusitD2 opens in Dubai's Barsha Heights The 237-key dusitD2 has opened in Barsha Heights. The hotel has a focus on art throughout the property with a tailored collaboration of exclusive pieces from Emirati artist Zeinab Al Hashemi. Alya Al Noaimi innovation advisor and creative director for the hotel said: “I have always had an interest in how art and creativity can influence the fabric and flow of a building and our holistic approach is borne from my own experience of continually living at a crossroads of culture and ideas. “We actually have more pieces of art in the hotel than rooms and I am so proud to have worked with Zeinab on this project who is such a strong, inspiring Emirati woman.” Al Noaimi said that every element in the hotel has been designed to provide a warmth and familiarity. She added that the hotel has wellbeing at the core of its values, to encourage a healthy living lifestyle for its residents.
Smartotels launches flagship Form brand in Dubai Smartotels has announced its technology driven flagship brand called Form will be based in Dubai. The “disruptive upscale hotel brand” will be based in Dubai Creek at Al Jaddaf and will have 143 keys. Smartotels Hospitality International LLC’s founder and managing partner, Tarek M. Daouk (pictured), launching the project at the GIOHIS Summit in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, said: “By offering a core hospitality experience with the flexibility of add-on service and amenity features, Form Hotel will empower its guests to customise their journey. “The hotel will benefit from an operating model that is engineered to drive strong returns to investors through an increased ability to control
operating expenses by compressing fixed costs and exploiting variable costs.” He added that the new brand will “provide guests with everything they value and nothing they don’t”. Daouk added that it is essential to provide customers with a service that’s based on their consumer behaviour rather than using such terms as millenilals or belonging to Generation X, Y or Z. At Form, he said, the focus will be on the hyper-connected, hybrid consumers and bargain hunters.
New Rove Hotel opens in Dubai
A new 286-room hotel has opened in Dubai Healthcare City. The new property, Rove Healthcare City, is the third property that has opened under the Rove Hotels banner – the result of a partnership between the Emaar Hospitality Group and Meraas. Chris Newman, chief operating officer of Emaar Hospitality Group, said: “Rove Healthcare City is a unique property that caters to the needs of the business community and visitors to the Dubai Healthcare City and the surrounding neighbourhoods. “The location has a unique dynamic, being home to hospitals, schools, social
and cultural clubs, family parks and malls. Tucked away from the bustle of the city yet in a central location, the area demanded a hotel that assures guests true value hospitality experiences. We deliver that with Rove Healthcare City.” He said the key selling point of the hotel was its location being only 10 minutes away from Dubai International Airport, Dubai World Trade Centre, Downtown Dubai and DIFC. The unique character of the location, according to Newman, makes Rove Healthcare City a destination of choice for tourists and for an evening out for local residents. The 286 rooms will be located over 11 floors, with 30% of the rooms interconnected for the convenience of families. This means that seven Rove Hotels have been announced with another three more to open by 2020, just in time for Expo 2020 Dubai.
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March 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME
Taking care of
In this month’s Talent section we speak to Zakaria Toumi, bar manager at Long’s, Towers Rotana about his journey from his native Morocco to Dubai, via Canada
akaria started his career in F&B as a waiter in his home country of Morroco. He then moved to Dubai in 2008 as a waiter in Al Bustan Rotana before moving up the ranks to head waiter. He moved to Amwaj Rotana as assistant manager of Rosso in November 2012, then became manager in less than a year. He then decided to move to Canada for a year, as an outlet manager in charge, until he realised that he couldn’t be anywhere else but in Dubai. He managed a pre-opening restaurant in Jumeirah Lakes Towers as assistant director of restaurants, before returning to Rotana, and to Long’s Bar at Towers Rotana in September 2016. Describe your first ever role in the F&B industry? I started as a waiter back in Morocco while studying in university. When I moved to Dubai in the year 2008, I started my F&B career as a waiter in the former Al Bustan Rotana. Being a waiter is a tough job but I think it’s the best entry level to this field because of the wealth of practical knowledge and insight it offers. As a waiter, I gained experience serving various types of restaurants, from an all-day to a fine dining one. I love the job because of my interaction with people. In fact, within three years of working for Al Bustan, I was promoted twice, from a waiter to a captain then head waiter. Who has inspired you most in your career? I’ve always looked up to Alban Daubenton, former director of F&B at Amwaj
HOTEL NEWS ME March 2017
Rotana. I really considered him a leader more than just my boss, in fact, he was the first person to tell me that “if you take care of your staff, your staff will take care of the business”. On a personal level, he also inspired me to look for a career, not just the money. How do you view the F&B scene in the region? The F&B industry in Dubai is very competitive and dynamic, with a number of new restaurants and concepts opening every month. With so many players in the field, restaurants are required to not only offer the best value for money, but also to remain the most talked about. I continue to witness the trends of the introduction of new menu items, promotions and entertainment. What is the biggest challenge of your role? Reputation management – in this digital age, customer feedback is instant and so
is an immediate response with action, which I also do see as an opportunity to always improve guest satisfaction and the offerings of the outlet. What's the best aspect of your role? I am a people person and that’s why I love the fact that I am interacting with people every single day. If you could work in any restaurant in the world, which would it be? An authentic French fine dining restaurant because it’s the crème de la crème of the art of fine dining service. What tip would you share with new staff starting out in the F&B industry in the region? Love the industry with a passion. It’s by far one of the most challenging but with the challenge comes a wealth of knowledge from all that people interaction.
GENERAL MANAGER APPOINTED AT ST REGIS DUBAI, AL HABTOOR POLO RESORT AND CLUB Andrew Henning has been appointed as general manager of The St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort and Club, ahead of the property’s opening later this year. The Northern Irish man will oversee the 151-key resort, which will be the first equestrian themed St. Regis resort in the world. Henning said: “Following the long-standing association with polo, the sport of kings, it is an honour to lead the team at the world’s first St. Regis Polo Resort. “This is an exciting project with a great team behind it, and we are confident that it will significantly contribute to Dubai’s dynamic
hospitality landscape. I look forward to the adventure ahead with a wonderful team.”
Henning has worked with Starwood since December 2003, having served as director of food and beverage at
the Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa in Edinburgh. Within seven months he was promoted to the position of executive manager, overseeing the hotel’s operational departments. Following his time in Edinburgh, Henning moved to London as executive assistant manager of The Park Lane Hotel with responsibility for all hotel operations for two years. In 2008 he took on his first general manager role in Albania at the Sheraton Tirana, before moving to The Westin Dublin where he served as general manager from 2009 until 2013. The new resort will have 96 guestrooms, 30 suites and 25 villas.
CAPITAL CENTRE ARJAAN BY ROTANA hires EXECUTIVE HOUSEKEEPER
regional director joins Meliá Middle East
Capital Centre Arjaan by Rotana has appointed Sailesh Nagavenkatha as its new executive housekeeper. Before this role, he was housekeeping manager at Hyatt Place Hotel, Dubai. “I am very excited to be given this opportunity to work with a well renowned brand like Rotana” he said. “I look forward to interacting with our long stay guests and playing my part in making their stay a home away from home.”
Meliá Hotels International has made a number of appointments to its Middle Eastern office. Nihad Kattan has been named as regional director of operations Middle East and Africa. He will oversee the operations across the brand’s Middle East hotels which includes Meliá Dubai, Meliá Doha and the upcoming ME Dubai and INNSIDE Doha properties in the GCC. Over the past five years Kattan has worked at Marriott International in Dubai, Marriott Hotels in Jordan,
The Indian national has 11 years of experience in the industry, having worked with internationally renowned brands.
Hilton Resort in Fujairah and Cairo Ramses Hilton & Casino in Egypt. More recently he worked in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as the general manager of Fairmont Riyadh Hotel. Ahmad Shaban-Fernandez will lead the sales and marketing division in the region. He has worked at properties such as Rotana in the UAE, Marriott International in Kuwait and Starwood Hotels and Resorts and InterContinental Hotel Group in Jordan.
Towers Rotana appoints GM
New GM for Movenpick Doha
Hossam Mansour has been appointed as the new general manager of Towers Rotana. Mansour joined Rotana Hotels in 2013 as executive assistant manager of Fujairah Rotana Resort and Spa, Al Aqah Beach. In his most recent role, Mansour was general manager of Villa Rotana, a four-star hotel located on Sheikh Zayed Road. Mansour said: “I’m delighted to embark on my second property as general manager and to return to Towers Rotana, an iconic hotel that is
Mövenpick Hotel Doha has appointed Sami Aawar as its new general manager. Aawar has over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry having previously been the task force general manager of Mövenpick Hotel Al Aziziyah and Mövenpick Hotel Doha in 2016. “My main goal is to target outstanding guest satisfaction and great relationships among team members,” said Aawar. “It is an extraordinary time to be based in Doha and there is a tangible
home to very well established food and beverage outlets, including the famed Teatro.” Prior to taking on this appointment, Mansour held the position of executive assistant manager at Towers Rotana.
feel of excitement in the air with future events like the Football World Cup to plan for and look forward to.” February 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME
Get Strategic With Hotel Revenue or Get Left Behind Michael McCartan, managing director, EMEA, Duetto, takes us through the principles of revenue strategy, including segmentation, forecasting, Open Pricing and distribution, and explains why Middle East hotels need to get strategic with pricing
he way people shop for hotel rooms has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Hotel revenue management teams need to adapt or get left behind. Revenue management practices that worked in the 1990s are no longer relevant to today’s market of online shoppers. In the Middle East, where destinations such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi have seen demand plateau, it is more important that ever to price right and maximise on every opportunity to convert a booking. With new inventory constantly hitting the market, RevPAR and ADR have stagnated. Now, hotels need to get strategic with their revenue management. They need to know their customers better, crunch the numbers to understand what worked (and what didn’t) in the past in order to build out a forecast, adopt an Open Pricing policy and determine which distribution channels prove the most profitable.
Segmentation The starting point of any revenue strategy – defining, developing and managing your segmentations – is crucial. These may be customer groups that behave similarly, or distribution channels that have similar costs. You may segment leisure customers, corporate guests, group bookings, DMC bookings and/or promotions. What is important is to define your segments in order to get better accountability of which lines of business are generating the most bookings or the highest revenue – the two may not be one and the same. Forecasting Hotel revenue strategists have to un20
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Open Pricing Gone are the days of a Best Available Rate (BAR) strategy that provides variations on rate for various segmentations. Adopting an Open Pricing strategy enables you to price each and every room with a unique price to maximise net revenue. The permutations are endless, as you can price room types, channels and dates independently, 365 days a year. This enables you to find the right price for the right room for the right customer at the right time. Get it right and your revenue will rise.
derstand that they are dealing in perishable goods. Their product – the room – has a shelf life of only one day. A demand forecast is the first step to creating a pricing strategy that will maximise on revenue and profitability. By forecasting future demand, revenue managers can build out a pricing strategy based on performance goals, such as occupancy, rate and revenue. It can help you maximise on revenue in high demand periods, but also help you map out a lower pricing strategy on days with lower demand. However, always remember that a forecast is a guide at best. Be honest about your forecasting, and remember, no one can accurately predict the future – not even hotel revenue managers.
Distribution Today’s guest will spend time searching for the best deal online; they may book, cancel and - in some instances - book again. Because of the rise in online travel agents (OTAs), the cost of distribution has seen a sharper increase than room revenues. It’s easy to see OTAs as the enemy – but that is far from the truth. They are a part of the marketing jigsaw now, and hoteliers need to budget, measure and analyse their sales and marketing activities with OTAs in mind. Once you’re up and running with a revenue strategy it doesn’t stop there. Look again at your segmentations and get more granular to identify new opportunities. Forecast not on an annual basis, but on a monthly, weekly or daily basis. Re-evaluate what distribution channels provide the best returns, maximise on brand.com opportunities and invest in your own property.com channel. And get brave with your Open Pricing policy. Fortune favours the brave, and that includes hotel revenue strategists.
GLOBAL RESTAURANT INVESTMENT FORUM
10-12 April 2017 Fairmont, The Palm, Dubai, ORGANISED BY
FACILITATING INVESTMENT DECISION-MAKING WITHIN THE RESTAURANT SPACE The Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF) facilitates investment decision-making within the restaurant space. TheÂ forum showcases the hottest restaurant concepts from around the globe and gives attendees a place of focus to connect with investors, owners, franchisors and senior hospitality professionals, assess the state of the hospitality industry and secure deals for the coming year. GRIF is proud to once again be powered by Michelin in 2017, enriching the event with its extensive network and world class chefs.
GRIF 2017 will again host a celebration of the brightest and best of the industry at the 2017 Global Restaurant Awards through partnership with The Caterer. The Global Restaurant Awards are an opportunity for the industry leaders to get together and celebrate those organisations that have shown innovation, vision and leadership in their businesses and concepts. Recognising the brands that have really engaged with their consumers through social media, technology, design or sustainability. GLOBAL RESTAURANT AWARDS IN ASSOCIATION WITH
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Rise of the
Robots Patrick Ryan reports on how the hospitality industry is incorporating robotics and artificial intelligence into hotel operations
Laundry services are one way in which we can see robotics being utilised by hotels
HOTEL NEWS ME March 2017
hen you imagine how the hotel industry is going to embrace robotics, it is easy to conjure up images of a hotel lobby whirring with the sounds of machines, from the robotic receptionist behind the counter to the machines zooming up and down the halls delivering room service. But just how realistic is that image and how far has the Middle East’s hotel industry gone to embrace technological change? Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG) chief operating officer David Sjolander says the most common misconception is differentiating between artificial intelligence (AI) and robots. “Some people would call it a robot in some instances, I am not sure I would,” he says. “Artificial intelligence is already synonymous with the personal assistance that we have on phones with the likes of Siri and Alexa. Hotels are already experimenting in these areas but it raises significant questions of security.” Since many voice assisted devices are always in listening mode, there is no good way to ensure data security. “Until these products are adapted I would be very cautious. I do think we will see a lot of advances in the coming years as people get used to using these types of devices and once they get used to them they will want to use them in their hotel rooms as well,” Sjolander adds. A similar technology is the online chat option for customer service, something that is becoming more and more common in hotels. “These are chatbots,” says Jeroen Wisse, AccorHotels IT director. “You think that someone is answering you but they’re not, it’s ‘something’ that is answering you. “You get more and more of these chat options using bots.” Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Waterfront and Radisson Blu Dubai Canal View, UAE cluster general manager David Allan says the key to using artificial intelligence for improving the guest experience is reasonably simple. “It’s simply a case of offering relevant suggestions for our guests on
Hotel Technology Next Generation chief operating officer, David Sjolander whatever their personal preferences may be,” he says. “From things to do, see, eat, and experience in the local area. It will help us create an environment which meets as many of their likes as possible in our
hotels and making their travel easier.” AccorHotels procurement director Shahbaz Tiavar says that if it will improve the guest experience then his company will absolutely take a look at robotics and measure the advantages against the cost. "We can’t have a new innovation that costs five times what we are spending today just for the sake of it,” he says. “We are definitely keen to try new machines but we are not sure it will work to be honest. Some customers might find it fantastic while others might prefer to have human interaction. This is the Middle East, a region where people expect to have a higher service than other regions and, by higher service, they often mean someone.” The front of house is where robotics have been most prominent to enhance the experience for guests arriving at a hotel. “So far robotics have been used at the front of house for the guest engage-
Guests could be getting room service brought to them in a different style
March 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME
Robots at your service A number of high profile groups are using robots. Starwood’s Aloft hotels which prides itself on innovation in its Silicon Valley location, is home to Botlr. Aloft was one of the first hotel brands in the world to employ a robot on its staff in both front and back of house. Botlr accepts Tweets instead of cash as tips, as he operates around the 172 rooms and five floors of Aloft Silicon Valley. Yotel in New York is home to Yobot a luggage storing robot that holds guests’ luggage in 150 bins behind a glass wall at the hotel’s entrance. Guests use a touchscreen to transport their luggage to a storage bin via a giant robotic arm. Hilton teamed up with IBM to create Connie the robot concierge who was named after the group’s founder Conrad Hilton. Connie is powered by Watson technology, a form of AI that allows computers to see the world humans do through sense, learning and experience. A hotel completely run by robots opened in Japan in 2015. The Henn-na Hotel in Sasebo has a front desk that is manned by a lifelike female robot in official hotel uniform and, rather bizarrely a Velociraptor dinosaur wearing a bow tie and bellhop hat. Facial recognition software is used to allow guests access to the rooms.
ment aspect, there is an element though of the hotel industry being worried that robots will take away from the human element,” says Sjolander. “It is very early days and we are just really witnessing the first attempts.” Wisse, AccorHotels, warns that people will not simply settle for any old gimmick. “Is it really something that makes the people feel more welcome? We are in the hospitality industry and need that personal interaction,” he says. “There are hotel companies that do certain things for the sake of it, this is something that our CEO talked about recently saying ‘it’s good to do something, but when you do it make sure you 24
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Aloft has made waves with Botlr
Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Waterfront and Radisson Blu Dubai Canal View, United Arab Emirates cluster general manager David Allan
don’t lose that touch with the guests’.” Allan, Radisson Blu, gives a straight answer when he’s quizzed if the industry has shown a reluctance to embrace artificial intelligence. “Yes, of course it has,” he says. “Couple that with hospitality generally being an industry that’s always more than a little behind the curve of implement-
ing technology as a rule, then AI will be some way off. “To be frank, I’ve yet to have a guest enquire about AI. There is definitely an appeal to some, more those of a technology-embracing perspective, and this shouldn’t be ignored. However, it is people and their personalities that still contribute to the best hotels in the world being at the top of their game.” He says the challenge is to balance the personal with the artificial which will involve a significant financial investment as well as time and input from staff and guests. It’s all very well having the ability to use robotics or artificial intelligence but you have to ask yourself where and when it’s appropriate. “The one thing a machine can never do without some sort of historical data is predict an outcome,” says AccorHotels’ Wisse. “That’s where us humans come in as emotion plays a part. We tend to make purely emotional decisions, based on instinct. A machine can tell you that you’ve got such and such an ailment and you will die within 24 hours, whereas a human can tell you more sensitively.” He gives an example of how a robot would deal with guests who were party-
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ing too loud and annoying other guests. “A robot would simply turn off the power to the music,” he says. “And even if it contacted the police, why would it be doing that? Because it’s still relying on humans to solve the problem.” It’s easy to watch science fiction films involving robots and get carried away about the possibilities, but Wisse reckons they serve a purpose. “Movies like ‘Artificial Intelligence’ slowly introduce us to the idea this is coming. Of course they make it scary and you think you have to be wary,” he says. “Yes it helps make people slowly but surely aware machines are going to come and you will have to talk to them but we’re already doing that.” Wisse talks about a recent conversation he had regarding the use of a new kind of robot. “We were asked here in the Middle East to try a new robot that can do room service without a human being involved,” he says. “The idea of the robot is that it will go by itself in the corridor, take the elevator alone, the robot can drive the elevator to where it wants to go, when it arrives at the room it rings the room to say ‘I’m here’. The guest opens the door then to the robot. It’s been used in the US and they asked us to use it in Dubai.” Radisson Blu’s Allan say it is more a case of the industry keeping an eye on robots and artificial intelligence rather than embracing them. “Our primary focus is our guests and providing meaningful moments and experiences to them and our team,” says Allan. One unlikely area where robots can make a difference to hospitality, says AccorHotels’ Tiavar is when a guest visits a hotel spa. “A lot of people go and don’t actually know what treatment their body needs,” he says. “A robot can scan your body and tell you exactly what you need. It could say ‘you have a pain here or a pain there’. Then the therapist can adapt the treatment for you. “There are a lot of areas that have not 26
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Shahbaz Tiavar, AccorHotels procurement Director, and Jeroen Wisse, AccorHotels IT director been explored and we are only at the beginning of it.” While AI and robotics have been used mostly in front of house to date, it’s at the back of the house where there is more scope for its adoption, according to Sjolander, HTNG. “Going forward you’re going to see more and more things like a robotic dish washing system,” he says. It’s a belief that’s shared by AccorHotels’ Tiavar. “We are looking for more productiv-
ity, people are looking for new ways of cleaning and optimising time,” he says. “In housekeeping we see a lot of improvement, many new companies are coming into the cleaning industry bringing automation and artificial intelligence. Definitely artificial intelligence will help create better efficiency for sure. It’s not the only area we see artificial intelligence coming but it will be the next.” Wisse says that swimming pools are another area where artificial intelligence
Connie has proved to be a hit for Hilton
is being used. “Like that automatic vacuum cleaner that has sensors, you have the same thing for swimming pools now,” he says. “There are great opportunities and more valid opportunities at the back of the house. Look at procurement, storing, finances and you could use the time saved for the qualified staff to have much more quality interaction with the guests.” Sjolander, HTNG, said that while the full implementation of robots in the industry is inevitable, the question that remains is, 'where?'. “I think there is the demand for a robot-run hotel but it may not be that strong in the Middle East,” he says. “It could work though for hotels that only want to have one or two staff in the building and don’t want to leave the front desk in the middle of the night. While it may not be the case with every hotel, I can certainly see some demand for that.” So what exactly does the future hold for robots within the hotel industry? Allan, Radisson Blu, isn’t convinced about how far robots will be integrated into the industry and can’t see a time when his company will have a hotel fully staffed by robots. “For our company, no, it’ll never happen,” he says. “Whilst I can wholly see that attraction and novelty of the idea to some, hotels remain a very personal choice for most. We as humans, are naturally attracted to each other and being in or around each other’s company. Until they design a robot that can smile and lift someone’s mood instantly, I think we’re safe.” That said, Allan admits that artificial intelligence will become more prevalent in the industry over the coming years. “The key will be perfecting a way to use AI to improve what we offer our guests while embellishing the human and personal touch at the same time,” he says. “It’s not a complicated business; recruit nice people, look after them and they’ll be nice to your guests. Simple.” Sjolander, HTNG, says: It’s very, very early but if you look 10 years ahead you will see more hotels using robotics but the thing is what is being used in 10 years’ time will be nothing like what’s being used today.” And so, while robots may become a regular feature in hotels, it will be alongside humans, not in place of them.
The biggest hospitality show in the world
March 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME
The world is
watching Qatar hasn’t been out of the news ever since it was awarded the 2022 World Cup. Hotel News ME spoke to some of the industry’s leading professionals who are based in Qatar about the realities of the market and what to expect for the year ahead
Qatar is increasingly becoming a highly desirable location, says Al Rayaan Hotel Doha, Curio Collection by Doha general manager Luca Crocco. As evidence he points to the fact that, thanks to recent expansions, Qatar Airways now flies to 120 destinations. Meliá Hotels International, development director of Middle East and North Africa Benjamin Oppl said: “A prolonged scenario with low oil prices certainly had and still is having a nega-
tive impact on overall business activity in the region, including Qatar. “Governments tend to respond by decreasing expenditure levels on public works and infrastructure. All of that can commonly translate into lower demand for accommodation units, more so in areas that are depending more on the corporate segment (such as Qatar) than leisure travellers.” He pointed out, that while there has been a downturn in market wide per-
The facts about Qatar • Qatar ranks as the second safest country in the world, according to the Golden Visa 2015 World Safety Index. • Qatar has the highest GDP per capita ($145,000) in the world. Source: CIA world Factbook 2015. • Qatar has the best hospitality in the GCC in terms of guest experience, that’s according to the Olery Guest Experience in the Middle East report 2015. • 91% of the population use the internet, 98% of households are connected online – State of Broadband Report 2015 • Qatar is home to the Al Jazeera news network which has 80 offices around the world.
HOTEL NEWS ME March 2017
formance, it’s no different than what is happening elsewhere in the Middle East. This is driven by reduced demand on the back of low oil prices, devaluation of currencies in addition to new supply entering the market (1,500 keys in 2016). According to latest data provided by Qatar Tourism Authority, for the first three quarters of 2016, the number of visitors to the country (2.2 million) decreased by 3% when compared to the
same period in the previous year. It is expected that this negative trend will have continued for the remainder of last year and into 2017. Weaker demand paired with increased supply ultimately translates into lower ADR and occupancy levels at hotels within the destination. In the case of Qatar, marketwide Revpar levels are expected to have decreased between 13%-22% (depending on micro location) in 2016 and when compared to the same period in the previous year. Looking ahead, this is certainly a trend that requires careful monitoring, in particular when considering new potential hotel projects. Qatar’s tourism market will continue to present dynamic opportunities to hoteliers, Crocco says, as the country solidifies its position as a regional travel hub and a world-class business and leisure destination enhanced by a growing repertoire of impressive tourism infrastructure, leisure and sporting events, cultural attractions and a vibrant art scene.
“With Qatar Tourism Authority continuing to set out ambitious growth targets in line with the National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030, we are met with the challenge of broadening guest demographics to grow visitor numbers and income generated by the sector nationwide,” he says. “With Hilton’s diverse portfolio of six trading and pipeline brands in Qatar, we are actively taking steps to diversify the destination’s hospitality proposition. The opening of AlRayyan Hotel Doha in December 2016 has allowed us to welcome a new set of travellers seeking a unique travel experience in Qatar.” Oppl said Qatar’s hospitality market, in line with the wider GCC, will likely continue to face lower levels of demand on the back of overall weaker economic activity and reduced government spending. “However, the overall fundamentals of the region’s hospitality industry remain strong
and the countries with the most diversified economies and a wide range of demand segments for travel, leisure, business and MICE, such as the UAE, are well suited to face the current tough economic conditions and are able to swiftly adapt if one of the segments breaks down,” he says. “Owners, developers and operators will continue to focus their efforts on cost optimisation and growing so far underserved segments. New projects will likely be re-evaluated to ensure feasibility under consideration of the current market dynamics.” He pointed out that Qatar is currently witnessing a shift from a traditionally strong focus on the luxury segment towards more three and four star segments. Driven by the new supply coming online in these segments, market wide ADRs are naturally de-
The Museum of Islamic Art
March 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME
The skyline in Doha
The outlook By TRI Consulting associate director Christopher Hewett I think the opportunities will hinge upon the continued growth and expansion of Qatar, especially with leisure infrastructure projects. There are opportunities that could offset some of the challenges that the market will be facing. One of the big things Qatar Tourism was able to do was the freeing up of visa restrictions on certain countries like Russia and India. It’s a very positive step, because it now attracts two very big source markets and helped increase a captive audience. Very much driven by the corporate and government sectors and obviously with low oil prices continuing for the last 24 months there has been a down play in corporate and government activity, that has impacted not only the demand for rooms but also demand for food and beverage. It has been a bit of a two-fold situation but we are starting to see some form of recovery in the oil crisis. With OPEC reducing oil production it will have a positive effect on oil prices and that’ll go back into a greater increase in spending. As we start to get closer to the FIFA World Cup in 2022, we expect in the next 12-24 months there’ll be a wrap up in activity in infrastructure and development to support that event and that’s a gleam of light on the horizon. creasing, a fact which is not necessarily driven by overall low economic activity. “Qatar is looking to further develop its historical and cultural offering, with the likes of the soon-to-open Qatar National Museum and established Museum of Islamic Arts positioning Doha as a city to watch in the global arts and culture tourism scene,” he said. Oppl says moves are afoot to transform Qatar into a business-driven destination to becoming a leisure capital of the Gulf, and the number of world class museums 30
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The Pearl Qatar Island
and the hosting of the FIFA World Cup are only some of the major initiatives. “In parallel the country aims to reduce its dependency on the traditionally strong Saudi market, by growing other source regions in Asia and Europe,” he says. “An immediately promising initiative is the removal of visa restrictions for travellers from India, China and Russia in early 2017. Some of these source markets have seen the biggest growth in recent years in the neighbouring UAE.
“In parallel, Qatar enforces its importance as a key shopping destination in the Gulf with the launch of the Qatar Shopping Festival over a four-week period from early January 2017. “From a core attractions and leisure resources point of view, Qatar has and can offer everything that its successful neighbour UAE has managed to exploit over the past decade: sea, sun and sand, shopping, museums, watersports, desert, world class infrastructure, wide hospitality offering.”
The Fairmont Fujairah Beach Resort has very much marketed itself as the luxury alternative to the hyper pace of life in bustling cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Patrick Ryan made his way to the newly opened resort to catch up with general manager Omar Souab
HOTEL NEWS ME March 2017
here’s no question mark over Omar Souab’s hunger for his new role as general manager of the newly opened Fairmont Fujairah Beach Resort. “I knew that the Fairmont Fujairah was about to open and I knew that the Regional Vice President of FRHI was looking for a general manager, so I reached out to him and he sat down with me and asked ‘who do you think I should give this role to?’” he says. “I said ‘have you thought about me?’ and he said ‘why not, maybe you should go and have a look at the hotel’.” That level of hunger and drive is unsurprising given Souab’s track record in the industry since he began his journey in 2004 with Sofitel in his native Morocco. “I always wanted to do an international career so I had the opportunity to come to Dubai as an operations manager of Pullman, which was Sofitel and then we rebranded it to Pullman,” he says. “I stayed there for two and half years and then I had an opportunity to move to luxury and that was my goal.” The Fairmont Dubai was next on his list where he went from director of operations to hotel manager during his tenure there before his conversation with the Regional Vice President of FRHI. “I realised the potential of this place because the design is unique, the location, the marina, you have the mountains in the back, you have the Indian Ocean, so I fell
in love with the property,” he says. “I started working between both properties for six months and then I moved here in September and we had three months to open the property and it is great to see it come alive.” ON TARGET So now that Souab has taken on the role of general manager what are his targets for 2017? He says: “You have to bear in mind that the hotel is not fully finished so there is still work happening, we are hoping that the beach club will be open by May. “I am really happy; we have built a very nice reputation and a buzz around the local market. “They feel that the hotel really brings something unique to the region. “The European market is now sending us more rooms so we are over-achieving our targets and we are very optimistic to continue on this same trend.” While the current economic conditions have led to anything but plain sailing for the hospitality industry, Souab is adamant that his current project will be successful. Souab says: “In Dubai there is still a lot of pressure on the hotels. But Fujairah is a different story. “Right now the occupancy is picking up year on year and the rates are picking up year on year. Our role here
Souab is proud of the unique design of the hotel which incorporates modern elements alongside traditional Islamic traits. “You have a mix between the orient and North Africa,” he says. “The design is modern Islamic inspired by a bohemian touch. You find that in the rooms as well, the black and white is very present in the hotel in the rooms you have that black and white carpet and when you look at the swimming pool you have a black and white rug which is a continuation of what you see in the room.” The hotel will soon be complemented by a beach club which is currently under construction. “The beach club will open in May and it is more Mediterranean, if I had to compare it with an existing property it would be Nikki Beach Club so it would be a bit of the same set-up with a central pool, with the Mediterranean restaurants,” he says. “There will also be a penthouse on top of the restaurant as well as a tennis court, it will have a children’s pool and it an event place where we will be able to organise weddings.”
The hotel offers views of the Indian Ocean
March 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME
The pool has the Indian Ocean and a marina in the backdrop.
Retreat from city The beach resort is every bit the idyllic retreat from the hustle and bustle of life in Dubai that you would expect it to be, with 180 guest rooms and suites all featuring a stunning view of the ocean. “What I will say about this property is that it is an hour and a half away from Dubai, you can actually come from Dubai to here without a single red light which is very interesting,” he says. “I am discovering new things everyday and the fish is incredible in this region, plus you have the Indian Ocean which people tend to forget. “This property is really unique because you have the hotel, the marina and then the Indian Ocean.” He said the aim is to position the resort as a boutique hotel. “It’s very detail oriented, we have that Yamapool lounge which is more of a shisha area with a local and arabic twist to it,” says Souab. Connecting with the local community is going to be a key issue for Souab “What we are trying to do is to connect with the local fishermen in order first to help them and in order for us to benefit from fresh fish that is coming straight from the ocean and straight to the plate,” he says.
HOTEL NEWS ME March 2017
The design is unique, the location, the marina, you have the mountains in the back, you have the Indian Ocean, so I fell in love with this property” is to be pioneers in luxury and lift the destination upwards. “This year, our strategy is not to go for volume but to position our rates properly and to be the rate leaders.” The key to success, according to Souab, is to have the right team in place. “I have seen from my experience in
Dubai that bringing different people from different backgrounds and creating a team is a good thing to do, and that is what I am trying here and really create something unique,” he says. “I think diversity is a very important thing and that is what I am trying to build here. “Each member of our executive team is from a different part of the world so we are trying to have a big diversity within the team to create something different and very unique. “The most important thing is to be able to listen, to really understand what are the challenges and to actually care about the challenges and to try to do something about them.” The key, he says, is to be transparent. “When something is done well I try to say it and celebrate success, but I also try to point out things that are not working very well and work with the team to make them improve,” says Souab. “In Fairmont we take care of our leaders and they take care of our guests so this is really the philosophy that we have and that we try to put in place every day.”
25-27 April 2017 Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai
Catalysts of Change Over 80 speakers already confirmed!
Discover which critical industry topics will be tackled by a powerhouse line-up. Visit arabianconference.com today!
Chris Nasetta President and CEO Hilton Worldwide
O r g a n i s e d by
SĂŠbastien Bazin Chairman and CEO AccorHotels
P l at i n u m s P O n s O r s
Olivier Harnisch Chief Executive Officer Emaar Hospitality Group LLC
Face to face
RAKNH signed with the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company to operate The Al Wadi Desert, Ras Al Khaimah, referring to it as “the emirate’s crown jewel”. Grinnell says another milestone was the Hilton Worldwide agreement to re-open Hilton Ras Al Khaimah as the Hilton Garden Inn Ras Al Khaimah, which will cater to the niche, mid-market segment, which is high in demand in the emirate. “This is the kind of expertise that we aim to bring into Ras Al Khaimah and we plan on maintaining this momentum,” she says. “These partnerships have strategically diversified our portfolio, as we now cater to all travellers, from the mid-market to the ultra-luxury segments.” She also mentions how RAK Hospitality Holding is investing in F&B through its operating arm, Hakaya. “Last year Hakaya entered into a franchise agreement with Kona Grill – an American grill and sushi bar,” she says. “Under this partnership we plan to develop six Kona Grill restaurants across the UAE in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah. This is a very exciting deal for us in that it meets the rising demand for premier casual dining.” One area in which RAK Hospitality Holding is also investing, is re-flagging. “Re-flagging a hotel is an investment into an existing asset,” she says. “As an owner, there are several benefits to this. The primary benefit is that an established asset that is already in operation is likely to deliver re-
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R th is a k o e n u p
t seems that everyone is queuing up these days to tell you about how bad the economy is and how it’s nothing but doom and gloom. One person who doesn’t subscribe to that theory is RAK Hospitality Holding CFO Alison Grinnell who has set her sights on ensuring that Ras Al Khaimah continues to thrive. Grinnell said: “The UAE’s economy as a whole is in growth mode and is well diversified, with its tourism sector contributing a significant amount to GDP. “Within the UAE, Ras Al Khaimah’s hospitality sector has thrived due to the natural beauty of the emirate and its cost effectiveness.” She says the emirate currently has around 3,600 hotel rooms and a lot more in the pipeline to be completed by 2019. “In light of this data, we see steady growth in the Ras Al Khaimah tourism industry for 2017,” says Grinnell, who then spoke about her own company’s role in the region. As an integrated hospitality asset owner and manager, RAK Hospitality Holding (RAKHH) works hand in hand with all stakeholders in Ras Al Khaimah to contribute to the emirate’s tourism industry. Grinnell says: “Through our four subsidiaries; RAK National Hotels (RAKNH), RAK Hospitality Asset Management (RAKHAM), RAK Hospitality Logistics (RAKHL) and Hakaya Collection (Hakaya), we aim to cover the entire value chain of the group, while continuously looking for new opportunities to diversify our portfolio.” She is buoyant about the deal that subsidiary group
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Face to face
Biography of a CEO Grinnell has over 20 years of experience working with the industry; extensively travelled, she has worked in over 30 countries covering Europe, United States and Middle East/Africa. She has lived and worked in the Middle East for the past four years. She moved to the Middle East from PwC in London to help establish and develop PwC’s Middle East Hospitality and Leisure practice. Her roles were initially as Middle East hotels lead, and ultimately as the Middle East real estate, hospitality and leisure leader. turns after renovation much faster than a completely new investment. “Additionally, refurbishment projects take almost half the time of a greenfield investment, and start earning returns much faster. Another big benefit is reduced risk; generally a re-flagging and refurbishment project is associated with less risk than a new project due to its existing brand association and following.” One property that is currently being re-flagged is the Al Wadi Desert Resort, which will officially open as the RitzCarlton Ras Al Khaimah Al Wadi Desert in Q3 2017. Grinnell says this decision was taken following a robust selection process with several international bidders. “As an owner, we normally base our decision as to whether to refurbish or re-flag on a number of factors: where the property is in its lifecycle (at or beyond its prime), current interest rates, the economic climate, and asset valuation, which is based on physical wear and tear and location,” she says. 2017 is a landmark year for RAK Hospitality Holdings as it marks the first year that all of its hotel assets will be fully operational. “This is following all of our investments in refurbishment and development of our existing portfolio of hotels,” she says. “The new Hilton Garden Inn, due to open in Q2 2017, and the reflagging to The Ritz Carlton in Q3 2017 will provide Ras Al Khaimah with a unique mix of diversity, allowing us to focus on maximising our growth potential in the short to mid-term.” She speaks candidly about how the company finances its projects. “We finance our projects through a combination of debt and equity. In 2015 we refinanced with an AED880m bank debt to refurbish two hotels and partially fund the purchase of two other hotels,” she says. March 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME
Face to face
Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort & Spa
RAK National Hotels (RAKNH), owns four hotels in highly visible locations in the emirate: • Hilton Garden Inn at the Creek (scheduled to open in Q2 2017) • Hilton Resort and Spa at Maaridh Beach, • Rixos Bab Al Bahr • Al Wadi Desert, Ras Al Khaimah, a Ritz-Carlton Partner, which will officially transition into The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah Al Wadi Desert from Q3 2017. Jebel Jais Mountain
RAK Hospitality Asset Management (RAKHAM) is experiencing success in attracting and converting asset management contracts within the Emirate. RAK Hospitality Logistics (RAKHL) provides transportation, leisure and accommodation services is also gaining traction as the Emirate’s tourism sector continues to thrive on the back of the efforts of the government and RAK Tourism and Development Authority. Ras Al Khaimah Rixos Bab Al Bahr
Hakaya Collection (Hakaya) is focused on dining, entertainment and leisure services. “However, we always look at the most appropriate options given our requirements, alignment with our strategy and expectations of our shareholders,” she adds. While Grinnell is confident of RAK Hospitality Holding’s business plan, she says that the market is not without its challenges. “The hospitality industry is very cyclical in nature and faces several internal and external challenges,” she says. “New supply that is coming into the emirate could be viewed as a challenge, however, at RAK Hospitality Holding we welcome all competition and we consider it healthy for our business. “If other developers are eyeing the 38
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emirate as a destination for their new hotels, it means that Ras Al Khaimah has succeeded in confirming its position on the world map as an attractive hospitality investment destination.” She adds: “It also means that we must ‘up our game’ to meet the fastchanging traveller preferences, which
is very exciting for us at group and subsidiary level. “Finally, some other external challenges that we face are related to geopolitical events and currency fluctuations, which impact investment sentiment and spending behaviour of travellers.”
JOIN YOUR PEERS
Dubai World Trade Centre 18 - 20 September 2017 thehotelshow.com
Young at heart When City Walk opened in Dubai last year it was heralded as one of the most exciting developments in Dubai. But for all the trappings it brought, there was one obvious aspect missing – a hotel – until now that is. Patrick Ryan paid a visit to the newly opened La Ville Hotel and Suites City Walk Dubai, Autograph Collection, and found a boutique property that is looking towards millennials and Generation Y as its key markets
f City Walk is about bringing new ideas and energy to Dubai, then La Ville Hotel and Suites, which forms part of Marriott International's Autograph Collection, is certainly adding to that. Markus Roeder, general manager, says: “Being part of City Walk gives you space to breathe here compared to other hotels in the market.
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“If you are a guest you can go outside, your whole lifestyle is different to what it would be in a corporate hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road. “This hotel is about shaping the future of Dubai and I see this hotel as being an important part of the neighbourhood around here which has a lot of local entrepreneurs and artists.
“We want to be able to help develop that with this young team and the ideas we are having. “We don’t want to be a static hotel.” Roeder says the hotel’s real strength lies within the location of City Walk and the experience that a guest has, which he hopes will convince a lot of people to talk about the hotel and ensure they
The façade at La Ville
77 11 53 15 rooms
stay loyal and come back. "What we’ve done is looked at what would be expected if this hotel was in a cosmopolitan city like New York or London and see how we can make it and bring it back to Dubai,” he says. “That’s something we have managed with this young team and it is something we are going to continue to develop and have fun with.” Julia Alvaro, director of sales and marketing, has no reservations about how popular La Ville will prove to be. “I honestly believe that City Walk is such a cool place,” she says. “It is very green, you can walk everywhere. I think this really reflects the style of the hotel, we have a lot of open air concepts.” Alvaro says there is a determined focus to ensure that the hotel appeals, not only to guests, but to residents of City Walk as well. “City Walk already has a lot of cafes, a lot of entertainment opportunities too with The Green Planet, Hub Zero and the cinema as well,” she says. “It is really a lively area and I think it is a good way to showcase Dubai as the modern city that it is but also to focus on
Julie Alvaro, director of sales and marketing
design and shopping malls.” Being the only licensed premises in City Walk has certainly given La Ville added appeal. TARGETING THE RIGHT CUSTOMERS The logic behind the project is that being a hotel with 156 keys in a lowrise building creates a more intimate experience for guests. “The food and beverage package is also unique here. We are high quality but ap-
proachable and we want to create a sophisticated lifestyle in Dubai,” Roeder says. For Roeder it’s essential that the right people are in place to convey the desired image at La Ville. “It was a criteria when looking for staff that we hire the right people,” says Roeder. “We had to look at who will be our customers and who we will target. “We put it together to target Generation Y customers.” He says this is going to be a key market for La Ville. “We predict that by 2020, 50% of our business will be Generation Y, we have to position ourselves to make sure we offer a fresh lifestyle boutique experience for that range,” he says. Alvaro is clear about who La Ville will appeal to. “It is really a living urban destination catering for everyone, from the young Arab travellers to Westerners who have business in town, as well as tourists,” she says. “There is shopping, entertainment and dining, these are the main pillers of City Walk. “I think the hotel will develop along with the development of City Walk,” March 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME
Grapeskin offers wines based on your mood
La Ville Hotel and Suites prides itself on its F&B offerings. That’s no different to any number of establishments across Dubai but director of restaurants Mislene Dos Santos is adamant the hotel is offering something unique. Dos Santos says: “We wanted to be very different and bring a different offer to our F&B. “I think what makes a huge difference is our team as we handpicked each and every one. We also wanted to bring people from free standing properties and not be hotel driven, so they can be themselves and bring something to the venue. “We didn’t open everything at the same time and the first one to open was Chival which was very popular because it was breakfast, lunch and dinner.” Dos Santos says that the formula is working and that people are starting to take notice of what’s going on at La Ville. “I think we are now creating an awareness with the beautiful courtyard in the evening where people can sit and have a glass of wine in the evening,” she says. “It’s very important the staff put their heart into it too, heart is very important because they need to really love F&B and be happy about it. “When they are happy they will treat the guests well and they will keep coming back . You have to ask do you really love what you do?” She says that not only being the only hotel in the area but also the only licensed premises has proved advantageous. “We offer wine by the glass across the entire property and I think it is really attracting a lot of people,” she says. “It’s about creating awareness to make people find us and come to us and creating an amazing experience with great service.” says Alvaro. “For now we are still in the beginning stages so we still need to find our way and figure out who our customers are and what our target audience is.” HIRING THE RIGHT PEOPLE Alvaro says: “Because we are an Autograph Hotel we are able to look at the details more than if we were a typically corporate hotel. “Actually if you have the right team together then it becomes a fun exercise.” So what makes the perfect team member at La Ville? “You do not want to have the typical hotel associate who is extremely streamlined, you need to have quirkiness, we’re looking for Generation Y but with heart and passion behind it, this is what we are looking for,” says Roeder. 42
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Graze is a key part of La Ville
Markus Roeder, general manager
THE MARKET It’s no secret that the market has seen turbulent times recently so how does Roeder and his team plan to stay afloat in choppy waters? “The market conditions are not so easy, at this moment. We’ve just opened, so we’re working on awareness and making sure we get our brand out there and position ourselves,” he says. Alvaro explains how a branding agency was hired to look after each of the restaurant brands. “The concepts are very young and different, especially Grapeskin, the wine bar, which is a very different concept compared to the other bars.
It has a lot of different ideas in addition to a personalised service as well,” she says. “We have a concept in which we matched the mood of the customer with the wine we serve them. “All in all, it’s a really fun place. A business person can come here to relax after work and it is a good hangout for a group of friends.” “We have a great cocktail menu which is a little bit different from the ordinary, we had a beverage consultant flying in from the UK to create alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages,” she says. “We are now part of the Autograph Collection, which is under the Marriott umbrella but is actually not a brand but a collection of hotels so you can have very different companies coming under the Autograph name.” While the hotel has only been operational since 14 December, Alvaro is delighted with the response so far. “People didn’t know there was a hotel coming here and a lot of people walked in here to ask whether it was an apartment hotel or actually a hotel and if the restaurants are related to the accommodation,” she says.
HOTEC 17 Middle East
HOTEC Middle East 2017 Fairmont Baku Flame Towers, Baku, Azerbaijan 25-28 April 2017 HOTEC is the original one-on-one meeting forum for buyers and suppliers in the hotel industry. HOTEC will bring senior decision makers from the industry in the Middle East and leading executives from supplier companies together in Baku this April, for networking and face-to-face meetings by appointment. Spend quality time with leading procurement, project, and design decision makers from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, the Levant and surrounding territories, all with ongoing operations and important new projects, this April at HOTEC Middle East 2017. Why attend HOTEC Middle East 2017? – You know ahead of time who is attending – You know the buyers are senior decision makers – You get to choose who you want to meet – You are guaranteed limited competition – You spend quality, uninterrupted time with the buyers – You profile your company to a high level audience – You network, build relationships and get to know the key people in the industry – You receive VIP treatment in a 5 star atmosphere away from the pressures of the office
For more information please contact: Stephen Pace-Bonello: Email: email@example.com Tel: +356 9945 8305
wyndham hotel group Hotel News Middle East profiles the groupâ€™s performance over the past 12 months and looks to the year ahead
Group overview A hotel giant with an unmatched global presence, Wyndham Hotel Group is a hotel brand franchisor and hotel management services provider. Its global portfolio consists of over 8,000 hotels and approximate-
ly 697,600 rooms in 77 countries, with brands including Ramada, Wyndham Grand, Wyndham Garden, TRYP by Wyndham, Hawthorn Suites and Super 8 â€“ offering investors and guests a huge variety. Wyndham Rewards, the company's
guest loyalty programme, offers more than 48 million members around the world the opportunity to earn and redeem points at thousands of hotels, helping to drive brand loyalty and repeat business for hotels.
Upcoming properties in the MENA region Property
TRYP by Wyndham Dubai
TRYP by Wyndham
Wyndham Grand Manama
Wyndham Garden Manama Ramada Encore Al Khobar Olaya
Howard Johnson Dammam, Corniche Street
Wyndham Garden Dammam Al Sheraa Mall
Ramada Encore Cotonou Airport
Days Hotel & Suites Dakar
Days Hotel & Suites
Ramada Plaza Najaf
Ramada Hotel & Suites Najaf
Ramada Encore Kuwait Al Sharq
Ramada Al Khobar Al Rawabi
Wyndham Dubai Marina
Ramada Plaza Jumeirah Village Circle
Wyndham Garden Ajman Corniche
Wyndham Garden 179
Wyndham Addis Ababa Bole Road
Wyndham Garden Langano
Wyndham Garden 110
Wyndham Garden Doha
Wydnham Garden 153
Ramada Encore Muscat Al Ghubra
Ramada Hotel & Suites Muscat Al Ghubra
Wyndham Grand Riyadh
Wyndham Garden Riyadh
Wyndham Garden 198
Wyndham Amboseli Golf Resort and Spa
TRYP by Wyndham
TRYP by Wyndham Addis Ababa Bole Road
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Current number of properties in the region (MEA) Wyndham's current portfolio in the region includes 51 operational hotels, representing 8,227 rooms. It has another 21 hotels under development, representing a further 4,887 rooms.
Regional vice president, Middle East and Africa, Ignace Bauwens What were the hotel group’s key achievements and milestones in 2016? We introduced our Wyndham brand to the UAE in 2016 with the opening of the luxurious Wyndham Dubai Marina. Situated in a key location offering stunning views of the Gulf and Dubai Marina, the new hotel offers guests premium accommodation in its 486 rooms, alongside extensive F&B facilities including two restaurants and a poolside bar. Business and leisure guests can also take advantage of Wyndham Dubai Marina’s high-end spa, gym and pool as well as extensive meeting facilities. The first Wyndham branded hotel to open in the UAE, we’re looking forward to building the brand’s footprint further across the region. What have been the key challenges facing your hotel group and the hospitality sector in general, and how have you met these challenges? There is no doubt that 2016 was challenging for the hospitality industry, not only in our region, but globally. However, travel trends are cyclical and at Wyndham Hotel Group we believe in the long-term potential of the region,
and we’re certainly optimistic about the opportunities in 2017. We’re working hand in hand with the tourist boards and authorities in the various countries to promote their destination to different types of travellers to help boost visitors to the region as a whole. By developing calendars of the major events in the cities, we can attract guests from all backgrounds, all of whom will be looking for different types of accommodation, which our portfolio is best placed to provide. We’re also expecting to see an increase in visitors to the region as a direct result of our regional marketing campaigns around Wyndham Hotel Group branded hotels and their destinations. What are the hotel group’s key goals for 2017 in the MENA region? 2016 was a busy year in the region, and 2017 is set to be even bigger. We have a number of new hotels set to open across MEA, including TRYP by Wyndham Dubai, Wyndham Grand Manama and Wyndham Garden Manama, as well as three new openings in Saudi Arabia including Wyndham Garden Dammam. Looking further ahead, we are planning to open an additional 15 properties between 2018 and 2020, and are, of course, always working closely with local teams to identify more opportunities to bring our iconic brands to both emerging and established destinations. Despite all the challenges of the last few years, political as well as economic, the MEA region has proven its resilience in many ways. The region remains dynamic with many opportunities for growth. Dubai has certainly taken the lead in the hospitality industry within the MEA region, however there are many other countries and cities with vast opportunities. The lower oil prices in GCC countries over the past year have also presented many opportunities. Owners and developers have seen the value and prospects of (upper) midscale hotels as well as
those at the budget end of the scale. The evolving budgets of both leisure and business guests, together with an improved midscale and budget hotel offering, have created a lot of opportunity in the region. For owners and investors the financial returns of these hotel investments are also more attractive compared to the luxury offering. The increased number of people travelling to the MEA region (due to cheaper airfares and the growing connectivity of budget airlines to this region) means that, although we are still seeing healthy growth within the luxury market, the real opportunity lies in midscale and budget developments. Therefore the introduction of the Wyndham Garden, TRYP by Wyndham, Super 8 and Days Inn brands to the MEA market are aimed specifically at this growing market. How is technology dictating the way you run your business and liaise with customers, from bookings and social media to in-room technology? There’s no doubt that technology has, and is, changing the way we interact with our guests in order to give them the best possible experience. We’re the first global hospitality company of our scale to roll out a cloud-based central reservations and property management system, helping economy and midscale hoteliers more effectively and efficiently manage daily pricing and inventory. Our chosen software is the most stable in the industry and evolves as technology progresses, meaning our hotels will always have access to the most current technology. In 2016 we also launched new, responsive websites, meaning that across all of our brands and our loyalty programme, Wyndham Rewards, our customers can engage with us whenever and wherever, and using whichever device, they want. We also launched a new app for Wyndham Rewards, giving our most loyal customers an extra mobile touchpoint.
March 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME
GM Leaders conference
2017 Slim Zaiane, Kempinski Hotel Mall of The Emirates general manager
Maria Tullberg, Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek general manager
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The third edition of the GM Leaders Conference is taking place at The St Regis Dubai on Wednesday, 5 April. The 2017 conference will see some of the leading lights in the industry tackle the trends, challenges and opportunities that are impacting on the industry. Some of the topics up for discussion include the arrival of new markets such as the Chinese, not to mention the resurgence of Russia and the impact on the Middle East caused by Brexit. Mega-mergers and how they are changing the face of the industry will also be up for discussion as well as what todayâ€™s consumer really wants from a hotel. We will also be taking a look at booking patterns and how the likes of OTAs and social media are influencing the market. Keep an eye on our website at hotelnewsme.com for updates.
David Allan, Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Waterfront and Radisson Blu Dubai Canal View cluster general manager
Andrew Henning, St Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort and Club general manager
Oliver Kesseler, Hilton Garden Inn Mall of The Emirates general manager
Debrah Dhugga, Dukes Collection London and Dubai managing director
Nila Pendarovski, Rove Downtown Dubai hotel manager
Mark Deere, Amwaj Rotana JBR Dubai general manager
David Wilson, General Manager, Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah
otel News Middle East gathered some of the region’s leading general managers at the Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah ahead of our GM Leader’s Conference next month. They spoke about the key trends, opportunities and challenges that general managers are facing in 2017. What are the latest trends affecting the industry? Mark Deere: Health and wellness are a big thing right now, we are also all competing with lots of independent brands. It is absolutely key for us to keep up to date with equipment and technology. A big thing for Dubai at the moment is the parks, Legoland, IMG Worlds Of
Adventure, we are so lucky that we are close by. Nila Pendarovski: It’s all about having an experience. The modern day traveller is happy to spend money but they want to spend it on an experience rather than on something material; that really shapes our entire being. David Wilson: One of the biggest trends has been the focus on social media and how we as hotels are affected by that. Take TripAdvisor, comments from guests and their responses, not to mention connectivity and the way we market our hotels. There is also the growth and importance of OTAs, how social media connects with online travel agents (OTAs) and drives business.
Debrah Dhugga: With OTAs it is a worldwide issue and it’s taking over our business. We have to look now as hoteliers and as an industry in general at what we can do to attract more direct revenues because when you look at the bottom line, if you were to take off those commissions we pay now compared to what we paid five years ago, we’re in a very different situation. We have a mix of hotels, the OTAs are wild out here. They can afford these huge marketing campaigns and the bigger brands like Hilton are challenged. You’re challenged to even match the audience, they’ve got the worldwide audience. David Wilson: When OTAs formed they initially levelled the playing field a lot March 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME
from the massive distribution channels that large hotel chains had, even for boutique hotels it gave them more of an even opportunity to distribute. Maria Tullberg: I think the next trend is going to come from the revival and revamp of all the loyalty programmes. Debrah Dhugga: Even business lounges in the airports have lost what they were. We really have to look at what we are doing with the corporate traveller, no matter what we say the OTAs will play us against each other, they are really driving us down. All styles of hotels are looking at things like wage increases, cost of food, amenities and it is very hard to control costs without making sure guests aren’t seeing it. Guest experience is so important and we want them to share it with their friends. We have to look at what value it is we are adding, what more do we give, breakfast doesn’t seem to be enough nowadays. David Allan: Can I make point about industry itself? There are huge brands coming along and huge names. The next five to 10 years is going to be an enormous shift in the industry. People aren’t paying an awful lot of attention yet to these super companies coming along who are buying up other groups, some of them are Chinese companies but others are groups with no experience of the hospitality industry at all. Andrew Henning: Mergers like the one between Marriott and Starwood can help us to overcome the OTAs. The size and scale of those sort of deals only give more leverage against these guys, they are strong, they are powerful and they are growing. Maria Tullberg: Millenials are extremely budget conscious, does it matter that you have a loyalty programme when people are loyal to a brand because of what it stands for, not what it does? Debrah Dhugga: I’ve got a colleague who is an example, they are an international training manager for a consumer brand, anywhere she stays is always a Hilton Hotel and every year it pays for her family holidays. Whether it be Asia or wherever it is, it pays for her holidays. She travels four days a week. That’s her family holiday, that’s her benefit and she gets two weeks. 48
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Are loyalty programmes still relevant to hotels? Nila Pendarovksi: There are many others who don’t care for loyalty programmes, they would rather spend 50 bucks in a niche hotel and have a fantastic experience than have loyalty programmes that very often have restrictions and don’t give them what exactly what they want anyway. David Allan: Has there just been a huge misjudgement as to what the next generation is looking for when it comes to staying in hotels? What is it that people in their early 20s early 30s are looking for? Debrah Dhugga: My son falls in that age
group, when he’s away on business he’s a banker, he wants independence, he has got a budget, I know for a fact he would rather go to a cool hotel and have a beer in a bar that’s got cool music playing. David Allan: It gives them something to talk about, who is really going to say “we stayed in X brand when I was travelling this week”? They are more likely to say “I stayed in this independent hotel this week and had this drink and this music was on. I found it myself and no-one I know has ever been there”. That’s the experience. Slim Zaiane: We are adjusting to the digitals. What the customers are doing based on the numbers of likes, follow-
ers, we shifting how we do business which should be 100 per cent the way OTAs do business. The normal routes no longer available. We have to work around what the consumers want. If they want a lounge, an iPad or something special to make them comfortable we have to adjust whether we are in a luxury or a budget hotel. Mark Deere: Who doesn’t manage these days by going by online bookings? I don’t know if anyone noticed but booking.com changed algorithms but I can feel impact as 77 per cent of our travellers book through OTAs. It is very scary you are managed through digital. David Wilson: OTAs have a very impor-
tant part to play, we don’t see them as the enemies. It’s the cost of business. Debrah Dhugga: I found that is very last minute here, you could be sitting 42 per cent occupancy one minute and end up being 92 per cent. David Wilson: That’s often the case here, most Thursday afternoons someone would be ordering on booking.com and we even had someone booking a room online as they were driving up the driveway. One of the challenges we faced is you can book a room with a credit card that doesn’t actually work. It’s not uncommon for someone to make multiple bookings and decide you’re going here and drop the other
bookings, you can only put through a guaranteed charge when they are at the arrival. Maria Tullberg: General consumer behaviour has changed, people want to Instagram things and just go online and see what’s out there. They have an attitude of deciding to go tomorrow, they don’t plan a long time ahead. Oliver Kessler: It is difficult to forecast in our industry because everything is left to the last minute. It affects the market when so much is left to the last minute. Nila Pendarovski: What’s also affecting this business is the change in the people who are visiting. David Wilson: Look at China, it’s going to be the biggest outbound market in the world. They are going to love Dubai, it has everything they love from shopping, glamour, glitz, theme parks and is visa free for them now. This is going to be a great, great opportunity for Dubai to grow more business. There are high end travellers in China who are extremely wealthy and want the best. Look at the Burj Al Arab and the Armani Hotels they are full of Chinese visitors. There are high end travellers in China who are extremely wealthy and want the best. They spend money, a Chinese tourist in London spends 20 times more than an American. Maria Tullberg: Business lounges are becoming more like a living room where can you sit and Instagram. They are more relaxed. Mark Deere: I don’t believe if I drop my rate on a Thursday that I will fill up my hotel. Andrew Henning: I think we are fortunate that we are still in market with demand drivers and more demand drivers coming. Occupancy here hasn’t dropped that much, the rate has gone down, but still very fortunate compared to other markets. David Wilson: A lot of factors go in our advantage in Dubai especially because it’s such a destination continually growing theme parks canals, there really is something new each month. Andrew Henning: Even with all these new rooms coming into Dubai and occupancy doesn’t drop, that’s impressive. March 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME
Guest Supply, who sponsored the roundtable event, is partnered with some of the world’s most prestigious brands, including Salvatore Ferragamo, Aromatherapy Associates and Korres, and offers a full spectrum solution; providing product design, development, manufacturing and global distribution. Rachael Towl, who represented the firm at the roundtable event, is a British born marketing graduate who has been working in the Middle Eastern region for over three and a half years. She has solid experience of working with personal care branded products, having worked within the category for over ten years. She is thoroughly enjoying her current role with Guest Supply; the world’s largest and fully integrated supplier of hotel guest amenities, textiles and in-room operational supplies to the Hotel Hospitality Industry. With continued global investment in research and development, Guest Supply is able to relate to its markets on a regional level due to region specific knowledge that, enables understanding of the differing priorities and profiles important for successful development in both the luxury and mid market arena. Guest Supply are also proud to be the only amenities company to receive the Queens Award for Enterprise for International Trade, a prestigious award attributed to the company by the Queen herself. Guest Supply is continuing to grow its brand profile, recently acquiring Gilchrist & Soames in order to further enhance their premium luxury tier offering within the amenities industry. David Wilson: I was talking to a friend who said the cost of flight from Doha to Dubai was more expensive than Doha to London in the last few weeks. It’s more appealing for GCC to travel to London because of the devaluation of pound. David Allan: Do you think Dubai will ever be perceived as affordable? The number of midscale hotels can only help this market, there is an oversupply at moment, how change perception it is expensive place, we need to appeal to middle class Indians and middle class Chinese. Debrah Dhugga: It is a lot more expen50
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sive to go out here in Dubai. I went out with a colleague last night, just the two of us, and ordered one starter, a main course each, a glass of wine, a beer and one gin and tonic. When I got the bill I asked if you can convert that into pounds and was told it was £238. Nila Pendarovksi: That’s why you see more and more pop-up restaurants opening up not to mention food trucks and the rise of independents. People just can’t afford £238 each day. David Allan: Even then everything that is getting built is aimed at locals and expat locals. It’s all about opulence, luxury and five star this and that, Dubai is still an expensive place. How is the industry being affected by the likes of AirBNB and properties being subletted? Debra Dhugga: I was talking to a general manager six months ago and they were telling me that people were using hotel serviced apartments and then subletting, he said he was trying to crack down on it and was irritated by it. David Allan: Someone’s booking it and subletting it then. Maria Tullberg: It is a little bit of a threat but I don’t see it as a major threat. David Wilson: Is it a level playing field,
are they paying tax, are they meeting fire and safety requirements? Nila Pendarovski: But why do you come to a hotel, you come for the service right? In these apartments you don’t have it. David Allan: I don’t think many people who are attracted to AirBNB are attracted to Dubai at the moment. Andrew Henning: If it’s growing here it will catch fire. There are 20,000 rooms in Paris, there are all sorts of fights around the legalities, if that comes here it will have a big impact. Oliver Kessler: It’s not the right comprasion we represent hospitality, it could be a threat. Maria Tullberg: Service is one thing we provide that AirBNB doesn’t do, we need to make sure we keep our hotel rooms safe and use that as a marketing tool. Debrah Dhugga: There’s a big conversation about not enough four star hotels in Dubai and we need more. If we bring in more four star hotels the ADR is just going to fall. Mark Deere: Dubai was perceived as an expensive location because of a lack of four star hotels. Nola Pendarosa: If you are a five star just be a five star. Andrew Henning: A four star hotel will for a lot of people will offer what they want but it’s a much better price point.
Event Details Venue: The St Regis Dubai Date: Wednesday, 5 March Time: 8am â€“ 2pm Sponsorship opportunities: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Speaking opportunities: firstname.lastname@example.org Attendance enquiries: email@example.com What do you expect to be the next big issues that general managers are forced to face? Slim Zaiane: We need to see what the implications of VAT are going to be for the industry. We need to be told who is going to absorb it, is it going to be us? Beyond that we also have to see what is going to happen after Expo 2020. There are going to be so many visitors for that event but how far are we going to fall in terms of numbers in 2021? How are we going to maintain 100 million visitors here. Debrah Dhugga: I think we need to look at how are we going to attract great quality staff to Dubai. Quality CVs coming to Dubai are few and far between, the quality young leaders of our industry are not coming to Dubai.
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the hotel show saudi arabia S
Looking ahead to April’s event that will feature key players in the industry
audi Arabia will see a record 68 new hotels and 29,033 hotel rooms open across its major cities in 2017, a new report has revealed. Riyadh, Jeddah, Al Khobar and Makkah are set to be the Kingdom’s busiest areas for hospitality development, according to the Saudi Arabia Hotel Construction Overview carried out by TOPHOTELPROJECTS and prepared exclusively for The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia 2017. Major new hotels forecast to open throughout the Kingdom this year include Assila Hotel Rocco Forte (Q1 2017), TIME Qurayyat Hotel (Q2 2017), Nobu Hotel Riyadh (Q2 2017), Swiss-Belhotel Al Khobar (Q4 2017) and the highly-anticipated Abraj Kudai Towers, which will become the world’s biggest hotel when it opens its 10,000 rooms in Q4, 2017. “The hospitality landscape in Saudi Arabia is developing at pace, and this is a particularly exciting year with the world’s largest hotel – Abraj Kudai – due to open in Makkah,” said John Suzara, event manager of The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia 2017, which takes place in Jeddah in April. “A wide variety of international brands are also now entering the market, including Nobu Hospitality and Rocco Forte, who open their first properties this year. This surge in hospitality projects is a clear signal of the growth and potential of the Kingdom’s tourism, leisure and hospitality industries, which are being spurred on by ever increasing visitor numbers and the launch of Saudi Arabia’s National Vision 2030.” Nobu Hospitality and Rocco Forte Hotels are international brands that will enter the Saudi Arabian market for the first time this year. Rocco Forte Hotels’ Assila Hotel, opening on 12 March 2017, is the luxury hotel group’s only property in the Middle East. Located in the heart of Jeddah it boasts 147 52
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THE HOTEL SHOW SAUDI ARABIA: What to look out for in 2017 The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia (4pm-11pm, 4-6 April 2017, Jeddah Centre for Forums and Events) is entering its 5th edition this year. The annual event provides industry professionals working on the hundreds of ongoing hospitality projects across the Kingdom with the ultimate opportunity to source everything needed to build, develop and maintain a hotel or restaurant. Popular sectors this year have been identified by the show’s organisers MICE Arabia and coorganisers dmg events as technology, interiors, and HORECA. Exhibitors are set to descend on Jeddah from across the Kingdom and around the world. Big names already confirmed include Spanish providers of electronic locking and guest access systems, Onity, Cisa from Italy, Kuwaiti furniture specialists Banta, and Saudi Arabia’s Juffali Technical Equipment Company. The three-day event is co-located for the first time in 2017 with Stone & Surface Saudi Expo, the Kingdom’s only exhibition dedicated to connecting interior and exterior surface material with the decision makers responsible for specifying and procuring them. It is also set to launch a new feature endorsed by WORLDCHEFS through the Saudi Arabian Chefs Association (SARCA) and the Saudi Arabian Chefs Table Circle (SACTC). The inaugural ‘Inter-Hotel Culinary Competition – Mystery Box Challenge’ will showcase the culinary talents of hotel chefs across the Kingdom. Find out more and register to attend for free: www.thehotelshowsaudiarabia.com / www.stoneandsurfacesaudi.com rooms, 63 suites, and a further 94 residential suites, spread across two large towers. The residences are the first fully serviced residential apartments in Saudi Arabia. The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia team spoke with Christian Renz, vice president
sales at Rocco Forte Hotels on the worldrenowned hotel group’s decision to add Jeddah to its impressive roster of international properties, which includes hotels in cities such as London, Edinburgh, Munich and Rome. Tell us more about your new hotel - what is it bringing to the Middle East that is unique? What can domestic and international tourists look forward to upon arriving there? The newly launched Assila Hotel is located in the heart of Jeddah on Price Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Street, also known as Tahlia Street, in the main shopping area of the city. The hotel was designed by the award winning Olga Polizzi and Martin Brudnizki, who really give a sense of the city through the design with over 2,000 artworks by Arabic artists displayed in the hotel. It has 147 rooms and 63 luxurious suites, as well as 94 amazing residential suites, all spaced throughout two large towers. The residences are the first fully serviced residential apartments in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The hotel has five restaurants and cafes, ranging from fine dining in Twenty Four, coffees and patisseries in Il Caffe. Our Argentinean restaurant PamPas - which has a huge open grill in the middle of the restaurant where guests can watch the action - serves steaks and seafood of the highest quality. One of the restaurants, Aubergine, is on the 20th floor next to the 25m rooftop pool, with views overlooking the city and out to sea. Assila also has expansive spas, with several treatment rooms, relaxation areas and high tech gyms, as well as state of the art meetings and events spaces including a 600 person capacity ballroom. It is the perfect melange of European and Arabic hospitality.
Rocco Forte Hotels - Assila Hotel - Lobby
Why did Rocco Forte select Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as its next destination for a new hotel? Jeddah is a key destination for us in Saudi Arabia. It is only a 40 minute journey from the holy city of Makkah, so much religious tourism passes through the city. In addition, it was important for us to have representation in the Middle East, as we have such a large client base coming from this region, particularly from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Jeddah itself is also a very fast developing city, we have seen much growth over the last few years. How do you view the city of Jeddah and the wider Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a destination for tourism and hospitality development? We have seen a huge amount of growth and development within the Kingdom over the last few years, and naturally with this, the tourism industry grows too. We see a lot of domestic travel, with large, multi-generational families often travelling within the Kingdom for leisure, perhaps visiting Jeddah from Riyadh. There is also the concept of religious tourism, which draws both domestic and international tourists into Saudi Arabia. As Jeddah is such a short journey to Makkah, we see many guests using the city as a stop off during their trip. As the second city in Saudi Arabia, Jeddah
Rocco Forte Hotels - Assila Hotel - Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
has become a business hub, so there is a large volume of business travellers, many of which will come to the city for the working week, who do not have residences in the city and prefer to stay in hotels which has meant an increase in demand. Where do you see the Kingdomâ€™s hospitality industry in five yearsâ€™ time? What are the key growth areas, opportunities and trends? Saudi Arabia has a lot to offer and I hope that the country will further open itself for international tourism. The incredible
history, art, culinary culture and friendliness of people is an experience which I am sure a lot of travelers would and will appreciate. We are always looking for opportunities. We have started to take our first steps in the Far East, signing a management contract for a hotel in Shanghai which is due to open at the end of 2018 and we continue to look further afield in this area, in addition to sites in the US and Europe. We also recently announced the opening of Hotel de la Ville in 2018, which will become our second property in Rome, situated in a unique location right at the top of the Spanish steps. March 2017 HOTEL NEWS ME
Tapping into quality The panel
In this month’s Marketplace we speak to the region's bathroom suppliers to find out which of their products are making a clean sweep Vado's individual range
Mark Twitchell, director of international specific sales, Vado
Rachael Towl, regional sales manager, ME Guest Supply
What is your best-selling product? Mark Twitchell: Currently our individual range of brassware is very popular. Rachael Towl: We have partnerships with some of the world’s leading brands, such as Aromatherapy Associates. Guest Supply and Aromatherapy Associates work in partnership to provide the luxurious guest collection to the hospitality industry on a global scale. Sophay Young: Our expertly crafted brand, Bagnodesign, is particularly popular within the hotel sector, as it offers a versatile range of products, all of which create luxurious bathroom spaces. Within this, we recently launched the art furniture collection, which has already had a lot of interest and offers a new take on classically styled bathroom design. What is the most important feature of the perfect bathroom product? Mark: The most important feature of the perfect bathroom product is minimalist design with wow factor functionality. The product must not only look good, it must perform to the highest standards. Rachael: We believe that hoteliers look for the quality of product itself including, formulation, design, ease of use and practicality. Sophay: Quality is the benchmark that defines the ‘perfect’ bathroom product and nowhere more so than in the hotel sector. Hoteliers want bathroom spaces that offer guests a high level of luxury and comfort. What are the latest trends in bathrooms? Mark: Using overflow fillers and wall 54
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Sophay Young, senior project designs consultant, Sanipex
Aromatherapy Associates provides a luxurious guest experience Sanipex's Mezzanine range
tional projects and trading agreements with Hilton Group, Accor and many prestigious projects like the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in Dubai, to name a few. Sophay: We regularly support the needs of one-off boutique hotels and global chains and offer the same level of commitment to quality and service across the spectrum. mounted concealed controls is still very popular and can be a very cost effective way to give a wow factor design. Rachael: we have partnered with Clean the World, a global recycling programme, and we have a carbon offset initiative. Sophay: Basins as statement pieces are a key trend in the hotel bathroom, particularly those that are crafted from unusual materials, such as metal or stone. What type of hotel operations do you cater for? Mark: Vado has a very strong pedigree of working with hotel groups, with interna-
What maintenance services do you offer clients? Mark: The vast majority of Vado products come with a 12-year guarantee. They all have the same care and attention to the manufacturing process with continuous product testing throughout all stages of manufacturing, this normally gives our clients the confidence they need to specify Vado. Sophay: Sanipex customer services and inhouse technical teams provide a dedicated point of contact at all times to deal with queries, process orders and help with any installation advice and training.
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Unlocking the future of door keys
In this month’s product focus we take a look at the latest innovations in electronic locks
The Ving Card Essence The Ving Card Essence is the latest product from Assa Abloy. The product is mobile access compatible, which allows hotel guests to gain direct access to their rooms, skip long lines at the front desk and use their smart phones or watches to open their guestroom door. Manit Narang, vice president MENA, Assa Abloy says: “This along with online wireless capabilities and improved reading distance on the BLE reader, make this lock far more functional and ‘smarter’ than ever before.” He said the lock brings functionality and design together for the benefit of both the hotel operators and the millions of guests they serve. Narang says: “The quality of this innovative technology combined with our high levels of customer support in over 170 countries, streamlines processes and operations for our customers, making it easier for them to address issues and maintain the guest experience. “Moving forward in 2017 and beyond, our focus remains on accelerating our mobile access solution even more, creating additional functionalities for our partners and customers. We aim to always be at the forefront of innovations for security technologies, such as mobile access, in the hospitality industry.”
DirectKey DirectKey has been developed as a cost-effective, secure and easy-to-use mobile-key solution for hotels of any size. The product allows guests to download their key to a smartphones via the hotel’s loyalty apps. It also works in other hotel facilities such as parking garages and fitness centres. The key credentials remain on the phone during a guest’s stay, so a network connection is not required to use the mobile key. Onity marketing manager Europe, Middle East and Africa, Leire Iriberri says “The DirectKey system uses a door-lock hardware module which employs 128-bit AES encryption technology to complement the security of existing locks. DirectKey also saves time and money for properties, as the technology can be retrofitted to existing locks. Supplier: Onity Website: onity.com Email: EMEA@onity.com
Check-in pin The latest innovation from Modern Interior Technology (MIT) is check-in pin. Muhammad Kamran from MIT said: “What makes it unique is there is no need for reception. The guest receives his own personal room code before arriving to the hotel or aparthotel. This room code is valid only for the guest’s stay. It is the perfect solution if the hotel business needs to send room key remotely.” He said the next innovation from MIT will be BLE technology. “The system will allow the guest to use either their smartphone key or a guest room code,” he said. Supplier: Assa Abloy Website: assaabloyhospitality.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 56
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Supplier: Modern Interior Technology (MIT) Website: mit-dubai.com Email: email@example.com
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On the spot
On the spot
Amanda Schmiege, complex director of Spa and Recreation, St Regis, W, and Westin at Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc What's the best thing about your job? I was always told if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. My job is comprised of everything I love – fitness, spa, tennis, children and pools.
even more so now that I was part of the preopening team for the first St. Regis Hotel in Dubai. I have seen the hotel open and become one of the most in demand hotels in the city of Dubai.
What made you choose this role?
Can you tell us why you wanted to join this industry?
I feel that every opportunity I have chosen throughout my career has led me to the next role in a natural progression; roles seem to choose me. I have worked in many different types of spas and hotels and in many different markets. I prefer the roles that present the most challenge at the outset – turnarounds, takeovers, openings – bring them on! What do you do when you're not working? When I am not working, I am working! I love to try out other spas; shake up my fitness routine in a new studio; and test out the latest superfoods – yes I love charcoal lemonade.
Wellness and hospitality are able to give back to guests in many more ways than other industries. We have the ability to touch people and impact them differently than most. I feel this comes with a sense of responsibility, a duty, that I train all of my teams with and when you get it right, it’s not just about business or money anymore – it’s about the many guests who leave the comment “You made my day”. We are day-makers – who wouldn’t want to join this industry?
What's the best bit of advice you've ever received in the workplace? I was told early on to “put your heart in it”. I have always treated my spas as my own business and my teams as my own family. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Work is personal and should be personal if you are really going to succeed.
Tell us something that none of your colleagues know about you? I am a little obsessed with Valentine’s Day and ensuring that my friends and family know how much I love them. Personally I wouldn’t mind if it was Valentine’s every day… the world could do with more love.
What would you say to anyone who is starting out in your sector? Working in a spa is not like going to a spa as a guest. It’s all business behind the curtains so be prepared for the other side as well.
If you could stay in any hotel in the world right now, where would you go? What's the worst thing about your job? The St. Regis, New York. I love spending time in this city and I always dreamed of staying at the original St. Regis Hotel, it is the most iconic address in the world! This is the case
Spa music can become repetitive after hearing it on a loop day in, day out and it now haunts me, even when I’m trying to sleep. Most people would see this as a good complaint!
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HOTEL NEWS ME March 2017
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