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Where Value Meets Luxury Why Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City is a game changer



Setting the agenda for the GM Leaders Conference

Find out how to enter the Leaders in Hospitality Awards 2018

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March 2018



12 | NEWS Leaders in Hospitality Awards 2018 launched/ Mid-market hotels hold key to Kingdom/ UAE leads way with luxury hospitality 28 | OPINION Can hoteliers Bend it like Beckham? 30 | COVER STORY Where value meets luxury – how the Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City could be a gamechanger for the market 36 | LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION James Hewitson, general manager, Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anatara reveals all

12 News

22 Talent

24 Opinion

36 GM Interview

March 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME



March 2018


CEO Wissam Younane Director Rabih Najm Group Commercial Director Samer Alloush Senior Sales manager James Stead Editor Patrick Ryan


Art Director Aaron Sutton Marketing Executive Mark Anthony Monzon

c o n t ribu t o rs Marouane Al Mandri

Photography Hayder Al Zuhairi


54 44 | LA VIDA LOCA Eliza Atriaga, general manager, Vida Downtown, on why we should be excited about the emergence of the midscale brand 48 | OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS FOR HMH How Hospitality Management Holding (HMH) has big plans for the UAE 54 | GM LEADERS ASSEMBLE A number of leading general managers come together ahead of our GM Leaders Conference

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

For all commercial enquiries related to Hotel News ME contact All rights reserved Š 2014. Opinions expressed are solely those of the contributors. Hotel News ME and all subsidiary publications in the MENA region are officially licensed exclusively to BNC Publishing in the MENA region by Hotel News ME. No part of this magazine may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the publisher. Printed by UPP


HOTEL NEWS ME March 2018


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

The changing face of luxury Y

patrick ryan Editor

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


HOTEL NEWS ME March 2018

ou do not have to be a genius to work out that these are challenging times for the hospitality industry, not just in the Middle East, but all over the world. That is why it is so vital that the industry keeps evolving to make sure it can cater for the ever-changing market. An example of how these demands are being met can be found in our cover story. Hotel News Middle East took a hard-hat tour of the Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City where we were shown how the soon-to-beopened property will cater for those who are seeking a merger between value and luxury. The 520-room hotel will be the brand’s biggest property in the UAE and it is a sign of an evolving market that the Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City has been capturing so much attention ahead of its opening. Elsewhere in the issue, we sit down with a selection of the leading general managers from hotels across the region ahead of our annual GM Leaders Conference which is taking place on 7 May at The St. Regis Dubai. The purpose of the roundtable debate with the panel of general managers was to help shape the agenda for this year’s event. Everything from the new generations following hot on the heels of the millennials to the rise of the boutique brands was up for discussion and I think you’ll agree that it makes for more than interesting reading.

If the debate that took place at Fairmont Dubai last month was anything to go by then the conference itself is going to be something truly special. That is not all we have got going on in this issue though as we also catch up with the James Hewitson, general manager, Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anatara who explains why we should be paying close attention to the Omani market. Speaking of which, our columnist, and awardwinning general manager of the Anantara Al Jabar Al Akhdar Resort, Darren Darwin asks why can’t hotels “Bend it like Beckham?” It is an eye-catching headline but there is a method to the madness as he looks at hoteliers constantly learning and perfecting their expertise in their chosen fields. David Beckham famously became one of the leading free-kick specialists in the soccer world by spending extra hours on the training ground – Darwin asks can hoteliers do the same? There is just enough space to tell you that we have launched our Leaders in Hospitality Awards – the big night is taking place on 29 April at The St. Regis Dubai. Check out our website Regards, Patrick Ryan

Regional News


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

Get ready for the Leaders in Hospitality Awards 2018

Platinum Spo nso r

The nominations for this year’s Leaders in Hospitality Awards are now open. The event, which celebrates excellence and innovation in the industry, is taking place at The St. Regis Dubai on 29 April. The Leaders in Hospitality Awards will celebrate the excellence and innovation that we have come to expect from the hotel sector here in the Middle East. 12

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This year’s event is bigger and better than ever with a record 24 awards up for grabs. The increase in the number of awards is an indication of the strength of the hotel industry across the GCC. The platinum sponsor of this year’s awards is Du. Wissam Younane, CEO, BNC Publishing said: “This is the third consecutive year that Hotel News Middle East and BNC Publishing has held the

Leaders in Hospitality Awards and once again we are really looking forward to bringing together the best that the hospitality industry has to offer for a night to remember. “While the past year has been a challenging time, the hospitality industry here in the Middle East continues to find new ways to confound with new innovations and it is only right that we take this opportunity to salute the best talent,

properties and concepts that the region has to offer.” To enquire about sponsorship opportunities contact or For nomination enquiries and to request a nomination form, please contact Nominations for the awards close on Thursday, 5 April. Judges for the event will be announced shortly.

Regional News

Mid-market hold Dubai is on keys to the Kingdom target to meet says Time boss 2020 target says tourism chief

Mid-market hotels are key to the success of the hotel industry in Saudi Arabia, according to the CEO of Time Hotels. Mohamed Awadalla was speaking at the inaugural Saudi Arabia Hotel Investment Conference (SHIC), which is taking place at the Marriott Convention Centre, Riyadh Marriott Hotel. Awadalla said: “As receipts from Saudi oil revenues have declined, some government departments and private companies have reduced their travel expenses which in turn has led to an increase in corporate demand for more mid-market hotels, an area of the market that has traditionally been reserved for more luxury properties. “Our current pipeline of hotels and residences aims to offer a high-quality hotel or serviced apartment for a market segment that is currently under-represented in the region.” According to new research, published ahead of SHIC by Colliers International, recent reforms in Saudi Arabia – and widespread investment in the Kingdom’s burgeoning tourism industry – will drive growth in the mid-market hotel sector at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16% between 2017 and 2021. The supply for mid-market hotels is expected to increase over the next five years with Makkah, Riyadh and Jeddah to see the majority of hotel openings – accounting for 54%, 16% and 12% of the forthcoming midmarket supply in the Kingdom. In April 2016 Time Hotels signed a deal with Saudi-based Al Fahd Investments. As part of this agreement, UAE-headquartered Time Hotels will expand its presence in the Kingdom with the management of several new mid-market hotels. The properties under Time Hotels and Resorts are set to open between 2018 - 2019 in Jeddah, Riyadh and other cities. While the Time Express Hotel in Riyadh, set to open around 2019, will be the debut for the Express brand in the Kingdom. “Time Hotels has been very strategic with its openings, both in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East region, by identifying and assessing the demand within the market and implementing the most suitable brand from the Time portfolio to best match consumer demand. We’re excited by the prospects 2018 brings and look forward to adding further to our portfolio,” Awadalla said.

Dubai Tourism has reported that the emirate is on target to meet its target of 20 million visitors a year by 2020. That’s according to a report released by Dubai Tourism that revealed that a total of 15.79 tourists visited Dubai in 2017, an increase of 6.2% from the previous year. The figure is a new record for Dubai. His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, director general, Dubai Tourism, said: “Under the visionary leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vicepresident and prime minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the emirate has continued to capture share of the global outbound travel market, complemented by a significant increase in tourism-driven economic contribution to the country’s GDP. “Our strong 6.2 per cent growth in 2017 has allowed us to ramp up the pace towards meeting our 2020 targets, and today Dubai’s travel and tourism sector is not only well positioned to offer a superlative destination experience across its eight core strategic propositions, but also geared to accelerate its appeal to the diverse and evolving needs of our global travellers. “With Dubai firmly consolidating its position as the fourth most visited city globally, we remain confident

that our performance, backed by the continued strength of our partnerships across government and private sector stakeholders, will enable us to successfully attain our goals of becoming the number one most visited city as well as being the most recommended with the highest number of repeat Dubai loyalists.” In terms of country-specific performance, India retained top spot in 2017, contributing 2.1 million visitors, becoming the first country to cross the 2 million mark in a single year. The country’s performance represented a 15 per cent year-onyear increase. Saudi Arabia (KSA) maintained its second rank, contributing a total of 1.53 million tourists last year. Despite an overall 7 per cent yearon-year drop in visitation, it remained the highest driver of traffic volumes from within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Western Europe replaced the GCC as Dubai’s main regional source market with a 21 per cent share, contributing more than 3.2 million travellers, up 5.5 per cent. Although last year’s top performer ended 2017 in second place, the GCC region still maintained a high share of volume at 19 per cent, delivering an overall 3.02 million travellers to Dubai.

March 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME



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Regional News

UAE to lead the way with luxury hospitality The UAE will continue to lead the GCC’s luxury hospitality segment to 2022, according to data released ahead of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2018. By 2022 the UAE shall have 73% of existing luxury hotel stock and 61% of the region’s current luxury pipeline located in the country. Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, ATM, said: “The opening of such iconic properties as Burj Al Arab in 1999 and Raffles Makkah Palace in 2010, changed the face of luxury tourism in the GCC, as well as the skylines of its major cities. “The region may be working to attract a wider visitor mix, but its commitment to luxury hospitality and tourism will not take a back seat anytime soon.” The research demonstrates that luxury properties have increased three-fold in the GCC in just 10 years, with 95% of these properties operated by international management brands. Despite taking the lead position, the UAE will face strong competition from

Saudi Arabia, which is expected to witness the most significant increase in luxury hotel supply to 2022, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 18% from 2018 onwards. Across the rest of the GCC, this figure

stands at 10% in the UAE, 11% in Oman and Kuwait, and 9% in Bahrain. Historically, Saudi Arabia dominates CAGR trends, with luxury property development from 2013 – 2017 accounting for 11% of the Kingdom’s growth in supply, compared to 8% in the UAE, 7% in Kuwait, 6% in Oman and 5% in Bahrain. In 2017, the UAE topped the table, with 35% of the year’s pipeline made up of luxury projects; most concentrated in Dubai. This compares to 14% of projects in Saudi Arabia, 20% in Kuwait, 19% in Bahrain and 11% in Oman. Press added: “The GCC’s reputation for world-class hospitality, original concepts and leading F&B have secured its place as one of the world’s most important luxury tourism markets attracting guests from around the globe. The trends we are witnessing are supported by a number of global developments in luxury spending.” ATM takes place at Dubai World Trade Centre from April 22-25.

Dubai experiences first January growth in RevPAR since 2014 Dubai has experienced its first January growth in RevPAR since 2014 according to figures released by industry analysts STR.

High demand was enough to outpace somewhat slowing supply growth and push a positive occupancy comparison,” said a spokesperson. “As a result, Dubai saw its first January increase in RevPAR since 2014. STR analysts note the year-over-year change in supply would be the lowest for any month since November 2012. ” Additionally, demand was aided by a fast-rebounding Russia source market, especially in beachfront properties. Based on daily data from January, Dubai reported the following in year-over-year comparisons: • Supply: +3.6% • Demand: +5.5% • Occupancy: +1.5% to 86.4% • Average daily rate (ADR): -0.6% to AED814.51 • Revenue per available room (RevPAR): +1.0% to AED703.89


HOTEL NEWS ME March 2018

Regional News

Construction is underway at St. Regis Beach Club

Construction is under way on The St. Regis Beach Club on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah, it has been confirmed by developer Nakheel. The company has awarded a contract worth AED79.7 million to Ghantoot Gulf Contracting to build the beachfront facility.

Due to open in 2019, The St. Regis Beach Club complements The St. Regis Dubai – The Palm, a 289-room hotel forming part of Nakheel’s 52-storey, landmark Palm Tower, under construction nearby. News of The St. Regis Beach Club

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construction comes two days after Nakheel confirmed that the 240 metre Palm Tower is 80 per cent complete in terms of concrete works, which is due to open in 2019. The Palm Tower is linked to Nakheel Mall and its 350 shops.

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March 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME


Regional News

Omniyat to launch HOTEC Middle Dorchester East turns 15 Collection in Dubai

Omniyat is launching the renowned Dorchester Collection brand in Dubai with a new development on the banks of Dubai Canal. Entering the Asian market for the first time is a significant moment for the Dorchester Collection, said a spokesperson who added that the partnership reinforces the Dubai developer’s credentials as a premium lifestyle and hospitality developer and exporter of refinement through close partnerships with the world’s leading architects, engineers, interior designers and award-winning artists. Christopher Cowdray, CEO of Dorchester Collection, said: “We are delighted to partner with Omniyat with its global reputation for outstanding design. This is our first hotel and residence complex in the Middle East and we look forward to bringing our distinct style of hospitality to this region.” Mahdi Amjad, CEO and executive chairman of Omniyat, said: “Omniyat is a strong key player in bespoke luxury lifestyle and hospitality development in the region and this carefully selected partnership with Dorchester Collection is another statement on how we differentiate ourselves. “We aim for authenticity through our projects that add to Dubai’s skyline and we only partner with the world’s most established brands that share our passion and excitement for creating unique, ultra-luxury developments. We want to fuel unforgettable experiences through our projects and we couldn’t have found a more suitable partner than Dorchester Collection.” 18

HOTEL NEWS ME March 2018

Abu Dhabi will host the 15th edition of HOTEC Middle East, the annual business-to-business hotel industry event with a difference. HOTEC Middle East 2018 will be held at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, between the 17th and 20th April and will once again bring together local, regional and international suppliers of products and services to the hotel industry with some of the key hotel owners, operators, designers and procurement specialists in the Middle East, for three days of meetings and networking. HOTEC Middle East Event Director Stephen Pace-Bonello said: “While technology today makes it possible to reach out to infinitely larger audiences than ever before from the comfort of our offices, we recognise that this can never truly replace the quality of relationships that are built and main-

tained through personal contact. “Participants at HOTEC expect to spend quality uninterrupted time with peers, existing contacts and potential new clients.” The 15th anniversary edition of HOTEC Middle East has attracted suppliers offering products in over twenty different categories and buyers from right across the region looking to source new and innovative products and services for their properties and projects. The last few buyer and supplier places remain available. Contact Stephen Pace-Bonello on for more information and to be a part of HOTEC Middle East 2018. HOTEC Middle East is one of 15 appointment-based events organised by Questex-McLean Events for four different industries worldwide.

Regional News

84 new hotels to open in Saudi Arabia in 2018 Almost 60% of Saudi Arabia’s current construction pipeline of 143 hotels is forecast to open in 2018, according to a new report. The ‘Saudi Arabia Hotel Construction Overview’ report by TOPHOTELPROJECTS – compiled ahead of The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia (10-12 April 2018) – has revealed that 84 hotels comprising 27,281 rooms will open throughout the Kingdom this year. Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah and Al Khobar remain the busiest areas for hotel construction across the country. Each of these cities rank highly in the Middle East’s top ten most active cities for hospitality development, sitting third, fourth, sixth and tenth respectively. Notable hotel openings set for the Kingdom in 2018 include: Hilton Riyadh Hotel & Residences; Copthorne Hotel Makkah, Jabel Omar; Swiss-Belhotel Al Aziziya Makkah; Millennium Hotel Jeddah; and Hilton Garden Inn Al Khobar. Hilton is identified as the brand with the most hotel developments currently underway throughout the country. Kamel Ajami, Vice President of Operations, KSA & Levant, Hilton commented: “Saudi Arabia is one of the most important markets in this region, with new legislation and government reforms making the Kingdom more accessible than ever. It represents our largest development pipeline in the Middle East.” “We have 30 hotels currently under development in around 12 different cities and our development team is always on the lookout for new opportunities.” In 2018 Hilton expects to see three new hotels open in Saudi Arabia: DoubleTree by Hilton in Makkah’s Jabal Omar development, a midscale Hilton Garden Inn in Al Khobar, and a Hilton in Riyadh. Between them they will add over 1,500 rooms to the company’s footprint across the country. Swiss-Belhotel International will also open three new hotels in the Kingdom in 2018 – two in Riyadh and another de-

Movenpick, Al Khobar

but property in the Holy City of Makkah, scheduled for later this year. “Saudi Arabia is a market that is currently undersupplied in terms of hotels,” said Laurent A. Voivenel, senior vice president, operations and development for the Middle East, Africa & India, Swiss-Belhotel International. “The tourism sector has been earmarked by the government as a key driver for growth in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic diversification strategy, with major initiatives to stimulate the travel and tourism industry. “In addition to mass scale hotel construction, major transport infrastructure projects including the new airport in Jeddah and Haramain High Speed Rail Project, launching this year, will have a big impact. The government is also investing significantly in large-scale leisure, culture and entertainment projects. We are keen to take advantage of this massive opportunity for hospitality development.” “Alongside a continued focus on the Holy Cities, it is clear that hospitality developments in the pipeline for the Kingdom are being designed to cater to a wider range of travellers including domestic and international business and leisure tour-

ists,” commented Gary Williams, event director of The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia. “Dubai-based Rove Hotels has just announced that construction will begin on its first hotel in the Kingdom this year. The midscale, lifestyle hotel brand will cater to tech-savvy millennial travellers and will be based at King Abdullah Economic City – fast becoming the Kingdom’s hub for business and leisure. Meanwhile, major international brands are focusing on areas such as Al Khobar and Jazan City, close to the Persian Gulf and Red Sea coasts respectively, which offer access to the beach and a growing number of leisure and cultural activities.” As the hospitality landscape across the Kingdom continues to grow and prosper, The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia – the country’s leading networking and sourcing event for hoteliers and restaurateurs – returns for its sixth edition in Jeddah in April. Co-located with Stone & Surface Saudi Arabia 2018, the Kingdom’s only sourcing event dedicated to the stone and surface design industry, the events will both take place across three days – 10-12th April 2018 – at the Jeddah Centre for Forums and Events. March 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME



Steigenberger appoints new director of Food and beverage Andrew Vieira has joined the hotel as Director of Food & Beverage to head the property’s culinary operations. With 14 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Vieira started his career in his hometown, London before moving to the Middle East with Jumeirah Group where he worked for six years and Emaar Hospitality for three years. Prior to joining Steigenberger, Vieira served as Food & Beverage Manager for two years at The Meydan Hotel, working closely with the leadership team to maximise financial performance. “We are delighted to welcome Andrew aboard. Andrew brings a world of hotel experience and zest for life to our team. He is able to respond quickly to

the constantly changing culinary scene in Dubai and will be key in ensuring that our F&B offering remains the talk of the town,” Stephen Meredith, general manager, Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay said. Commenting on his new role, Vieira said, “I have been blessed with opportunities to work in every corner of the F&B business, and I get a real kick out of driving new challenges to completion. “I am delighted to take up the position of Director of Food & Beverage of Steigenberger, with its unique outlets, exceptional standards of German hospitality, and prime position within Business Bay. This is a great time for me to join this talented team.”

Al Bait Sharjah appoints general manager Patrick Moukarzel has been named as the general manager of Al Bait Sharjah – the 53-key hotel scheduled to open later this year. Since his last role with General Hotel Management (GHM) as a general manager in Suzhou, Moukarzel has managed luxury hotels in Penang, Malaysia and in Maldives where he shepherded the Soneva Jani from the final stages of construction to full operation. “If ever there was a reason to leave the paradise of Maldives, it’s for the Heart of Sharjah,” said Moukarzel. “Its ambitions as a heritage project are remarkable, and Al Bait – the city’s first true luxury hotel – will be right at the centre of it all.” 20

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Hans R. Jenni, director and president of GHM, said: ‘Patrick’s got a great eye for detail and for problem-solving. He knows how to build bridges between what’s in a

blueprint and what’s at the heart of a guest’s expectations for a luxury hotel stay.” Between 2006 and 2012, Moukarzel rose through the ranks from a food and bev-

erage manager at The Chedi Muscat to general manager positions at the luxury hotel group’s properties in Thailand and China. After schooling at LycéeHôtelier Toulouse, his first job as a fledgling hotelier was as a restaurant manager at the Hotel InterContinental in Dubai. He worked two more years at an InterContinental in Egypt before returning to Dubai, this time for a stint with Hyatt. The hotel’s design includes a direct link to a traditional bazaar and marketplace, a round wind tower, thatched roofs and traditional motifs. GHM also has plans to open two more properties this year in India and Montenegro.


Wyndham announces new Managing director for EMEA region Dimitris Manikis will be responsible for the development of all of Wyndham Hotel Group’s brands in the EMEA region as well as maximising the performance of all new and existing franchise and managed hotels. He will focus on driving the strategic objectives of Wyndham Hotel Group including quality and technology solutions as well as loyalty, sales and marketing. “The EMEA region has a diverse hospitality landscape and is witnessing exciting trends such as the emergence of new feeder markets, a younger demographic and fast-paced technology adoption. With our focus on providing everyday travellers with a breadth of choice, we have cemented our reputation as the industry leader,” said Bob Loewen,

Wyndham Hotel Group’s chief operating officer. “Dimitris’ wealth of experience in the shared

ownership industry and strong relationships with hospitality providers across EMEA make him an ideal professional to lead our operations in this rapidly growing region.” Wyndham Hotel Group expanded its footprint across EMEA with a number of significant openings throughout 2017, bringing the total number of hotels across the region to nearly 470. “I am looking forward to strengthening the operations and footprint of Wyndham Hotel Group in EMEA, a region I have been associated with for nearly three decades. With the robust performance of the industry in several key markets in EMEA last year, the potential for Wyndham Hotel Group to expand its operations further in the region is tremendous,” said Manikis.


March 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME



Putting Festival City on the map Vanina Yordanova, marketing and PR manager, InterContinental Dubai Festival City is under the spotlight this month‌


HOTEL NEWS ME March 2018


Describe your first ever role in the hotel industry? I started my career as a revenue management trainee in Berlin. It was a very exciting experience and helped me a lot to understand the commercial side of marketing a bit better. Who is the person who has inspired you most in your career? I was very fortunate to work with many great leaders but I would say Alessandro Redaelli, who was my general manager at the Kempinski Palm Jumeirah. What really inspired me was his passion, positive attitude, humility and the fact he was always supportive and open to ideas from the team. How do you view the hotel scene in the region? The Middle East market is extremely

competitive and fast growing. We have many great products and smart customers who know what they want. What is the biggest challenge of your role? Due to the competitive market we have many last minute request and it can be challenge to execute all of them at the same time. What is your favorite aspect of your role? I am very social person and always like to meet and interact with new people, discover new places and be up to date with what is happening in the city. I always like to hear our colleagues’ stories, as well, and be able to showcaset their talents through PR. If you could work in any hotel in the world, which would it be? When I studied in Milan, I visited Be-

Work Experience

2014-2016 Hyatt Hotels in Dubai

2016-2017 Kempinski Palm Jumeirah 2017-2018 Viceroy Palm Jumeirah (Five Palm Jumeirah) laggio (a small village next to Lake Como). I loved all the small boutique hotels there as well as the nature. What tip would you share with new staff starting out in the hotel industry in the region? It is not just a job - it is a lifestyle and passion. Definitely, I would recommend to all new colleagues to be passionate about what they do, always to keep smiling while they are at work and follow their dreams.

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March 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME




Transforming the smart hotels of tomorrow Graeme Kane, hospitality business development manager, Middle East, Mediterranean and Africa at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, writes for Hotel News Middle East about the future of smart hotels in the region…


egardless of the size or type of property, every hotel operator that wants to remain competitive and relevant will have to embrace IoT devices, and related wireless innovations over the next year to enable nextgeneration guest experiences. Technology and the millennials The problem with technology as a term in the hospitality industry is that it’s so 24

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ubiquitous that it becomes difficult to single out what developments are the most important for the next five years. Hoteliers have been cautious of technology taking away the human effect from the guest service and experience. Rapid advances and disruptive technology is a constant challenge, where Artificial Intelligence (AI), wearable technology and Virtual Reality (VR) will become the norm when it comes to how potential guests search for and

experience a trip. The smart ‘hotel of the future’ will have access to these technologies which have the ability to accelerate service, personalise the guest experience, build resource allocations to support guest requests, enable preventative maintenance and improve employee productivity. Mobile and keyless check-in options, mobile key access, digital in-room controls, virtual reality for booking, and advanced energy conservation systems will become the norm. We all know reliable Wi-Fi and IPTV are now as vital to guests as much as hot water and clean sheets and these are key drivers for guests of all ages. But if we look at the Millennials, with every passing year their spending power increases, which means more travel and hotel stays. The whole experience right from booking to checkout is expected to be seamless and flawless with as little direct human interaction or contact as possible. Hotel operators will have to take this into consideration in the design stages of their hotels. A fully automated mobile payment system, via an online payment gateway using smartphones along with robust cyber security and tokenised payment methods ensuring complete security of guest credit card data, is becoming essential for an excellent guest experience at the booking stage.

17-19 April 2018 AHIC Village, Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates

First 50 speakers announced

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With incorporation of the latest mobility solutions for the workforce, hotels can get real-time intelligence for quick decision making that increases agility, collaboration and productivity of the hotel staff which in turn enhances the overall guest satisfaction. Artificial intelligence and hotels From booking engines to chatbots and voice command software for room allocations – this may seem like a scene right out of a sci-fi movie, but is in fact a reality today. Customer facing AI robotic concierges and luggage handlers (already operational in some Aloft hotels) are getting a lot of media attention. In Japan, cyborgs programmed to make eye contact and respond with multilingual ability check you into hotels. The question here is that should technology totally replace personal interactions or should the two co-exist? Digital assistants like Alexa and Siri lack human warmth, charm and personal connection, and yet perhaps this is what millennials want today. And incorporating technologies like this is also a cost saving propo26

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sition for hotels. More research needs to be done. But watch this space closely as it continues to evolve. Location awareness and bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacons – Creating a ‘home away from home’ experience Location-based services opens a world of delightful use cases. By deploying Bluetooth-enabled IoT Beacon sensors along with the latest location-aware mobility and analytics innovations throughout the property, guests can be automatically recognised and registered as soon as they step onto the hotel premise, eliminating the stop at the registration desk and creating the same experience of walking in through the door at home. As they proceed through the lobby, they can receive an automated update, via the hotel’s mobile app, on the status of their room. If the room is being cleaned or is unavailable for some other reason, the same technology can offer them a discount on a snack or free cocktail in the lounge. When the guests head for their room, they don’t have to carry with them a key card - which let’s face it we’ve all had

trouble with at some point or the other. Keyless entry via smartphone is the future - much more convenient than using a magnetic swipe card. A “key” with an encrypted code is sent via a push notification by the hotel to the guest’s phone, along with a message about the room number. The hotel room door unlocks when the smartphone with the code is held near it. Advanced in-room controls are another technology of the future. The moment the guest enters the room, without any switches being touched, sensors turn the lights and the air conditioning on and open the curtains. This undoubtedly is a delightful experience for guests. In the future custombuilt apps for in-room controls will allow guests to access everything from their own smartphones and other mobile devices. They could for example set the climate controls to a certain temperature before they even arrive in their room. Once in the room, the hotel’s IoT-enabled and location-aware infrastructure will work in other ways. For example, it can permit guests to stream personal content onto their in-room television while using the hotel’s mobile app to schedule a massage in the spa and order a beverage to arrive pool side the same time as they do. As wireless solutions advance, expect even more options, such as using a mobile device to project a preferred fitness routine onto a full-length mirror. Hotels can boost revenue by sending push notifications via BLE beacons to guest devices that are connected to the hotel’s Wi-Fi – without invading privacy by promoting offers that are relevant to the guest’s interests, needs and preference as they wander around the property. Geofencing using the wireless network allows property owners to know where the guest is in the property and when they pass a particular beacon they can receive a personalised message, coupon and loyalty points. Data analytics will be the secret sauce here. Property owners can deploy navigation features within the hotel’s mobile app to guide guests to food and beverage and all amenities in the property as an option, again using BLE beacons.



Can Hotels Bend It Like Beckham? Darren Darwin, our regular columnist and general manager of Anantara Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, on the important role that expertise plays in the industry I believe that real expertise is linked to human behaviour. For example a friendly and intuitive attitude outweighs skill. I mean it’s no good having a super barista if he or she is miserable. Someone who smiles and genuinely tries to help is far better than someone with great knowledge but who barely acknowledges their guests, and only does the minimum to please. The expertise element in play here is the ability to be able to read and understand the guests’ needs, and deliver a WOW experience without being prompted or given clues. A real hospitality expert will understand what the guests’ requirements are, even if the guests themselves are not too sure. Expertise or to be more specific, experts in hospitality, who are they? What do they signify to the brand and the consumer? There are a lot of buzzwords floating around hotels: Specialists, Gurus and Champions. At Anantara we have Gurus, that are specifically chosen for their understanding of a precise skill. Nevertheless, attaining this skill is not enough, we also look for attitude, energy and a willingness to master the role beyond our rivals and the industry norms. One of our Gurus that has stood out in terms of passion and enthusiasm, is someone whose role I created especially for Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort. His name is Mahir and he is our Mountain Guru. When we interviewed him, we saw a raw talent for expressing him28

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self and telling stories about the mountain and local culture. We all instantly knew he would be a huge success, indeed Mahir is our most praised team members across all review platforms. In the subject title, you will have seen I wrote about bending it like Beckham. I think expertise is very much connected to practice and the willingness to keep on learning and evolving one’s craft. American motivational speaker, writer and consultant Denis Waitley says, “Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise. View life as a continuous learning experience”. No one would argue that David Beckham was not one of the best free kick specialists in the history of football. So much so that a film was even named after this phrase, “Bend it like Beckham”. What many of you may not know, is that David spent countless hours after team practice on his own, curling hundreds of balls around a wooden wall of men, to perfect and hone in on his skill. Yes he had a natural talent, nonetheless, this did not deter him from tirelessly trying to get better each and every day. Also a good lesson here is to never be complacent, if you do, you can rest assured that another hotel or “footballer” will soon evolve faster and better than you. I have my own little story to share here. At the ripe old age of 43, I embarked on my most challenging life experience. I decided to complete my MBA with renowned Swiss School Glion. Was

I crazy? Perhaps, yet I really wanted to see if, a) I could do it, and, b) to acquire the best academic qualification in the hospitality industry, which in turn, I felt would enhance my overall expertise. The journey was exhausting, with endless hours of research and writing assignments in the evenings, in addition to complex assignments at the weekends. This endeavour took three very long years, whilst at the same time, opening and operating a hotel. Nevertheless, I do not regret it for one minute. The learning I acquired alongside my current experience, certainly brought my overall expertise to a whole new level, not to mention a resurgence in my self-confidence. By the same token I would also concur that expertise is gained from experience. According to Daniel Kaheman, “True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience”. We have to be patient, learn along the way, and at the same time have a keen sense of self-development and selfpreservation. We do not stand still and wait, to be the best is to drive ourselves, to perfect our area of expertise to reach new heights week in week out. Finally and to summarise, expertise is critically important to the success of luxury hotels, the competition is far stiffer nowadays, and therefore we really need to stand out, giving our patrons an experience that will last in their subconscious for a very long time.

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Cover Story


HOTEL NEWS ME March 2018

Cover Story

Where value meets luxury Patria Puyat, pre−opening hotel manager, Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City, takes the team from Hotel News Middle East on an exclusive hard−hat tour of her property ahead of its opening. When the Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City opens it will be the largest Holiday Inn in the country, heralding in a new era for the industry. Words by Patrick Ryan // Pictures by Hayder Al−Zuhairi


ith the number of hotels in Dubai showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon, it takes something special to stand out from the crowd. That’s exactly what Patria Puyat feels that she has up her sleeve as she oversees the opening of Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City. The 520-room property is expected to open soon, so what better time was there for the team at Hotel News Middle East to pay a visit to the hotel. The new hotel will represent the biggest Holiday Inn in the country, but as Puyat explains to Hotel News Middle East, that’s not the only selling point of the property. “I see it as a brand-defining Holiday Inn here in the Middle East,” she says. “It really is like nothing else you will ever see here and will help push the

brand further in terms of what it can offer the guests. It is a marriage between what is practical and understated luxury.” The hotel market in the Middle East, like anywhere else in the world, has experienced some turbulent times over the last number of years but Puyat feels that has provided an opportunity for her and the team at the Dubai Festival City property. “I have worked in this market in Dubai for seven years now and remember seeing the room-rate rise to $300-400 a night,” she says. “Now what people are looking for is actually value and to feel at home, while getting a taste of luxury at the same time and I feel that the Holiday Inn is perfectly placed to offer this. It is a marriage between what is practical, what people are looking for and understated luxury.”

Puyat is confident that she and her team can offer a unique experience adding that her confidence is bolstered by the fact the property is part of a cluster in Dubai Festival City (DFC). “The cluster at DFC here is close to my heart. You will never see another cluster in the Middle East that actually offers three-tiered hotel branding,” she says. “The cluster has a deluxe hotel, it has a five-star hotel in the Crowne Plaza, it has a resident’s suite and now you have the new kid on the block – the Holiday Inn.” Being part of a cluster is going to be a huge advantage, says Puyat. “It’s going to be a strength because the marketing and sales teams are already embedded – it’s the same with the finance and technology teams,” she says. “Also having a regional general manMarch 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME


Cover Story

ager (James Koratzopoulos) who sits within the cluster is such a comfort for me as a first-time new opening leader.” Puyat is clear about what she wants from her team – obviously she wants the right people in the right roles but she values one trait above all others. “I have been working in the hotel industry for 27 years and the one thing I admire in people is having the right attitude,” she says. “You can submit a CV that is 15 pages long or one that is three pages long but it doesn’t compare to when I speak to a person and get a feel for their attitude and ability to think outside the box – that’s what I go for when picking a team.” Puyat says that it is vital that people have the right attitude when it comes to working in hospitality, especially as it is a more demanding experience than people first realise. “When you talk about hospitality people mention what a glamorous job it is,” she says. “But people don’t see the back end of hotels, they think it’s all about people in heels and beautiful suits with nicely coiffured hair.” 32

HOTEL NEWS ME March 2018

Patria Puyat

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Cover Story

The truth, says Puyat is that it is ‘super hard work’. It is fair to say that Puyat knows what she is talking about. After all this is a woman who worked her way up through the ranks of the industry, all the way to the top rung – her work ethic is there for all to see. “I always tell my children that I had to pay my dues to reach this point in my career,” she says. “I used to work 24, 36 even 72 hours straight to get things done. Whenever there are walls in front of you, other people haven’t put them there, they come from yourself.” The bigger picture is certainly some34

HOTEL NEWS ME March 2018

Cover Story

I see it as a brand-defining Holiday Inn here in the Middle East. It really is like nothing else you will ever see here and will help push the brand further in terms of what it can offer the guests. ” thing that Puyal places a premium on – that has come with over two decades of experience in the industry. “I only worked for two chains – 18 years with IHG and five years with Starwood,” she says. “Ultimately it doesn’t matter who you are, what gender you are, how many children you have – what it boils down to is having the work ethic to become anything you want.” FOOD FOR THOUGHT Puyat is adamant that the Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City will want for nothing and that extends to the F&B offerings as well. “We are going to have an all-day dining facility called Scirocco and a café called Zest,” she says. “It is a place where you can sit and connect with your colleagues or friends. We want to ensure it is a comfortable area that makes you feel right at home.” She describes the pricing strategy at the outlets as being “very friendly”. “We are also going to have an event centre that can cater to people for banquets, meetings and gatherings as well a board room that has a fixed roundtable,” she says. “This is something that I feel is really going to connect with our target market.” March 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME


GM Interview

Location, Location, Location.

James Hewitson, general manager, Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara, tells Hotel News Middle East how great things are happening in the Omani region... There is a beloved television programme in the UK about property called Location, Location, Location. While the show has absolutely nothing to do with the hospitality industry here in the Middle East, the sentiment of the title has very much been adopted by James Hewitson, general manager, Al Baleel Resort Salalah by Anantara. Hewitson is determined to make the most of the picturesque surroundings the north of Oman to help continue his hotel’s success story. “We want to spread the word about both our resort and the wonderful destination of Salalah, which is still a relatively undiscovered destination,” says Hewitson. “It really is an undiscovered gem and that’s why we are working closely 36

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with the tourist board here and media across the world to drive awareness that you are in an amazing part of Arabia down here.” It is no secret that these are challenging times for the hospitality sector all over the world, not just in the Middle East, but Hewitson passionately believes that the combination of the luxury property and the surrounding area is a recipe for success. “Oman, with its culture, unique topography and 3,500km of coastline, sets itself slightly apart from its regional competitors,” he says. “The government’s strategy to develop adventure and experience tourism while preserving Oman’s culture and heritage is paying off, resulting in it becoming a popular

destination for travelers looking to get a taste of Arabia.” One area that Hewitson has immediately identified as presenting opportunities for the property is the F&B sector in Salalah. “We’re keen to put the resort on the map as a culinary destination in Salalah, as well as providing unique experiences for guests so they can explore this stunning region,” he says. “The dining scene in Salalah is nonexistent, with most Omanis preferring to entertain at home however we’ve been successful in establishing our three restaurants in the market.” Hewitson and his team are obviously on to something as they have flown out of the blocks, in terms of performance, in 2018.

GM Interview

The government's strategy to develop adventure and experience tourism while preserving Oman's culture and heritage is paying off, resulting in it becoming a popular destination for travelers looking to get a taste of Arabia �

March 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME


GM interview

“2018 has been a great start to the year with 100% growth over January 2017 and we expect to show strong growth year on year in the coming months ahead with a good solid base of leisure bookings already on the books,” he says. “We are into our second full year of operation and we have been very pleased with the progress we are making, we are developing all areas of the business but our restaurants and spas have been performing well above expectations and we will continue to innovate and drive at improving the quality of these two key components of our business.” It’s not simply about profit at Al Baleel Resort Salalah by Anantara, Hewit38

HOTEL NEWS ME March 2018


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Gm Interview

son is eager to make a difference to the lives of the local community. “I’m passionate about recruiting and training young Omanis from the local community,” he says. “As a brand, indigenous experiences are part of Anantara’s core ethos and by employing from the local talent pool, we are building a team that has a deep understanding of the culture and region as well as a desire to aid the country’s future growth and development.” An indication of the hotel’s commitment to the local community is further illustrated by an official partnership with the National Hospitality Institute to recruit and train local Omani students. The aim of the partnership, Hewitson explains, is to provide the students with the opportunity to spend time working in different departments at the resort before being hired full-time. “We’ve also introduced an overseas training programme, providing key Omani members of the team with the opportunity to gain valuable experience at other Anantara properties around the world,” he says. “We hope it has instilled a strong sense of pride in their work so they can begin to progress up the career ladder and pursue a successful career in hospitality. Through recruitment and training programmes, we have been able to build a team that is more than 25% Omani from senior leadership to rankand-file positions.”


HOTEL NEWS ME March 2018

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While there is a vibrant Omani presence in the hotel there is also a cosmopolitan feel to the property, as Hewitson reveals. “We spend a lot of time on recruitment and have over 40 different nationalities working with us with a variety of levels of experience and this has helped to drive competition amongst the team to outperform each other every day,” he says. Staff morale is something that Hewitson believes that you can’t put a premium on. “It’s particularly important to create a positive working environment in a relatively remote location such as Salalah so I put extra care into ensuring the accommodation was 10 minutes from the hotel to avoid long transits 42

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to work and that the team has access to facilities such as internet, satellite TV, shopping malls and the wonderful beaches in Salalah so everyone stays happy,” he says. “I believe that very happy colleagues lead to very happy guests and I take full responsibility to ensure the team is well looked after and motivated so they can really feel passionate about looking after our guests.” These are key pillars of management that Hewitson has picked up since he progressed in the restaurant business in his native UK, before taking up his first overseas post in 1999. His journeys took him to such locations as Kuwait, Bahrain, Malta, Thailand before he took up a role

with the Minor Hotel Group in 2011. It is that experience that helps Hewitson remain focused on the future growth of the property. “The GCC market is key for us, as well as European leisure markets such as Germany, Italy and the UK,” he says. “The market in Salalah previously has been based on charter business driving large volume and low rates and we were very conscious that we would not be following this strategy. We have positioned our product and rates to be able to compete with the luxury hotels in Muscat and our main focus now is to keep developing the awareness so we can drive better occupancy moving forward in line with our forecasts from our original feasibility study.”



HOTEL NEWS ME March 2018


Living La Vida Loca Eliza Atriaga, general manager, Vida Downtown, is in the spotlight as she tells Hotel News Middle East about why we should be excited about the emergence of the upscale lifestyle brand

How do you feel Vida Downtown is performing this year? Vida Downtown is performing well this year and I am extremely proud of my team and our achievements. What are your targets and expectations for next year? I am confident in reaching our targets for Vida Downtown next year. As a group, we are looking forward to open new properties under Vida Hotels and Resorts, the upscale lifestyle hotel brand for the new generation of travellers and entrepreneurs. What are your thoughts on the current state of the region’s hospitality market? I am exhilarated about the region’s hospitality market and the opportunity it presents to brands and our hotel. When you stay at Vida Downtown you know you are

back in a familiar place where everyone has the same mindset, and you feel refreshed and inspired. A rundown of the renovations at your hotel such as designs briefs, new features and facilities, new F&B and where this will place the hotel within the wider hotel market. Vida Downtown is constantly looking for innovation and creativity. We are always evolving and we have many new plans for Vida Downtown in 2018. Vida Downtown has 156 rooms designed for comfortable elegance, with state-of-the-art technology and amenities, an open-air swimming pool and numerous restaurants and lounges. Vida Downtown explores an array of distinct food and beverage concepts, deriving inspiration from Middle Eastern culture and international cuisine. The outlets 3in1 and Stage2 offer guests a unique and

creative concept, where they can connect with friends and family in an innovative way. The hotel is also home to the awardwinning La Serre Bistro & Boulangerie and Toko featuring Japanese cuisine in a modern izakaya style. What are the operational priorities for you as GM? Vida Hotels and Resorts is positioned as an upscale lifestyle brand, where entrepreneurial minds can create, connect and come alive. Vida Downtown is a destination where style meets convenience and interactivity. The priority is to make our guests feel at home and at ease. Can you define your approach to leadership and staff empowerment? Your team wants variety, learning opportunities and additional responsibilities. If you fail to provide these you will face March 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME



ogy trends. Vida, meaning ‘life’ in Spanish, embraces warmth, simplicity and creativity in design-led spaces. What can you tell Hotel News Middle East about your professional experience and history? I have worked all over the world, namely Miami, New York, Jackson Hole, Costa Rica, Canada, Mexico, Budapest, Argentina, New Zealand, Maldives, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah. Understanding every market and trend was extremely important for my career. decreased morale, apathy or worse. As a manager, you should have a goal for your team members to be successful in their careers and their lives. Their success is your success. With a new hotel how do you fill rooms and drive the rate? We are knowledgeable of our hotel and we know what our guests are looking for when they book Vida Downtown. We provide personalised service, which encourages our guests to return to Vida Downtown, positioned as an upscale lifestyle hotel, again and again. How do you decide on a sales and marketing strategy? We are constantly brainstorming with our marketing and sales team to get creative and stay ahead, making sure that our sales and marketing initiatives embrace the Vida Downtown hotel concept. How important is your digital strategy? Connecting to the ‘new generation’ with the power of technology, Vida Downtown features innovative arrival areas, where guests can check in via iPads. Throughout the hotel experience, guests can benefit from technological touches in line with its intuitive service, going beyond the barriers of traditional hospitality. Our associates are always around to offer personalised service. To add to that, engaging digital marketing and social media are at the core of our brand.


HOTEL NEWS ME March 2018

How does the hotel fit into the group’s portfolio? Vida Downtown is the flagship property under Vida Hotels and Resorts, the upscale lifestyle hotel brand for the new generation of travellers and entrepreneurs. With its central location in Downtown Dubai, the hotel serves as a social hub for the tech-savvy. How would you describe to someone who was unfamiliar with it? A lively and vibrant hub where inspiring minds can create, connect and come alive, Vida Downtown welcomes the new generation of travellers, and we will continue to strengthen its appeal to our guests through our world-class service and amenities. What are your own favourite features of the property? I love how Vida Downtown is comfortably aware of art, design, culture and technol-

How has that influenced your management philosophy? Each role developed me to be the manager I am today. I use the following guidance: leadership, enablement, fairness, communication, quality, positivity, and adaptability. Shaping your own management philosophy is an important step in defining yourself as a manager. It forces you to take the time to define and further craft your own doctrine. Every once in a while, I look back at my list to remind myself and realign my direction. Remember that great leaders aren't born that way - you need to work at it, take feedback and never be afraid of changes. What would you say are the main factors that make a great GM? Communication is key and I have found that most conflicts in the workplace results from a misunderstanding in expectations. The best managers will clearly communicate expectations of their team and of themselves while still giving associates the freedom and tools they need to get the job done.


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In Profile

Opportunity knocks for HMH

Hospitality Management Holding (HMH) CEO Aboudi Asali explains how the company has big plans for the UAE and the wider GCC region


HOTEL NEWS ME March 2018

In profile

Please give me a brief overview of where HMH fits into the UAE market at this moment. HMH has demonstrated tremendous growth since its formation in 2003 and has established itself as one of the pioneers specialized in the dry segment among local hospitality groups from the region. We are operating hotels in top destinations across the MENA re-

gion under our various brands namely Bahi Hotels & Resorts, Coral Hotels & Resorts, Corp Hotels, EWA Hotel Apartments and ECOS Hotels, HMH caters to diverse segments from luxury to budget. Currently we have some exceptional landmark properties in three Emirates, the Bahi Ajman Palace Hotel, Coral Beach Resort Sharjah, Coral Deira Dubai and the latest addition to our portfolio

the 337-room Coral Dubai Al Barsha Hotel. It supports our expansion goals for the UAE where we aim to operate 10 hotels by 2020. What are the key opportunities that are available for hotels in the market at the moment? Guests are increasingly well-travelled with a large variety of choices and types of acMarch 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME


In profile

commodation. It is very important that hotels meet and exceed the expectations of their guests. That’s why HMH gets involved from the drawing stage to ensure that our hotels have innovative and creative designs, attractive ancillary facilities, technology that works and operational efficiency. Once the hotel is operational, HMH ensures that its team provides excellent service and high-quality products in F&B, Rooms, Gym, Spa and all other facilities to compete efficiently and achieve market share premiums. What are the major challenges that the market faces in the region? The entire region is being challenged by the various geo-political situations which have been ongoing for over a decade now. The global economic slowdown and the increase in supply in key markets have affected hotel performances in 2017. However, there are many indicators that 2017 was a transitional year, and performances in the region will improve from this year onwards. How do you see the next 12-18 months panning out for both HMH and the wider market in the region? On a macro level we believe that 2018 will be a strong year and many markets will see an uplift compared to 2017. In addition, HMH is undergoing major changes which we are planning to announce by Q2 this year. We are also preparing for the opening of four new hotels this year, including the Coral Al Madinah, a landmark 400-room 5-star property in a top location facing the Haram. Can you provide a breakdown of the pipeline for HMH in the region? Below listed are the projects which are opening this year. • Coral Al Madinah Hotel – KSA – 400 rooms • Corp Muscat Al Muzn Hotel – Oman – 132 rooms • Coral Port Sudan – Sudan – 84 rooms • Townhouse project in Jeddah (brand not yet announced) – KSA - 46 Villas 50

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In addition, we are in discussion with several owners of existing hotels which might require immediate take-over. These are not included in the above list. Do you have plans for further expansion in the region and, if so, can you provide a breakdown? We are predominantly focused on expansion in the Middle East and Africa region with currently 32 hotels projects under discussion at various stages. Although none can be announced at this stage, we anticipate operating hotels in

all GCC capitals by 2020, and continuing expanding in our main markets, UAE and Saudi Arabia. We are the largest hotel operator in Sudan where we will continue to emphasize our position, especially with the new opening of Ewa Port Sudan. In addition, we are exploring new markets where we believe we can establish ourselves as leading pioneers with strong returns for hotel owners due to the current lack of quality hotels. These include new areas in key markets such as Al Furjan and Jumeirah Village Circle in Dubai and Obhur in Jeddah.

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Event preview

L oo k i ng ahe ad

t o ATM 2018

Hotel News Middle East takes a look at this year’s Arabian Travel Market which is gearing up to be bigger and better than ever

Celebrating its 25th year, Arabian Travel Market (ATM), the Middle East’s leading platform for tourism professionals and focal point for the region’s travel industry, will return to the Dubai World Trade Centre, from 22-25 April. ATM 2018 will look to build on the success of last year’s show. Showcasing over 2,500 exhibitors and welcoming over 40,000 industry professionals, business deals worth US$2.5bn were agreed over four days – making ATM 2018 the largest edition in the show’s history. These achievements wouldn’t have been possible without the tandem growth of the 52

HOTEL NEWS ME March 2018

region’s hospitality industry, which, over the last 25 years has emerged as one of the world’s fastest growing regional markets. This year, Responsible Tourism – including sustainable travel trends – will be adopted as the official show theme for ATM 2018. Throughout the event, professionals from across the industry spectrum will demonstrate how, with the correct strategy in place, the tourism industry can expand its responsible credentials. Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, ATM said: “Tourism plays a vital role for GCC countries in their diversification strate-

gies away from a reliance on hydrocarbon receipts. However, the industry must continue to evolve in a responsible fashion. “It is crucial that we all work towards a tourism sector which protects the environment, preserves the cultural heritage of destinations and fosters respect for local communities everywhere. “To that end, ATM 2018 will have a particular focus on responsible tourism, integrating it across all show verticals and activities, including sustainability-focused seminar sessions, featuring dedicated exhibitor participation.” Today, the cities across the MENA region

Event preview

are home to some of the world’s largest tourism development pipelines. In total, the UAE has 194 projects and 55,264 rooms in the construction pipeline, while Saudi Arabia has 60,249 rooms and over 198 projects. Despite the economic benefits, growth often comes at a price and, in the resource intensive hospitality and tourism industry, the environmental impact is multi-dimensional, from carbon emissions, water and energy demand, to food waste, noise and light pollution. The UN's World Tourism Organisation estimates that tourism is responsible for about 5% of global CO2 emissions. Accommodation accounts for approximately 20% of emissions from tourism, which includes energy demand, dining and leisure. With guests increasingly looking to reduce their personal impact, the industry is now incorporating sustainability in business strategy. We have already seen a number of successful initiatives introduced by operators and authorities in the UAE, reducing the average carbon footprint of a hotel to within the global average range of 20,000-30,000 KGCO2E per room. Demonstrating what can be achieved, in two short years the UAE will host the most sustainable Expo to date, with a record-breaking 20 million international arrivals expected. In celebration of ATM’s 25th year, this year’s show will host a series of seminar sessions looking back on the tourism revolution in the MENA region over the last quarter of a

century and also forecasting what lies ahead for the industry over the next 25 years. Press added: “The tourism industry in the GCC has grown ten-fold and more since we first opened our show doors. Today we have the tallest buildings and tallest hotels; revolutionary transport infrastructure; theme parks and leisure attractions that are the envy of the rest of the world. “ATM will reflect on this success, while exploring how the industry will shape up over the next 25 years, in light of economic uncertainties, huge technological advances and, of course, the increasing trend of responsible tourism.” Debuting at this year’s event will be the ATM Student Conference – a programme aimed at students and graduates who are looking to pursue a career in the travel and tourism industry. Taking place on the final day of ATM, this initiative will allow students to listen to key guest speakers and travel industry leaders. It will also help provide students with a greater understanding of the industry and potential career paths. Following a successful launch last year, the second edition of the International Luxury Travel Market Arabia (ILTM) will return on the first two days of the show. International luxury suppliers and key luxury buyers will connect via one-to-one pre-scheduled appointments and networking opportunities. The Best Stand Awards programme will

The tourism industry in the GCC has grown tenfold and more since we first opened our show doors.” Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, ATM return for a fourth year, while the ATM Global Stage will welcome an array of high-level speakers who will cover a wide range of topics from future travel experiences, aviation and entrepreneurship to travel technology and halal tourism. ATM will host the largest gathering of travel and lifestyle bloggers at the Digital Influencer Speed Networking, where they will have the opportunity to interact with exhibitors taking part in the show. Further ATM calendar favourites returning for 2018 include the ultra-innovative Travel Tech Show as well as the Buyers’ Club and the Wellness Lounge which both offer excellent opportunities to meet and network with likeminded individuals and organisations. March 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME



Mar k Lee Ge ne ra l m a nager Me di a One Hotel

Nila P endarovsk i H otel manager Rove Downtown Dubai

Maria Tu llberg Gener al manager Ra diss on Blu Dubai Deir a Cr eek


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A l e x a n de r S c h n ei de r Gen eral m an ag er N i k k i Beach H otels an d R es orts

Dav i d A l l a n Cluster g en eral man ag er R ad i ss on Blu D ub ai Waterfr o n t an d D ub ai Can al

R e m c o We r k h ov e n Gen eral m an ag e r D oub leT ree by H i lto n D ub ai Bus i n ess B ay

Amm a r H i l a l Gen eral m an ag er Fai rm on t D ub ai


The fourth edition of the GM Leaders Conference is taking place this year at The St. Regis Dubai on Monday, 7 May. The GM Leaders Conference has become one of the most eagerly awaited dates on the hospitality calendar in the region. Hotel News Middle East gathered some of the leading general managers from across the region to speak about the opportunities, key challenges and trends to help shape the agenda for this year’s GM Leaders Conference. The roundtable event took place at Fairmont Dubai. What are the latest trends facing the industry? Mark Lee: We can’t ignore the emergence of social media and the massive impact that’s had on all of our lives as hoteliers. I know that my life has changed – we didn’t manage it particularly well to begin with but we have

worked hard to improve every aspect of our social media. I came into hospitality having the ability to connect with people quite directly so I initially found social media quite difficult. It’s just constant monitoring, we have a lot of checking processes in place, checking summaries from Trip Advisor and social media posts consumes a large part of my day.

When they come to us they want to be as connected as they are at home so it puts a lot of responsibility on us as hoteliers to make sure they can connect.

Maria Tullberg: Social media is a huge trend but what comes with that is how people make their bookings and how they plan their trips.

Remco Werkhoven: Social media is impacting us. Because of social media we are always available, it is always hard to step back and check what we are doing

Ammar Hilal: The traditional methods of marketing have no place to survive in the world of hotels and 80% of it has moved to digital. 20% remains with PR and traditional marketing. OTAs are a threat to us too.

March 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME



and refocusing. It is about finding the right balance between work and life. Nila Pendarovski: The type of traveller we are having has changed. We are used to millennials by now, but the new generation is coming. We have to start getting ready for these guys who are very career driven and focused on becoming the next executive chefs in five years-time. This is a departure from millennials who were not so career focused, with them it was more about dabbling around and having fun and looking for an experience. The new guys coming up are highly educated 20 to 22-year-olds and come from fantastic schooling. They even have time on their hands at weekends to cre56

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ate apps but they want guidance to get going and we have to be so tech savvy at all times. Even having wi-fi is old news by now. We have to look at the next big thing. Alexander Schneider: The biggest macro trend is the rise of the boutique brand. I can see a very big disruption in the next few years, the chain hotel was about safety, security and comfort to travellers abroad who were seeking club sandwiches. What we are starting to see now, though, are travellers who want to experience a destination and have a unique experience where they go. They are much more likely to try street food or go to a souk and have something authentic in their hands. Digitalisation en-

ables us to work from anywhere and I think that’s why I see standardised hotel brands having a tough time in the next few years. Localised brands will thrive and OTAs have given brands like us the opportunity to punch above our weight with big brands because we don’t need distribution centres anymore, the internet is doing it for us. Maria Tullberg: The challenge with social media is that if a guest is really upset with you he has a powerful network of social media channels he can really ruin you with one comment. Remco Werkhoven: I wouldn’t get too nervous, if you go to Trip Advisor and


Alexander Schneider: I think it is worth while looking at the older market. Even at our beach club some of our most loyal guests are 60 plus. They just love what we do. Nila Pendarovski: It is about being young at heart. You see kids and the grandparents travelling together a lot, that happens more and more. It is very sweet to see, the grandparents are getting even more tech savvy as well. How should hotels market themselves in the modern age? Alexander Schneider: When I started with Hyatt, we were so proud you could wake up in Shanghai or Hong Kong, Capetown or Stockholm and you could open up your eyes and know where you are immediately. The room was essentially the same, it made a lot of sense back then. Maria Tullberg: It is important to stay true to your own heritage, for example when we renovated Deira Creek, it’s a 44-year-old property, the first five star hotel in Dubai, it would be devastating if we put in the same things that we have in our hotels in London or Stockholm.

take away the 5-10% at the top, and the 5-10% at the bottom you get a more accurate reading. We go through the rankings and if you have the majority saying this a great property with a great team you get a clearer picture. Alexander Schneider: Let’s go back to the start when Trip Advisor started, it was a really good tool. I remember my first reviews on it, they were well written with a really high amount of authenticity, there was a high level of respect between guests and hotels but then people started to get nasty with fake reviews, they were the ones that got free nights. There is a culture of fake complaints and that starts to overshadow the real constructive feedback.

Where is the next generation of guests coming from? Nila Pendarovski: Now we have Generation K called after Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games, she personifies what this new generation stands for – a tough, strong go-getter that is very goal-oriented, it is very interesting to see these guys coming through. Maria Tullberg: Guests are also getting older, we have a tendency to talk about millennials but there is a lot of people in the older age groups that also has a lot of money too. They want to travel differently than before too, they don’t want the club sandwich either – they want to experience more, they want more excitement too.

Ammar Hilal: There will be as movement to return to traditions, because we live in a modern world, it is exhilarating but at the end of the day you want to have an authentic experience which only comes from authenticity itself. Remco Werkhoven: I think the brands have got their act together when it comes to authenticity. I think when we build a hotel now the design revolves around the roots. We have embraced Emiratisation - our guest relations manager started in a rank and file position and now she is running things. You cannot fake authenticity. Nila Pendarovski: You have to stay true to your brand, it makes no sense if you are a midscale hotel to start offering slippers and bathrobes and vice versa if you are in luxury five-star and lower standards because of economic March 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME



The canal side view David Allan, cluster general manager Radisson Blu Dubai Waterfront and Dubai Canal, believes that personalisation is going to be a huge issue for hotels in the region in years to come. “Aside from the ever-evolving aspect of technology, personalisation is a prominent issue and worth deep consideration. How do we identify with our guests and more importantly, how do they identify with us, our products and our brand?” he asks. “There is also the aspect of community involvement, giving back to our hosts, and a fair wage for our workers. Provided balanced leadership and growing Emirati involvement in the hotel industry also has to be looked at.”

circumstances, you damage the market and confuse the customer. Alexander Schneider: You can ask McDonald’s how their campaign to go green and healthy went? That was one of the most expensive failures in F&B history, making the logo green does not make the Big Mac healthy. We as Nikki Beach are a very niche brand, there is much to hate about us and there’s much to love about us. I would always be intimidated when I meet someone who is not a fan of our concept as I would have a difficult and unsatisfying job convincing them to embrace our brand - but as much as the Porsche 911 is no mini-van, the mini-van is also no race car. This is true for hotels, the more defined your brand is the better your chances are. Rove is a fine example here, it’s a homegrown brand that is clearly defined. How can the region increase the RevPAR while supply continues to rise in the run-up to Expo 2020? Maria Tullberg: Dubai comes from such a high level when we talk about RevPAR because there has been such a lack of supply. Now the market is maturing, we are getting more midscale hotels in there, we are going from a rate that was 58

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sky high and even though RevPAR is going down this is still a good level. Ammar Hilal: I am not sure Expo 2020 will have the impact people expect because while a lot of people might attend the exhibition are they really going to stay in five-star hotels or are they going to go for AirBNBs or serviced apartments? Remco Werkhoven: We opened six months ago in a new area, nobody knew us there

so you might think it would be challenging but we have had fantastic results. It is a matter of the market maturing. Is there any way hotels can combat the continued rise of the OTAs? Is pooling resources to create their own equivalent a realistic option? Alexander Schneider: It is useless to try and convince the customer he doesn’t want choice, it is illogical, absolutely il-


ness schools are used by brands -Rezidor has a business school for example. We also have a balanced leadership programme called Women in Leadership – there are so many men out there in leadership roles and we are not taking care of the female population. It’s 50% of the population, if we don’t look after it then it’s not going to be enough. Alexander Schneider: I think we are too late in terms of talent when it comes to millennials. They are too old to join us, we really lost an amazing opportunity there – it was the first generation in a long time that wasn’t looking at the pay cheque. These were the dreamers, it was all about being meaningful and recognised for it. logical. The customer wants to compare, why is Amazon so successful? Because you get all the other brands and the clicking around is what we do. Ask fashion retail. What is their biggest problem? People try on the clothes in the flagship store and then they go online and buy it there because it is cheaper or they can compare it. It won’t go away until we have a platform that offers choice. Ammar Hilal: Today we pay OTAs some-

thing between 16 to 22% depending on size of the company, if you want to be on page 1 it is going to cost a little more. The question is what are you going to be paying in 10 years from now, probably going to be paying 35-40%? How can hotels get the right staff in and retain that talent? Maria Tullberg: We have to try to be the best employer so you can invest in all the talent that’s out there. Busi-

Remco Werkhoven: We have to find a balance between life and work, there’s no golden formula. We are open to recruiting people with no experience, we recruit on aptitude, we have developed programmes and trained them and it gives you a bit of loyalty. Alexander Schneider: You have to pay fair money for good people and you have to break the rulebooks if you have exceptional talent. March 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME


Event preview

L oo k i ng ahe ad

t o AHIC 2018

Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) is taking place in Ras Al Khaimah in April. Hotel News Middle East spoke to some of the key players who will be part of the line-up at the event…

Amar Lalvani Amar Lalvani, CEO and managing partner, Standard International, the parent company of Standard Hotels, CEO of Bunkhouse Group and CEO of One Night gives Hotel News Middle East an exclusive insight into what to expect from Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC). Lalvani is speaking at AHIC which is being held on 17-19 April 2018 at the AHIC Village, Waldorf Astoria, Ras Al Khaimah. He is speaking on the topic “Tapping into the Millennial Mindset and Why investors need to broaden their thinking" What do you forecast will be the biggest disruptor to the hospitality industry in 2018, and why?

The continued rise of AirBNB and alternate accommodations. The hotel business needs to wake up to the fact that the next generation’s default option is AirBNB. As they become the demographic with spending power this will have a profound effect. Hotel companies need to differentiate their offerings further and think more deeply about creativity and community to ensure relevance in the new landscape.

What should hotel investors be doing to get ahead of these new trends and technologies to ensure they invest in the right areas?

Make sure they understand distribution and have real strategies relative to channel 60

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management. Where and how they are getting customers and the cost of acquisition. The shortening of booking windows and the move to mobile.

Are hotel operators doing enough to challenge the status quo / refresh their business models? Not even close.

What skills will a hotel industry CEO need to succeed in 2018?

Stop thinking like a hotel company CEO. It’s a very insular industry with insular thinking. Think more creatively and move more quickly. Watch other sectors. Alternative accommodations, shared office, ride sharing. Understand how the next generation lives, stays and plays in order not to become a dinosaur.

What can AHIC delegates expect to learn from you during your session at AHIC 2018?

The importance of culture and community paired with technology innovation.

What are the key trends/ issues/challenges impacting the hospitality investment industry that you expect to be debated at AHIC 2018?

We are going to be talking about: • Geopolitical impact on travel - The Trump effect • Alternative accommodations - The AirBNB effect • Impacts of OTAs - The Expedia effect • The impact of technology and mobiles - The Uber effect • Changes in customer desires and wants The millennial effect

Event preview

Getting to grips with Blockchain Maksim Izmaylov, CEO and founder of Winding Tree and a speaker at the 2018 Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, tells us that we need to educate ourselves about blockchain and for many of us that will come in the form of a crash. Is crypto going to go up? Is there going to be a crash? How close are we to a dot-comlike bubble burst? I get these questions all the time. The problem, in my opinion, is that these are the wrong, short-sighted questions as if blockchain is just a get rich quick scheme. The implications of this technology for the society lie beyond our understanding, which is a blessing and a curse at the same time. It's a blessing because blockchain technology will likely make the world a better place. It is the end of the tragedy of commons, and it will reduce inequality. The mere fact that currency issuance is no longer the monopoly of governments is a tectonic shift in our society that will challenge the established order. It is a curse for very few people who understand what Bitcoin is and how it works. For many, it's just a speculation game, which, very likely, will end up in millions of dollars losses. Yes, we are in a bubble where we have all sorts of fraudulent projects with the word blockchain slapped on them for no reason. How do we get the most of this technology while eliminating the risks associated with it? First, education, which for many of us will come in the form of a crash. If you don't want to be one of the losers, read the Bitcoin whitepaper and follow the train of thought of Andreas Antonopoulos, Nick Szabo, Naval Ravikant or Nassim Taleb. Second, don't trust anyone, including myself and the gentlemen above. One of the fundamental principles of Bitcoin/ blockchain is the responsibility that anyone involved has to take on (at least regarding controlling your private keys). Those that

try to convince you to buy any crypto tokens do that for a reason, which probably involves the movement of wealth from your pockets into theirs. You are responsible for making an educated decision and bear the consequences. Third, focus on the right thing, ignore the hype (it's easy to do after the first step). What we're creating here is a new set of rules that the next generation of businesses will be using. Another topic that is brought up all the time is the scalability of blockchains, which for corporations justifies oxymoronic pri-

vate blockchains. Remember, we weren't able to watch 4kquality movies on the Internet on day one, It took us 20 years! Public blockchains are already scalable with layer two tech, such as Lightning Network, and many other projects aim to solve these issues. This technology is so important that we'll probably find many different ways of overcoming the problems of scalability and privacy. Regarding the questions at the beginning, we'll have a crash, but I am bullish. But don't take my word for it, do your homework. March 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME


In profile

In profile

Alto-Shaam Gabriel Estrella Talentti, director Middle East & Africa, from Alto-Shaam talks to Hotel News Middle East about his company’s latest products What is your best-selling oven product?

The Vector Countertop Multi-Cook Ovens.

What is unique about it?

Vector Countertop Multi-Cook Ovens from Alto-Shaam are unique because they provide operators with unmatched flexibility in cooking. Operators can cook up to four different food items with zero flavor transfer while controlling the temperature, fan speed and time in each independent oven chamber. Exclusive Structured Air Technology delivers superior cooking evenness, increased production and improved food quality. To reduce labor costs, Structured Air Technology eliminates the need to watch and rotate pans. Vector ovens are also designed for simple operation. For additional savings, these models are waterless, ventless and can be placed anywhere with a small footprint.

What are the latest trends in ovens?

As consumer demand for convenient, fresh food increases, the foodservice industry is seeing a trend towards ovens that provide hot, high-quality food in a faster amount of time. With food, labor and energy costs on the rise, there is also a trend towards ovens that are easy to use, take up less space and can operate outside of a costly kitchen hood. 62

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B at h r oo ms

Hotel News Middle East takes a look at the latest bathroom trends for 2018

Sanipex shines with new products

Sanipex group managing director Daryl Barker explains why we should be excited about their new product range… What is your best-selling bathroom product?

Our best-selling product is our M-Line mixer range produced in Italy.

What is unique about it?

Whilst the product has clean and contemporary lines, the unique feature is the wide range of finishes that are produced which includes chrome, matt black, brushed copper, brushed nickel and now from 2018 our new Zanzibar finish - a brushed brass. Due to the variety of finishes, this allows the collection to be utilised and applied to many design environments. The range also has a comprehensive shower and accessory collection as well as complementary furniture and sanitary ware.

What is the most important feature of the service and products you provide?

The most important feature of Bagnodesign products is the mix of unique on-trend design combined with the latest technology, which consequently enables the product to have longevity and value in the project sector.

What are the latest trends in your sector?

As we see, the latest trends are for products in non-reflective finishes, especially brassware. Our new range of Monroe basins in matt platinum (‘Satin Nickel’) 64

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and brushed brass (Zanzibar) are also very fashionable for the boutique sector. There is also a very strong trend for matt black brassware, accessories and showers with Crittall style shower panels as per our Harlem collection.

of the local and international hospitality brands operation in the MEA region, as we are currently supplying many prestigious projects with the likes of Jumeirah Group, Atlantis, Marriott, Hotel Indigo, Mövenpick, Intercontinental and Kempinski.

What type of hotel operation do you cater for?

What sort of maintenance service do you offer your clients?

The Sanipex Group currently supplies many luxury hotel projects in the region, especially four and five star developments, as well as a strong commercial offer for the three star sector. Our reference list includes most

We are strongly involved in the refurbishment sector where our local technical support is highly valued by both operators and designers.


Vado is set for success with new product range for the year ahead

Vado product and marketing director Angela Neve reveals her company’s latest products to Hotel News Middle East… What is your best-selling bathroom product?

Vado has many highly popular ranges within our export markets, with Life, Notion and Zoo all performing well within the sector. Our latest range additions this year have also see fantastic initial growth, with both the Kovera and Omika collections demonstrating Vado’s flair for product innovation and superior performance.

What is unique about it?

Latest bathroom market trends have not just been about finishes, but also about texture and delivering a more slimline profile. Omika is a unique linear designed range, bringing together a wide symmetrical body and spout, juxtaposed to a slim minimalist silhouette, accented with ergonomic soft turn dials. Each of the controls feature an intricate geometric pattern echoing elements of nature, capturing the light to offer a beautiful glimmering finish.

What is the most important feature of the perfect bathroom product?

The perfect bathroom needs to blend all elements harmoniously to create a space that is both easy to use and adaptable. Whether it’s an invigorating shower in the morning, a relaxing bath at the end of a busy day or a quick wash of hands, Vado provides a vast range of products to cater for each end user needs perfectly. We recognise it’s the finer detail and finishing touches that make using our brassware products a simple luxury every day.

What type of hotel operation do you cater for?

At Vado we pride ourselves on the breadth of clients we work with for hotels, from boutique to mainstream corporate hotels, to show stopping landmarks such as the Burj Khalifa. Vado has built its heritage and reputation on the worldwide stage for supplying brassware to many high-profile hotels,

offering quality, knowledge and service tailored to the needs of the customer.

What sort of maintenance service do you offer your clients?

All Vado products are designed with ease of installation, service and maintenance in mind, which is why we are confident in offering a comprehensive service and training package to support our portfolio. For example, all our valves have been developed to allow for servicing from the front and come with a 12-year guarantee for complete reassurance. For the hotel sector, we provide in-depth training for their own in-house maintenance teams on valve servicing, provide care kits to service the valves with. Angela Neve adds: “We are proud that VADO continues to go from strength to strength within our Export markets, which we attribute to our robust market knowledge, technical expertise and extensive product portfolio, which allows us to tailor our overall offer according to customer requirements.”

March 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME



E l ec t ro nic Lo cks

Hotel News Middle East takes a look at the latest innovations in electronic locks

The Ving Card Allure

Manit Narang, Vice President Middle East, Africa, India & Managing Director UAE Business Unit at Assa Abloy Hospitality talks about his company’s latest products… What is your latest product launch?

As an option from our wide variety of electronic locks, the VingCard Allure is fully compatible with our keyless entry solution, Assa Abloy Hospitality Mobile Access.

What makes it unique?

VingCard Allure features an interactive and customizable LED panel that instead of being installed into the door itself, is housed on the wall adjacent to the guestroom door, expanding lock style options and creating a unique design to complement any hotel aesthetic while offering enhanced security. An 66

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accompanying guestroom-facing panel allows users to post ‘do not disturb’ or ‘make up room’ notifications. Compatible with our Assa Abloy Hospitality Mobile Access, guests can bypass front desk check-in and enter their guestroom immediately upon arrival with a quick swipe of their mobile device.

Why should businesses purchase your product?

Assa Abloy Hospitality is an innovator in providing advanced hotel security technologies, offering hoteliers across the globe solutions developed to increase security and enhance guest satisfaction. We also

take pride in our unmatched customer service with global offices, ensuring availability for any customer need.

What’s next for your company in 2018 and onwards?

Technology continuously evolves, with new solutions and upgrades being released constantly. With this in mind, successful technology should solve multiple challenges for hoteliers and guests, and we continue to evolve and innovate our solutions to do just that.

Website: Email:



Hani Dafer, regional sales director, Onity and Supra, Middle East on why we should be excited by his company’s DirectKey…


Omar Fansa, general manager, Modern Interior Technology (MIT) reveals all about his company’s latest products… What is your latest product launch?

Openow, the solution for opening locks with a smartphone, using Bluetooth Low Energy Technology.

What makes it unique?

A user-friendly application that allows the guest to open the hotel room door in a simple and easy way. It is a combination of user experience improvement and flexibility to manage the hotel in an efficient and secure way.

What is your latest product launch?

Why should businesses purchase your product?

What makes it unique?

What’s next for your company in 2018 and onwards?

Why should businesses purchase your product?

Email: Website:

Onity´s latest solution is DirectKey, a cost-effective, secure and easy-to-use mobile-key solution developed for hotels of any size. DirectKey allows guests to securely download their key to their smartphone through an app, for easy access to their assigned room and other access-controlled areas such as parking garages, elevators and fitness centres.

In addition to enhancing the guest experience, DirectKey saves time and money for properties, as the technology can be retrofitted to existing locks (not only RFID technology ones but also magstripe ones).

The DirectKey solution leverages a proven locking system from a market leading provider, with mobile technology expertise relying on a scalable United Technologies Corporation platform, which has been deployed across an installed base of more than 2.5 million Bluetooth locking devices in multiple industries. The DirectKey solution is already running at numerous properties, receiving high guest satisfaction ratings.

It is a quality product, made in Spain and it improves the user experience staying at every hotel and offers the management flexibility features. It uses a secure and convenient technology that allows remote check-in before to the guest’s arrival which will minimise the pressure at the reception in some cases.

We are working on new designs and new technologies. During 2018 we are going to launch new range of locks with innovative functionalities and more handles design. We are targeting new hotel chains and increasing our marketing campaigns.

What’s next for your company in 2018 and onwards?

Built on research and feedback from front-desk agents on their routines and challenges, Onity will soon be presenting a new lock management system, a scalable solution with roving checkin option designed to deliver optimal efficiency, flexibility and guest satisfaction.

Email: Website: March 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME


In profile

In profile

Coffee Planet to brew up success in UK and Saudi Arabia Hotel News Middle East caught up Coffee Planet managing director Robert Jones to hear about the group’s continued success in the region

UAE firm Coffee Planet is bucking the international trend and expanding into the UK market. Robert Jones, managing director Coffee Planet, made the announcement in an exclusive one-to-one interview with Catering News Middle at Gulfood 2018. “We will soon be opening our first store in the UK in the next few months, that will be the basis of a café retail op68

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eration in the UK as well as a model for franchise in the market,” he said, but his plans for global domination do not stop there though. “Our franchising continues throughout the region, we will have a new franchise partner in Saudi Arabia, so we will be opening 70 locations in the next 5-10 years throughout the Kingdom.” It’s clear from speaking to Jones that the

future is bright for Coffee Planet – who formed in the UAE in 2005. “We have got a lot going on. A lot of effort went into last year, we had a lot of consolidation, we signed a lot of serious contracts in the last quarter of 2017 as well as January this year,” he said. “We have our work cut out in 2018, in the local market as well as with regional contracts – which is fantastic.”

A World Away From Your Everyday

On the spot

Taking a hike Valerie Vayssiere, director of sales & marketing, Fairmont Dubai, is On the Spot… What's the best thing about your job? What I like best about my job is that my primary responsibility involves interacting with clients from all over the world but also interacting with employees on different levels of the hotel, across all functional areas, creating the sense of family feel around our workplace.

What made you choose this role? Firstly and foremost the Fairmont brand itself – it’s such a world renowned and prestigious hospitality company to work for, with a rich history dating back to 1906. Moreover, I was also keen to become part of such a young and dynamic family that is Fairmont Dubai’s leadership team.

What do you do when you're not working?

culture and stunning nature in Asia and small tropical islands in Southeast Asia. I see myself working at a small boutique hotel as a hotel manager in one of these emerging destinations bearing the Fairmont brand.

I’ve recently joined the Fairmont Dubai team, so they have yet to experience my passion for cooking and hosting.

What's the best bit of advice you've ever received in the workplace?

There are so many fantastic hotels around the world, but there’s nothing comparable to staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Canada. That iconic hotel, surrounded by soaring mountain peaks and an emeraldcolour lake, is my go-to destination.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I have always been fascinated about the

I am a people’s person and I genuinely love helping fellow individuals in growing their career.

Tell us something that none of your colleagues What would you say to anyone who is starting know about you? out in your sector?

In today’s fast-paced world of hospitality, hoteliers don’t get much leisure time, but when I do have time away from the hotel, I enjoy hiking and try to practice it as much as the local climate permits.

“When there is a will, there is a way”.

Can you tell us why you wanted to join this industry?

Persistence, confidence, patience and being different from the others are key in being successful in such a competitive industry that hospitality is.

If you could stay in any hotel in the world right now, where would you go? What's the worst thing about your job?

Sometimes I feel that we literally do not have enough hours in a day to accommodate all the things that need to be accomplished.

What’s your favourite book? L’etranger, written by Albert Camus.

BIN EID EXECUTIVE SEARCH & SELECTION (Specialised in 5* Hotel Sector)

Celebrating 22 years in Executive Search (Hotels & other Hospitality segment) We thank our clients, candidates, well-wishers who directly and indirectly helped us in our wonderful & blissful journey. We also thank the Almighty, Bin Eid team members, ex-employees, associates and numerous unseen souls who supported us to navigate in our 22 years of spectacular journey. Thank you for the trust and confidence placed on us.

Currently Hiring:

• General Manager • Director of Sales & Marketing • Sales Manager • Director of Engineering • Pastry Chef


HOTEL NEWS ME March 2018

• Hotel Manager • Director Finance • Executive Chef • F&B Director


Perfection in detail – that is what AXOR stands for. The AXOR shower products underline this demand. They are the ultimate for the shower. A perfect example: AXOR ShowerHeaven 1200⁄300 4jet with gently enveloping, innovative PowderRain. Water taking centre stage. Unique. In every dimension.

Hotel News ME - March 2018  
Hotel News ME - March 2018