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PUTTING HER FIRST How one women is leading the way for female empowerment in hotels

GM LEADERS CONFERENCE 2018 Why you won’t want to miss it May 2018 | WWW.HOTELNEWSME.COM

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The friendliest five-star hotel in Dubai opens in Business Bay

P27 - Awards - do they make a difference?


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May 2018

Contents 52

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

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



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

Here’s to the future A

patrick ryan Editor

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



s we head into the summer the heat is not the only thing that is rising. There has been a wave of optimism that has been slowly but surely building up momentum in recent months which is proving hard to ignore. It comes as no surprise to find that the hospitality industry is not putting all its eggs in one basket and is taking a multi-layered approach to planning for the future. We have got Expo 2020 coming up in Dubai in a few years and there is also the emergence of the Saudi Vision 2030 which is driving development in Saudi Arabia. It is easy to be glib about how positive the industry is when talking about the future and take an attitude of “they would say that, wouldn’t they?” However there is tangible evidence that the industry is not only robust but that the future is very bright indeed. One such piece of evidence is the Radisson Hotel Group’s investment in their new flagship project in Dubai. The new five-star Radisson Blu Hotel Dubai Waterfront is a stunning piece of property by any standards but it is also a sign that there are reasons to be optimistic about the future. That is why we feature the property as our cover story this month. I had the pleasure of

speaking to general manager David Allan and his team, it is clear they are well on their way to delivering on their promise to provide the friendliest five-star hotel in the Middle East. That is not all we have going on in this issue as we take a look at the line-up for the GM Leaders Conference which is taking place in The St. Regis Dubai on 7 May. We have a stellar line-up of panelists and speakers for the fourth edition of an event that continues to be a highlight of an industry calendar. We also hear from a number of industry leaders about the market in Egypt and how it is showing real signs of resurgence, following a period of political and economic instability. There is also an interview with Assia Riccio from the Evolvin’ Women group who has done some incredible work in getting women from developing countries into the hotel industry here in the Middle East. It was humbling to hear Assia’s story and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Well, that’s about it for me. I will leave you to enjoy this issue and I hope to see you next month. Regards, Patrick Ryan

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Hospitality and tourism projects are worth $147 billion in the GCC

The total value of the live hospitality and tourism projects across the GCC has exceeded $147 billion in value. Project intelligence provider, BNC Network has projected the value of the 1156 projects currently in the GCC region. “Most of the hotel projects are being constructed in the UAE, especially in Dubai in order to prepare the city to welcome a record number of visitors during 12


the World Expo 2020 mega event,” Avin Gidwani, chief executive officer of BNC Network, said. “Dubai is racing against time to deliver a large number of hotel rooms and service apartments to be able to handle 20 million hotel guests per year and 25 million visitors during the Expo 2020. “Besides, the opening of the Saudi economy, under the country’s current leader-

ship, one would expect a lot more tourism projects coming up in future, as part of the Saudi Vision 2030.” Among the 1,156 hospitality projects, 724 projects worth US$78 billion (Dh286 billion) are hotel projects while 140 hospitality projects worth US$50 billion (Dh183 billion) are resort hotels and 292 hospitality projects worth US$19.5 billion (Dh71.5 billion) are hotel apartments.

As many as 492 hospitality projects worth US$39.4 billion are currently on progress – including tender and under-construction stage. As many as 210 hospitality projects worth US$26.8 billion (Dh98.35 billion) are in the pipeline – in planning, concept and design stage. However, in terms of value, US$80.9 billion (Dh296.9 billion) worth of projects – or 55 percent of the projects – are currently on hold.

Regional News

Citymax Hotel Ras Al Khaimah to open in Q4

Ascott to open two new hotels in Saudi Arabia The Ascott Limited (Ascott) has announced the opening of two properties in Saudi Arabia later this year - Ascott Corniche Al Khobar and Spectrums Residence Jeddah. Vincent Miccolis Ascott’s Regional GM for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey, said: “This is an incredibly exciting move for the business and a stepping stone into one of the largest continents for growth opportunity. Our venture into Africa stretches the global reach of Ascott to all continents, which is a major milestone for us. “These exciting expansion plans follow an excellent year of growth in 2017, where The Ascott Limited increased its

global portfolio from just over 51,000 units to nearly 70,000 units, through investments, management contracts and franchises. While we aim to reach 80,000 units by 2020, we’re looking even further into the future, and target to double our portfolio to 160,000 units by 2023.” The company’s first entry into Africa will see the opening of Kwarleyz Residence Accra in the capital city of Ghana in Q4 this year, ahead of Ascott 1 Oxford Street Accra in mid-2019. World Travel & Tourism Council forecasts Ghana’s tourism industry to expand 5.1% annually through to 2027, from a contribution to GDP of 7.1% in 2016.

Citymax Hotels has announced the Citymax Hotel Ras Al Khaimah will open in the fourth quarter of 2018. Sanjay Dube, chief executive officer at Landmark Hospitality Division and H.E. Engr. Sheikh Salem Sultan Saqr Al Qasimi, chairman of ST Group signed a management agreement for Citymax Hotels to operate the 204-bedroom hotel at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM). The hotel has been developed as a joint venture between Landmark Group and ST Group. “We are delighted to be partnered with H.E. Engr. Sheikh Salem Sultan Saqr Al Qasimi to bring the Citymax brand to a third Emirate Ras Al Khaimah within the U.A.E. adding to our current hotel portfolio in Dubai and Sharjah,” said Dube. H.E. Engr. Sheikh Salem Sultan Saqr Al Qasimi said: “I feel the Citymax brand and bedroom design will be very successful in Ras Al Khaimah and the other facilities including food and beverage outlets, swimming pool and gym will give guests a fantastic experience. “This hotel will showcase our refreshed contemporary and vibrant brand identity, aimed at meeting the design and functionality needs of the millennial traveller. We pride ourselves on delivering a unique combination of service and value for money – our new design is a step change and we’re thrilled to be launching this hotel,” said Aly Shariff, chief operating officer, Citymax Hotels.



Regional News

Roda Hotels & Resorts opens new property in Dubai Roda Hotels & Resorts has announced the opening of a four-star property that targets business and leisure travellers ‘who are looking for comfortable, affordable yet chic accommodation in Dubai’. Roda Links Al Nasr Dubai features 114 rooms and is due to open on 1 May. Amro Nagah, general manager of Roda Links Al Nasr said: “We are pleased to announce the opening of Roda Links Al Nasr, our seventh property in Dubai and is a fantastic addition to our impressive portfolio of existing hotels and resorts serving varied market segments. Roda Links is our contribution to the mid-market sector which is a fast-growing segment in the industry. “The property is an ideal option for business travelers, families and

couples who demand comfort and personalised service at affordable rates and we are happy to develop a range of accommodation options for these travelers. Our focus will remain on delighting our guests with personalised Arabian hospitality and intuitive services and we are confident that Roda Links will deliver this.” Dining outlets in the hotel include 1971 – an all-day dining restaurant serving international cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner and Brugges restaurant offering guests a selection of delicacies such as sharing platters, burgers and nachos. Roda Hotels and Resorts currently owns and operates six properties across Dubai: Roda Al Murooj, Roda Al Bustan, Roda Amwaj Suites JBR, Roda Boutique Villas Jumeirah, Roda Metha Suites and Roda Beach Resort.

ADR and RevPAR fall as occupancy rises in UAE Occupancy levels are on the rise in the UAE according to figures released by industry analysts STR. It is not all good news though as the ADR fell by 3.4% to AED666.48 and RevPAR experienced a drop of 2.3% to AED556.12. “Healthy demand growth (+5.2%) was enough to outpace continued significant supply growth (+4.0%) in the emirates, leading to an increase in occupancy while mitigating the supply impact on rate levels,” said a spokesperson. “Key markets Abu Dhabi (RevPAR: -4.0%) and Dubai (RevPAR: -2.6%) each saw over14


all performance declines. STR analysts note that the supply growth impact is more substantial in Dubai ahead of Expo 2020, while Abu Dhabi is looking to diversify away from its oil dependence and focus on more development in the tourism sector.” United Arab Emirates • Occupancy: +1.1 to 83.4% • ADR: -3.4% to AED666.48 • RevPAR: -2.3% to AED556.12 Middle East • Occupancy: +0.9% to 70.6% • Average daily rate (ADR): -4.5% to $163.76 • Revenue per available room (RevPAR): -3.7% to $115.62

Regional News

Meliá to operate Desert Palm Dubai Meliá Hotels International has announced the signing of an agreement to operate the Desert Palm Dubai Hotel. The 160-acre property will be under the Meliá banner. The addition of this new hotel allows Meliá to extend its presence in Dubai, where it will soon be opening brand new ME by Meliá and Innside by Meliá hotels, and throughout the Middle East region. Gabriel Escarrer, executive vice president and CEO

of Meliá Hotels International said: “Taking over operations at this exclusive

Dubai resort makes us very proud and also gives us a chance to demonstrate our

proven excellence in the management of luxury urban resorts in a market to which the company is already firmly committed. “Desert Palm Dubai will undoubtedly become a destination in itself to add to the growing portfolio of hotels which are ideal for people seeking perfect harmony between body and soul in a unique and authentic environment.” The property provides 39 rooms, suites and villas as well as four polo fields.

MGallery announces two new hotels in Dubai MGallery has announced the signing of two new hotels with the Khamas Group of Investments, a multiindustry investor and operator. The agreement is for the opening of two upper upscale lifestyle properties in Dubai: MGallery Dubai Business Bay and MGallery Bur Dubai. Sami Nasser, chief operating officer, Luxury Brands, AccorHotels Middle East, commented: “Today marks the strategic expansion of one of our signature lifestyle concepts in the Middle East. MGallery is internationally acclaimed as a collection of storied boutique hotels, standing as a gateway for guests into another world. “Since its launch in the region with The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery, we have witnessed an increasing demand for hospitality concepts with a memorable and charming, yet singular personality, rooted in its surrounding history and local culture. Through the expansion of MGallery – with the MGallery Dubai Business Bay and MGallery Bur Dubai – we hope to better cater towards this dynamic within the industry.” He added: “As Dubai continues to grow as a worldclass destination, we have seen the emergence of many different leisure and business destinations

Left to right: Bader Bukhamas, chairman of Khamas Group; Sami Nasser, chief operating officer, Luxury Brands, AccorHotels Middle East; Mohammed Yousuf Abdulkarim Bukhamas, Khamas Group. Standing: Pawan Kachroo , managing director of Khamas Group

which presents an opportunity to grow the presence of our lifestyle portfolio through concepts such as MGallery, 25Hours and Mama Shelter. “The expansion of MGallery into the upcoming Dubai Canal area and in Bur Dubai remains in line with our strategy to increase the reach of our most loved concepts across the most vibrant, up and coming areas within the markets in which we operate.” The 144-room MGallery Dubai Business Bay, set to

open in 2021, will be situated adjacent to the upcoming Marasi Business Bay development. The 164-room MGallery Bur Dubai will open to guests in August of this year. Bader Mohamed Yousuf Bukhamas, chairman of Khamas Group of Investment Companies said: “We are delighted and proud with this partnership for two hotels with MGallery, a brand within the Luxury and Upper Upscale portfolio of AccorHotels.”



Regional News

HMH announces Ecos Hotels brand in UAE

Hospitality Management Holding (HMH) has announced the signing of a management agreement for an environmentally responsible property in the UAE under its ECOS Hotels property. The announcement was made at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) which is taking place at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) until Wednesday, 25 April. Brett Schafer, chief executive officer of Faisal Holding (which owns HMH together with Manafa) said: “With the intent of developing a strong pipeline in the hospitality sector we look forward to more opportunities to strengthen our existing brands as we achieve greater recognition in the Middle East & North African markets. “The new property being developed in the UAE will be the first ECOS in our portfolio, marking the debut of our eco-conscious practices in the hospitality sector. We are confident that with HMH’s hospitality expertise, the new ECOS will make for a competitive new attraction and prove to be a very important asset for HMH and the communities in which we operate.” Aboudi Asali, chief executive officer of HMH, said: “HMH’s new property further underlines the group’s commitment to grow in the UAE, which is a very strategic market for us, as well as the wider GCC and MENA regions. We are thrilled to present the group’s first environmentally responsible chain of hotels through the ECOS Hotel, designed for the new world. The sustainable design philosophy of ECOS Hotels will enhance our already impressive portfolio.” The 320-key ECOS Hotel will be located in Al Furjan, Dubai and is due to open before 2020 in preparation of the EXPO 2020. ECOS Hotel will bring the portfolio of HMH to 18 managed hotels. 16


Central Hotels to open two new properties in Dubai

Central Hotels has announced it is going to open two new hotels in Dubai with the Royal Central The Palm (207 keys) and Canal Central in Business Bay (280 keys). Central Hotels’ impressive growth in Dubai is fuelled by the city’s extensive expansion of tourism infrastructure in preparation of Expo 2020. Mr. Ahmad Al Abdulla, Chairman of Central Hotels, said, “Our expansion strategy demonstrates our commitment to support the growth of the destination and its envisioned potential. We look forward to being part of this incredible success by contributing positively to the hospitality sector in the UAE.” Abdulla Al Abdulla, vice president of Central Hotels, further added: “The emirates will continue to attract tour-

ists from across the world with its diverse offerings. Our brand is ideally positioned to cater to the needs of local and international travellers seeking world-class service and facilities.” Ammar Kanaan, general manager of Central Hotels, said: “We are very pleased with these new hotels that have a distinct style and personality reflective of the neighbourhoods’ vibe and energy. “While Royal Central The Palm offers travellers laid-back luxury in a fun and family-friendly atmosphere, Canal Central in Business Bay is ideal for corporate guests and business travellers while offering unobstructed views of the Dubai Canal and Burj Khalifa. In addition, both hotels will be made smarter and more environment friendly with our paperless approach and initiative.”

Regional News

RAK Hospitality Holding enjoys massive growth RAK Hospitality Holding has enjoyed a strong start to the year with a 17% Q1 revenue growth. The figures were released as Ras Al Khaimah welcomed hoteliers and industry heavyweights for the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference this week. Yiannis Anagnostakis, CEO of RAK Hospitality Holding said: “We are thrilled to participate in AHIC and share our success with like-minded industry leaders. “As we are facing the opportunities and challenges that 2018 brings, we look forward to this year’s forum where industry leaders come together to discuss trends for the hospitality sector and support development in the region.” The first quarter growth of 17% follows on from the strong finish to 2017, which saw RAK enjoy an overall growth

of 7%, due to a number of successful investments from subsidiaries including: • RAK National Hotels (RAKNH) which successfully completed its two year capital investment plan that resulted to the opening of the Hilton Garden Inn Ras Al Khaimah in May 2017, the official inauguration of The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah Al Wadi Desert in November and the completion of extensive refurbishment at the flagship Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort & Spa in Q1 2018 while maintaining robust occupancy rates across its portfolio. • Hospitality Advisory Partners established in 2015 and formerly known as RAK Hospitality Asset Management, extended its advisory services to meet the increasingly complex demands of investors and owners in Ras Al

Khaimah as well as the neighbouring emirates across the UAE. • RAK Hospitality Logistics continued to expand its operations, specialising in the provision of premier guest excursions and transportation through Safarak, as well as hospitality employee accommodation and transportation services becoming an invaluable partner to hotels and resorts in RAK. • Hakaya Collection’s commercial activities focused on dining, entertainment and leisure. Hakaya, for the first time, expanded its operations into Dubai with the opening of its first Kona Grill at Al Seef Dubai. Hakaya Collection continues to diversify and expand its business activities to include B2B catering in partnership with RAK Abela.



Regional News

Al Hokair Group continues expansion

The Al Hokair Group continues to expand rapidly in gateway business and leisure destinations across the Middle East. Following the addition of 1113 new rooms to its exceptional portfolio of hotels over the last 12 months. The group has increased its inventory of keys by approximately 25% from 4548 rooms to 5661 rooms. Speaking at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) Sami Al Hokair, managing director of Al Hokair Group, said: “Al Hokair’s expansion strategy is in line with region’s growth and investment in the tourism sector. Our partnership with global hospitality brands gives us a unique edge over the competitors while leveraging Al Hokair 18


Group’s position as a market leader in the hospitality industry. Al Hokair added: “Furthermore, we have accelerated the expansion of Al Hokair’s owned brand MENA Hotels & Resorts with a fresh new look and concept reflecting the pulse of Arabian hospitality. This diversity of brands and hotels allows us to serve a wide range of market segments from midscale to luxury while providing a superb choice to our guests including the new generation of travellers.” Haitham Murad, managing director of the Hotels Division at Al Hokair Group, added: “The addition of new hotels to the Group enhances our presence in the Kingdom and beyond. We are always keen on providing quality

service to our guests throughout our hotels, while preserving the principles of Arab hospitality that sets us apart and ensuring the guests’ comfort and satisfaction during their stay, thanks to a carefully selected team of experienced hospitality professionals. “In addition, we invest heavily in the training of Saudi young men and women and in recruiting them in the vital hotel sector. Our strategic partnership with some of the world’s leading hotel companies has consolidated our position to keep on the path of competitiveness, delivering value and excellence, adopting new technologies and providing top-notch solutions, whether in the local or regional markets.”

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Regional News

Swiss-Belhotel celebrates milestone at ATM Leading hotel chain Swiss-Belhotel announced it had made a significant milestone by reaching 150 hotels in operation. Gavin M. Faull, chairman and president of Swiss-Belhotel International, said, “Reaching 150 hotels opened or signed globally is a very important milestone for us and highlights our momentous growth. This achievement illustrates the strength of Swiss-Belhotel International’s superb portfolio of brands delivering exceptional guest experience in every segment of the market with the support of our outstanding partners and a great team.” Faull further added: “Our global success is driven by our aggressive expansion strategy in high-growth markets. Moving forward, we remain committed to accelerate the growth of our brands and are eager to capitalise on the upcoming opportuni-

Gavin M. Faull, chairman and president of SwissBelhotel International, Laurent A. Voivenel, senior vice president, operations and development for the Middle East, Africa and India and Matthew D. Faull, executive director, senior vice president, IT, e-commerce & distribution, Swiss-Belhotel International

ties by leveraging on the synergies across our wide industry network.” The Middle East and Africa are strategic markets for Swiss-Belhotel International with 17% of the global portfolio centered in the region. Laurent A. Voivenel, Senior Vice President, Operations and Development for the Middle East, Africa and India for Swiss-Belhotel Inter-

national, said: “We have got an extremely strong development pipeline in the Middle East and Africa with a portfolio of over 3,500 rooms across 12 cities. 2018 is a significant year for us with six new hotels opening in quick succession. “In addition, we are in negotiations for various other projects that will see our business grow substan-

tially in the region over the coming months. We expect to reach 30 hotels in the Middle East and Africa by 2020.” Swiss-Belhotel International’s legacy dates back to the company’s establishment in Hong Kong in 1987. The group currently operates 73 hotels worldwide and has 77 projects in the pipeline. It is counted among the top 100 hotel companies in the world offering a choice of 14 brands in 22 destinations across 4 continents with 10 regional offices. Since 2016, Swiss-Belhotel International started expanding aggressively in Australia and New Zealand where the group not only manages hotels but ventured into ownership of the management rights. Europe is also on the radar where the company recently signed a hotel in Italy and is considering 4 more projects in the region.

Holiday Inn Express launches in Saudi Arabia The Holiday Inn Express is set make its debut in Saudi Arabia following an agreement between Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) and the Al Hokair Group. The master development agreement will see the rollout of at least 10 Holiday Inn Express hotels over the next 15 years. Speaking on the announcement, Pascal Gauvin, managing director, India, Middle East and Africa, IHG said: “IHG has a strong legacy in Saudi Arabia, which is a key market for us in the Middle East. We are proud to once again collaborate with our esteemed long22


term partner, Al Hokair Group, to bring the Holiday Inn Express brand to the country, and further expand our offering to domestic and international travellers, alike. “The tourism landscape in Saudi Arabia is rapidly changing and we are excited to leverage the huge growth opportunities that Saudi Vision 2030 presents, particularly given that one of the biggest pillars of the plan is to bring more tourism into the country.” He added: “We are the largest operator in Saudi Arabia with a strong portfolio of 31 hotels across 4 brands, offering specialised stay experienc-

es to varied guests’ profiles, and with this signing, we are further extending our consumer appeal by offering quality, yet affordable accommodation for savvy travellers.” Sami Alhokair, managing director, Al Hokair Group said: “We are delighted to further strengthen our partnership with a global leader such as IHG, who continue to be a trusted brand in Saudi Arabia. IHG’s portfolio aligns with our objective to strengthen our presence in the Kingdom as well as our commitment to Vision 2030. “Holiday Inn Express is world renowned brand, of-

fering great value to the guests and, in the absence of an adequate supply of midmarket hotels to cater to the increasing demand, this signing presents us with unprecedented opportunities to capture the volume segment.” Al Hokair Group currently operates six Holiday Inn hotels in Saudi Arabia. As per the exclusive new agreement, the first Holiday Inn Express will be a 200-room hotel based in Jeddah, closely followed by openings in various key cities across the country. All 10 hotels will be operated under long-term franchise agreements.

Regional News

Emaar launches Address Al Marjan Island project Emaar Hospitality Group has announced its first hotel and residences project in Ras Al Khaimah. Address Al Marjan Island hotel was announced at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Ras Al Khaimah. The project will be managed by Emaar Hospitality Group’s premium lifestyle brand, Address Hotels + Resorts. Olivier Harnisch, chief executive officer of Emaar Hospitality Group, said: “Address Hotels + Resorts is our homegrown success story – a brand that has redefined the hospitality sector with its philosophy of ‘where life happens’. “Address hotels are set apart by their location, its service standards and the wide range of lifestyle amenities that assure a premium lifestyle for guests and residents. Address Al Marjan Island marks our expansion to the fast-growing emirate

of Ras Al Khaimah, which is focused on strengthening tourism and leisure developments to welcome visitors from around the world.” The hotel will have 249 rooms, including suites, while Address Residences Al Marjan Island will comprise 234 high-end apartments. Sheikh Khalid bin Saud Al Qasimi, Chairman, Al Marjan Island, said: “We are honoured to welcome Emaar and its prestigious Address

hotel brand to Al Marjan Island, which will further strengthen the appeal of our master-planned development as a preferred hub for visitors and investors from around the world. “Emaar’s proven strengths in mixed-use developments will add significant value to Al Marjan Island with the Address hotel to contribute to our emirate’s tourism sector.” Globally, Emaar Hospitality Group has a portfolio of

over 35 upcoming properties. It has 12 operational hotels and three serviced residences in Dubai including five Address hotels – Address Boulevard, Address Dubai Mall, Address Dubai Marina, Address Montgomerie and Palace Downtown. In addition to an upcoming resort in Fujairah, internationally, Address Hotels + Resorts will operate hotel projects in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey and The Maldives.

Dubai Tourism releases annual report Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) last month released its Annual Visitor Report 2017 at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC). The report details and evaluates the growth drivers behind Dubai’s record international overnight visitation in 2017, which totalled 15.8 million, rising a strong 6.2 per cent over the

previous year. It also analyses visitor demographics, taking a closer look at who

is travelling to Dubai, from where and for what reason, as well as how they are

spending their time in the city, with the results of the annual Dubai Visitor Survey revealing the extent of visitors’ satisfaction with their Dubai experience. In addition, the report reviews recent and upcoming enhancements to Dubai’s proposition and infrastructure, highlighting major developments across multiple sectors, offering insights into what can be expected moving forward. May 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME



Making a difference Youssouf Taher, director of human resources Park Rotana, Abu Dhabi, is under the spotlight this month

open up several new employment opportunities for hospitality professionals.

Describe your first ever role in the hotel industry? It was very interesting, I was a butler service coordinator at the Waldorf Astoria by Hilton in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It was a guest-centric job where I learned a lot about hospitality. Who is the person who has inspired you most in your career? Although quite a few people made significant impacts on my career, there was one lady who inspired me to be in hospitality human resources – Andrea Lupova who was my previous department head and now works in HR with another hotel chain. She has shown me what human resources is all about and provided me the exposure and experience to be passionate and really engaged in our field. How do you view the hotel scene in the region? Despite the increase in supply, there is still a very high potential for new hotels in the region and this is quite evident in the number of new projects currently under development in places like Saudi, UAE and Bahrain. The increase in supply didn’t affect the demand as both have increased compared to last year which is a healthy indicator for the industry. This will also 24


What is the biggest challenge of your role? I must say it will be the retention of talent. It is a highly challenging aspect as there is a high level of competition amongst hospitality companies, particularly with emerging hotels, to attract hoteliers of experience and calibre.

Work Experience March 2017 – Present: director of human resources, Park Rotana & Park Arjaan, Abu Dhabi March 2015 – March 2017: Director of human resources, Downtown Rotana Hotel, Bahrain Nov 2012 – March 2015: Human resources manager, Centro Barsha by Rotana Hotel, Dubai March 2010 – Nov 2012: Assistant director of human resources, The Cove Rotana Resort, Ras Al Khaima

What is your favourite aspect of your role? It is the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives by providing them with valuable career advice. If you could work in any hotel in the world which would it be? I would probably be working in my own hotel. With 11 years of experience in the industry, I have learned a lot and I realised that hospitality is not that much different from one hotel to another, when it comes to a role like mine. What tip would you share with new staff starting out in the hotel industry in the region? Set your goal, have a five-year-plan and work towards achieving the goal while living with exemplary values.

Talent: Appointments

New chief operating officer for Citymax Hotels Citymax Hotels has appointed Aly Shariff as chief operating officer. Prior to joining Citymax Hotels, Shariff spent 17 years at Whitbread plc, the UK’s largest hospitality company, including more than a decade developing and operating their Premier Inn brand in India and South East Asia. He has been mandated to cement Citymax Hotels as the leading mid-market hotel brand within the region. Citymax Hotels is set to grow from its current portfolio of four hotels and 1384 keys to eight hotels and 2333 keys. The last of quarter of 2018 will see the opening of hotels in Ras Al Khaimah and two hotels in Dubai at Business Bay and Al Barsha.

“We are thrilled about launching our new brand identity and product. We are confident that this will certainly enhance our guests’ experience,” said Shariff.

“Our team are all genuinely excited about the evolution of the brand and our product and I am certain that their pride will continue to reflect in the outstanding service that they provide our guests.” A spokesperson said: “With the opening of the new properties, Citymax Hotels is introducing its refreshed, vibrant and contemporary brand identity with new bedroom design, new food and beverage concepts and a fresh and bright logo. “Citymax Hotels is also re-launching its website to match, bringing a much easier and intuitive feel to its on-line channel.”

Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah appoints new director Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah has appointed Corah Caples as director of operations. In her new role as director of operations, Caples will be responsible for the effective operational management of the hotel, overseeing the heads of departments to ensure they achieve and exceed their revenue and guest satisfaction targets. Caples said: “Waldorf Astoria is a prestigious hotel brand that I have admired for years due to its reputation for delivering world-class style and unparalleled service. I look forward to providing leadership and support to some of the most talented teams and individuals at this iconic property.” David Wilson, General Manager at Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah added: “Corah’s extensive experience across the hotel business, passion for delivering exceptional service levels and strong leadership qualities will no doubt prove to be a huge asset to the team and we’re delighted to have her on board.” Before taking up her role at Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, Caples

held the position of director of operations at the Conrad Dublin where she was responsible for running the dayto-day operations of the 192-bedroom

hotel, managing 195 team members as well as successfully leading the hotel through an 18-month refurbishment project and re-launch. May 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME




The future is serviced Saad Audeh, founding member and managing director of the Audeh Group and chairman of Campbell Gray Hotels, weighs in on the outlook of hotel construction in the MENA region and tells us why mixed-use developments and serviced residences are on the up. In the past, travellers resorted to fully serviced apartments in the case of extended stays of more than a week or for larger groups; but times have changed and in the past few years, serviced hotel apartments have popped up in all the major cities across the world. The luxury end of the market in particular, has indicated an increase in demand for serviced apartments; especially those serviced by a hotel. These apartments, usually located in the same building or beside the hotel property, are serviced by the hotel enjoying all the, amenities, luxuries and services available to a hotel guest. These amenities can include spas, fitness centres and F&B outlets. In the case of mixed-use properties, residents can also take advantage of the retail spaces, and sometimes even office space within the development, making it more attractive and creating demand. This is the reason why many investors and buyers are now seeking hotel residences for investment and demand has been rising in the Middle East in the past few years. This is particularly the case when looking at branded residences that are associated with a renowned hotel group, as it offers a level of confidence and assurance when it comes to quality and resale value. It can also offer innovative architecture, designer interiors and outstanding quality which is a bonus for buyers and investors. Those looking into branded residences generally identify with a certain lifestyle and taste 26


closely associated with that brand and can then replicate the ethos within their own living space. From my point of view as a hotelier and realtor, I think serviced hotel apartments are definitely the way forward. Recent studies conducted by Colliers International show that luxury hotel chains are now expanding their portfolios and diversifying into boutique hotels, luxury resorts and designer branded residences to meet the changes in attitude within the market. Hotel residences have seen stronger resilience through tough times when compared to hotels. Trends show that a construction boom is shaping up for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in 2018. The MENA, is the fastest growing region globally for the construction sector and is set to outpace the global growth, expanding by 5.8% to hit $225bn, according to BMI Research. The MENA will be, both in the short and long-term, expanding by an annualised average of 6.5% over the next five years to hit $330bn. Positive demographics, gradually rising oil prices, and ambitious economic diversification agendas throughout the region all play a part in this. This will have a positive impact on the property market making the Middle East attractive for investors. Markets in the Middle East are progressively growing, due to the increased tourism initiatives by governments, so demand

for room nights will increase. Markets like UAE and Saudi Arabia have been growing rapidly over the years. Saudi Arabia is expected to be a hot spot in the region with many new opportunities opening in the tourism sector. The Kingdom's diversification plans, new visa programs and large-scale projects are expected to contribute to the growth in tourism, for both business and leisure tourism. Recent data revealed in November 2017 by hotel industry research firm, STR, showed that demand for room nights in Dubai alone went up year-over-year by 2.7%, reaching an all-time high. Jordan is another market that has become increasingly attractive for investors in the Middle East. The Jordanian government has made a remarkable effort with public spending, which, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has placed Jordan amongst the most dynamic countries in the Middle East. GDP in Jordan, according to the IMF, is expected to grow by 4% by 2019. This has positively benefited the real estate market in the country, especially in the capital Amman. Jordan has been an oasis of political stability in the Middle East and its geographical location is an important asset. With a unique combination of attributes that create an attractive environment for business and investment, Jordan is gaining popularity as an international business and investment hub.



Are awards all that? Firas Rashid, director of sales and marketing, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, looks at online travel forums versus traditional industry awards and asks which has the bigger influence? The impact of the internet phenomena and its effect in the hotel industry in recent years has created more competition than ever. Hoteliers will always face a battle to win customers and their loyalty, but the online platform gives us a new arena in which to fight. With the rise in online travel forums, it also allows new players to enter the game. Due to various online platforms which provide consumers with forums in which they are able to become critics, the importance of customer satisfaction has risen. While always a cornerstone in a hotel’s success, guest feedback is more crucial than ever in the history of the hotel industry. Sharing their experiences online, whether expectations are exceeded or not, has become a powerful tool. Customers know the fierce competition between hotels in todays market, and leaving an online review is another way to be acknowledged and to show the hotel why they have been chosen amongst many other options. Before online reviews, one of the key reputation benchmarks for a hotel came from the size of its awards cabinet. The most coveted, and the most prestigious awards, are selected by a panel of judges made up of industry experts. Hotels have to qualify for certain a

criteria, and work hard to stand ahead of their competition. Considered to hold major value for a hotel, it is a way to monitor performance and, most importantly, to stand out from its competitors. The awards process tends to be long, focusing on specific criteria; from exceptional staff members to stand out hotel facilities. Once the nominations are in, a panel of judges with decades of experience in the hostitality industry are left to deliberate and decide the cream of that particular year’s crop. In contrast, a hotel guest leaving an overall hotel review on an online forum can take less than five minutes from critique to click. The main question we face as hoteliers – is now how much do our guests and clients care about these prestigious awards and what effect do they have on their decision making? Does a cabinet full of awards drive revenue or do our guests pay more attention to online reviews? This change in consumer behavior has rapidly shifted the focus of hoteliers towards established review sites such as TripAdvisor, social media platforms, and search engine results. Today, the importance of maintaining your hotel’s online reputation more important than ever. Because it is constantly

evolving, it is also a much harder task. There is a sense that winning an award is easier, because it relies on impressing a specific panel of judges and will ultimately come down to the merit of the hotel. Regardless of background, travel requirements and access to the digital world, they are all looking for just one thing – a unique experience. As much as nabbing a prestigious award is heart-warming for a hotel and it’s team members, winning over our guests is top of the list. With the rise in online travel platforms, we as hoteliers do not need to wait for a annual judgement from the awards industry, we can gain recognition every day. When its positive, it is as good as any award, and when it is negative, we can use constructive criticism to improve. Awards from our peers, particularly when they allude to an outstanding team performance, are of great value when it comes to industry recogition. They help to keep the team motivated to uncover potential and encourages a healthy level of competition. The question is, with the rise in consumer driven online review content, and its undeniable influence in informing the decisions of countless travellers, what is the future of the traditional industry awards? May 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME


Cover Story

Down to Business on the Bay Hotel News Middle East catches up with the team at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Waterfront about why we should be excited about the launch of the ‘friendliest five-star hotel in Dubai’… 28


Cover Story


hen your mission statement is clear that you are setting out to create the friendliest five-star hotel in Dubai, you can be sure that scrutiny and attention will follow. But David Allan, general manager of the newly-opened Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Waterfront could not be happier now that the property is open for business. The five-star property, which is home to 432 rooms, is situated at the heart of Business Bay, widely regarded as one of Dubai’s most up and coming neighbourhoods. But the profile of being the new kid on the block comes with a huge amount of pressure as Allan explains. “Yes, we have a lovely, lovely hotel here but we are surrounded by lovely hotels. You are talking about The Steigenberger, The Renaissance, The Taj,

The Oberoi and the JW Marriott Marquis,” he says. “That is why we have to be at the top of our game. What we are trying to do is the small things that make people remember us and allow us to differentiate ourselves by living up to the oft-quoted line of trying to be the friendliest fivestar hotel in Dubai.” Anyone with a keen interest in the hospitality industry would be hardpressed to come up with a better location for the property, something that Allan notes. “Business Bay is a fantastic place to be. By the time of Expo2020, Business Bay is pretty much going to be the number one district in Dubai, I have no doubt about that,” he says. “We are very much anticipating that, like the area, the hotel will appeal to people who are here for both business

and leisure. We do not want to differentiate between people – we want to look after everyone who comes in.” While, at time of writing, the hotel had only been opened for two weeks, Allan and his team are delighted with the response. “I would say the hotel is at least 95% of what we envisaged. Even though we have only been open for two weeks we have changed things already but that is normal. “Sometimes something works in your head but in practice it does not always work like that,” he says. “Short-term, the plan is to get the team bedded in and give the guests what we said we were going to give them – the friendliest five-star hotel in Dubai. “Making the correct return for the owner and even the Radisson Hotel Group’s interests all comes off the back of that.” May 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME


Cover Story

Team Talk It is obvious that general manager David Allan puts a lot of faith in his team. What is equally apparent is that they completely buy into his determination to provide the friendliest five-star hotel in Dubai. Laura Zanfirescu, executive housekeeper, said that the pre-opening phase gave her a unique opportunity to hire the right team to fit in with the property’s philosophy. “It is about working smart more so than working hard,” she says. “It is a very exciting time now that we have opened and we all are determined to make sure the positive attitude among the staff is shared with the guests as well.” Fathuma Hamziya, cluster director of HR says the challenge is different from previous roles in established hotels where it was about getting staff to improve their levels of performance. “Here it is about starting everything from scratch,” she says. Location is everything for owner representative Khamis Kazzaz from the Al Hammad Group of Companies. “I strongly believe we are in the right end of town, I believe Business Bay and Downtown will be ‘the’ address in Dubai for the next 10 years or more,” he says. “We saw it happening 10 years ago with the Marina, we are in the right part of town, a lot of companies and banks are coming to this area which is great.” Like anything worthwhile, the project did not come to fruition without a lot of hard work and challenges along the way, explains Katharina Van Beugen, cluster director of PR and communication. “I think one of the challenges was that because it was a flagship project, there was a lot of attention across the region and from head office too, we drew a lot of attention from the media as well,” she says. “The challenge that came with it was to fulfil and please everyone. One of the challenges is you don’t have images of the interior or exterior, so you need to find other ways to market the hotel and find talking points about the hotel. “We decided to focus on all the personalities in the hotel and make it more personal.” Odile De Groot, director of F&D, says that despite all the meticulous planning behind the scenes there were still some nerves about the opening. “It is the same situation for every hotel when it comes to F&D, you can train people as much as you want but when you open the doors and the guests come in there is this slight panic,” she says. “We were fortunate though to have a year before opening to go deep into recruitment. While we just opened a few weeks ago, things are already flowing.” It is clear from speaking to the team, at the eagerly-awaited property, that they are a unit that is determined to practice what it preaches.



Fathuma Hamziya– Cluster Director of HR

While Allan stresses the owners could not have been more supportive during the opening phase, getting to this point still did not come without certain challenges. “I have to say the owners were hugely supportive, we were so fortunate that they refused to compromise in the delivery of the hotel, in situations when time is really tight it is often the case that compromises are made,” he says. “We have not gone down that road, I am pleased to say.”

The other challenge, Allan reveals, was the recruitment process. “The recruitment side of it was a challenge. We can talk about being the friendliest five-star hotel in Dubai but once you get the hotel open and operating properly it is a different beast entirely,” he says. It sounds obvious that the role of a general manager is ultimately to manage their staff, but it is not something that often comes up in discus-

Cover Story

Katharina van Beugen-Mayr - Cluster Director of PR & Communication

sions between GMs and the media. That could not be further from the case with Allan. “It is so important for me to spend time with these guys, the nicest part of my job is to help them to develop,” he says, referring to his team members. “Sometimes you get the general manager who prefers to hang around the lobby introducing themselves to guests but not really sure of the smaller details, if you ask me it is much important to

be there for the staff because they are the ones who will have most interaction with the guests.” He delves deeper into his management philosophy as he states that in his role he feels it is more important to cultivate an overall atmosphere for the property. “You can feel it sometimes when you go into a hotel and it has zero personality,” he says. “I do not want that at all. If I can spend

Laura Zanfirescu Executive Housekeeper

time with the team and make them feel good about themselves then they will pass that onto 20 or 30 people a day. I cannot do that by standing by myself in the lobby just hoping to catch people as they check in. “I do not want to come to work and be rude, not speaking to people, I know that I feel better about myself when someone makes me laugh so I take that approach with others.” Allan says it is important that a genMay 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME


Cover Story

eral manager does not micro-manage his team either. “It is about treating people like adults,” he says. “It is not about delegating or micromanaging people. It is about asking people who are experts in their own field to go away and deliver what is required of them, occasionally they need advice, occasionally they need guidance, what they don’t need is someone checking on them every two hours to see if they are doing what they are being paid to do.” It is clear that Allan is a man who knows what he wants from a hotel; which is just as well considering he has to do it all again when Radisson Blu Dubai Canal View opens in late 2018/ early 2019. The hotel is clustered with the Waterfront property, and while opening any hotel in Dubai can be a daunting task, never mind taking on two, Allan is confident that he has the team and the tools in place to make it work. “The theory is to put into practice what we learn from opening this hotel,” he says. “There are particular roles that can be clustered and others that cannot, they just would not work. “What I will say is that from opening this hotel group with this team of managers and the ones we are planning to cluster, I am very confident in delivering a very successful hotel at Canal View.” 32


David Allan Cluster General Manager

In profile

Growing in stature Hosni Abdelhadi, chief executive officer, Carlton Hotels and Suites, tells Hotel News Middle East why we should be paying close attention to his brand…


t is the nature of life that things constantly change. The hospitality industry is no different and that has never been better illustrated than with the emergence of the Carlton Hotels group as a key player in Dubai. Hotel News Middle East was lucky enough to catch an audience with Hosni Abdelhadi, chief executive officer, Carlton Hotels and Suites, ahead of this month’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) who spoke about the brand’s plans for expansion in the region. 34


“We have 1,500 rooms across Dubai and we are planning on one more hotel here before 2020,” he says. “We cater for all types of markets from business to leisure and are running at 95% occupancy.” The new hotel based in Dubai Creek, which has yet to be named, will be dry as it offers a non-alcoholic option for families. “This is something that we are proud to have,” he says. “It complements the property we

already have in Deira, the Carlton Tower Hotel, which has a number of bars and restaurants.” Abelhadi is uniquely positioned to comment on the changing face of hospitality and how the emirate of Dubai has stayed ahead of the pack when it comes to providing for emerging markets. “We noticed that we saw a bit of a slowdown in visitors from the Russian market in recent years,” he says. “But now they have lifted the visa restrictions on that market we are

In profile

Carlton Downtown Penthouse

Carlton Palace Lobby

seeing an upturn. It was quite an intelligent decision to offer free visas for travellers from the Chinese and Russian markets.” Abelhadi says that while visitors are returning from those markets, their profile is somewhat different. “While there has been a 20 to 30% increase in visitors from those markets now there is more of a mix between those coming for business and those who are seeking leisure stays,” he says. Returning and emerging markets have resulted in a strong opening to 2018 for the Carlton Hotel group as Abelhadi explains. “We had an excellent first quarter and did great figures in terms of rooms,” he says. “At one stage it went for two weeks where there were no rooms available in Dubai - such was demand. We are expe-

riencing an excellent average room rate and April will also be good for us.” Not even the perennial slowdown for Ramadan and the summer months

can dent Abdelhadi’s enthusiasm. “Naturally there is a slowdown for Ramadan but the business will still be coming,” he says. “DTCM is always coming up with genius ideas to fill up the hotels in the summer months. Just look at Dubai Parks which is bringing in a lot of business on its own. “Summer shopping levels are still high and the beaches are still full, especially with visitors from Europe.” Abdelhadi says the summer months allows the various agencies to work together and think outside of the box to attract tourism. “Yes Dubai becomes seasonal in terms of tourism but the hotel groups, travel agencies and DTCM are all working together to ensure that we still attract business,” he says. How does Abdelhadi see the future of hospitality evolving across the region? “It’s not so much about big properties with a huge number of rooms, it is about boutique hotels,” he says. “Hotels with 100-120 rooms are much easier to manage and you can provide a much more personal service. That said, we want to be part of what is happening in Dubai by having more rooms in town but it’s important to differentiate by offering an authentic, unique service. “It is not having the latest technology that makes brands successful, it is more about the service and how you deliver it.”

Carlton Palace Room Interior



Face to face

The man with

the plan

Markland Blaiklock, deputy CEO of Centara Hotels & Resorts, has big plans, not just for Dubai, but for the entire GCC region.


t is easy to lament the challenging nature of the current financial climate and fear for the worst. That would be a mistake according to Markland Blaiklock, deputy CEO of Centara Hotels & Resorts. There is every reason to look to the future of hospitality in the region with optimism according to Blaiklock, who was in Dubai to speak to Hotel News Middle East about Centara’s first property in the UAE – part of the upcoming project at Deira Island. “We are looking to develop in the GCC region,” he says. “We are serious about our development plan and want to double in size in



five years. We think our brand of hospitality will be very well-received in this area and we are looking forward to developing it. We are bullish about operating in Dubai.” The Deira Island project is a key component in the next phase of Dubai’s continued evolution as an international tourism hub – something that Blaiklock and the team at Centara are only too aware of. The property in Deira Island, which is a joint venture with Nakheel, will be a 600-room property and will be the Thai company’s largest hotel to date – complementing the properties it already has across the globe in other

countries such as Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Oman and the Maldives. “We are keen to have our first property on Deira Island ready in time for Expo2020 and we are also in discussion with Nakheel to build two additional properties at different ends of the mall when it opens – one of which will be a residences and suites and the other will be a Centara-branded hotel,” he says. As you would expect from a company as renowned as Centara, the amount of planning into the project has been meticulous. “Our view as a company is there is no shortage in Dubai when it comes to luxury,” says Blaiklock.

Face to face



Face to face

“That even applies to the upperupscale hotels but we feel there is absolutely a market for something in the mid-scale range that is family friendly. That is why we feel the Deira Island hotel is such a good fit for us as with everything that’s going on there it is a destination all by itself.” Blaiklock is not exaggerating when he says the hotel is very much geared towards the family market with a Magic Carpet theme, lazy river with waterslides along with a host of activities on the beach. 38


While the Deira Island property will mark Centara’s debut in the UAE- it certainly is not their first excursion into the GCC – that particular honour was reserved for Oman. “Last year we opened in Oman which was our first property in the region, we opened in May and it is doing very, very well for us – particularly on the rooms side,” he says. “On the F&B side some of the restaurants were not available to begin with but now they are online. “We have high expectations for the

property there and hope we can complement it with a beach resort in Oman.” Centara’s plans for the region do not stop there though, as Blaiklock reveals. “I was in Abu Dhabi yesterday discussing the possibility of properties there,” he says. “Saudi Arabia could also be a good match for us too, we are also monitoring the market in Bahrain and looking at opportunities there as well.” North Africa is a sector that is also coming under the radar of Blaiklock and his team

Face to face

at Centara. With all that said, Dubai is very much at the centre of his focus right now. “I am not an expert on Dubai but I think it is fair to say that luxury hotels have been well-aligned with the emirate and its aspirations,” he says. “But now with visitors from more locations than ever before that is all going to change.” He offers a comparison with the Maldives as an example. “The Maldives was purely luxury not so long ago at $1,000 a night and prop-

erties did very well out of it but now there has been an increase in the number of budget airlines flying there, which is a clear example of a market that has diversified in many ways,” he says. “An example of this is that we have a very nice Centara Grand in the Maldives as well as a four-star property on an adultsonly island, the same model in terms of diversification can be applied here as well.” Not only is it clear that Centara has big plans for the region – it has big plans for Dubai in particular.

Cosi arrangement Blaiklock is keen to point out that the company is not aimed solely at families. A case in point is the launch of a new brand for the “tech-savvy traveller”. “In Thailand we have just launched Cosi, it is an affordable brand for tech-savvy travellers,” he says. “The market it is aimed at are guests who do everything on their smartphones – they can check in with it, from the room they will use their smartphones to call reception. “The slogan we use is ‘Freedom’. You do what you want when you want to do it, you don’t have to eat breakfast in the morning – you can have it at night.”



The business



The business

‘Always believe in Dubai’ Raj Sahni, owner and founder of RSG Group of Companies, tells Hotel News Middle East why we should be excited about his company’s first foray into the hotel game


ubai is still a great place to invest in a hotel according to one of the leading lights in the region’s property industry. Raj Sahni, owner and founder of RSG Group of Companies, was speaking to Hotel News Middle East after it was announced his company would be building the Sabah Rotana a five-star hotel on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road – the company’s first. Among RSG Group of Companies’ achievements include the overseeing of the completion and possession of the Qasr Sabah residential project three months’ prior to the scheduled date of delivery - no mean feat by any standards. The group began life in the 1970s as an automotive spare parts company before it expanded to sectors including property development, hospitality, industrial equipment, investments and real estate. The group has also delivered residen-

tial projects including the Burj Sabha, Al Abbas Tower and the commercial boutique building Bay Square 4. “The market is saturated here but the fact remains that Dubai is still a safe haven for investors,” says Sahni. “Before, my return of investment might have been in 10 years but now it will be 14. That is still great and we are more than happy with that, Dubai is very much a safe place.” Many commentators have pointed to a reduction in room rate as a sign that the market is up against it, but there are compelling reasons to remain positive suggests Sahni. “There is still a demand for rooms here and while the prices have come down that is simply due to more competition,” he says. “Dubai keeps moving forward, it has done so for 22 years and will continue to do so. In many ways it is a separate entity to the rest of the Middle East and should be treated accordingly.”

The Sabah Rotana is due to be ready for 2020 but Sahni is adamant that the timing of the hotel is not connected to the advent of Expo 2020, taking place in Dubai at the same time. There is a push on across the hospitality industry to reach 164,000 hotel rooms and hotel apartments by the time that Expo 2020 comes around. Some speculators have went as far as to suggest that it could lead to a crash and burn across the sector. Sahni is not putting all his eggs in one basket however. “We are not building the hotel for Expo 2020, yes our target is to finish by June 2020 but Dubai has a lot more to offer than simply the expo,” he says. “Our plan is not just to create a hotel for the six months of the expo, it is to build something for the long-term, there is so much happening in Dubai.” The market in Dubai is saturated, as Sahni mentions, that is why it is vital for hoteliers to make sure they are ofMay 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME


The business

fering something unique when opening a new property. “This is going to be a special hotel with a number of unique features,” he says. “It will be a high-end hotel but we are not going to have a room rate that starts at 1,000 or 2,000 AED per night, it is going to be around the 450 to 600 range. “It’s very early to be specific but it will have a range of unique details, we are planning on something very special because there are so many hotels here already, and many more in the pipeline, so you have to be better than others if you want to stand apart.” Another key factor in Sahni’s decision to get involved in the hotel industry is the level of tourism in Dubai. “There has always been a focus on planning for tourism in Dubai, it’s a main focus of the government here in the emirate,” he says. “The type of tourist that is coming to Dubai is constantly changing. We are a very popular destination for visitors from the Russian and former Eastern bloc countries as well as with Chinese tourists as well, of course. “The fact that Dubai is also only a two-and-a-half hour flight from Pakistan also opens a huge number of doors for us.” It is not just the geographical location of the visitors that matters anymore, as Sahni explains, equally important is their mindset. “The Millennials are coming, they want to be free to roam about all day and do not want to have to pay premium prices to stay in a hotel,” he says. “We have to ensure they get value for their money. We will still have the fantastic luxury of a five-star hotel but we will also ensure you get great value for it.” Given the record of Sahni and his team in other sectors, it is hard to see their entry into the hotel industry being anything less than a success. 42




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Market Update

Egypt on the rise Mohab Ghali, Hilton vice president operations Egypt and North Africa talks to Hotel News Middle about why we should be watching the market in Egypt‌

Please give me a brief overview of the market in Egypt in your words? We have a very positive view on the Egyptian market. 2017 was a great year for Hilton in the country, and for the country as a whole, and 2018 has started strongly. In addition to officially opening the Hilton Cairo Heliopolis in February, and announcing a Waldorf Astoria hotel to follow, we also announced the signing of the DoubleTree by Hilton Mangroovy El Gouna Resort. We now have 17 hotels open across the country, and an additional eight in our development pipeline. Egypt saw some 730,000 tourists in February this year, which is a 36% year on year increase* on what was already a good performance in 2017. So, the year has started well and we expect to see continued growth throughout the rest of the year. Egypt is uniquely placed for visitors to experience some of the most wonderful history and heritage anywhere in the world with the Pyramids, the temples at Luxor and Aswan, and some of the best beaches and dive locations in the world. It really does have something for everyone. Tourism and economy are both getting better which also impacts hospitality, in addition, the devaluation of the Egyptian pound has meant that the country is even better for interna44


Market update

Demand is growing

tional guests visiting the country. Egypt certainly seems to be bouncing back and the numbers really do speak for themselves. What are they key opportunities and challenges hotels in that region will face throughout 201 and how will these play out? We certainly see the return of Russian flights this month into the country as a great opportunity. Russia has long been a key market for Egypt and these flights open up markets in the Far East and Eastern Europe. The economic stability seen in the country is also very good news which we expect will help to create numerous opportunities in attracting business to the tourism sector across the country. I think the challenge now lies to a degree in hotels and the industry gearing up for the anticipated very high increase in tourism numbers into the country, where companies can now further develop and invest in the renovations of hotels, trainings of team members and quality of the products and services that they offer. What is the national tourism organisation doing at the moment to support the hotel industry? The national tourism organisation is

certainly working hard to develop new marketing campaigns to position and promote Egypt in international markets, they have also been instrumental in the return of Russian flights to Egypt which is a huge opportunity. This is in addition to the development and renovation works in some key tourism locations and the building of the new Grand Egyptian Museum which will open this year. What are the key developments in Egypt that hoteliers are looking forward to this year? We are hoping to see Egypt launch the e-visa, and improved facilitation for pre-arrival visa procedures, this will encourage investors and make their decisions easier to come to Egypt. We would of course also like to see new charter flights and cruises into the country, and exploring some new destinations. We also need to focus now on improving and investing in the infrastructure in terms of hotel renovations, and the quality of the products and the services that we offer in general in the country, especially improving the skills of employees in dealing with international tourists. At Hilton we spend a great deal of time and money on this, and believe it is key to a successful tourist industry. * According to Tourism Ministry data carried by Al Shorouk

The market in Egypt is showing real signs of resurgence, according to Christopher Hewett, director TRI Consulting (Middle East). “What we are seeing is a resurgence in demand due to a recent increase in political stability,” says Hewett. “We are seeing people returning to Cairo and there has been a 5% increase in occupancy.” The average room rate in Cairo has increased by 32% to $86. “That is still below the $100 threshold that Cairo enjoyed when times were good before the political instability in the region,” says Hewett. “But it is still moving in the right direction.” It is no secret that recent years have been difficult in Egypt, not least because of the political turmoil across the country. One region that was impacted more than others was Sharm El Sheikh. “There have been a lot of challenges there especially since various travel ban were put in place by many markets,” says Hewett, referring to a terror attack on a commercial aircraft in 2015. “Some of those operators lifted the travel ban in 2017.” It is a sign of the resurgent Egyptian market that Sharm El Sheikh has enjoyed a 500% rise in profits recently. “That figure is coming from a very low base but there are very positive signs especially with the expected further lifting of travel bans.”




In Her Name Hotel News Middle East speaks to Assia Riccio, Evolvin Women, and Samir Arora, general manager of the MGallery by Sofitel, about why we should be taking notice of a campaign to empower women from developing countries by integrating them into the hospitality industry in Dubai…


ou do not need to be an expert in gender politics to know that women have traditionally had a tougher time of it than men. A simple glance at the newspaper headlines or news channels on television will confirm that women’s rights is still very much a burning issue. With the likes of the #MeToo campaign achieving traction all over the world there has never been a better time to put women’s rights under the spotlight – the hospitality industry is no different than any other in that regard. Hotel News Middle East spoke to Assia Riccio, from Evolvin Women, who is spearheading a campaign to connect women from developing countries with hotels in the Middle East. “We work with hotels and schools in



Africa, we train women there and bring them to Dubai,” says Riccio. “We work with partners here in Dubai where the women will come and work for 12 months before going back to their own country.” The women who take part in the programme do not have to pay anything including travel or training costs as well as a visa and accommodation. “One of the difficulties women from other countries face when coming to Dubai is the lack of networking opportunities and making points of contact,” she says. “All they can do is send their CVs through a website and hope for the best. If I was to show you my inbox on LinkedIn you would see what I mean!” Riccio is adamant that the proper platform for women coming for work


in Dubai from other countries does not exist yet – hence the need to provide the service. “I know from my own experience it was my connections that made it possible for me to come to Dubai,” she says. “I certainly was not called here.” Riccio comes from a family of philanthropists in the south of Italy, and it was her formative years that helped to place the passion to help others inside her. “At Christmas we might get 10 gifts but choose to keep only one,” she says. “I remember my parents would go to other countries and come back with children who needed support. At the end of the school year they would go back to their own countries and my mum would say ‘they have to go back to help their own families and communities with what they have learned’.” One hotelier who is very much on board with the Evolvin Women ethos is Samir Arora, general manager of the MGallery by Sofitel. “One of the biggest challenges that women face in the workplace is the hours you are expected to work,” says Arora. “It is a very demanding business and women tend to work up until the age of 33 or 35 and then they either move to a different industry to have more suitable working hours or carry on with their family life.” Arora is uniquely placed to speak about the property as the MGallery by Sofitel is a hotel that is geared specifically towards female clientele. “We are a women-centric concept and, while it is not about favouring them, it is important to give women equal opportunities to men,” she says. “That said, we have identified certain departments and roles in which we will only recruit women, as a result 33% of our workforces is female, which is quite a significant number – especially for Dubai. We are keen to increase that percentage as well.” More women will be looking for employment in the hospitality sector, says Riccio, because of a paradigm shift in terms of females being more focused on their careers than having families. “The new generation of women talk

Assia Riccio, Evolvin' Women




Antoinette Allahmensah is one of the women supported by Evolvin' Women. The Ghana national works at the Retreat Palm Dubai




less and less about having a family here,” she says. “They are really ambitious and career driven and this will change the whole landscape of the industry as the focus will be ‘I want to create a life for myself first and then maybe look at putting a family in place’.

“Women in the region have lots of opportunities compared to 10 years ago so it is now time to put the focus on how you can use all of this to inspire women from outside who have less opportunities.” The focus of Evolvin Women is not so much about shaking up the hotel in-

dustry as giving women opportunities to improve their lives. “I think there is already so much going on in hotels for women with development programmes and initiatives – to be honest, you can probably go into any hotel in Dubai and find a leadership programme in place,” she says.

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“Coming in and offering a two-day programme is not going to change the situation in hotels. That is why we moved away from empowering within a hotel to use the business to empower women in the community outside a hotel.” Riccio is keen to counter the suggestion that empowering women means they have to receive preferential treatment. “I was talking to a client a couple of weeks ago about women in the workplace and she asked me why do you always talk about gender equality instead of women’s empowerment?” she says. “You can go into a kitchen and find 90% men and only 10% women but if you look at the PR and marketing industry you will find that you traditionally have more females than males being employed. “It is not only about women when it comes to creating equality in an organisation, it just so happens that most of the time it is about women because they are in junior roles, but it is about creating a 50/50 balance,” she adds. One of the most hotly discussed issues when it comes to women in the workplace has been the ‘glass ceiling’, a reference to the fact that women can only reach so far in a company compared to their male counterparts. The problems are much more nuanced that that, suggests Riccio. “It is actually more of the case that the ‘sticky floor’ is a problem, by that I mean women find it more difficult to get off the floor and onto the first step of the career ladder,” she says. “Men, on the other hand, are really good at getting into the workforce, women are naturally brilliant at networking. So once we are on the career ladder we find it very easy to get up there and smash the glass ceiling in my personal opinion.” The key, says Riccio, is to ensure that gender bias is neutralised. “You need to give the same amount of paternity leave to a father as you give a mother for maternity leave,” she says. “You have to give the same opportunities to men and women, that is the message you need to send as an organisation.” 50


Samir Arora, General Manager, The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel

Those opportunities are starting to emerge, says Riccio. “There are certain organisations that give the schooling allowance to the mother, not the father, to neutralise the suggestion that the father is the sole bread-winner,” she says. “There are plenty of successful wom-

en in Dubai who were at a tipping point in their careers when deciding to have a family or not. “Their husbands were able to stay at home for three years.” It is clear from speaking to Riccio and Arora that we will be seeing plenty more successful women in the years to come.

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GM Leaders Conference Preview

Looking ahead to the GM Leaders Conference 2018 The fourth edition of Hotel News Middle East’s GM Leaders Conference is taking place on 7 May. BNC Publishing is proud to bring you an event that promises the most exciting GM Leaders Conference yet with a stellar line-up of panel discussions and expert sessions lined up for the event which will be held at the St. Regis Dubai… The GM Leaders Conference 2018 promises to be a highlight of the hospitality industry calendar with a unique line-up of leading experts from across the sector discussing the trends, challenges and opportunities facing the market here in the Middle East. The event, taking place at the St. Regis Dubai on Monday, 7 May, is free for

Event details 52


general managers and hospitality managers from across the UAE and wider GCC region to attend. Topics up for discussion will include how social media has changed the landscape for the industry; what is being done to increase the number of women in leadership roles across the hospitality sector and how can hoteliers ensure

Location: St.Regis Dubai Date: Monday, 7 May Time: 8.15am – 2pm

that they not only attract the top talent but they nurture that talent and allow it to thrive. There will also be a host of expert sessions and networking opportunities. Last year’s event saw over 150 general managers in attendance and it is widely expected that the 2018 conference will top those numbers.

Sponsorship opportunities: / Speaking opportunities:


Meet the sponsors Some of the leading names across the hospitality industry have come together to support the GM Leaders Conference 2018…

Spokesperson: Hany Aly, Executive Vice President Enterprise Business, du services in this area include Bandwidthon-Demand, Business Managed Services, IPTV and IoT solutions designed to meet the needs of the hospitality sector.

Why have you chosen to support the GM Leaders Conference? In recent years, we have seen how the hospitality industry, much like many others has become increasingly dependent on technology and connectivity to operate at its fullest potential. Beyond soaring network traffic and bandwidth demand in hotels around the world, advanced technologies like IoT are also carving a space in the industry. As technology becomes more closely involved in the hospitality sphere, we believe telcos have a role to play in providing the necessary tools and services to keep hotels up to speed with the digital transformation. This is why du is participating as a connectivity and ICT provider in the GM Leaders Conference. What is your opinion of the Middle East's hospitality landscape? Additionally, in the Middle East, and especially in the UAE and other Gulf countries, tourism is a growing industry that plays an integral role in economic diversification and versatility. It is a vital element of our goal to create a competitive knowledgebased economy in the UAE in line with the wise leadership’s vision, and it contributes to the non-oil GDP component of UAE Vision 2021. In fact, in Dubai, we have a dedicated Tourism Vision 2020 which serves as a strategic roadmap with the key objective of attracting 20 million visitors

What new products are you launching this year? We have a range of innovative and exciting product launches coming up in the hospitality sector this year, all of which leverage du’s experience and technology know-how to deliver comprehensive, tailor-made solutions for hospitality customers. We look forward to unveiling innovations that will continue to drive the digital and media transformation throughout the hospitality sector.

per year by 2020. As such, the hospitality industry in the region has a strong foundation and support system, that will ensure its continued growth. From an ICT perspective, the hospitality sector serves as a valuable test-bed for technologies that will attract more visitors in the coming years. Given that the hospitality industry is highly customer-focused, with a constant commitment to finding new ways to improve the customer experience and guarantee customer satisfaction, there are ample opportunities for ICT providers to offer digital services that will help achieve these goals. At du, our

What are your company's plans for the next 12 months? This year, we are focusing heavily on digitalisation – in terms of our own product lines and business as well as the digital services our customers depend on. In the midst of the technological transformation, digitalisation is among our most pressing priorities as we lay the groundwork for the smart and connected future. Additionally, we continue to focus on enhancing the customer experience in every way possible. By dedicating more resources to developments in the hospitality sector, which is very service-oriented by nature, we aim to find new ways to improve customer experiences beyond the traditional ICT service portfolio. May 2018 HOTEL NEWS ME


GM Leaders Conference Preview

Spokesperson: Abdulhadi Chalak, country manager Boecker UAE tion is vital as we are constantly developing various opportunities to better serve our clients and offering them services up to their expectations. We are excited to announce that we are enhancing our portfolio by adding new training services related to occupational health and safety, first aid trainings and housekeeping courses.

Why have you chosen to support the GM Leaders Conference? We are delighted to sponsor The GM Leaders Conference which is considered one of the industry’s leading platforms, bringing together senior executives from various functions across the hospitality and F&B sectors. We are looking forward to meeting industry leaders, discussing current challenges and opportunities, building strong relationships with them and sharing insights. What is your opinion of the Middle East's hospitality sector? The Middle East’s hospitality sector is in constant development and growth which increases its competitive aspect. Moreover, customers are becoming more demanding in terms of quality and price which makes differentiation a key component to attract customers and keep

Agenda 8.15am – Registration and networking 9am – Welcome address: Hotel News Middle East 9.05am – Opening address: Title sponsor Du 9.15am - Welcome Address: Platinum sponsor Boecker



them loyal to the brand. In addition, hotel operators should adapt to change and leverage the power of the digital world to effectively reach their target audience. What new products are you launching this year? Boecker is the Public Health reference in the Middle East. Maintaining this reputa-

9.20am – Panel One: Winning the online battle Over the last number of years the amount of time hoteliers spend dealing with online issues has grown exponentially. This panel will take a look at how hoteliers can get to grips with the challenges faced on the digital frontier from negative online reviews to the new marketing parameters that put influencers on a pedestal. • David Allan, general manager Radisson Blu Hotels, Dubai Waterfront & Canal View • Glenn Nobbs, general manager Copthorne Hotel Dubai • Slim Zaiane, general manager, Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates

What are your company's plans for the region over the next 12-18 months? Boecker is constantly focusing on delivering the highest quality of services to its customers. Our umbrella of services includes pest management, food safety and biosecurity which make us stand out from the competition. Meanwhile, Boecker is working towards achieving its long-term strategy which is expanding our physical availability in the region, striving for business excellence, increasing mental availability, providing constant innovative solutions and developing our human resources.

• Mark Kirby, general manager, Armani Hotel 10am – Address from platinum sponsor Greenhouse 10.05am - Expert session: • Tim Cordon, Radisson Hotel Group - area senior VP Middle East, Turkey & Africa 10.25am – Panel Two: Why aren’t there more female general managers? Five per cent of general managers across the world are female. Why is there such a discrepancy between women and men in leadership positions? Has the new generation of millennials moved the playing field though? With the #MeToo


Spokesperson: Daniel Chidiac, general manager, Greenhouse Foodstuff Trading two years. I am hoping that by 2020, the UAE will see the benefits from the Expo2020 event and Saudi Arabia will start reaping the fruit of the reforms taken by the government there.

Why have you chosen to support the GM Leaders Conference? There are two reasons for this and they are: 1. To create a better exposure for Greenhouse in the F&B industry at senior level. Greenhouse is already very well known to chefs and procurement managers, however it is lacking awareness on higher level management within the F&B industry. 2. For Greenhouse senior management to expand its network with the higher level management across F&B channels. What is your opinion of the Middle East's hospitality sector? The hospitality sector is not very promising in the coming years in the Middle East due to the political and economic instability the region is facing. A lot has been said about the politi-

movement gathering pace, there has never been a better time to take a look at the challenges and opportunities facing females in leadership roles. • Darren Darwin, general manager Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort • Maria Tullberg, general manager Radisson Blu Dubai Deira Creek • Patria Puyet, pre-opening hotel manager Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City • Nayla Chowdhury, general manager Hampton by Hilton Dubai Airport • Nila Pendarovski, hotel manager Rove Dubai Marina • Assia Riccio, founder of "Evolvin Women" 11am – Coffee break

What new products are you launching this year? Emmi yoghurts and cheeses and Bjorg healthy biscuits with many other brands in the pipeline.

cal and economic instability that some feel the region will face over the next

11.15am – Expert Session: • Paula De Keijzer, senior director market management Middle East, Africa, Greece & Turkey 11.35am – Panel Three: Attracting the right kind of talent It is a well-known fact that life in the Middle East for expats, particularly in Dubai, is transitory. With that in mind, our final panel of the day will look at how to not only attract the right talent but to keep them challenged enough to, not only stay within the company, but to make their way to the top of the career ladder. • Ammar Hilal, general manager Fairmont Dubai

What are your company's plans for the region over the next 12-18 months? Our plan is to grow our business in Saudi Araiba and enter the Kuwaiti market. We also aim to launch a catering project targeting coffee house chains. This catering project will be offering higher quality snacking to coffee house chains with an efficient logistics platform delivering fresh breads every morning before 7am to all outlets across the seven emirates.

• Remco Werkhoven, general manager DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai Business Bay • Shaun Parsons, complex general manager at Le Meridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre/Le Meridien Fairway • Dino Van Eeckhaut, cluster general manager Wyndham Hotel Group • Stefan Viard, general manager Melia Dubai • Emiel Van Dijk, general manager Swissôtel Al Ghurair and Swissôtel Living Al Ghurair 12.15pm – Lunch 2pm – Close of conference



GM interview

Capital gains

Marc de Beer, general manager Saadiyat Resort & Villas Abu Dhabi, tells Hotel News Middle East why we should be excited about the recently opened property

What can you tell us about your professional experience and history? I grew up in the Netherlands where I studied Hotel Management at the Hogeschool Zuyd in Maastricht. After graduating, I embarked on an international career rooted in F&B, taking me from the US, via the UK to China, Europe and finally Middle East. How has that influenced your management philosophy? Through my travels I’ve realised what unites us as people as well as that our different backgrounds determine what drive us. I’ve seen diverse cultures, countries and traditions that I believe as a manager, you need to fully understand if you want to get the best out of your team. 56


What would you say are the main factors that make a great GM? By setting a clear direction, understanding the financials of the business and leading by example, you will be able to inspire your team – you also need to be quick-minded to be able to make decisions on the spot and have a keen eye for detail. But, above all, you have to be a great communicator. How do you feel the hotel is performing? As the hotel just opened couple of weeks ago and still in soft opening, it is very early to say. However, our first guests loved their experience and already booked for next year, which says a lot about the coming months. As mentioned, we are still in soft opening and

aiming to open in the coming weeks our two other outlets – Si Ristorante, the only Italian restaurant on the island and Hamilton, the GastroPub. Regarding our event facilities, these will be open in the coming months as they are still under construction. What are your targets and expectations for next year? For next year, we want to establish Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas as the new flagship for the Rotana brand in the capital, and as always, to deliver on the high expectations. What are your thoughts on the current state of the region’s hospitality market? It’s undeniable that the market has changed and will keep evolving during

GM interview



GM interview

the next number of years. The hospitality industry has been touched by the lower oil revenues which puts pressures on the hotel rates, as the demand has remained the same. The industry needs to adjust its operating practices to ensure we remain a viable business model for investors, while at the same time continuing to deliver good value to our guests. What are the operational priorities for you as general manager? To ensure that our team is growing in confidence, we aim to beautify the resort - every day is an opportunity to develop and expand. How would you describe your approach to leadership and staff empowerment? I have a delegation management style. I believe all department heads should do the job they were hired to do, holding them accountable for results, allowing them the freedom to create and innovate. What are your target markets? As the resort is built for leisure, we aim to target Europe, the CIS countries and the GCC but we are also appealing to the incentives market as well as attracting weddings and smaller conferences. How do you approach your performance targets? We differentiate ourselves and position the resort as family friendly, relaxed luxury. We seek to be competitive in terms of rate positioning, offering many upgraded accommodations for the discerning traveller. We place an equal emphasis on activating our F&B to the local market. Describe your sales and marketing strategy? Since we just opened, we need to create awareness locally, and support our European partners with marketing activities to drive bookings through the tour operator distribution channels. As F&B is very important to the local market, it will play an important role in our marketing campaigns as well. 58


What can you tell us about your digital strategy? We are active on all the social media platforms and engage on a daily basis with our followers to ensure real-time updates and rich content. We will also work with bloggers and vloggers to reach out to a wider network of lifestyle lovers. Do you have any CSR initiatives? Being on the protected Saadiyat Beach gives us a responsibility to protect the surrounding nature and wildlife as well as creating awareness among our staff and guests. As a good neighbour we are looking to support local initiatives on Saadiyat and work with local enterprises and entrepreneurs. How does the hotel fit into the hotel group’s portfolio? Rotana has established a strong service culture and Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas will be the embodiment of the

founders’ philosophy. We are providing excellence by delivering high quality of service, food and beverage experiences. The success of the destination is key to our success. We compete with other cities and countries to bring events and individuals to Abu Dhabi. As a growing tourist destination, we need to bundle our efforts to have a focused approach to grow tourist arrivals. What are your three personal favourite features of the property? Only three?! Alright, first I love the pool, with 1,500 square metres it is one of the largest pools in Abu Dhabi, and the bubble beds on the edge of the pool are just so relaxing! I am also super excited about our Italian restaurant Si - I think this is what Saadiyat needs, and the rotating pizza oven produces the most amazing pizzas. Finally, I think our spa is a little piece of heaven on earth to relax and rejuvenate.

In profile

Perking up Robert Jones, managing director of Coffee Planet speaks to Hotel News Middle East about his company’s latest offerings across the region

weight for individual beverage creations. These machines provide an unparalleled capacity, guaranteeing exceptional quality at high volumes. We currently have four different varieties in our range; the A200, A400, A600 and A800.

When was your company established and how many years have you been active in the region? Coffee Planet has been supplying customers in foodservice, retail and business across the Middle East and beyond since 2005 and is now one of the largest speciality coffee vendors in the region. What's the company's vision and values? The Coffee Planet mission is to provide customers with the finest global Arabica coffee, roasted and delivered perfectly every time. We only roast specialtygrade, 100% Arabica coffee beans and our uncompromising quality has always been a key attribute. As the UAE’s leading roaster, our vision is to cater to an increasing number of consumers with our 360-degree approach to coffee solutions for the foodservice industry. What are your core products/ services for the hospitality sector? We offer a full suite of products and services to ensure customers receive everything they need from crop-to-cup. 60


In addition to all coffee and related consumables we also provide full support and training, machine delivery and installations and 24-7 technical support. At Coffee Planet, the comprehensive nature of our offering means we can cater to a wide range of customers within the foodservice industry including fivestar hotels, offices, restaurants, catering companies, airlines and many more. What new products or innovations have you launched in 2018? We are continuously exploring new options to remain responsive and adaptable to trends in the market and changes in the demands of consumers. Currently, we are getting ready to launch our new Reserve range into the foodservice sector, which will include nitro coffee, cold brew coffee and Nespresso-compatible capsules expertly blended from a selection of our finest 100% Arabica single origin coffees. Another area in which we always strive to remain innovative is with our machinery. Recently, we have had several high-profile customers opting for our line of automatic Franke machines which represent the ultimate performance heavy-

What's your best-seller? Two of our most requested coffees within the foodservice category come from our Professional Series range of 100% Arabica specialty whole bean and ground coffee. The Professional Series Roast no.70 is a popular fullbodied blend with a natural sweetness and notes of dark chocolate and walnut. The Professional Series Organic 50 is also a favourite and features a blend of UTZ-certified coffee from Peru. The Coffee Planet Professional Series offers a diverse portfolio designed to cater to a wide variety of taste profiles so there will always be something that appeals to the most discerning palates. Some of our other best-sellers include our high-quality single origin and micro-lot coffees. We relaunched our Origin range in 2017 with 11 new varieties from 11 different farms across the bean belt. What makes your company stand out on the market? One of our biggest strengths has always been in our position as a local coffee solutions provider, meaning we are on the doorsteps of our clients and consumers. Our Dubai-based roastery has recently undergone an expansion and we now have 26,000 square feet of space dedicated to roasting and packaging, which supports our promise of freshly roasted coffee every time. With a weekly output of well over 20,000 kilos of coffee we can also guarantee a consistent supply, delivered quickly and at a competitive price.


Airblade heats up the market

Hotel News Middle East finds out more about the Dyson Airblade Wash+Dry hand dryer from Sam Bernard, global category director, Dyson

The white stuff Samer Loubieh, marketing manager Middle East North Africa at Ecolab

What is your latest product launch? The Dyson Airblade Wash+Dry hand dryer.

What is your latest product launch? What makes it unique?

The Dyson Airblade Wash+Dry hand dryer combines in a single touchless unit a tap, and a hand dryer that dries hands in 14 seconds with HEPA-filtered air. The multi-function design helps to save space in the washroom and reduces the problem of water dripping on the floor as users move from a handwashing area to a separate hand drying station. It is also up to 39% quieter than its predecessor.

Why should businesses purchase your product?

The new Dyson Airblade Wash+Dry hand dryer costs €34 a year to run, compared to its predecessor’s €48. Dyson Airblade hand dryers cost up to 78% less to run than other hand dryers, and up to 98% less than paper towels. Dyson Airblade hand dryers also produce up to 79% less CO2 than paper towels and some other hand dryers.

Phone: 04 350 7887 Email: Rebecca.Halligan@


Ecolab’s Solid and Liquid Aquanomics low temperature Laundry Program is a sustainable, smart, end to end solution to provide best in class laundry. The program uses revolutionary chemistry which delivers clean, white, soft and fresh results with measurable water and energy savings with every load.

What makes it unique?

The Aquanomics Laundry Program provides actionable insights which provide visibility into the laundry operations and identify areas for improvement. The laundry solution has stain-fighting power that keeps linen white and bright from the first wash extending the life of your linen. With the elimination of rewash and using low temperatures, hotels are able to capture up to 40% water and energy savings.

Why should businesses purchase your product?

Hotel guests notice cleanliness which creates a lasting impression. Our Aquanomics Solid and Liquid programs delivers clean, white, soft and fresh results that customers value-the first time linens are laundered. Hotel operators can realise measureable savings, drive efficient operations and elevate the whiteness and brightness of their linen.

Phone: +971 4 801 4444 Email: Website:

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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.

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On the spot

Putting people first

Alejandro Bernabé, vice president of operations, Avani Hotels & Resorts, is under the spotlight this month… Can you tell us why you wanted to join this industry? To be honest with you, I did not want to be in the hospitality industry but the circumstances took me here… I soon realised that this was my path, there are many reasons why I am thankful for having joined this industry. Where else would you be able to work with so many people, from so many different backgrounds, in a great environment and always try to make people’s lives better? It is a great industry!

What would you say to anyone who is starting out in your sector? I would tell them to have fun in anything they do and to surround themselves with people that make their life better. We already have enough problems in the world without having to add problems in our work life. Have fun at what you do, work hard and you will have a good life.

What's the best thing about your job?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

The possibility of working with great people with whom I have a lot of fun with while continuing to discover the world.

In five years, I would like to look back and see many young people whose careers we have influenced by giving them opportunities to grow in a great company where you are treated as an individual, where there is a purpose for what we do and where financial results are not everything.

What made you choose this role? Being in charge of a new fun brand with lots of potential for growth where I can contribute to the future of the company.

What do you do when you’re not working? I like to spend time with my family, going to the gym and travelling.

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever received in the workplace? There are a few pieces of advice that have stuck with me like passion without hard work means nothing, or never to forget how lucky I am, I am really a fortunate person and I should never forget that. 62


What’s the worst thing about your job? The best thing and the worst thing in our job is that we work with people. Each person is different, behaves, feels and thinks in different ways so dealing with this is very interesting but at the same time can be extremely challenging.

What’s your favourite book?

Tell us something that none of your colleagues know about you…

I do not have a favourite book, it all depends on what makes me interested at the time, on my mood, on what I am looking for…

When I was young I had a lot of blond hair and I am sure nobody will believe this when they see me know.

If you invited guests over for dinner, what would you make?

If you could stay in any hotel in the world right now, where would you go? Today, it would have to be an Avani and I would love to visit Lisbon. It is a great city, in a fantastic country and the Avani there is in the best spot in town.

It would have to be Spanish food… of course!

What song instantly gets you on the dance floor? I cannot dance… so you rarely will see me close to a dance floor.

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Hotel News ME - May 2018  
Hotel News ME - May 2018