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The definitive guide to successful hotel management

June 2010








The definitive guide to successful hotel management

June 2010

Jumeirah’s Gerald Lawless on the new lifestyle brand

Keeping up with in-room technology trends

Marriott tops the GCC development pipeline

A look inside the world’s first Armani Hotel SELIM EL ZYR KUWAIT SALES AND MARKETING SIX SENSES OUTDOOR FURNITURE Licensed by Dubai Media City

Shot on location at InterContinental Dubai Festival City

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June 2010 Volu Volume 9, Issue 6 05 NEWS HMH to open 17 hotels this year; Yemen plans million dollar destinations; and updates from The Wave, Muscat, Best Western and Ramee.

30 ROUNDTABLE: SALES AND MARKETING Sales and marketing professionals explain the challenges of their sector and how to overcome them.



Fino International’s Talal Saeed and EHG’s Marc Dardenne review the launch of the first Armani hotel.

Bench events chairman Jonathan Worsley reviews AHIC.



The experts explain the trends and must-have items for outdoor space.

Bliss Spa dominates awards; Schletterer teams up with Mövenpick; and the latest from Dubailand.




Harriet Sinclair explains why investing in good staff will reap rewards for your business.

Mike Scully warns against inappropriate benchmarking.

The latest in new products, with a focus on your flooring needs.


Raymond Kelly explains how FIBO 2010 was a success despite the looming ash cloud.


Lee Jamieson discusses the country’s tourism potential.

Darroch Crawford on hospitality during the ash crisis.


16 COLUMNIST Guy Wilkinson discusses the Gulf development pipeline.

25 INTERVIEW: GERALD LAWLESS Gerald Lawless of Jumeirah Group discusses new brand Venu Hotels.

Lavazza opens new training centre; MCD launch radio station; Technogym introduces ‘green’ exercise; and Hobart has a record year.

73 TECH TALK News on check-in kiosks and virtual concierge trends.

74 TECH EXPERT IT guru Roger MacFarlaine on the need for responsive technology.

92 SIX SENSES INTERVIEW Deputy chairman and managing director Bernhard Bohnenberger discusses the perfect location and why it is time for rebranding.


New recruit and appointments.




Four Seasons’ Jim FitzGibbon on the importance of good staff.

News, opinions and best picks from the Hotel Show 2010.

Can hoteliers keep up with the fast pace of new in-room technology asks Lee Jamieson.




Rotana president and CEO talks about his future plans.

Al Nabooda Interiors predicts growth this year.

Shared ownership a current trend; and operators focus on Iraq.

The best of the month’s parties, events and awards.

104 HOTELIER CONFIDENTIAL Insights from the news desk.

37 25


99 Hotelier Middle East • June 2010





1: PSYCHO (1 (1960) Th is little There mo unsettling more th being in an than un unfamiliar bed in a run-down ho particularly hotel, when the gene general manager is a psychopath. If the next time you check into a hotel the GM is called Norman and he has a collection of stuffed birds, start running, or at the very least don’t take a shower.

6. PARK HYATT TOKYO — LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003) The Oscar-winningg film showed the . relationship Park Hyatt Tokyo between an ageing actor and a young philosophy student. They meet in Tokyo and are lost souls both looking for answers and meaning.

2: BELLAGIO – OCEAN’S ELEVEN (2001) Hollywood’s A-list turns up for this remake of the classic 1960s caper. Clooney and Pitt replace Sinatra and Dean, but the film captures the excitement of Las Vegas.

7: MOUNTAIN LAKE HOTEL — DIRTY DANCING (1987) Set in the Mountain Lake Hotel in Pembroke Virginia, Baby and Patrick Swayze dance their way into love, making this a favourite film among women everywhere.

Bates Motel.

3. GRAND HOTEL (1932) Berlin’s most expensive hotel is the setting where in the words of Dr. Otternschlag ‘People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.’ The irony of the line in this classic film is that a lot happens in hotels, as we all know. 4. FONTAINEBLEAU MIAMI BEACH — SCARFACE (1983), GOLDFINGER (1964) AND THE BODYGUARD (1992) This hotel boasts three great films. The scene in Scarface where Pacino Fontainebleau Miami Beach. is surveying rld all that the world can offer him by the pool of the hotel is cinematic gold. And who can forget the gold lady? 5: GUEST HOUSE PARADISO (1999) Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall bring their particular brand of course and violent humour to the big screen in this film. Set in one of the most disgusting hotels imaginable, located next to a nuclear power plant, the plot centres around Mayall’s attempts at wooing a beautiful actress who ends up at the hotel.

8: HOLIDAY INN (1942) If, like us, you love a bit of Bing, Holiday Inn is the film for you. More of a nightclub that is only open on holidays, the film has some classic dance routines that exemplify a golden era of Hollywood film-making. 9. TIMBERLINE LODGE — THE SHINING (1980) Ja Jack Nicholson m managed to scare a generation in The Shining pplaying the writer sslowly going mad in the remote TTimberline Lodge on Mt. Hood in Oregon. The property is still a hotel and caters too high-end vacations and weddings. 10: GRANDHOTEL PUP — CASINO ROYALE (2006) The hotel plays host to much tension and provides a stunning back drop for James Bond’s first assignment.

Most-read stories on 1: Armani Hotel opening 2: Fairmont ATM party 3: Top 10 pictures of the Icelandic volcano 4: Address Dubai Marina ATM party 5: Raffles ATM party 6: Rezidor ATM party 7: Mövenpick ATM party 8: Al Badia ATM party 9: Top 10 hotels in films 10: Kempinski’s ATM party


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THE REGION • Signings • Openings • Best practices • Strategy • Branding • Legislation • Events

UAE authorities expand classification systems Upgrades focused on differentiating between five-star hotels at the top end of the market STORY OF THE MONTH Hotel classification systems in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are undergoing revision in order to distinguish between different types of five-star hotels. Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which introduced its hotel classification system in 2009, is expanding this “to recognise properties judged to exceed five-star requirements”. ADTA chairman, HE Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, said the revisions would apply to properties such as Emirates Palace. “We are currently working on upgrading the system to include a new category which will, more accurately, represent properties deemed as above five-star,” he said. Similarly. Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) has revealed its intention to differentiate between five-star hotels via the introduction of three categories. DTCM director of hotel classifications Majid Al Marri said that silver, gold and platinum levels would be added to the category of five-star, with Jumeirah’s Burj Al Arab likely to be ranked as platinum. “We found out that five-star hotels have different levels. So you have to make a distinction between what is good and what is better,” said Al Marri. DTCM aims to introduce its silver, gold and platinum rankings by the end of this year, said Al Marri, when it launches a full overhaul of its existing classification system, which was introduced back in 1998. The new Dubai classification system, which will utilise a weighted points approach, will also feature

ADTA’s expanded system will apply to hotels such as Emirates Palace, which exceeds traditional requirements.

DTCM director of hotel classifications Majid Al Marri.

ADTA chairman HE Sheikh Sultan BinTahnoonAl Nahyan.

upgraded criteria and the introduction of a distinction by type of hotel, in addition to the traditional star ratings. Hotels will be labelled depending on whether they are resort, city, beach or business hotels and so on, said Al Marri. “Something like Al Maha would be classified as a desert hotel,” he added. “The new five-star classification and the new categories are being introduced for the first time in the region,” said Al Marri. “Maybe it’s the first time in the world for these things.” A panel of experts at The Hotel Show agreed that classification systems needed to be updated but questioned the appropriate method to take.

The panel, which consisted of Hilton Worldwide president Middle East and Africa Jean-Paul Herzog, Layia Hospitality CEO Daniel Hajjar, and TRI Hospitality Consultants associate director John Podaras, suggested the need for standards to be set by an international body such as the World Tourism Organisation. Podaras said: “A minimum standard across the board would be very useful so people know what to expect, but we have to allow within a system for differences”. Hajjar said that the idea of adding types of hotels into the traditional approach would help streamline comparisons for consumers, but said this

still depended on an objective system being set by a body like the WTO. Meanwhile, ADTA is further refining its classification system by linking it with Abu Dhabi’s new Green Hotel Building Guidelines, which are to be piloted this summer. “We have been working on these guidelines for over six months,” said Sheikh Sultan. “Our aim is to ensure Abu Dhabi’s hospitality industry is on a par with the world’s greenest hotels as we continue our mission to deliver a sustainable tourism sector.”. Abu Dhabi’s mandatory Green Hotel Building Guidelines fall into two categories — those for existing hotels and those for properties now being designed and planned. The guidelines for existing hotels have been developed under a MoU with Estidama — the sustainability initiative of Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council and in consultation with engineers from more than 30 hotels. In addition to these upgrades, ADTA will be rolling out classification standards for restaurants and desert camps. “These refinements to our classification system will come into effect in the New Year and will further enhance Abu Dhabi’s destination credibility,” said Sheikh Sultan. Hotelier Middle East • June 2010



tourism chiefs plan multi-million dollar destinations ANNOUNCEMENTS Yemen Country plans to reverse negative publicity and increase visitor numbers Carlton expansion Dubai-based company Carlton Hospitality & Hotel Management Group has invested AED 763 million (US $208 million) into a phased regional expansion plan. As part of the first phase of the expansion, newly acquired properties in Amman, Jordan and Manama, Bahrain have joined the group’s flagship property, Carlton Tower Hotel, Dubai, which is being refurbished. The company’s regional director of Middle East and group general manager, Hosni A Hadi, said: “We are looking at potential opportunities in Syria, Lebanon and Turkey as well as in Asia”. Green Globe for The Palace The Palace — The Old Town in Dubai has become the first hotel in the Middle East to be awarded the Green Globe Certification. The certification process was spearheaded by The Palace director of engineering, Abdul Quddus Sheikh, with recognition given after the hotel’s sustainability initiatives were tested against 248 standards, which were monitored via a web-based system. It recognises the property’s dedication to keeping carbon emissions low, tracking energy and water consumption and recycling materials, as well as reducing the consumption of non-recyclable products. Hakkasan restaurant opens at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi The London Michelin-starred modern Chinese restaurant brand, Hakkasan, opened at Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, on June 1. The 165-cover restaurant will be located on the main entrance level of the hotel and also have a private entrance in the east wing with valet parking. It will feature four private dining rooms that seat from six to 12 guests, and offer dishes designed specifically for the UAE market alongside Hakkasan classics such as Peking Duck with Royal Beluga caviar.

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

DEVELOPMENT Yemen is intending to develop several million dollar resort projects in order to encourage tourists to visit the country. Five leading developments, which will be situated along the coast of the country, will cost an estimated US $150-250 million per project and will be built over the next five years, depending on support from investors. Yemen’s deputy minister for tourism Omar Babelghaith said: “We have two projects planned on the coast of the Red Sea and three on the Arabian Gulf. For each project we are looking to create tourist villages, a complete resort. If we get the investors, we would like them to be completed by 2015”. In addition to the five leading developments, a sixth project is planned for the country. The project will cost an estimated $78 million and will encapsulate small to medium developments spread out across 44 tourist sites.

Yemen deputy minister for tourism Omar Babelghaith.

The developments come as part of a push for Yemen to increase the number of incoming tourists to the country over the next five years. The number of visitors to Yemen during the first quarter of 2010 shows a 0.9% increase on the first

quarter of 2009, which had a yearly growth of 0.5% compared to the figures from 2008. However, Yemen received just 1.1 million incoming tourists last year, 70% of whom were visitors from the Gulf. Babelghaith believes that a number of factors including misinformation, negative press, and travel warnings have contributed to the relatively low number of visitors to the country from outside the region. “Some European countries are imposing travel warning alerts which put tourists off. People also hear the often inaccurate information displayed by the media but personally, I believe that seeing is not like hearing. So before people judge Yemen negatively they have to come and see it”, he said. Babelghaith said that in addition to the planned development, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Yemen would be appealing to governments in Europe to remove the travel warnings which he believed discouraged people from visiting the country.

HMH “committed” to opening 17 hotels in 2010 Majority of new properties will be located in Saudi Arabia, says CEO Hospitality Management Holdings (HMH) has announced plans to open 17 hotels by the end of 2010, which will increase its total number of hotel rooms by 40%. The company, which currently operates 33 properties, will be increasing its portfolio to 50 hotels by the end of the year, with a significant number of these due to open in Saudi Arabia. HMH chief executive officer Michel Noblet said: “We are committed to opening 17 hotels this year with 10 of them opening in Saudi Arabia this year alone. We are interested in Saudi Arabia because it is the biggest market in the Gulf —simple as that”. In addition to the planned openings in Saudi Arabia, other Middle East developments include two

properties which will open in Doha this year. The Doha properties, Corp Doha, Suites and Coral International, Doha, are expected to open in July 2010 and during the third quarter of 2010 respectively. Commenting on the Doha openings, Noblet said: “Doha is definitely emerging as a business powerhouse in the Middle East and is among the leading business centres, which provides us the perfect setting for growth. Our objective is to target the demands of this growing sector with products tailored around the needs of international business executives”. Extending beyond 2010, HMH plans to continue its expansion and has a target of 100 hotels by 2012, 57 of which have already been signed.

Michel Noblet of HMH: KSA biggest market in gulf.


Marriott tops GCC hotel development pipeline Company plans 29 hotels in Gulf and 170 worldwide says Ed Fuller EXPANSION Marriott International is top of the GCC hotel development pipeline, with 29 hotels comprising 9572 rooms which are due to open between 2010 and 2015. The company has beaten last year’s leader Accor into second place, with 23 hotels, while Rotana ranked third with 17 hotels currently under development. The latest update on the pipeline comes from Dubai-based hospitality and property consulting firm Viability, and was presented for the first time at HOTEC Middle East by Viability director Guy Wilkinson (see page 16 for a full report). Commenting on the findings during the HOTEC seminar programme, presented to 160 delegates attending the hotel business forum held at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah resort in Muscat, Wilkinson said: “The power of the brand comes into its own during recession conditions when the distribution system is all important”.

Ed Fuller: Marriott is still growing and has enlarged its development team in the Middle East and Africa.

He highlighted some major Marriott projects, such as the 1614-room Marquis hotel in Dubai, which will be opening in two phases in 2011 and 2013, and the 1350-room RitzCarlton in Riyadh. Marriott Lodging International president and managing director Ed Fuller told Hotelier at Arabian

Travel Market: “In the next 12 months we’re going to open 1500 rooms in the region [Middle East and Africa], and overall we will open 170 hotels in the world and 30,000 rooms”. “We’re still growing and these are still exciting times for us,” added Fuller. “We’ve enlarged our development staff here in the Middle East and Africa and one of our hotels opening in the next 12 months is the JW Marriott Tripoli. “Libya is a personal dream for me. Tripoli has got a lot of growth potential in the long run and Libya is going to have great leisure potential, not today, but there’s several Roman cities near there and if you could clear all of that sand they are wonderful destinations to see. So we are very excited about the long range potential of Libya and this will be the luxury hotel in town,” added Fuller. Marriott will also be opening three hotels in Doha and one in Ghana over the next year, which will total 1500 rooms in 12 months, said Fuller.

Ramee Group to open six hotels in Middle East DEVELOPMENT Ramee Group of Hotels and Resorts has announced that it will be opening six hotels in the Middle East over the next three years. The four- and five-star hotels are planned for Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, with the first opening to be the Ramee Rose Hotel, a 103-room property which will open in Tecom, in Dubai in October 2010. Ramee Group chairman and managing worker Raj Shetty said: “I will be concentrating on existing properties and focusing on the opening of Tecom this year.”

Ramee hotels chairman and managing worker Raj Shetty: focusing on the opening of Tecom hotel.

The plans to add these additional properties to the Ramee portfolio have not been slowed down by the

current global economic crisis, said Shetty. “Recession is a part of the game so we will have to work on it, cut costs in our operations. We are expecting another two years of low predictions and then after two years I think we will probably be out of the recession,” he added. In addition to the properties planned for the Middle East, Ramee Group is also opening five hotels in India, which are intended to be operational by the end of 2013. Ramee Group currently manages and operates 32 properties in the budget segment in the form of hotels, resorts and apartments in the UAE, Bahrain, India and Oman.

The Hotelier Middle East Salary Survey is now live.Visit and click on the Salary Survey banner on the home page to take part now.

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010



The Wave Muscat still seeking four-star operator Delayed Kempinski and Fairmont five-star properties planned to open during 2013 and 2014 DEVELOPMENT The project team behind The Wave, Muscat development in Oman is still on the hunt for an operator for its four-star hotel offering. The Wave, Muscat deputy CEO Abdulla Al Shidi said the eventual operators would benefit from the property’s proximity to the airport. “We should be able to capture transient passengers. Therefore, we are currently reviewing designs and potential operators for a four-star entry level property, with approximately 180 keys,” Al Shidi stated. However, despite the mixed-use project having already welcomed its

Fairmont The Wave, Muscat, will open in 2013 following delays to the project which was meant to open in 2010.

first residents, the first hotel guests won’t be staying at The Wave, Muscat until 2013. Management agreements were signed with Kempinski and Fairmont to operate two five-star prop-

EHG signs master agreement with Southern Sun DEAL Southern Sun Hotels Middle East and Emaar Hospitality Group have signed a master agreement for Southern Sun to manage future Emaar four-star deluxe properties. The intention is to build on the success of Southern Sun’s Emaarowned two Dubai hotels — Al Manzil and Qamardeen — located in The Old Town, said Southern Sun Offshore managing director Richard Weilers. “The signing of the Master

Southern Sun Offshore managing director RichardWeilers.

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

Agreement with Emaar Hospitality Group reveals the quality of the relationship built with the owners of Al Manzil and Qamardeen Hotels and their confidence in our operational capabilities — which have been ably demonstrated through the success of these two flagship properties,” said Weilers. “When we opened at the start of 2007, we were the first commercial enterprises operating in the Downtown Dubai district. Four years on, and we have carved a distinctive place for ourselves within this vibrant business and leisure district, and in Dubai’s highly competitive hospitality scene. We intend to leverage this success to grow Southern Sun’s portfolio in the Middle East region,” he added. Separately from the Emaar agreement, the African company has already announced a four-star deluxe, 350-room property for Abu Dhabi, due to open in 2012, and a hotel in Jeddah — the group’s first in Saudi Arabia. The company is also expanding on home turf, with two new properties in Johannesburg opening in time for the World Cup, a second hotel planned for Lagos in Nigeria and a 130-room budget hotel signed in Lusaka, Zambia.

erties, previously scheduled to start operating in 2010. However, due to delays, the hotel openings were pushed back “Both Kempinski and Fairmont will be positioned as five-star prop-

erties. The current opening date for the first hotel is first quarter 2013, with the next property opening approximately nine to 12 months later,” Al Shidi explained. When asked about the delays of the hotel openings, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts vice president regional hotel sales MEA Kent Cooper commented: “The Wave is on track — it’s still in design phase. We have it slotted in for first quarter / second quarter 2013”. However, while acknowledging there had been “some changes in the original master plan”, Al Shidi added that these were “not necessarily dictated by the financial security and stability” of the project.

Kuwait-based Action Hotels to roll out 2600 midscale rooms EXPANSION Action Hotels has announced that it will be opening a second Ibis hotel in Kuwait this year, in the Sharq business district of the city. Action Hotels general manager Alain Debare said: “We have a second Ibis opening in Kuwait this August [2010]. We identified that there was market for a second one in Kuwait as the hotels are in two very different areas”. The opening marks the beginning of a two-year development plan, which will see the company adding to its existing portfolio in the region. According to the company’s chairman, His Excellency Sheikh Mubarak Abdullah Al Mubarak Al Sabah, nine mid-scale properties will be joining the three already open in Kuwait, Oman and Jordan. “Our regional strategy is to cement a leading position in the economy hotel segment,” said Sheikh Mubarak. Action Hotels’ partnership with Accor and IHG will see the company deliver a 14-plus portfolio of

Alain Debare of Action Hotels talks new openings.

gateway properties under the Ibis, Novotel, Holiday Inn and Staybridge brands by 2012. Debare added: “We are very focused in terms of future development in the Middle East. So this is really where we are concentrating, and our decisions are strategic — we look at opportunities and we go in to that market”.



ANNOUNCEMENTS StayWell enters Middle East StayWell Hospitality Group has announced a new management agreement to operate a fourstar hotel in Dubai, marking its entrance to the Middle East. Scheduled to open mid-2010, the 392-room Park Regis Kris Kin, Dubai is located opposite the Burjuman shopping centre. It will offer three restaurants, two bars, a night club, rooftop pool, gym and leisure centre. StayWell Hospitality Group’s portfolio currently stands at a total of 23 properties in Australia. Park Regis Singapore is also under development, with an opening date expected during August or September 2010. Starwood signs W in Abu Dhabi W Hotels Worldwide has signed an agreement with Belbadi, a local UAE multidisciplinary corporation, to manage W Abu Dhabi located on the waterfront on Al Bateen Wharf. The luxury boutique hotel will feature 350 stylish guest rooms, including 25 suites and two “Extreme Wow” suites, a signature spa with 12 treatment rooms, three restaurants, a lounge and a rooftop night club. It will be Starwood Hotels & Resorts first W Hotel in the UAE when it opens in 2013, following continuing delays at W Dubai in Festival City, which Roeland Vos, president of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, EMEA, told Hotelier was “on hold”.

Golden Tulip sees gap for Premier Class Company expands strategically, with growth of budget brand to follow EXPANSION Golden Tulip plans to eventually introduce its budget brand Premier Class to the Middle East and North Africa, revealed company president Pierre Frederic Roulot, “We are very focused on the budget segment and the mid-scale segment and this is very new in Arabic countries. They know the five star hotels and the luxury brands — but they are on the way to realising that you can make more money with the budget hotels because it’s easier,” said Roulot, speaking exclusively to Hotelier Middle East at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference. The company already has 250 Premier Class hotels in Western Europe and is planning to launch India’s first Premier Class hotel next year, followed by one in Morocco

which will potentially be opened during 2012. “When you look at the crisis, most of the hotels have seen a decrease in their profit, but when you have a midscale property, you have resilience with the profit and the revenue because you have a downgrading of the customer,” said Roulot. “The future will be in the mid scale and budget hotels here [in MENA],” he asserted. The company, which currently has 42 hotels in the Middle East, is currently focused on expanding its Golden Tulip and Tulip Inn brands. It has added three more of its three- and four-star hotels to its portfolio this year and will have a further four more properties in the region by the end of the first quarter of 2011, said Roulet. He added that the growth plan was a strategic one: “We don’t want

to develop Premier Class first; we want to develop Golden Tulip and Tulip Inn in the Middle East because we already have a strong base with 42 hotels”.

Best Western to open 20 hotels in Middle East Hotel chain Best Western has announced plans to expand the brand and open 20 more hotels in the Middle East by 2015. Best Western International vice president of international operations for Asia and the Middle East Glenn de Souza said: “In terms of

growth, we want to take the brand as a whole up to 300 hotels by 2015, with about 60,000 rooms. If you look specifically at the Middle East, I’d say we could add another 20 hotels in the next five years”. Of the 20 potential hotels, a significant number are planned for Saudi

Banyan Tree gives back Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts has launched a new promotion, Abundance, in order to boost occupancy over the summer. The value-add scheme provides guests with hotel credits equivalent to the second night’s rate to help offset charges for dining occasions, spa treatments and shopping purchases during their stay This is valid for bookings of two nights and above at best available rates made from 18 to 31 May 2010, for stays from 1 June to 30 September 2010. Glenn de Souza, Best Western International operations for Asia and the Middle East: We are focusing on KSA.

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

Roulot: The future is in mid-scale and budget hotels.

Arabia, where the company already has two hotels in the pipeline. “In the next five years we are going to focus definitely on Saudi Arabia — I think that’s where the money is to develop properties,” de Souza added. In addition to the hotels in Saudi Arabia, the company plans to open two hotels in Bahrain during 2012 and will be opening an office there in the next 18 months. The expansion plans follow a successful 2009 for the company, which continued to add new properties to its portfolio, despite the global economic downturn. “Usually we bring in 20 new hotels per year. Last year we bought in 27 new properties [worldwide], in spite of the economic downturn. A lot of owners were looking for a brand for security and to drive their occupancy, so that was fortunate for us,” de Souza said. The company will continue its expansion over the next five years, hoping to have 300 hotels by 2015.

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Designing a customized solution that integrates a lighting system with luminaries keeping in view of the following: • Conforming to high aesthetic standards. • Continuous mounting. • Luminaries’ maintenance without tools. • Meeting the lighting regulation both qualitatively and quantitatively. • Easy installation with a capacity to hold and conceal all power cables with a “loop in, loop out” arrangement. • Integrated solutions that keeps in cognizance energy efficiency and electronic ballast and glaze free asymmetric light distribution. • Energy & maintenance cost sensitive achieved saving up to 30%



Forty hotels to open in Qatar this year Hoteliers believe that there is “enough room” in the market for additional supply of properties DEVELOPMENT Forty hotels and hotel apartments are expected to open in Qatar this year, Qatar Tourism and Exhibitions Authority head of licensing and classification tourism activities Mohammed Al Ansari said at Arabian Travel Market. Al Ansari said that the hotels would mainly be in the four- and five-star categories and that the figure included some deluxe hotel apartments as well. In total, he estimated this would amount to 10,000 new rooms. “The door is open [to economy hotels] but mostly because Qatar is targeting business travellers and MICE travellers, most hotels needed are four- or five-star, so we are concentrating to upgrade the level of quality and the level of services in the country,” said Al Ansari. Around 90% of Qatar’s one million annual visitors are business travellers, with the aim to increase non-business tourism from 10% to 30%, said Al Ansari. The first phase of the Cultural Village is scheduled to open in 2010,

Qatar’s head of licensing and classification tourism activities Mohammed Al Ansari:40 hotels will open.

W Hotel Doha general manager Safak Guvenc: The summer in Doha will ‘be dead’, just forget about it.

which Al Ansari said would help attract leisure visitors. It will consist of an amphitheatre, corniche and boardwalk, international restaurants, opera house, theatre, museum and galleries. Marriott is opening three of the 40 hotels in Qatar – the Renaissance, Marriott Executive Apartments and The Courtyard in Doha. Commenting on whether there is enough demand for so many new

properties in the country, Marriott Lodging International president and managing director Ed Fuller said: “Quite frankly I think when it comes to the Courtyard there’s not a lot of moderate tier four star properties in that market of that calibre and quality. “The Renaissance is a lifestyle brand and though I’m aware of the W Hotel being there, I think we will execute it extremely well so we will

try to capture a little of those folks in the lifestyle market,” he added. W Hotel Doha opened in 2009 and, according to general manager Safak Guvenc, it has a “unique edge in the market”. “Marriott will be in our competitive set,” said Guvenc. “It’s really good I think that competition is coming in. I think the Renaissance will be a beautiful brand, Four Seasons does very well, Sheraton does well, if we all do well it will attract more businessmen and more tourists to Doha because we are all offering something unique. There is enough market for everybody.” However, Guvenc said that he was still working on “getting our leisure share”, with occupancy at the weekends around 40-50%. He was confident that initiatives such as Cultural Village, as well as sporting events and the Tribeca Film Festival, would help bring in more leisure visitors, but he said business would fall dramatically during summer. “Summer is going to be dead, forget about it. I don’t think that summers will ever be good in Doha,” said Guvenc.

Hotelier Awards launches new category Four more hotels planned for Saadiyat Enter your colleagues for Hotel Team of the Year AWARDS Hotelier Middle East has announced the 19th category in the Hotelier Middle East Awards 2010. The category Hotel Team of the Year has been introduced for the first time to enable hotels to put forward their entire team for an award. Hotelier Middle East editor Louise Oakley said: “As always, the focus remains on the people working in the hotel, from the executive team to line staff. “This award would be most suitable to hotels that opened in the last 12 months or that have overcome major changes, such as reductions in head count or refurbishments. May 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

“Hotels with a high staff retention rate or those with long-serving general managers leading the team should also consider entering,” added Oakley. Nominations for the Hotel Team of the Year will open on June 15, with a separate nomination form for this category. To see a list of all the categories and to nominate your colleagues for an award, visit

Abu Dhabi-based Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) will be developing a further four hotels for Saadiyat Beach on Saadiyat Island. “There are plans to announce four more hotels coming,” said TDIC senior communications manager Abu Dhabi projects Mahra Khalid Al Qassimi at Arabian Travel Market. “All of them will be five-star hotels, on Saadiyat Beach, all fivestar hotels,” she said. The four hotels will join the already announced Saadiyat Rotana, Shangri-La Hotel, Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Residences, St Regis Hotel and Residences and Park Hyatt Resort. St Regis and Park Hyatt will

be the first to open, with delivery scheduled for third quarter 2011. Manarat Al Saadiyat, featuring Arts Abu Dhabi Gallery and The Saadiyat Story experience centre, opened on Saadiyat in April and attracted 5000 people in one month, said Al Qassimi. A theatre, restaurant, and Universal and Contemporary Galleries are scheduled to open at Manarat Al Saadiyat during the third quarter of 2010. The Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, which opened in January 2010, has also been popular, maintained Al Qassimi, attracting 3000 visitors in two months. These facilities would be key to helping drive demand when the first hotels open in 2011, she added.


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Invest in the best A t the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) last month, the onus was on the hotel owners, investors and developers. In which markets are they going to put their money? Should they invest in the Levant, Africa or Saudi Arabia? Should they continue to focus on luxury or take a brave step into budget brands? Opportunities for future development were ripe (see pages 8185) and the current pipeline is also looking strong, as Viability’s report reveals (see pages 16-19). Guy Wilkinson observes that there have been some delays and cancellations — 25 hotels recorded in the 2009 research had been terminated — but that still leaves 283 projects on track to open before 2015. As well as investing in 283 hotels then, it is more than likely that these owners out in force at AHIC will be funding the development of 283 staff accommodation complexes. With hotels in the region relying on a workforce made up of 90% expatriates, providing staff housing is a matter of course for these investors. But what should staff housing comprise? Is providing somewhere to sleep and eat enough, or should hotels be creating complexes for recreation and relaxation, a home away from home for staff that come from Brazil to Kenya to Malaysia? The AHIC Staff Accommodation Awards recognised some of the best in staff housing, with Jumeirah Group taking top spot for OasisVillage in Al Quoz — a development that has really thought of

everything. Live cooking stations in the main restaurant mean it is far removed from the typical staff canteen, a training room offering computer and language courses encourages personal development, while a programme to install five-star hotel quality room locks in 2010 and a complete CCTV system prioritise security. Besides this, a raft of environmental initiatives provides savings that any residential developer would be impressed with. Hyatt, Fairmont and Emaar Hospitality Group were shortlisted for the award, again presenting village-style accommodation facilities, and there were also great entries from IHG Dubai Festival City, Hilton Dubai, Sofitel Dubai, W Hotel Doha and IHG Port Ghalib in Egypt. But why was there so little support for the awards? It hints, sadly, that providing the right homes for colleagues is not top of the list for all hoteliers. But with good staff housing increasingly a requirement for job seekers, many of whom in the traditional recruitment markets now have more choice of work in their home country, hotel owners and operators need to recognise the impact that creating ‘home sweet home’ can have on attracting the best staff — and keeping them. Staff housing is a topic that is rarely promoted by hotels, possibly out of respect for staff privacy or worryingly, because there is not that much to shout about. On pages 37-43, Hotelier delves into some examples to establish best practice, and set the standard for the future.

Louise Oakley, editor There is another option that might be viable in some locations in the Middle East. After all, what do you do in a country like Yemen or Iraq, both actively pursuing tourism developments as reported on pages 6 and 82 respectively, but neither likely to be on the ‘new home’ wishlist for many expatriate hoteliers? Safir Hotels & Resorts recognised this in Iraq and invested its time and money in training Iraqis, who previously had no hospitality knowledge or experience, to work in its hotel, Safir Hoda Al Wali – Karbala’a. Now 360 members of staff are local, demonstrating that with the right commitment in certain markets, the reliance on overseas recruitment can be dramatically reduced. Either way, while pushing investors to pursue new markets and increasingly creative projects is important for the continued development of the industry, hoteliers must also remember the need to invest in the heart and soul of hotels — the people, and the best part. HME


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Hotelier Middle East • June 2010


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Hotel chains confirm GCC pipeline remains robust Viability director Guy Wilkinson presents his research into the hotel development pipeline in the Gulf and provides some key insights into the chains that are leading the rest of the pack

COLUMNIST s hoteliers at the sharp end of operations brace themselves for another challenging summer in many GCC locations, it may be a less than comforting thought to know that the ladies and gentlemen up at the head office responsible for development, in their wisdom, are still planning to launch an extraordinary number of new rooms in the region — just to add to the fun! A new survey conducted by my firm Viability shows that the 2010 pipeline of confirmed new hotel rooms in the GCC is the second largest on record — and we have been doing this research for 12 years now. We directly contacted some 80 hotel chains active in the GCC this year, of which 55 confirmed future GCC projects. The survey showed that 283 hotels with 83,604 rooms were officially planned as of May 2010, compared with 325 properties and 92,026 rooms last year, equivalent to reductions of 20% and 19% respectively. However, back in May 2008, at the peak of the real estate boom, we recorded 82,357 rooms in 295 hotels, and that in itself was a 10-year record. In other words, recession or no reces-


June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

(Above) A Luxury Collection Hotel — Ajman. (Left) Ramada Kuwait guest room. (Below) Hilton Riyadh Hotel & Residence.


sion, the pipeline is still looking as strong as it ever was. In total, 19 chains each declared more than 1000 rooms under development, compared to 23 in 2009 and 20 in 2008. Marriott topped the 2010 rankings for both hotels and rooms, with 29 properties and 9572 rooms planned bearing the Marriott, JW Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott, Renaissance and RitzCarton brands. In second place, Accor’s pipeline comprises 23 hotels with 6433 rooms under its




Source: Viability Management Consultants (05/2010



35 29

30 23

25 20





14 14


12 9 9 9


Rocco Forte Abu Dhabi, due to open in summer 2010.

8 6

5 5

4 4 4

4 4


Sofitel, Pullman, Novotel, Mercure and Ibis insignia. Other chains in the top 10 places reported pipelines of between 3000 and 5500 rooms.

3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3


Coral Rosewood Anantara

Southern Sun Oberoi Banyan Tree

Citymax Layia

Best Western Four Seasons QNH Swiss Belhotel


Fairmont Ramee Kempinski Taj

Jumeirah Wyndham

Mövenpick Hilton

Rezidor Millenium Starwood Golden Tulip

Accor Rotana IHG



CONFIRMED FUTURE CHAIN HOTEL ROOMS IN THE GULF , 2010 Source: Viability Management Consultants (05/2010)

796 706

751 728 724

715 650 644

QNH Layia

Southern Sun Best Western Oberoi

JAL Hard Rock Rixos


1331 1277 1057 941



Citymax Taj Four Seasons Ramee

2858 2591 2100 1608 Wyndham Jumeirah Gloria Kempinski


3285 2907

4225 3655

5164 4951 4508 4239









RANKING METHODOLOGY 12th continual year of survey. All chains active in the GCC are canvassed directly. Ranking based on numbers of rooms and suites only. Ranking includes only chain hotel projects that are firmly committed.


Golden Tulip Hilton

Rezidor Starwood

IHG Millenium Fairmont Mövenpick

Marriott Accor Rotana


Excluded: All rumoured/ unsigned projects. All projects for which opening dates have yet to be confirmed. All single owner-operated properties. All serviced and residential apartments, chalets and villas (but any true ‘all-suites’ hotels are included).

Although the survey totals have remained impressively constant over the past three years, the truth is that the last two would have been much higher if the recession had not intervened. In contrast to the 83,600 confirmed hotel rooms that are going ahead, there were more than 11,000 rooms that were declared ‘on hold’ with no firm recommencement date and a further 5400 rooms that had been cancelled altogether since the 2009 rankings. Another 10,000 rooms were put on hold and 9,000 rooms cancelled outright last year, meaning that altogether, more than 35,000 potential hotel rooms have been prevented from reaching fruition since the recession set in. The current economic conditions have also caused the number of project delays to increase significantly since last year. Almost half (48%) of the confirmed hotels that were also contained in the 2009 research have been delayed by between one and four years, compared to 38% in 2009. These delays exclude any already reported last year, meaning that a number of projects have experienced several revisions of their programmes. The most common reasons for these delays and cancellations include developers’ inability to obtain or maintain financing due to the current debt freeze, to overly optimistic balance sheet structures, Hotelier Middle East • June 2010



CONFIRMED FUTURE CHAIN HOTELS IN GCC BY STATE, 2010 VS 2009 Source: Viability Management Consultants (05/2010)


200 2010 163



120 Shangri La Doha, which is expected to open this year.

or their need to allocate available funds to more pressing ventures. Many have had to sideline the hotel projects which were in poor locations — for example, on remote green field sites, in postponed mega projects or in the secondary and over-supplied markets.

80 51 45











MORE AMAZING PROJECTS STILL TO COME Whether projects left over from the glory days of the boom, or others newly conceived since times got tough, expect to see some extraordinary hotels coming up between now and 2015. Counter-intuitive though it may seem, but there are more confirmed ‘mega hotels’ than ever. No less than 35 or 12% of the 283 projects (which for the purposes of our survey includes project phases) comprise more than 500 letting units each. The biggest of them all is Fairmont’s upcoming 2775unit combined property next to the Haram in Makkah, comprising the Makkah Royal Clock Tower, a Fairmont Hotel (1000 rooms, opening this year); the Raffles Makkah (205 rooms, 2010) and the Swissötel Makkah (no less than 1570 rooms, opening next year). Other large Fairmonts will open on The Palm in Dubai (877 units), in Manama (750), and Abu Dhabi (746). Seasoned market pundits will be pleased to know that the former Bavaria Suites in Dubai, now rebranded as the Gloria Hotel Media City, will finally open the first of its two buildings later this year, with 1010 units. The second, 1090-unit building is scheduled to debut in 2011. In Dubai, Marriott fought off stiff competition to bag the management of the wonderful twinJune 2010 • Hotelier Middle East





Saudi Arabia


CONFIRMED FUTURE HOTEL PROJECTS IN GCC BY PROGRESS STATUS, 05/2010 (%) Source: Viability Management Consultants

Delayed 4 Years: 3.1% Delayed 3 Years: 11.4%

Ahead 1 Year: 6.2%

Delayed 2 Years: 39.14%

Delayed 1 Year: 81.29%

towers property near Business Bay to be known as the JW Marriott Marquis. It will open in two phases in 2011 and 2013 respectively, with 807 units in each phase. Marriott’s Ritz-Carlton brand is mainly known for its small, exclu-

On schedule: 142.50%

sive properties, but in the case of Riyadh, will open a large and exclusive hotel by 2014, with 1350 units. The upcoming JW Marriott in Abu Dhabi will have 669 units (2011). Millennium is consolidating its presence in its home town of Abu

Ahead 1 Year On schedule Delayed 1 Year Delayed 2 Years Delayed 3 Years Delayed 4 Years

Dhabi with no less than four towering, upscale properties: the 860room Grand Millennium Al Wahda Tower, the 725-room Grand Millennium Capital Centre, the 638room Bab Al Qasr and the 773-unit Grand Millennium Corniche.



Other sizeable pipeline hotels include the 850-unit Jumeirah Khor Dubai Hotel & Residences at Dubai Healthcare City, the 830unit Hilton Riyadh Hotel & Residence, the 820-room Golden Tulip Dar El Hadith in Makkah, and the 792-unit Ramada Plaza & Conference Centre, also in Makkah.

NEW BRANDS GEAR UP FOR ENTRY A number of new-to-market brands also promise exciting products and services not hitherto experienced in the GCC. Hilton will be opening two hotels under its upscale Conrad brand, in Dubai (559 rooms, 2011) and Bahrain (300, 2012). The first Double Tree by Hilton will open in Al Khobar by 2012, with 304 rooms. Soon to debut designer or boutique brands encompass Missoni from Rezidor, which will open properties in Kuwait and Sifah (half an hour down the coast from Muscat) in 2010 and 2014 respectively, the long-awaited W hotel which is apparently still planned at Dubai Festival City, the Palazzo Versace which will be opening this year at Dubai’s Culture Village, the Baccarat Hotel & Residence at the Dubai Pearl project (2014) and Hard Rock Hotels in Abu Dhabi and Dubai (both 2013). Among the new luxury and upscale brands due to set out their wares are Best Western Premier, Cheval Blanc (Louis Vuitton’s new hotel brand), Grand Heritage, Hotel Le Bristol, Ramee Royal, Rixos (from Turkey), Regent (from Rezidor), Rocco Forte, Taj Mahal, Taj Exotica and Viceroy (from the US). At the mid-market level, Starwood is launching Element in Abu Dhabi, the Gulf Hotel has created the trendy K Hotel concept, Southern Sun will be debuting Sukoon (a dry brand) in Jeddah and Eva in Abu Dhabi, while Swiss-Belhotel will be opening its first local Swiss Inn in Dubai.

FROM NEW SUPPLY TO OVER SUPPLY The addition of so many new hotel letting units will of course have a major impact in the GCC. Some markets will become oversupplied, and others even more so, with the expected consequences — diluted occupancies and even heavier downward pressure on room rates, including possible allout rate wars. Dubai is obviously already in this position, although since it is the region’s largest single hotel market, serving the highest volumes of visitors, new hotels there have an advantage over Abu Dhabi and Doha, for example, which are growing from a very low supply base, and hence may feel the impact of new rooms more intensely. Other markets have been largely immune from the effects of the recession, notably Riyadh, Jeddah and the Holy Cities, especially Makkah, where the expansion of the Haram and ever-growing Hajj trade is confidently expected to support the creation of more mega hotels. In terms of positioning, many feel that the luxury level has been more than well provided for, whereas the mid-market offers far better growth opportunities, especially in the Kingdom. Interestingly, large global chains make the key distinction between markets that are generally oversupplied, as I described, with those that are or could become saturated just with their own brands. According to my discussions with regional development directors, few feel there is yet any danger of ‘cannibalising’ their existing hotels through additional growth, especially as many are introducing new brands with differentiated positioning to ensure this is does not happen. HME




HOTELS IN THE MIDDLE EAST FROM Guy Wilkinson is a partner of Viability, a specialist hotel and real estate consulting firm in Dubai. Email him at

For more information, please contact our team on +971 50 207 3917 or email

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010







Killing the bottom Seven Tides Hospitality managing director Mike Scully warns against inappropriate benchmarking and unrealistic GOP percentage targets

THE OWNER’S VIEW he disastrous mistake of rewarding hotel management companies on the basis of increased Gross Operating Profit (GOP) percentages is leading to management companies cutting food and beverage in order to minimise costs, while increasing the flow through to increase their own profits and bonuses — all at the expense of the owners’ take. There are millions of square feet of unprofitable and under-utilised restaurant and public areas in all major hotels around the world, particularly those which are managed by the international hotel chains, as a result of this fundamentally flawed policy. This is particularly so where food and beverage plays a significant role in driving bottom line revenue, but in doing so, drops GOP margins. I am a strong advocate that events and F&B drive room sales, and that F&B is also a significant driver of bottom line revenue. However, the high profit percentages requested by operating companies from their food and beverage outlets is the biggest killer of restaurant trade within hotels. The point is proven by the international restaurant brands operating in this market, which are able to attract significant covers into hotels as they are not restricted by percentage restraints. They nor-


June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

The flawed policy of rewarding companies based on Gross Operating Profit has led to food and beverage cuts.

FLOW-THROUGH HAS BECOME THE OPERATOR’S NEW BENCHMARK IN TRYING TO BE CLEVER AND DRIVE BOTTOM LINE mally pay rent to the hotel which can be booked into the hotel’s P&L at 100% and this, therefore, does not affect the managing companies’ beloved GOP percentages. This bias against F&B is causing owners to lose significant amounts of bottom line revenue. In today’s market, with ever-increasing competition, the independent operators who do not have percentage management constraints are in a position to make a better success of their very often popular restaurants. To put this right, hotel operators have got to throw out the old style, negative percentage restrictions and look at ways of being far more competitive in their food and beverage delivery. We all know that for bars, restaurants, nightclubs and entertainment venues to drive business it is imperative that your entertainment budget be more imagina-

tive than that of your competitor. In saying this, it is also imperative that your special offers such as ‘two for ones’, ‘ladies drink free’, among others, are also innovative enough as these can drive significant trade to your establishment and in turn, bottom line. The cost of delivery is increasing significantly in order to tap into sales and in turn, bottom line profit.

FLOW-THROUGH BENCHMARKING Flow-through is another misused benchmark which constrains business, and is as inappropriate as percentage management. Flowthrough has become the operator’s new benchmark in trying to be clever and drive bottom line. We all accept that flow-through, if properly attributed, can be used as an effective tool in benchmarking.


However, when used inappropriately — where it is not attributed correctly according to the specific hotel, its market and product mix — flow-through benchmarking can be negative and seriously impact owner’s revenue and bottom line profit. We all understand that a city centre hotel relying predominantly on rooms revenue with little chance of improved F&B, when increasing its room rate, needs to convert this to anything up to 80% flow-through. However, a hotel with F&B possibilities, opening restaurants and driving business at a cost, should not be benchmarked on those specific flow-though percentages. I believe operators who look only at fees and drive head office costs down by reducing staff are not able to appropriately manage the benchmarking controls they have initiated. If an operator who generally receives substantial fees from a hotel is not able to manage benchmarks according to that specific hotel and its make-up, they should be very careful before initiating them and owners must be very careful before allowing them to be used. We all know that volume sales brings down costs and, therefore, we should all be driving the top line. We are not saying sell cheap but in this market, the cost of sales can rise to achieve market share, and this must be driven to increase profits. HME

Mike Scully has worked for some of the leading hotel management companies worldwide — Sun International, Holiday Inn, Accor and Starwood — as well as developing and managing properties for the Dubai Government. He is currently managing director of Seven Tides — Hospitality, which will be opening four luxury properties in Dubai within the next 12 months and which also owns Dukes Hotel in London.

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The ash crisis: an opportunity lost or gained? Premier Inn Hotels LLC managing director Darroch Crawford asks whether hotels in Dubai looked after guests as well as they could have done during April’s volcanic flight disruptions

LOBBYIST he recent disruption to flights to and from Europe was an opportunity for the UAE to reach an audience of visitors largely ignorant of what it has to offer, other than as a transit stop. Thousands of passengers were stranded here for a week or more in the aftermath of the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano, yet despite the disruption to their


Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images



The crisis began on April 15 when Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted causing an ash cloud to fill the air.

travel plans and the personal traumas caused, many left raving about their experiences here and determined to return. Others however, may never come back. If you are a hotelier, was it an opportunity lost or gained? I first got to hear about the disruption to flights to Europe quite early on April 15, when Paul Bridger, general manager of Premier Inn at

Dubai International Airport, called me on his mobile from Terminal 3. “You wouldn’t believe the scenes here” he said. “All flights to the UK have been cancelled and transit passengers are arriving in Dubai in their hundreds with no connecting flight to take. Emirates are looking to book people in to hotels on full board and we’re gearing up to take as many as we can.”

By the end of the day all 819 rooms in our three Premier Inns were full and we were gearing up to serve three meals a day to some 1500 guests. All days off were cancelled, but little did we know then that this would continue for at least six days. From the beginning we decided that the most important thing we could do was communicate effectively with our guests. Disruption Notice Boards were installed in each of the properties and updated whenever there was news, but it was face to face conversations that were really required. Our three GMs spent all weekend and most of the week in their front halls talking to guests, providing what information was available and often just listening to their woes and helping them deal with them as well as they could. What could have been a disastrous situation, with stressed and disgruntled guests, turned instead into a triumph that will stand us in good stead for years to come. It cost us a minimal amount to provide nappies or baby food for infants

WHAT THE OPERATORS SAID “We didn’t have any guests that we could identify as being stranded passengers but the occupancy was also good because there was a holiday in Saudi Arabia at the same time, so we were running quite a high occupancy. We definitely did not take advantage of the situation because we wouldn’t have hammered any stranded passengers with an increase in rates because they have no choice.” Daniel Hajjar, CEO, Layia Hospitality

We were blessed with the layover crowd, for seven days it was 100%. There were people who were due to leave who couldn’t leave and people who were due to come who couldn’t come, so there was

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

a balance plus every time there’s a layover the first hotels to be filled are the ones closest to the airport; the three and the four stars really did well. Rohit Rattan, head of sales and marketing — hospitality division, Wafi

Dubai took a very good decision backed up by DTCM of what to do with guests who were stuck and I will tell you that there was a lot of discussion and my colleagues did the right thing, but there were some that should be ashamed for what they did. I heard a complaint from one of my guests who had flown first class on Emirates and was booked into Dubai for three days en-route back home [to the UK] from Australia with his wife. They were at a beach hotel in Dubai, not a cheap

hotel, and he checked out because they were told there may be a window [for flights]. When they arrived at Dubai airport, the UK closed its airports again. They sent them with a chauffer driver, as they should as first class passengers, back to the hotel on the beach; that hotel would not check them in at their original rate. Now this is what gets me, they checked them in plus £300 (US $431) on top of their original cost — they had stayed there for three days and only checked out a few hours before. It is just gross profiteering. We had people booked into [Al Maha] because it was a special time for them. You’re stuck and these are people who have saved a long time

to be able to spend those three or four days and now they can’t leave, so what must I do, skin them? No, I had people that were staying there for a week that paid for meals only because that’s what they had on their credit card, they couldn’t afford it. I could have said ‘sorry your credit card has dried up, you’re out of here’. That’s hospitality? And yet that was happening. I watched my colleagues in the airline industry and my admiration for them soared because they were just unbelievable. It was logistics and the guys really were unbelievable at it. Tony Williams, Senior Vice President of Emirates Hotels & Resorts


Derek Blair/AFP/Getty Images


WHAT THE GUESTS SAID Some excerpts from Premier Inn’s guests, taken from letters sent to the three Dubai hotels and Premier Inn head office shortly after the ash crowd crisis… Airport closures following the volcanic eruption meant many people were stranded in the UAE for six days.

Premier Inn Dubai Investment Park

or toiletries to those without, but what an impact it had. As the delay became longer and longer, we laid on free shuttle buses to the malls and also once a day to the beach. Our customers in many cases became our friends as well and there was many a tear shed on both sides when they eventually left. Emirates Airline too gained fantastic goodwill for standing by their stranded passengers throughout. When the flights eventually restarted we rang every guest in the early hours of the morning and laid on buses to take them to the airport. Nearly everyone got away on that first day, because they were well forward in the queue and whilst we could have had another night’s business from many if we had not acted so fast, most of the goodwill we had generated would have been lost. Since our guests left we have been inundated with letters and e-mails from them, praising the way in which they were looked after and thanking our management and staff for the personal care the received. I have never experienced such an overwhelmingly positive response from guests staying in an absolutely packed to capacity hotel and

“Your staff at the hotel were some of the kindest, patient, good natured and approachable people I have come across in my time in the Middle East.”

I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that people were so grateful for what we did.

CREATING CAMARADERIE There is no doubt in my mind that good communication was a key factor and that empathy with their situation was essential in winning them over to our side. As a “limited service” brand we don’t employ porters, but as the coaches arrived, all hands, including some from our regional office, were employed to smooth the arrival of guests to their rooms. Over the days strong friendships were formed between guests and they had little else to do much of the time except talk. Camaraderie in adversity evolved and guests shared the experiences they had. Small gestures became big news and our people became heroes, because they showed that they cared. Now in truth I have little to go on about what happened elsewhere, but anecdotally the situation was very mixed. An airport hotel that shall remain nameless allegedly asked its stranded passengers to leave, because they could get a better rate from other guests. We found that passengers staying at another

Premier Inn Silicon Oasis “My husband and I ended a cruise around the UAE stranded because of the volcanic ash. We were taken to Premier Inn in the middle of the desert [by Emirates

nearby hotel were coming to us for information, as none was being provided in their own. Such was the need for people to communicate it seems that our guests were now talking to others staying elsewhere. Two of our complimentary letters contained reports of a competitor hotel, where the guess were so illinformed that it took them two days longer to get a flight home. Tripadvisor tells similar stories if you are interested to check. Such websites sort out the sheep from the goats these days, and rightly so. The DTCM got involved and instructed hotels not to raise rates and not to raise cancellation charges when a

Airline]. First impressions were not good when we drew up to the hotel with no landscaping around it but lots of activity from diggers and bulldozers…but the staff was marvellous. We spent six days at the Silicon Oasis and they were the best part of the whole holiday.”

Premier Inn Dubai International Airport “The relationship between Emirates and your management really shone through. I actually do this sort of planning for a living, so I speak from some experience when I say just how professional your staff are. What a refreshing change it was to stay with people who had a real “can do” attitude.

guest couldn’t get here through no fault of their own. How sad an indication of our industry it is that we had to be told to do that. It’s a well known fact that disgruntled guests tell more people about their experiences than happy ones. I think that in this case, the reactions were so extreme that the reverse might be the case, but was the situation an opportunity won or lost? Was your hotel’s reputation enhanced or seriously damaged? Only you can truly judge, but good or bad we all learned something that week that should help us out the next time the world suddenly becomes a much bigger place. HME Hotelier Middle East • June 2010


How to arrive at a ‘venu’ Jumeirah Group executive chairman Gerald Lawless outlines the major considerations behind the development of the firm’s new contemporary lifestyle brand, Venu Hotels CHAIRMAN INTERVIEW erald Lawless is a hard man to pin down for an interview, so his eagerness to speak with Hotelier Middle East about Jumeirah Group’s new lifestyle brand Venu Hotels is perhaps an indication of his personal passion for the product. Lawless launched Venu Hotels last month at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai, ending several weeks of speculation about an imminent announcement from Jumeirah. While details are still largely under wraps, with the first location of a Venu not expected to be revealed until after the summer, Lawless says there is a “strong likelihood” that Venu will debut with a hotel in Dubai. He says there is sufficient “space” between Venu and the Jumeirah flagship brand to enable this. “We are not saying Venu by Jumeirah, we are saying Venu Hotels, and to us that’s important so you are staying in a different brand so there will be difference in both the look and the feel [of the hotels],” says Lawless. One of the distinguishing factors is that while Jumeirah is a luxury brand, Venu will be a “contemporary lifestyle” hotel brand, says Lawless, the difference being “in the style of the hotel”. It will, however, still be a five-star product, emphasises Lawless, and the traditional Jumeirah service hallmarks will be maintained. Other key features of the hotels will be “local soul”, says Lawless, and the proactive use of technology, with a recurring theme being “interconnectivity and connecting people with places”, adds vice president corporate communications and public affairs Piers Schreiber.


Jumeirah Group executive chairman Gerald Lawless says Venu will be a contemporary lifestyle hotel brand.

WE HAVE LOOKED AT THIS AND WE CERTAINLY FEEL THAT THERE ARE SOME REALLY INTERESTING CITIES THAT IN THE FIRST WAVE YOU WOULDN’T TAKE JUMEIRAH BUT YOU COULD TAKE VENU The use of cutting-edge technology — with variations on the emerging idea of the ‘virtual’ concierge under discussion and pioneering software expected to be created — should not alienate Jumeriah’s existing guest base, however. Lawless says: “I think it will appeal to existing customers. Somebody said ‘does that mean you will be applying it to a younger audience’

and I said ‘well I’m my age and I would love to stay in a Venu. I like to use technology, I like to use new products, I like to try new things so I see no reason why it wouldn’t spread across all age groups and certainly that is where we would like to take Venu. I think it’s right that way; people nowadays go through generations and have every desire to try exciting new products”.

While the clientele may be similar for both Venu and Jumeirah hotels, the potential locations for Venu Hotels could be quite different, as Lawless explains. “It opens up to new investors and new locations. Jumeirah Stay Different, which is our name brand at the very top end of the scale, will always find itself in key letterhead cities as we like to call them and in key resorts worldwide, whereas there are many other cities that we could take an operation and brand like Venu into that we may be a bit slower or reluctant to take Jumeirah into because room rates might be higher and so on. “We have looked at this and we certainly feel that there are some really interesting cities that in the first wave you wouldn’t take Jumeirah into, but that you could take Venu. And then there are also cities in which we already have Jumeirah but we could have Venu Hotels there as well.” Venu Hotels could comprise resorts or city properties, adds Lawless, with an average room count of up to 250 “but we are prepared to have exceptions”. The brand will also “absolutely” be taken international, with some of Jumeriah Group’s already announced target of signing 60 hotels by 2012 planned to include Venu Hotels. “Some of them will be Venus. The majority of them will be Jumeirahs because Jumeirah has been going for that much longer and we are very confident that the 60 hotels signed up will be there by 2012, and we are looking at 30 hotels opening to 2030,” says Lawless. “We are in advanced negotiations with a number of territories in the Middle East and outside the Middle East,” adds Lawless, leaving the confirmation of the ‘venu’ to another day. HME Hotelier Middle East • June 2010



The people’s president Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts president of worldwide operations, Jim FitzGibbon, explains why creating an “extraordinary” experience is down to the staff and not the surroundings PRESIDENT INTERVIEW or Jim FitzGibbon, luxury hotels at the top end of the market should be beautiful, and offer a plethora of facilities and state of the art amenities. These features are a given, however; standard requirements in the 83 Four Seasons hotels he manages cross the globe that FitzGibbon is “not too fussed” with. After all, these are not the elements that create an “extraordinary” hotel. “What’s extraordinary to you and what’s extraordinary to me are very different,” says FitzGibbon. “It isn’t just the building. You can think of places around the world that are nice, but they’re not extraordinary [in terms of the building], but they are extraordinary because of the tradition of service that they have established there.” What FitzGibbon is concerned with, therefore, is simple: does the hotel really work? “Does it provide the experience that guests and customers expect? Does it provide the experience for the employee? It’s really about the employee too, that’s the person who adds the heart and soul to the business,” says FitzGibbon. And that’s the person FitzGibbon is most keen to talk about when we meet in Dubai during his recent visit to the Middle East. Starting from the top, FitzGibbon is keen to emphasise the pivotal role of the general managers, who are “always” recruited from within. He recalls that it was probably 15 years ago when the last GMs were recruited externally. “I think it’s the fact that they are steeped in what we do,” says FitzGibbon. “We don’t over manage them, there’s a very high level of trust, I personally know them all quite well.


June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

FitzGibbon thinks it is important that all employees are properly trained, motivated and cared for by the hotel.

IF SOMEONE KEEPS DIRECTING YOU, YOU WAIT FOR DIRECTION; IF SOMEONE TRUSTS YOU, YOU GO AND DO IT “I go out of my way to communicate with them very actively and you have this personal connection and it’s interesting; when [your manager] trusts you, you work even harder. It’s different if someone keeps directing you. If someone keeps directing you, you wait for direction; if someone trusts you, you go and do it. “We have hotels in the Maldives and Mauritius and Seychelles and Bali, all over the place, and it’s not like there’s a club of hotels in one city where people can lean on one another — everybody’s in their

own place and they have to run their own business, therefore you have to know them,” says FitzGibbon. The internal recruitment of GMs is not necessarily to do with the demands of the customer or the investor, however. FitzGibbon says: “it has to do with the employees”. “Our view is that we want to make sure that the person understands that it’s about the employees, it’s about making sure that the employees are motivated and trained properly and cared for properly and we think that makes a huge difference,” says FitzGibbon.

Leading by example, as part of FitzGibbon’s Middle East trip, he says that on a visit to Four Seasons Riyadh his first port of call was the employee housing. “I will go first to the employees to see that they’re looked after and then I’ll go and see the guests,” says FitzGibbon, emphasising that recruiting the best of the best depends on how well you look after staff, not just on how much you pay. This approach, inspired by founder, chairman and CEO Isadore Sharp’s ‘Golden Rule’ of treating employees with the same level of respect that they in turn give to guests, has earned Four Seasons the accolade of being in Fortune magazine’s Top 100 Companies to Work for in America — a ranking determined by the opinions of randomly selected Four Seasons employees. But was the focus on staff wellbeing, and inextricable link to superb service, compromised at all during the economic downturn? FitzGibbon is upfront and says that of course, staff numbers were cut during the crisis. “I think that was probably the toughest thing we’ve had to deal with for a long time —but it was interesting,” he says. “I think it’s unfortunate but people are realists too, it’s very interesting how people realise that must happen. We had situations where we had to lay off employees, we had no choice, business was terrible, but actually the morale as we indicated went up. “People said ‘everyone’s going to be insecure and annoyed and morale is going to be terrible’, but if you do it genuinely — bearing in mind people read the same newspapers you do, they know what’s going on — and if you go about it so they can see the difference, you can turn the situation into the best it can be, put it that way,” says FitzGibbon.


Employees bring “heart and soul” to hotels says Four Seasons president of worldwide operations FitzGibbon.

Of the service standards, he says that in the initial “panic” phase, there was discussion with investors as to whether the company needed to change how it operates and if it needed to cut back. “But we said no,” says FitzGibbon. “We will continue with turndown and show shines and valet and all these services; we’ll try to do them as efficiently as we can but we will continue with it. “It was very interesting, when we developed that point of view, most of our ownership said ‘you’re right, let’s keep focused on the fact that

FOUR SEASONS IN MENA Current locations: Alexandria Amman Beirut Cairo at The First Residence Cairo at Nile Plaza Damascus Doha Mauritius Riyadh Seychelles Sharm El Sheikh Under development: Marrakech in early 2011 Oman: 2012-13 Luxor: 2013 Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Sowwah Island, 2013 Doha II: 2013-14 Bahrain: over the next five years Kuwait City: over the next five years

this is for a period of time and we’ve spent the last 40 years building [the standards], let’s make sure we don’t lose the trust of the employee and the customer’ — and I think it’s worked as well as it could in the environment we’re in,” says FitzGibbon. “We didn’t do anything across the company that’s says ‘we’re now going to limit this’. In markets that were very extreme we may have to close a restaurant or do something because there wasn’t any business, but we didn’t do anything across the company relative to a standard that we had in place and that was very important,” he comments. And now, more than 18 months on, FitzGibbon says business is starting to pick up, primarily in Asia, then in Middle East, North America, and finally Europe. Price continues to be an issue, he says, but people still want holidays and they still celebrate festive seasons — hotels at Christmas were full despite a 10-day minimum stay paid in advance. “I think our customers have always been expecting value, and people will call it demanding, but I’d say that’s just what they pay for, they pay for that level of service,” says FitzGibbon. This is not scripted service such as remembering a name, he is keen to add, but responsive and instinctive service whereby the employee thinks about the guest they are looking after as an individual. And in turn, of course, Four Seasons must think about its 31,600 members of staff as individuals — all playing a role in creating that “extraordinary” experience. HME Hotelier Middle East • June 2010


Five minutes with Selim El Zyr Rotana president and CEO Selim El Zyr, also Hotelier Middle East’s top ranking hotelier in the Power 50 of 2009, discusses the company’s challenges, opportunities and future plans



How was Arabian Travel Market for Rotana Hotels? It met our expectations. People are now more accustomed to [the economic situation] — 2009 was the year of acceptance and now 2010, in spite of all the downturn and the economic climate, Dubai is doing exceptionally well. The occupancy in the first four months of 2010 was higher than the first four months of 2009 comparing year on year. The rates are a little bit down, but in general Dubai’s rates are still among the top five cities in the world. What challenges is Rotana focused on in 2010? The good thing is that the business is sustainable, our hotels are making reasonable profits. We are still very profitable as a company, but of course, we have to stop comparing 2006, 2007, 2008 with the future, otherwise we will be in a depression mode all of the time. We have got challenges and the biggest challenge now is to yield the best returns for our investors, to maintain our human capital and retain and hire and attract the best human capital available on the market, and the third thing would be to live up to the expectations of our clientele, and to deliver on the promises we made. Rotana has been referred to as setting the “benchmark” for local operators by Safir Hotels CEO Helmut H Meckelburg, especially in terms of its relationships with owners. Why is fostering good partnerships so important to you? Rotana started and is in business because we could give our owners the best return on their investments, because at the end of the day, the owner doesn’t care who manages his hotel, he wants a company that

this is the best year for Egypt in the last five years, better than 2008 for example, and 2008 was an excellent year. Egypt was not affected in 2008 tremendously because of the nature of its business. The nature of the business in Egypt is that you pay in advance, you book in advance ,and you cannot change this — it is whole packages and so on. So 2008 was an excellent year, and this year we are doing better.

Rotana CEO and president Selim El Zyr: The biggest challenge now is to yield the best return for our investors.

will deliver high profits. How well we are able to do this comes from our passion. We have a passion for what we do and we take full ownership of the problems of the owner. In other terms, this hotel becomes ours. I will spend your money as if I am spending mine. What is your view on the increasing number of hotel owners looking to use asset managers? Some owners have asset managers because they don’t have the time, but most of our projects [we manage

without the owner needing this service] — this is the attitude we have been famous for and this is a small club. Hotel owners meet and discuss [operators] and one owner tells the other, that’s why Rotana is known to be an economy driven company. We do not, just because it is your money, throw it out of the window. What market is proving to be the most resilient to the downturn? Lebanon has done extremely well, Syria has done extremely well, Egypt is back on track and maybe

What new Rotana openings are you excited about in the near future? We are opening in Dubai Amwaj Rotana [at Jumeriah Beach Residence] and Centro Barsha. Centro is a beautiful property, it is a lifestyle property. And then the second one is Amwaj which is opening around June 1 — these are the two properties opening in Dubai. We have one in Abu Dhabi opening of course, almost at the same time, Rayhaan by Rotana, a 420-room hotel that is non-alcoholic. On that note, how has the Rose Rayhaan by Rotana been doing in Dubai? It’s doing well. There is a niche market for that, there are a lot of people that don’t want to pay the extra of being in a hotel that has a bar and then you have a lot of Europeans and business men from DIFC that go there. If they want a drink they can go to a restaurant next door; we have right in front of it Towers Rotana that has the best restaurants and the best bar in town, so they can just go out to the metro station and cross the road. HME Hotelier Middle East • June 2010



The perfect package

Sales and marketing hotel professionals took some time out at Raffles Dubai’s ‘Air’ presidential suite to reflect on current challenges in their sector and share some solutions ROUNDTABLE Can you outline how your sales and marketing team is structured and where the current focus is? Emma Fraser: Sue Wheatley is our director of sales and marketing, and then we have a director of events and she has a team of five. Then under Sue there are around seven reps and sales managers, then myself as director of marketing and communications, and I have a marketing manager, a PR manager and I’m also looking at getting a digital marketing and distribution manager later this year. Rohit Rattan: I’ve got a team of four people, three focusing on sales at the Arabian Park hotel. There is a team of three people at Wafi — where we have 12 restaurants — and two of these have a combined role of sales and marketing, targeting leisure inbound travel. They all work independently so it’s three units. June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

Lin Aydin: In sales we are eight including me, and we have a director of marketing and communications and she has a marketing co-ordinator. We have four in event sales. Leon Salinel: I have a team of 25. There’s two for mar-comm, eight with reservations and revenue as well, and we’re looking for an eCommerce manager at the moment. There are three / four events and eight proactive sales. We’re actually down by 60 across the hotel but I’m still hiring for sales and marketing. I’d like to do more digital marketing, that’s where it’s heading. I would like more of my people on advertising, digital marketing — that is where people are tending to look at hotels. How do you support the growth of online marketing and advertising and related tools such as social media? EF: It’s on my wish list now but what will definitely be put into budget over the next 12 months is the dig-

ital marketing role. Social media is very paramount to the trends of the consumer as well as to how we communicate with consumers, the clients, the local residents etc. And then I also want to tie it in with the distribution, so it will be using the GDS channels as well etc. It will come under me but support the sales channels. It’s definitely a position that is pretty much going to be a norm in the next five years. LS: It is very important that your property is visible on GDS. Not a lot of people are particularly interested in putting ads on the GDS, they don’t realise how important it is. I’m losing out a lot when I look at the GDS revenue that we get as opposed to our competitors, there’s obviously an opportunity for us to go in there and that’s what we’re working on now. RR: If I was given the opportunity I would definitely have somebody added on to my team there. I would say more in terms of an integrated

role in sales and marketing, and online and digital marketing for the hotel, because that seems to be moving quite fast and that’s the in-thing now. People don’t have the budget to go and spend a lot in other marketing mediums, so online is where I look at. LA: At the moment Stephanie [director of marketing and communications] is handling all the social media, but I think soon we will also need someone to handle that because it takes a lot of time. We had a regional sales and marketing meeting last week and the presenter came and talked about social media, which is something as a company Rezidor is taking quite seriously. How do you monitor how social media increases visibility? LS: There is a company RevNet out of the US and they can pull out how many times your property has been mentioned on any social media, from Twitter to Facebook to


MY CHALLENGE NOW IS TO BRING THE BUZZ BACK INTO WAFI Rohit Rattan, head of sales and marketing — hospitality division, Wafi

pAdvisor. Now 36% of the total population of the UAE is on facebook — over the last six months, there has been an 11% growth. We’re not on Facebook yet and again I see that as an opportunity as we’re still building, we’re a very small chain, we’ve only got 22 properties and the majority are in Thailand. As much as we’ve been here for the last nine years our social media has not been established so that is an opportunity for us to look into, because a lot of the hotels are now on Facebook and so what we can do is look at what works and what doesn’t, and then we can formulate it from that. What challenges are you currently facing in your role? RR: My challenge right now is basically from the Wafi brand — we all know Wafi and what it was, it was the place to hang out. Dubai has so many options now and is expanding, you have the Marina, JBR, The Walk etc, so the crowd sort of

moved away. Our objective or challenge is to bring people back. I’m not saying bring people back from the Marina because that is a different segment altogether, but to bring the buzz back into Wafi. When business is good we all sort of sit back and enjoy business coming in. You have profits, people walking in, great footfall. We need to get the brands back into the market, everybody knows about them, the brand awareness is there, it’s just a matter of re-emphasising it and what we have, what we offer and the diverse offering that we have. You’ve got the mall, you’ve got Khan Murjan Souk, which not a lot of people know about, and you’ve got the Pyramids, the spa and the restaurants, it’s all interlinked. It’s one destination. With Raffles being over here, I’m sure the mall is quite an integral part of your property. You have a lot of locals that utilise the property. We’re trying to build that together and bring the residents back by promoting the offerings. Again, marketing plays a key role. We’ve got a Facebook page and that’s pretty active — you want to make it more interactive rather than just posting things. Initially it would be interesting to see, but you’ve got to engage people to link in there and come over to your outlets.

EF: They need to become ambassadors to your brand, interacting via social media. How do Wafi and Raffles work together to market the destination? EF: In the last five / six weeks, we’ve had meetings and there’s definitely a very strong synergy there from my personal perspective of the hotel. There are lots of opportunities where we can partner up with Wafi and that is what I’m trying to engage in now, so we will cross promote and cross pollinate. To our guests we’re looking at the charge back option to the outlets in the pyramids. We actually have the Select card for tourists so we give that to our guests on check-in to encourage them to go to the mall. We’d also encourage those Select members to come back and target them with offers, whether it’s rooms, F&B etc. We’re actually looking now at the bigger picture, which will probably be at the end of the year, to do something as a Raffles / Wafi destination, so we’ll do it through the marketing campaign we’re talking about now and drive the traffic in the GCC. Poor Wafi at the moment with all these other malls around, we really want to drive this as another choice of destination. Hotelier Middle East • June 2010



properties around SZR, obviously we’re losing a lot of business within the DIFC area. It doesn’t help that a lot of people are not travelling, you’ve got more supply than demand, so basically the strategy is just focusing on getting more clients in. We’re the only Thai chain in Dubai and we’re building our strength from there. We’re very competitive in terms of the rates now, the property is going to be refurbished to address the demand of what the client wants, so we’re putting in rooms with a refrigerator and washing machine to cater for a lot of the clients that are on a long-stay basis. In Deira, how is business and what are the challenges?


What about the sales and marketing challenges facing hotels located on Sheikh Zayed Road? LS: The challenge we are facing right now is that the economic downturn

has affected the corporate business, from our positioning as a business hotel on SZR, we’ve probably lost about 50% of the business. With the number of hotels opening like Rose Rayhaan and a number of four-star

LA: We’re still lucky, generally in Deira because it is a good mixture, it’s still a business area but it’s good for leisure as well. Occupancy in Deira hasn’t gone down, we’re always in about the 90s, but the rates are lower of course. The rates are down by 30% last year, this year we are still in the same bracket. We are enjoying sales more now because I am doing the actual sales job, whereas 18 months ago it was just taking the calls and doing the deals. If you look at the market there are so many sales people and some of them were eliminated because

they don’t know how to do actual sales. They just know how to maintain the client relationships but they don’t do actual sales because they never had to. It was the bookers who were trying to maintain good relationships with the sales people to be able to get the rooms so in that case we were lucky, but over the last 18 months you can see in the market the actual sales people who have survived because now you start to create strategies, do promotions, find more clients, look after more markets. It is much nicer for the sales person, it was not challenging before. The holiday is over, that is what I tell my team, now it’s time to work. Is there a difference in the sales and marketing strategy for mid-market properties such as Arabian Park Hotel? RR: The hotel was always positioned as a mid-market property but more driven towards the corporate segment. Since the start of the economic downturn, we’ve changed our strategies at Arabian Park and it’s moved slowly from a corporate city hotel to more of a leisure hotel. The leisure mix has come in, it’s almost comprising up to 45-50%, which is quite high but that’s the trend, it’s not something that was strategised to increase business. In terms of a comparison, I can

GETTING TO KNOW YOU: HOTELIER’S EXPERT PANEL Rohit Rattan Head of sales and marketing — hospitality division, Wafi Rohit Rattan began his career with Starwood in Doha and joined Jumeirah in 1999 as part of the pre-opening team for Emirates Towers. He then moved into corporate office and spent six years with the group in total, before moving onto The Chedi, Muscat, where he was assistant director of sales and marketing. Prior to his current role with Wafi, Rattan did the pre-opening with Six Senses Spa in Doha and had a year outside of hotels. At Wafi, Rattan heads up the sales and marketing for Arabian Park Hotel, 12 F&B outlets at Wafi Pyramids and Cleopatra’s Spa.

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

Emma Fraser Director of marketing and communications Raffles Dubai A new addition to the Raffles Dubai team, Emma Fraser is both overseeing marketing and PR for the property and looking to represent the brand on a regional level as it gears up to open hotels in Makkah, Paris and the Seychelles. Fraser started her career in Australia with IHG and was promoted to Western Australia regional marketing manager, and then moved to Sydney to look after the Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific region, which comprised 47 hotels. She then took up a role heading up marketing and communications with the Westin in Sydney, before being approached by Jumeirah to move to Dubai. Fraser worked first at Jumeirah Beach Hotel

and then was promoted into her most recent role as global director of brand and marketing for Jumeirah. She left last April and spent some time traveling and consulting before joining Raffles. Leon Salinel Director of Sales & Marketing Dusit Thani Dubai Leon Salinel has been based in the Middle East for the past 12 years and always worked in hotel sales. He started his career with the pre-opening of the Ritz-Carlton in Dubai in 1998, and moved on to open Fairmont Dubai in 2002 as a senior sales manager, also responsible for F&B marketing. At the end of 2007, when everyone was feeling the pinch at the start of the downturn, Salinel moved

to Ritz-Carlton Bahrain as director of sales. After 21 months in that role, he moved to Dubai at the end of last year to join Dusit Thani as director of sales and marketing. Lin Aydin Director of sales Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek Having studied tourism and hospitality management, Lin Aydin started her career in Turkey with Accor. She began in the front office and moved into sales, where she has worked ever since. Aydin worked for the Renaissance brand and then eight years ago came to Dubai to join Habtoor Hotels. She has now held her current role at Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek for three years.

very stylish. very VADO



IN 2009 MOST MICE BUSINESS STOPPED BUT THIS YEAR IT HAS STARTED PICKING UP Lin Aydin, director of sales, Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek

Do people get confused by promotions and just want more affordable pricing?

put both my hats on, the high-end hotels as well as Arabian Park, and I don’t think there’s a lot that differs with strategy. Of course your markets are different, you have your budget clientele coming and staying in a hotel like Arabian Park, you might have the high spenders coming to your Raffles and Dusit, again it’s who you target and which market you are looking at. We’ve got volumes on both sides. You have a lot of budget travellers, you have people who want to travel and stay around the luxury end.

SALES ANDMARKETING CHALLENGES Lower rates and a lack of rate parity are causing a domino effect, with five-star hotels taking four-star business, four-star hotels taking threestar business and so on. F&B is the toughest area to market, because consumers are prioritising value for money and have many different promotions to choose from. New developments in Dubai, such as The Walk in JBR, have captured the interest of the public, meaning a strong sales and marketing strategy is needed to bring guests back to areas such as Wafi. A 50% drop in corporate business is continuing to impact Sheikh Zayed Road Hotels. More staff needed to focus on digital marketing and social media.

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

What about your different hats in terms of hotel, F&B and spa – which one of those has been most challenging? RR: As of now I think it’s the F&B side. I’ve always been with hotel sales and you have the rooms but there’s an automatic flow over there — if you have the good occupancy, you have F&B driving revenues from your hotel guests as well as outsiders. If you’re restaurants are quite prominently known in Dubai then you have a lot of residents going there as well and your in-house guests filling it up. With Arabian Park Hotel it’s pretty much the same concept. If I’m running on a good occupancy then my F&B revenue goes up, but with Wafi it’s a challenge because I’m bringing in residents from Dubai and I’m looking at bringing in people that have come to Dubai — tourists who are there for four or five days, but they wouldn’t come in every day to dine.

EF: I think you’re right, in terms of having to keep at a level, but promotions work really well. It’s how loyal the guests are to that hotel, to that restaurant, it just really depends how they’re working towards that. We’ve just launched Raffles Roast to take a different look at brunches. It’s a matter of positioning that in the market and really building that forward now and making it a stable branded product. LS: We’re giving options to our clients — gone are the days when you would give out just one rate [for brunch]. We have the Quick Bites offer, AED 2 per minute for lunch and AED 3 per minute for dinner. Whether that is popular or not people are talking about it and you need to make sure that people will talk about you. We need to maintain the presence in the market. I think it’s about value for money and you have to make sure you win your diners’ loyalty, I think based on the quality of the food and service. RR: I think we’ve learned that peo-

ple are spending their money more carefully. Every hotel is running some sort of promotion today, whether its brunches or dinners. So how do you compete? EF: You have to compete and you have to be competitive in the market but you have to maintain your strategy. Going back to what you were saying about three-star versus five-star, I think Dubai years ago was so set as a five-star destination, but people have the options now, the three- and four- and five-star hotels really open it up to give the consumer, particularly for groups and MICE and corporate options. It now becomes an international city of choice as opposed to a destination to go to the beach LA: But because five-star rates are lower and we are competing with four-star hotels, we are getting the four-star business, then four stars are getting the three-star business and so they can’t really sell with the higher rates. RR: It’s literally a domino effect. LS: There’s no rate parity at all. RR: There is no capping because peo-

In terms of strategies that work when promoting F&B, what attracts local residents to dine at your property? LA: Today it is value for money. There are so many promotions going on, in our hotel as well. For summer now, we have during the World Cup in our English pub an offer where one winner each day will get 31% off of their bill, representing the 31 days of the World Cup. We have a progressive dinner too in our three Asian restaurants so you have to be more creative. People get to try all three restaurants so it is very good value for money.

The roundtable took place in Air, one of Raffles Dubai’s four presidential suites, which are themed around the elements.The other suites are Fire, Earth and Water, all of which have individual design and colour schemes.


IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOUR PROPERTY IS VISIBLE ON GDS Leon Salinel, director of sales & marketing, Dusit Thani Dubai

ple are going out and selling ridiculou lous rates. EF: This is a good opportunity now for us to look at emerging markets. We We’re focusing on India and China, Sou South America is another big one. Ye Yes we know what’s happening her here, we know the rates are very low low, it dictates now that the strategy fro from Sue’s perspective has to shift and we’re really focusing on those mo more emerging markets and we’ll tar target them for leisure but also for cor corporate business.

meetings, now we are working on the iftar packages, it has already started. From June we are ready with all our corporate and leisure promotions, and want to work more closely with our partners. In 2009 most MICE business stopped but this year it has started picking up.

What is your forecast for business du during the second half of the year?

LS: It’s so difficult because it really is so last minute. I’ve received contracts signed and I’ve been receiving a lot of queries for the last quarter of the year already and I’m hoping that this trend is going to continue. At least you know that’s an indication that people are ready to buy six months out. HME

LA LA: We’ve already started with th the summer and Ramadan promo motions and we also did special

What are your views on the issues raised? Send them to:


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Hotelier Middle East • June 2010


Investing in quality staff accommodation will attract the best employees, says Harriet Sinclair BEST PRACTICE: STAFF HOUSING taff accommodation has not traditionally been an important consideration for hoteliers. As owners and operators must think about driving volume to their hotels, dealing with existing guests, marketing, and countless other aspects of business, it is no surprise that staff accommodation often falls by the wayside. It is only in regions such as the Middle East —where hotels have always had to provide housing for their staff— that accommodation becomes such an important issue in hotel management. Many hoteliers in this region realise that providing good quality staff accommodation is no mere PR stunt or unfortunate obligation, but a vital aspect of good hotel manage-


ment, which can be utilised to great advantage if done properly. More than 90% of hotel staff in the UAE are expatriates, and across the region expatriate staff make up a significant proportion of hotel employees — although nationalisation programmes are becoming more commonplace, particularly in countries such as Saudi Arabia. The high number of expatriates working in hotels in the region means that hotels who want to

attract — and keep — good staff to work in their properties must make the provision of top quality staff housing a priority. The issue of staff accommodation was brought to the fore at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, where the annual Staff Accommodation Awards recognise best practice in the staff housing arena; using criteria such as leisure facilities and activities, food and beverage facilities, international communication


and transport to assess which hotels in the region are providing the very best in this important field.

WHY INVEST? Winning awards shouldn’t be the only incentive when considering investing in staff accommodation. Staff housing has the potential to impact on the business as a whole, with many hoteliers agreeing that staff accommodation plays a significant role in the way staff work and interact with hotel guests. Mövenpick Jumeirah Beach director of human resources Feras Salibi agrees that the impact of good staff accommodation can be seen throughout a hotel. “Good employee housing greatly affects staff motivation. If our employees are unhappy it has a direct impact onto their performance at work. The way we Hotelier Middle East • June 2010




Eddie Yago believes that good staff accommodation improves the employees’ performance in the hotels.

The Sahari Village by Hyatt won the 2009 Staff Accommodation Award.

The second annual Arabian Hotel Investment Conference Staff Accommodation Awards judge staff accommodation on a set of established criteria including leisure facilities and activities, food and beverage facilities, international communication and transport. The shortlisted nominees were 2009 winners Hyatt Hotels for Sahari Village, Dubai; Gulf Hotel management company for Fairmont Dubai; Emaar Hospitality Group (EHG) for the Address Hotels and Resorts Dubai; and Jumeirah Group, which took home the coveted 2010 award for its staff accommodation complex Oasis Village in Al Quoz, Dubai. Staff Accommodation Award Judges chairman Wahid Attala said: “The ability to create a home away from home, with sports activities, environmental concerns — all of these were things we were looking for. Most of the staff are from overseas and go on holiday every other year so it’s important to make sure that they are living in a good environment because this will reflect on the service provided in the hotels. If they are not happy or they are tired, it will impact on them as human beings and of course on the performance of work and how happy they are making the clients.” Jumeirah Group director of accommodation Colette Leeman collects the 2010 Staff Accommodation Award at AHIC.

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

approach it is that we treat our employees as our internal customers and we can only expect them to deliver five-star service to the guest if we treat them with the same respect and care,” Salibi says. “In addition to providing a home we try to create a community feeling at our housing complex with movie nights, sports tournaments and socials. By creating a community it not only instills a sense of belonging, but also builds team spirit and camaraderie, which is reflected in work performance,” he adds. Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain director of human resources Gemma Meale feels that staff accommodation is an investment that owners and operators will see a guaranteed return on in the way that their guests are treated by staff. “Our human resources and housing team are here to develop a service. We know if we look after our people well, including giving them a nice environment and home, they will be engaged and that can only have a positive impact for our hotel morale and guests,” Meale states. In addition to the obvious benefits of having staff who are well slept and live in safe accommodation, creating a real home for employees can enhance brand loyalty and work ethic and encourage staff to be more aware of how they are treating the hotel guests. Ramee Group of Hotels chairman and managing worker Raj Shetty

Staff at IHG Dubai Festival City’s housing complex, The Oasis at Silicon Oasis, spend time in the gym.

feels that staff will work to the best of their ability when they feel taken care of, and adds: “If the employees are cared about and have their needs taken care of, they actually want to put their best foot forward and will work diligently to take care of our valued guests”. And while good accommodation can encourage staff to stay motivated and provide quality service to guests, it is no surprise that bad housing can have a negative impact on the way that staff work. Tom Meyer, director of operations – IHG, Dubai and area general manager, IHG Dubai Festival City, recalls staying in bad staff accommodation at the beginning of his career in the industry. “I have to take you back almost to my first job in Europe, where a lot of the housing facilities are in more out of reach places which are sometimes also associated with high crime rates. When you are staying in a place like that and it is your first job away from home, you are working different shifts —it can be extremely difficult. The pioneers of the hospitality business in Europe deserve a lot of praise because they


went through some very tough times in those facilities,” he says.

RETENTION Not only will well looked after staff tend to work harder, they will also be likely to want to stay with your hotel for longer. “There is a strong correlation between staff retention and constructive livelihood, which in our case is offered through our accommodation,” says Wasl Hospitality general manager Abdulbasit AlHai. “There have been numerous studies conducted on staff retention and the factors that attribute to staff motivation. In all cases, housing is one of the leading factors that affects an employee’s personal life.” This is where the hospitality

Raj Shetty of Ramee Group of Hotels: staff work better when looked after well by their employer.

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010



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The good reputation that the happy staff have at Rosewood Corniche helps the hotel’s recruitment process, says organisational development manager Amro Hussein.

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industry differs from most other businesses, where employees’ personal lives are not a big consideration; in hotels it is important that staff are kept happy as it is their attitude which so often keeps guests returning, and business coming in. As housing, particularly when moving to and living in a new country, plays such a large part in the wellbeing of employees, it has

become a deciding factor in the level of staff retention in hotels. “I have come across housing that was not up to scratch. The impact onto employee morale is high with very negative effects. Bad housing is a key reason for high employee turnover and in some instances has resulted in illness,” states Salibi. Employees, particularly those who have been trained and invested

in by the company, are such a valuable resource that anything which affects staff retention must be a serious consideration for hoteliers, and staff housing is no exception. Coral Deira, Dubai human resources and training manager Adline Batal, believes that staff housing can play a big role in encouraging employees to stay with a company.

OUTSOURCING OR IN-HOUSE? As staff housing plays such an important role in the hotel business, it is no surprise that there is much discussion around whether to outsource the management of such accommodation or to manage it in-house. Here’s what the experts had to say… ”Staff housing is well managed in-house. It allows us to better take care of housing facilities, furnishings and maintenance. It also gives us the flexibility to modify furnishing and fittings to the advantage of the staff members who are living in the staff accommodation.” Pasquale Baiguera, general manager Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Media City

“We believe it is better to manage staff housing ourselves. We have good knowledge of our staff needs and, while we could communicate these to an external organisation, we know that a flexible approach is required because these needs can obviously evolve over time. We believe an outside-operator

cannot provide this level of flexibility, simply because they are bound by contractual agreements.” Amro Hussein, organisational development manager, Rosewood Corniche

“It is definitely better to outsource because in this case you get the benefit of economy of scales, flexibility, consistency in terms of product and service.” Adline Batal, human resources and training manager, Coral Deira, Dubai

“In the current financial situation, operators are reluctant to outsource the management of the staff housing, as outsourcing considerably increases the cost of operation and offers less control over the quality. On the contrary, in-house operation gives them more flexibility and provides more opportunity to utilise in-house resources and keep good quality control.”

“I think it is really a choice that you make. I am aware that the guys who do the outsource business do a great job and certainly I wouldn’t say that they can’t do it or even that we do a better job, but personally I prefer to keep it in-house. I like the team spirit, having ownership and being responsible for it because it makes it more personal.”

Ehtisham Waris director of operations, Asia and the Middle East Best Western International

Tom Meyer, director of operations, IHG, Dubai and area general manager, IHG Dubai Festival City

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Hotelier Middle East • June 2010



THE MOST IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION IS ACCESSIBILITY FROM AND TO THE PLACE OF WORK AS THIS SAVES EMPLOYEES TRANSPORT TIME AS WELL AS THE COST “If you give staff the right product and atmosphere to relax, it helps them to stay calm and focused. Also, it prevents any kind of attrition. We have a retention rate of nearly 70%, which is good compared to current industry standards,” she stresses. Best Western director of operations Asia and the Middle East Ehtisham Waris says that housing also has an effect on how staff view their employers and their status within the company. “Well-maintained staff housing is one of the key factors in keeping up the morale of the employees. It always makes a positive impact in day-to-day operation and helps to fight attrition. Employees feel that their efforts have been valued by the management if the standard of the accommodation is acceptable,” Waris argues. This opinion is shared by Emaar Hospitality Group general manager

accommodation Eddie Yago, who believes that accommodation will affect staff retention as well as performance at work. “I believe if staff are comfortable with the accommodation, it reflects the way they perform at work. If your accommodation is positive you are thinking positively at work and you’re not thinking about why you want to leave,” Yago says. Accommodation which is secure, well fitted out and pleasant with a community feel will of course affect the length of your stay, argues IHG’s Meyer. “The quality of your accommodation is going to determine how long you stay, wherever you stay. What we try to do is make people feel at home as soon as possible. We introduce you to the person you will be sharing a room with on email before you arrive. When you arrive here we have a welcome basket and card for

WHAT CAN STAFF EXPECT? With so many staff living away from home, many hotels have concentrated on creating a community feeling by providing staff activities as well as facilities. “We have created a special cricket pitch which is a big attraction. We also have a special emphasis on art, creativity and individual expressions which is a big plus for our staff,” says Adline Batal, human resources and training manager, Coral Deira, Dubai. Tom Meyer, director of operations, IHG, Dubai and area general manager, IHG Dubai Festival City, spoke about the need to make people feel at home in staff accommodation, a nod towards the more personal touch which many hotels are adopting in order to ensure staff feel looked after within the company. “In the recruitment process we will already be talking about who your colleague is who you’ll be living with, we will get you in contact with them by email. We deal with so many people who are travelling for the first time so the faster we can make them feel at home the better it is,” says Meyer. And of course, facilities such as swimming pools, pool rooms and gyms will remain a major draw, and hotels have by no means abandoned the provision of quality staff facilities. Abdulbasit Al-Hai, general manager of wasl Hospitality, says: “We have included a great number of amenities in Sahari Village including swimming pools, tennis courts, soccer field, gym, barbeque area, supermarket, clinic, terrace coffee shop, prayer rooms and a bakery. Effectively, these amenities create a true community feel and experience.”

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

This swimming pool at Sahari Village is just one of the facilities which is provided at the staff accommodation.

you, complimentary internet facilities so you can get online and talk to your family straight away,” he says. Meyer believes these measures build a community feel, which makes the real difference to employee’ attitudes to their accommodation — and their company.

QUALITY STAFF Good accommodation also plays a role in attracting a high calibre of staff to hotels. With most new recruits either coming from overseas or expatriates already in the Middle East, they will undoubtedly see the housing they are provided with as a deciding factor in their job choice. And just like the guests in a hotel, staff are looking for a good standard of room, facilities, and location but more importantly, they will look for the additional factor of being able to call their accommodation ‘home’.

“Housing is competitive and with many new hotels opening, what a property can offer can be of great appeal to employees. We benchmark within the market to monitor what is being offered and strive to lead in terms of housing,” says RitzCarlton’s Meale. Rosewood Corniche organisational development manager Amro Hussein says reputation is key in the hospitality industry, and this includes the reputation of the accommodation provided for the staff as well as the guests. “Happy and motivated staff helps in the recruitment process. Word of mouth spreads quickly and this helps us to attract the best quality people,” he asserts. Making staff housing a priority is an attitude which Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts president of worldwide operations Jim


CREATING GOOD ACCOMMODATION That good staff housing is an important contributor to both staff attitude and retention rates

is not surprising, but what exactly do employees expect from their employer? Do they care about having the latest pool table and TV stations, or are safety and ease of communication more important? And how much of a role should housing play in internal interactions? For EHG’s Yago, who lives in the staff accommodation himself, the fact that the housing is shared by so many levels of employee plays a vital role in encouraging team spirit. “I think it is very important that I myself live in the accommodation as well because it shows the associates that the facilities we provide are just as good for any level [of staff]. It also gives me a chance to show my face to the associates and show that I support them in anything they have to say. But the biggest thing about living there for me is the feel of it — you really feel like you’re part of a community,” he says. Best Western’s Waris believes location is key when considering staff accommodation, particularly

Wahid Attala, Staff Accommodation Awards judges’ chairman: creating a home from home is important.

since many staff work a variety of shifts and may be returning home late at night or early in the morning. “The most important consideration is accessibility to the place of work as this saves employees transport time as well as the cost,” he says. “It is also just as important that the accommodation provided is safe and comfortable to live in.” Safety is a concern which was also highlighted by Batal at Coral

Deira who outlined the main factors in staff accommodation considerations as: safety and security, comfort, privacy, proximity to the workplace and convenience of public transport to places such as the supermarket, hospital and mosque. During submission for the AHIC Staff Accommodation Awards, a recurring theme mentioned by all entrants was the need to develop environmentally sound accommodation, with winning Jumeirah citing a recycling system as one of the important features of its housing. Although there are many considerations which must be taken in to account in order to develop good staff housing, it must be seen as a necessary investment into both staff wellbeing and the future of the company’s business. And with the benefits of creating good quality employee housing including higher retention rates, better quality service for guests, and your pick of the best staff, it is an investment worth making. HME

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010


bon believes should come from the top down. ” I flew into Riyadh and I went to the employee housing first not the hotel. I phoned the general manager and asked him to meet me there and he wasn’t surprised. That was to me a very important message: first I will go to the employees to see that they’re looked after and then I’ll go and see the guests. A lot of what you do in my position is symbolism, I can’t change it physically but I can certainly put it high on the priority list. It’s about who emotionally connects with the employee and cares enough about them because they’re all individuals and honestly, I think in this part of the world, because a lot of people are away from home, that takes on a whole other dimension,” FitzGibbon says.



Taking Care of Business

Missoni Restaurant.

Lee Jamieson discovers Kuwait’s untapped tourism potential

ANALYSIS uwait has an estranged relationship with its travel and tourism industry. Unlike many of its neighbouring GCC countries, Kuwait has never made any serious attempts to diversify its economy away from oil. And why should it? Kuwait’s reputation and fortune has been built on oil. It owns approximately 10% of the world’s oil reserves and, according to figures from Euromonitor, oil is responsible for 50% of Kuwait’s GDP, 90% of its export revenues and 80% of government income. Travel and tourism, like many sectors in Kuwait, lives in the shadow of the country’s oil industry. Although oil has given rise to an active business tourism scene, leisure tourism remains in its infancy. The sector’s performance has been poor to date. Travel and tourism only contributes 3.7% to Kuwait’s total GDP and, according to Euromonitor, this is expected to fall to 3% by 2019. Employment within the tourism industry is also predicted to fall from 71,000 jobs last year to 65,000 jobs in 2019.


June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

However, recent economic turbulence has made Kuwait acutely aware of how reliant it is on the global economic system. The Kuwait Stock Exchange experienced a loss of US $10 billion early last year, high inflation is an ongoing concern and the number of expatriate workers, which make up 50% of its overall population, has dropped for the second year in a row. Despite this turbulence, the Kuwaiti government has proved to be resilient throughout the economic storm, in part thanks to its vast financial reserves, and has proved itself to be a safe harbour for hotel investors. “The fact that Kuwait has remained economically buoyant despite the world recession is a key factor driving investment into the country,” explains InterContinental Hotels Group Middle East and Africa vice president of development, Phil Kasselis.

“Kuwait’s economy is largely based on oil revenues and downstream petrochemical activities and, therefore, the country saw growth in most industries last year.” Against this backdrop, there is a fresh commitment to rejuvenating Kuwait’s travel and tourism sector in order to foster a more diversified and stable economy. “Five years ago the Kuwaiti government launched a 20-year tourism plan to develop the travel and tourism sector,” continues Kasselis. “This plan was developed together with the World Tourism Organisation and includes the development of new hotels and resorts. According to Kuwait’s Hotel Owner Association, more than 3000 rooms are planned to enter the market in the next five years.”

travellers accounting for 73% of Kuwait’s arrivals. In particular, the MICE sector continues to grow with an estimated 15% of inbound business travel to Kuwait linked to the meetings and exhibition industry. In recent years, Kuwait has also established itself as a business and media hub for the ongoing situation in Iraq, offering a more stable environment for international organisations involved in the rebuilding of the country.

BUSINESS AS USUAL Kuwait’s business tourism scene continues to flourish, with business


Phil Kasselis, MEA vice president of development IHG: Kuwait is still economically buoyant.



The InterContinental Hotel Kuwait is one of the five-star hotels planned to open in Kuwait. “Business tourism remains the most exciting segment to invest in,” says Hilton Worldwide Middle East senior director of development, Carlos Khneisser. “The country has a constant stream of corporate travellers due to the many infrastructural and industrial developments

taking place. This has fuelled rising demand for hotels and transportation options.” Business tourism remains the primary focus of Kuwait’s 20-year tourism plan and has therefore attracted many of the luxury fivestar hotel brands. Competition at the top of the luxury scale is predictably fierce and many hotel groups are differentiating their products into new areas.

LUXURY BRAND DEMAND This year sees the opening of Rezidor’s latest luxury offering, Hotel Missoni. This designer brand aims to differentiate itself from Kuwait’s

luxury hotel scene by marketing to the growing lifestyle sector of the hospitality market. “There are a number of strong international brands operating in Kuwait but we believe that Hotel Missoni is a unique product in the market,” explains Rezidor Hotel Group area vice president, Marko Hytonen. “It’s a lifestyle brand with a strong designer luxury element. In a region famed for its love of fashion and high-end designer brands, we anticipate strong interest in Hotel Missoni Kuwait.” Strong branding is essential for luxury hoteliers looking to differentiate their product in the Kuwaiti

Carlos Khneisser , senior director of development, Hilton Worldwide Middle East.


’000 people









Source: Euromonitor International

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Kuwait has proved to be resilient for investors throughout the economic downturn.

A long-term strategic plan is in place to develop Kuwait’s travel and tourism sector.

Business tourism remains strong, in part due to Kuwait’s stable oil industry.

Kuwait benefits from being a business hub for international organisations involved in the rebuilding of Iraq.

Much of the world media covering Iraq are based in Kuwait.

The expansion of Kuwait’s international airport is set to increase capacity to 20 million passengers by 2012.

Accessibility has been improved with visas now available on arrival for many nationalities.

The City of Silk development will offer fresh leisure and business tourism opportunities. Liberal FDI legislation allows foreign companies to fully own and operate businesses. Three thousand rooms are planned to enter the market in the next five years.

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

Luxury hotels like Hilton Olympia Kuwait are expected to capitalise on the business travel market. market. By partnering with Missoni, an Italian fashion house, Rezidor has created a brand with niche market appeal. Hotel Missoni appeals to sophisticated, cashrich travellers with a passion for contemporary culture. The brand amalgamates contemporary design, fashion, authenticity and culinary excellence to create an experience that reflects the values of its guests. “We aim to bring something new to the Kuwait market,” adds Hytonen, “something we believe the market is ready for.”

like full-service, mid-market and extended-stay properties as investors explore alternative asset types,” explains Hilton’s Khneisser. “We welcome this trend because it aligns perfectly with our strategy. We aim to roll out the entire portfolio of brands under Hilton Worldwide

GAPS IN THE MID-MARKET Many owners and operators are diversifying away from luxury concepts by introducing midmarket brands — and a partnership between Accor and Action Hotels, a Kuwait-based hotel development company, aims to capitalise on this new market potential. “Our vision was to introduce budget segment hotels into the region,” explains Action Hotels chairman, His Excellency Sheikh Mubarak AM Al Sabah. “Initially we decided to partner with Accor in Kuwait because of its core strength in this segment: its mid-price brand, Ibis, has done extremely well in the global markets”. In part, the market expansion of Kuwait’s tourism industry owes a debt to the liberalisation of its foreign direct investment legislation. Now foreign companies can invest and operate in Kuwait with autonomy. This includes complete foreign ownership of business and brands across a number of sectors including tourism, fostering new opportunities for hospitality investors. “In recent years Kuwait has steered towards diverse offerings

The InterContinental Kuwait Downtown hotel.

from the luxury Waldorf Astoria and Conrad to mid-market options like Hilton Garden Inn.”

A SUSTAINABLE MARKET? With so many global hotel operators expanding their portfolios in Kuwait, many are concerned about oversupply in the market. The problem is particularly acute in Kuwait because the essential infrastructure required to grow the country’s tourism industry is not in place. Euromonitor statistics show that last year, Kuwait’s outgoing tourist expenditure came to just $4.2 million whilst domestic tourism expenditure totalled only $5.3 million. Just over $400 million was contributed by incoming tourists. “It’s true that Kuwait’s lodging segment is currently facing oversupply,” explains Sheikh Mubarak. “New entrants must be willing to face stiff competition, be able to create unique selling points, and be ready to spend a longer-lead time to profit realisation.


Occupancy (%)

ADR (US $)

RevPar (US $)

Mar 09




Apr 09




May 09




Jun 09




Jul 09




Aug 09




Sept 09




Oct 09




Nov 09




Dec 09




Jan 10




Feb 10




Source: STR Global


NEW DEVELOPMENTS It is hoped that today’s oversupply will be offset by growth derived from Kuwait’s ambitious development plans.

In March, an agreement was signed to double the capacity of Kuwait International Airport over the next two years. Already the airport is operating at full capacity following a 26% passenger increase last year. The airport will increase capacity from 7 million to 20 million passengers by 2012. “Also, the emergence of regional low cost carriers such as Wataniya Air and Jazeera Airlines will make

travel more accessible and affordable,” adds IHG’s Kasselis. “In turn, this will drive up visitor numbers.” Kuwait also plans to develop a new city across the bay from Kuwait City. Once completed in 2030, The City of Silk is expected to provide tourist attractions alongside a network of hotels and spas. In recent years, new development plans have rejuvenated interest in Kuwait’s travel and tourism sector.

International brands are establishing themselves in the country and have strategically positioned themselves to tap into Kuwait’s potential as it unfolds. But, there’s still a long way to go. It will be many years until Kuwait’s travel and tourism sector fully emerges from the shadows of the ubiquitous oil industry, but when it does, a bright — and profitable — future is assured. HME








Rezidor Hotel Group



Hotel Missoni Kuwait




Hilton Hotels Corporation

Kuwait City


Hilton Olympia Kuwait







IC Kuwait-Downtown







InterContinental Kuwait






Staybridge Suites

Staybridge Kuwait Salmiya






Staybridge Suites

Staybridge Kuwait Farwaniya





Kuwait City


Ibis Sharq





Kuwait City


Novotel Mina Abdullah Resort




Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts

Kuwait City


Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel


307 (+ 12 chalets, 80 suites)


Hotelier Middle East • June 2010


“And, of course, with increased competition comes an increase in costs. To earn a sensible piece of the pie, new hospitality projects in Kuwait require a long-term, sustainable vision.”

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Supplier Focus • News • Analysis • Innovations • Trends

Lavazza opens centre in Middle East ANNOUNCEMENTS Coffee company begins expansion plans by opening first training hub in region F&B Coffee company Lavazza has opened its first training centre in the Middle East, located near interchange one on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road. The centre, which officially opened on May 12, is the company’s 43rd training centre worldwide and will provide Lavazza coffee training to clientele ranging from housewives to coffee professionals. The opening of the new training centre marks the beginning of the company’s plans to grow in the UAE and in the Middle East. Lavazza director of training worldwide Marcello Arancangeli said: “The UAE is an important market for Lavazza, and our newest training centre demonstrates our long term commitment to growing the coffee sector in this area.” The company hopes that the 43rd centre will not be its last in the Middle

The team officially opens the Lavazza training centre in Dubai which will provide coffee training to many people .

East. Lavazza business development manager Middle East, Fadi Haddad, said that the company was intending to extend its reach and open more training centres in the area. “We do have huge potential in the Middle East market, it’s booming everywhere. Starting from Dubai to Qatar, to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, even Lebanon. So yes, we have good plans

[in the region],” added Haddad. Each year Lavazza trains more than 25,000 baristas and the Lavazza course, which the centre provides, covers a range of subjects from the coffee crop and production processes to the equipment needed for making an espresso, and all participants are encouraged to focus on the innovative and creative aspect of coffee making.

Monte Carlo Doualiya launches in UAE Expansion of French radio station highlights the importance of Middle East Monte Carlo Doualiya, the popular French radio station that broadcasts in Arabic, has launched in the United Arab Emirates on 95.3 FM. The expansion of the radio station, which is owned by Audiovisuel Exterieur de la France (AEF), highlights the increasing importance the company is placing on the Arabic speaking world. Audiovisuel Exterieur de la France chairman, Alain de Pouzilhac, said: “Arabic language is a priority [for us] because if we want to share dreams and ambitions and if we want a voice to avoid confrontation — we have to know each other better. It is crucial.”

Previously, only a small amount of news and flashes could be heard on Fujairah FM, but now all Monte Carlo Doualiya news and programmes are available on 95.3 FM. “At Monte Carlo Doualiya we want to strengthen the proximity and cooperation between our two countries. Research demonstrates that radio and television from France is viewed as useful or very useful by more than 80% of the Arab population,” de Pouzilhac added. The radio station will air a variety of programmes including debates, politics, economics, and social and health advice.

Nahida Nakad and Alain de Pouzilhac discuss radio.

Director of Arabic programming for Monte Carlo Doualiya and sister company France 24, Nahida Nakad, said: “We can present news without being boring. News is supposed to be the mirror of life which means we talk about everything that makes a life.”

MTech enters Middle East Dubai-based InfoScape Technologies LLC has recently entered into a distribution agreement with MTech to orchestrate the sales, marketing, installation and local technical support of its HotSOS and REX products to hotels throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Miami-based company MTech provides guest-response, asset protection and workflow automation solutions to hotels in nearly 50 countries, bringing significant cost savings and service improvements with HotSOS. According to Luis Segredo, MTech president, its technology will take hotels in the MENA region “over the top” in providing a luxury experience. More importantly, it will provide cost savings opportunities at a time that the whole world is looking for them. Record year at Hobart Warewashing manufacturer Hobart has reported that 2009 was its ninth record year in a row. Hobart GmbH kept its upward turnover trend, reaching €163.5 million (US $202.5 million) in crisis-ridden 2009 and the company’s international turnover figures increased to $1.4 billion. Hobart has added a sizeable number of new warewashing machines to its range over the past few years, including products such as the Premax CP and Profi CN rackconveyor dishwashers, Premax and Profi glasswashers and Fux-c container washers. Last year, the company launched the “first intelligent warewashing system” with the Premax FTP flight-type dishwasher, which uses Hobart’s intelligent Sensotronic system to recognise washware amount and type, automatically adjusting water, energy and detergent to the necessary minimum.

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010




Indigo Living completes fit out at Yas Island Golf Club

Indigo Living completed the FF&E and OS&E at Yas Island Golf Club, which includes two restaurants, a bar, and also health club facilities.

Interior solutions provider Indigo Living has completed work at the Yas Island Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, where it was the exclusive provider of FF&E and OS&E. Indigo Living’s scope of work comprised the manufacture, supply and install of all interior and outdoor furniture at the clubhouse, including artwork, accessories, rugs and all soft furnishings. In addition to this, as OS&E provider, Indigo was responsible for the provision of everything from cutlery and crockery for the restaurants to staff uniforms. Indigo Living project manager Angela Tunbridge said: “We are delighted to have worked on such a prestigious project where we have been able to demonstrate the total spectrum of our capabilities.” The Andalucían-inspired club house comprises two restaurants, one bar, spa and health club facilities and covers a total area of more than 6500m², which Indigo Living has furnished entirely.

Indigo Living supplied the outdoor furniture.

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

Technogym launches prototype ‘green’ gym The Green Cycle Concept could potentially make energy for 20,000 homes TRENDS The next trend in gyms will be for green gym equipment and ecofriendly sustainable development, according to professional fitness equipment and wellness solutions provider Technogym. Michele Moro, Technogym regional sales director for the Middle East and Africa, said: “The input from the government of Dubai, of Abu Dhabi and the commitment that the hotel industry is taking towards the green concept and sustainable development is very clear”. To meet the demand, Technogym launched its new green gym equipment prototype in Dubai at The Hotel Show last month. “Technogym is a wellness company and we have a new motto, which is ‘healthy people and a healthy planet’, therefore, we are developing a wellness solution which will utilise the energy of the guests in a gym, in particular with group cycling activities, so we have now launched a new device which

Michele Moro, regional sales director MEA, Technogym: hotels are taking green concept seriously.

can collect the energy [released],” said Moro. The Green Group Cycle experimental concept is designed to chan-

nel the energy produced on exercise bikes into the gym’s electric network, so that it can be used to power the gym’s electrical appliances. Estimates forecast that every bike, when used at medium intensity, can produce about 120 watts, enough energy to power a high luminosity bulb. This means that an average gym, equipped with about 40 machines, could become completely self-sufficient as far as lighting is concerned during peak times when all the machines are in use. According to the company’s research, there are 110,000 gyms worldwide equipped with around 1.005 million CV machines that could be used to produce energy. If the Green Cycle Concept were applied to all of this equipment, Technogym predicts the global wellness industry could produce enough energy to power 20,000 homes. “Obviously it is in the very early stages and to reach a completely carbon footprint neutral gym we are a bit far off, but at least this shows a strong sign of commitment from Technogym,” added Moro.

Indel B to further upgrade K Plus mini bars’ green credentials Compressor mini bars absorb “70% less energy than the best on the market” Indel B is preparing to launch an upgraded version of its energy efficiency A and A+ K Plus mini bars — the Compressor mini bar in energy efficiency class A++. The company’s continual focus on improving energy efficiency means that hotels can save both energy and money by using the K 40 Plus system, said Indel B. “They absorb 70% less energy than the best mini-bars available on the market, they are environmentcare designed and they grant a significant economic saving: about €20 (AED 91, US $25) per year compared to the best absorption minibars on the market and about €50 (AED 227, $62) per year compared to the low quality absorption minibars on the markets,” said Indel B marketing manager Sara Berardi.

“Only a compressor mini bar can be in energy class A+; all other systems are in energy class E or lower,” Berardi added. Indel B produced its first mini bar with an “efficient and silent” compressor refrigerant system in 1990, to meet the demand from the Hilton Hotel chain, and has since continued to develop its product lines. It has won a variety of awards, including recognition in the ‘2009 Excellent Awards — The Italian Award for Tourism’ promoted by Master Meeting. The K 40 Plus range has an “extremely long” life expectancy, is CFC free, and has much lower risks of refrigerant leaks than an absorption system mini bar because it uses less welding points, said Berardi.

The K 40 Plus mini bar from Indel B.

Eventually, Berardi predicts that companies will stop making absorption mini bars because advance compressor solutions are the “responsible choice” for hoteliers.



Show time SIMMONS AND INTERCOIL INTERNATIONAL SIGN LICENSING AND DISTRIBUTION DEAL Intercoil International has announced a licensing and distribution agreement with US-based bedding company Simmons. Under the agreement, Intercoil will be the exclusive licensee of Simmons products in the Middle East and plans to open eight Simmons retail Hassan Abbas Ali Al-Hazeem and Todd S. Merke r. locations by the end of 2011, with the first to open in Dubai in June 2010. Intercoil International managing director Hassan Abbas Ali Al-Hazeem said: “We have outlined a proactive strategic growth plan for the region. In addition to continuing to enhance our retail points, we are focusing on enhancing our manufacturing setup.” In addition to the eight planned Simmons retail outlets; there are also proposals to open three more manufacturing facilities across the region which may be up and running within the next five to seven years. Simmons director of global licensing Todd S. Merker said: “We are pleased to welcome Intercoil to our growing list of Simmons International Licensees. Through this agreement, Simmons will expand its current presence in the growing Middle East retail and hospitality bedding products market.”

Sachin Somkumar of Samsung



TTechnology and electronics company Samsung has launched a new television designed specifically for the hospitality industry. Samsung head of corporate sales, Samsung Gulf electronics, Sachin Somkumar said: “Ninety per cent of the properties across the region today are using hospitality televisions, with a trend towards larger TVs. “We have introduced a 55-inch TV, which was specifically bought in for this region,” he added. In addition to the new product launch, the company has also reported a rise in the popularity of home appliances with hotels in the Middle East, as the trend in the region is towards mixed-use properties. ‘We are providing digital sinus solutions like touch screen and large screens for lobbies and we also do in-home appliances for mixed-use developments, so there is a high demand for this type of equipment in the region,” Somkumar said.

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

All the news and opinions from The Hotel Show 2010

ZAT PRESENTS EXCLUSIVE MOCK-UP ROOM Zat launched its mock-up The mock up hotel room by Zat at hotel room at The Hotel Hotel Show. The Show, showcasing its hotel room bedding, amenities and other products, which it had hidden away from other exhibitors in a booth inside the Zat stand. Zat and Al-Zaher General Facilities Supply managing director Wisam Kasaji said: “We have been here for the last six years and we are here because it specialises in our field. [The mock-up hotel room] is an exclusive.” Kasaji said that the company had seen some quality people coming to the stand, which had generated a lot of interest through its mock-up hotel room. The company, which is the main sponsor of the Hotel Show, said that business had been better this year but that it would take a long time to come back to the business of 2008.


Dometic mini bar.

Electronics company Jumbo presented the newest model of mini bar from Dometic — The Mega mini bar — in a bid to target the hospitality industry at The Hotel Show. Of the company’s other products, Jumbo Electronics head of enterprise business, Jeevan Bhingarkar, said: “Jumbo currently offers latest technologies to address the entire spectrum of information and communications technology (ICT) and professional AV systems for the hospitality segment – from the front office to the guest rooms to integrating the entire back office technology infrastructure. Security systems and ICT is an area of importance for the hospitality sector”. The company, which is the official supplier of Dometic mini bars in the UAE, has ties with hotels across the country such as Fairmont Abu Dhabi, Rotana Dubai and Mövenpick Dubai.

AMANCORP UNVEILS UNITS FOR PUBLIC SMOKING AREAS Amancorp has launched a new range of Airfree products which are specially modified for use in smoking environments. The products have been launched in response to the smoking ban in public places, through which Dubai Municipality has insisted that all designated smoking areas employ smoke remediation to reduce the health risks of public smoking. Amancorp chief executive officer Mihir Patel said: “With local GCC governments increasingly clamping down on public smoking and the associated negative effects, we anticipate demand to steadily increase as hotel owners and operators look to minimise and address public health risks in smoking areas”. The original Airfree products were launched to deal with the specific air problems that occur in the region, where the air quality can be affected by HVAC systems, which could cause problems for asthma and allergy sufferers.



Burgess Furniture sales and marketing director Simon Richards.

D Despite a less than busy year, m many exhibitors at The Hotel Show re reported that they were pleased w the enquiries they received. with Burgess Furniture sales a marketing director Simon and Richards commented: “Traffic has been steady but I wouldn’t say it’s been busy. However, the quality of the people on the stand has been very good. Sealy president “This is the fourth or fifth Ali Q.Asaad. show we’ve done and quality wise I would say this is the best one, which has really surprised me.” This opinion was supported by Continental Sourcing senior vicepresident Glenn Chalkley, who said: “ “We’ve never had representation at a s show like this before, and everybody a around us has said that it is quieter t than usual, but we really can’t complain at all”. In terms of recovering from the global economic downturn, which saw many businesses suffering financial setbacks during 2009, the outlook for the future of the market in the region was optimistic but cautious. Sealy president Ali Q.Asaad said that the first quarter of 2010 demonstrated some promise for the economy as it had seen business get off to a good start. “Business has grown by about 20% this year and I think that the rest of the year is looking promising. I think that what we will see in the UAE is economical growth going towards a recovery,” he asserted. However, this was not echoed by all exhibitors as some people were quick to warn that the year could see business get worse before it gets better. EuroCave export area manager Florence Bonnier said: “I think we are in the middle of the recession honestly. Of course the food and beverage industry has been affected, as there are less people in hotels so this impacts on us as well”. With exhibitors and consumers alike watching their purse strings, there has been an emerging trend in saving money through saving energy, which was illustrated by the increase in eco-friendly and energy saving products at the show. Schneider Electric building business vice-president Georges Barbarin said: “We are focusing on energy efficiency so we are looking at how to save energy and save money. Consumers are trying to go for green; we are showing something called ‘push for green’ which is a new feature where the eco-conscious people can push a button in their room which will install the green settings”. This opinion was supported by International Guest Supply’s Olivier Loeb, who was showcasing the company’s ‘green’ line of linen. “Green linen is linen without any chemicals and we have reduced the chemicals to a level that we can consider our product 100% green, biodegradable and so on. Yes it is a trend we are seeing but with this product we are not yet sure if the customer is ready to accept that the linen EuroCave export does not look as white area manager as the chemically Florence Bonnier. produced cotton.”

By Reckless Design.

By TM Fashion.

Souzan Nafez with her winning design.

As usual, a highlight of The Hotel Show was The Corporate Catwalk, which this year presented new uniform creations from Reckless Design, TM Fashion, Eagle K-Wear and A.Ronai Simon Jersey. The catwalk was also used to crown the winner of the Student Design Competition 2010, Souzan Nafez from The Centre for Executive Education in Dubai. Her winning design was a restaurant hostess dress, inspired by those worn by Flamenco dancers, and chosen out of 16 entries. Now in its third year, the competition was open to institutions with fashion design programmes. The students were asked to create a full range of uniforms for one of three restaurants and one of two spas for a hotel under refurbishment. They could choose from a high-end Thai restaurant, canteen-style Greek outlet or a Spanish bistro, plus either a classic aromatherapy and massage spa or an ayurvedic one. Competition judge and design and production manager for A. Ronai, David Sprakes, said of Nafez: “She followed the brief to the letter and produced two great ranges.”

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010


By Eagle K-Wear.




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Al Nabooda Interiors architecture and design specialist Vivian Isobel De Veyra predicts growth in 2010 thanks to the introduction and development of technology used in flooring and fit out COMPANY PROFILE aving avoided the worst of the global economic downturn, Al Nabooda Interiors expects to achieve 25% growth this year, according to its architecture and design specialist Vivian Isobel De Veyra. “Whilst many companies are faced with the economic recession, we at Al Nabooda Interiors are expecting to achieve 25% growth during this year because of the continuous introduction of new technology products to the UAE,” De Veyra says. The company has introduced a number of new ranges throughout the past year, such as Brintons residential carpet and Diebold Safes with custom colours, and is planning on introducing the host dry


PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS The Host dry extraction system is being introduced to the UAE market this year. The system uses biodegradable ingredients and the carpet is usable during cleaning, unlike with a liquid shampoo system Al Nabooda Interiors’ best sellers in the UAE include ‘Toli’ carpet tiles and vinyl flooring; both of which have proved popular for commercial use due to the range of colours and designs available. ‘Green’ products by Al Nabooda include Brintons residential carpet — which has a biodegradable content of more than 70% — and Tandus carpet tiles designed for commercial space and hotel back office use, which have 30-50% recycled content and are one 100% recyclable.

Al Nabooda has not been affected by the economic downturn as it has continually introduced new products to the market, says design specialist Vivian Isobel De Veyra.

extraction system for carpet cleaning during 2010. “We have not been affected [by the recession] because financially we are a strong company with high ethical standards. Generally the interior supply industry has been striving to achieve higher reusable contents in their products, and this has kept the entire industry competing with each other to achieve better standards,” De Veyra adds. De Veyra believes that the emerging trend in flooring and interiors is the development of eco-living, with customers increasingly requesting that materials used in interiors meet ‘green’ specifications. “The current focus is on biodegradable/green products, and to this end we are proud to say that we work only with those manufacturers who have obtained Green Label or Green Label Plus certification from the Carpet and Rug Institute in the US,” says De Veyra. It is important that companies remain true to values such as envi-

ronmental awareness in order to ensure customer loyalty and keep standards high. De Veyra believes that this can be achieved by constantly reviewing best practice. “We take great pride in our work and constantly improve our care by utilising honest and vigorous peer review to examine and improve our performance,” she says. “We promote collaborative practices and employee teamwork to provide the highest quality to our customers.”

It is this continuous assessment, along with all of Al Nabooda Interiors’ new product offerings, which De Veyra believes keeps the company in a good market position and keeps customers returning. “We will always stay on the leading edge of technology,” De Veyra says. “We love what we do and have fun doing it. We never over-promise or under-deliver. Neither do we promise overnight success — it doesn’t exist.” HME

COMPANY INFO NAME: Al Nabooda Interiors ESTABLISHED: In 2004 BACKGROUND: Al Nabooda made its debut with flooring products and has now branched in to a range of product offerings including a diverse collection of flooring for hospitality and home use, office interiors, physical security and storage, and office equipment.

Al Nabooda Interiors architecture and design specialist Vivian Isobel De Veyra.

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010


Growth in a downturn



Catwalk Creation The team behind the first ever Armani Hotel explain how they brought the famous fashion designer’s vision to life in the world’s tallest building ARMANI DUBAI he greatly anticipated Armani Hotel Dubai — the first ever hotel to be designed by Giorgio Armani — opened on April 27, just in time for owner Emaar Properties and operator Armani Hotels & Resorts, part of Emaar Hospitality Group (EHG), to showcase the property to the industry at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference and Arabian Travel Market. The opening was the highlight of the shows, with everyone keen to see inside the hotel, which demands a reservation prior to entrance. However, some were quick to criticise, eager to bring Armani Dubai down from its pedestal in the world’s tallest building. Hoteliers lamented the lack of wall hangings, the dark spaces and the ‘boring’ colours. But, wasn’t this exactly the point of the first Armani Hotel? To offer something minimalist that stood out from the rest of the hotels in Dubai, and to remove the focus from the golden and the gaudy, even if this was to be achieved via sheer simplicity? The reactions may not have come as a surprise to fashion supremo 72-year-old Giorgio Armani, who was himself the first to question the appropriateness of Dubai as the location for his first hotel. “Are you sure you want me?” he recalls saying when approached by Emaar Properties chairman Mohamed Alabbar. “I believe in minimalism, less is more. And when you looked at what was happening here [in Dubai five years ago] you would have thought exactly the opposite, it was a very different style.” But Alabbar convinced Armani to go ahead, and thus began a five-year project to design and create the hotel. While Armani was based in Milan charged with creating the concept design, the responsibility to turn this into bricks and mortar in Dubai fell to Talal Saeed, managing director of interior fit out contractor Fino International. “What we received was a concept design created by the Armani team. It was a very interactive process. For example, the sanitaryware was custom designed and made by Armani, so we had to fly to Italy to meet with the manufacturer of the sanitaryware, we had to make a dummy, and put it in the mock for Giorgio Armani’s personal approval,” explains Saeed. “In a sense, we had to make it constructible. We had to make it workable to ensure that it met safety


June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

ARMANI SIGNATURE The curved arch structures in the lobby stamp Armani’s name on the hotel immediately, as they meet at various points to create an A-frame.


FROM THE TOP Giorgio Armani was involved in every aspect of design.

OPEN OPTIONS The live cooking stations in the restaurants add life and character to the hotel, relaxing the guest at the same time.


ICONIC LOCATION The setting within the Burj Khalifa posed a logistical nightmare to the teams, but will ensure the hotel remains a talking point for years to come.

A holographic tapestry at the entrance of Armani/Amal, the high-end Indian restaurant, proves that Armani was not against using colour, instead adding a touch of deep red when appropriate.

ARMANI SUITES Despite the curved lines of the building, the furniture is arranged in a straight, symmetrical design.

WINE CELLAR Italian signature outlet Ristorante has 10 Italian chefs and offers wine tastings in its private dining room.

CHILLED OUT DINING AREAS The table design at Armani/Ristorante welcomes group dining in a casual ambience, although the hotel promises freshly made pastas and a wide choice of wines.

SUBTLE PATTERNS The use of texture and patterns on the lamp shades and bedding, as well as chairs and walls, creates a more comforting atmosphere than expected in such a minimalist property.

ARMANI/PECK The monochrome look comes as expected from the fashion designer.

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010



requirements, and construction and material standards,” he adds. According to Alabbar, Armani had extremely high standards to be adhered to, and it was Saeed’s role to deliver the designs as specified. “Almost everything was doable; it just tool a while and some real guts,” says Saeed. The hotel’s location within the Burj Khalifa also presented its own unique challenges, he adds. “You won’t really find this in another project. Because the hotel was connected to something else — in terms of the physical, in terms of paperwork, in terms of integration — it made it a little more complicated, or challenging. There will not be another Burj for a while now,” says Saeed. “Everybody is looking at this with a microscope. You couldn’t get away with anything. Your drawings, your technical expertise and your people had to be scrutinised. Safety systems, quality control — everything was to a higher standard,” he says, referring to the project as “the peak” for Fino. As close to the project as Saeed was though, he says it was impossible to visualise the end result. “We could not, as normal people, visualise how the hotel would look like once it was finished,” adds Saeed. “It turned out to be a one of a kind. When we walked though it on the opening day, we were amazed. Only then did we fully understand what he was trying to do. When we saw it all, with the flowers and the accessories, only then did we realise that this is an Armani design.” While the minimalism of the hotel is one element that sets it apart, this is not to be confused with a lack of attention to detail. Saeed continues: “Most hotels in Dubai are full of colour, and crystals and chandeliers — you will not see any of this in the Armani hotel. There are no colours, no crystals, no gold leafing, and no chandeliers in the building at all. It is a totally different concept. It is very elegant, very exquisite, very refined. You will not see colourful fabrics or wallpaper. There is nothing hanging on the wall. You don’t see paintings or anything like that. The entire job converts the traditional Arabic image into the modern design of Armani. “You have these grand arches, and this idea of the majlis, and all this is incorporated in one go [in the lobby]. Sometimes, what designers do is they make the fabric reflect the culture, or the wallpaper — with this, the entire architecture reflects the culture,” asserts Saeed. Coming back to the launch of the hotel, EHG CEO Marc Dardenne says this, in turn, reflected Armani’s understated and elegant approach. “I think the way we opened the hotel is very much in line with the Armani brand. We didn’t want to hype this up as being the greatest hotel in the world — in my opinion its always customers who decide if you are a good or a bad hotel.” So what was the feedback of Armani himself, a born perfectionist? “After five years of working on this project on paper I saw it for real. It was marvellous to see how it came to life,” says Armani. HME June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

ROOM FURNISHINGS Again, it’s not all blacks and greys inside Armani. There are white tables in the suites, but the walls in the rooms remain plain as per the theme of the entire hotel.

SLEEP TIGHT There are 160 guest rooms and suites. The smallest pictured here is 45m² with a rack rate of AED 4000. The largest suite, called Armani Dubai, is 340m² and is priced at AED 40,000++.

ARMANI/PRIVE The entrance to the exclusive nightclub, where Armani has even had a say in the music that is played.

59 The spacious bathroom is simple rather than ornate.

The restaurants benefit from terraces and floor to ceiling windows, making them light and airy, and the décor in Armani/Ristorante complements this.

ARMANI/SPA At the spa, guest book their session by time instead of treatment.

OUTDOOR FEATURES The hotel offers a range of terraces, including one with an L-shaped swimming pool.

FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS The use of flowers at the Armani Hotel is very subtle, with small arrangements on tables, and guests can buy fresh flowers and Armani-designed vases from Armani/Fiori.

SOCIAL HUB Comfort and class are offered in the cigar lounge, while the champagne bar at the entrance to the Indian restaurant Armani/Amal has a cooler vibe. This image also shows the curved walls of the Armani Hotel and how the design fits seamlessly around them. According to Fino’s Talal Saeed, “there was not one straight line in the job”.

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010





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The right furniture is critical to creating ambience outdoors and pulling in the guests. Suppliers reveal their top tips for choosing the best products for your hotel

DEDON Dedon, the outdoor furniture company, has been in business for more than 20 years and produces a wide range of products designed for outdoor use. There has been an increase in the use of outdoor space in hotels in recent years, according to Dedon international contract director Angel Salvador. “The importance of outdoor living has been a growing trend in Europe, the US and the Middle East for quite some time, so hotels now intensify the usage of their outdoor space. People find their way back to the basic things

in life and they take nature and being outdoors as their source of inspiration and relaxation,” says Salvador. “When Dedon started with the vision of an outdoor living room, it simply identified a demand, a niche, which nobody had covered before. Being outdoors is one thing, living outdoors is very different. Therefore, creating exceptional outdoor areas is just the extension of the indoor living area. Beautiful furniture is beautiful furniture, no matter if it’s inside or outside,” he adds. During Milan Design Week 2010, the


company presented the first pieces from its new collection Play, which was designed by Phillipe Starck. The collection, which is based on a concept of interchangeable combinations of materials and colours, paves the way for ‘a future of specially customised furniture and an array of possible combinations’. Play includes pieces of outdoor furniture that can be redesigned to achieve a personal fit, ordered online, produced upon request, and includes the opportunity for the purchaser to have some input in creating the final product, which Dedon believes makes the process of buying outdoor furniture much more ‘liberating and fun’. In terms of design, Salvador is keen to point out that there are different considerations to take in when creating furniture for outdoor use. “The approach of designing outdoors is totally different just due to the fact that

the material used to create these livable areas needs to withstand very tough climate conditions, such as sun, rain, dust, cold and warm temperatures and so on. Another important factor in the design of outdoor spaces is that you need to be able to mix the architecture and design within a natural environment,” Salvador adds.

SALVADOR’S PICKS One of our best selling products, and a classic for the contract business, is our Holiday collection. It consists of eight different furniture components, suitable for lounging, beach, bar, pool and dining. Holiday has been extended with the addition of two more dining tables, which fit perfectly with the simplicity of the range.

Dedon makes buying outdoor furniture ‘liberating’.

For more information about Hotelier Middle East suppliers contact or +971 4 210 8475.

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010


The Great Outdoors



PARASOL Parasol garden furniture works closely with suppliers in Indonesia to bring the latest products, trends and designs in outdoor furniture to the United Arab Emirates. According to Parasol managing director Mark Sault “trends in outdoor furniture have changed massively in the last few years”. “The design aesthetic and comfort factor are all important. The influx of the European Beach Club look has influenced many hotels into creating a grown-up chilled out area, which with our climate really makes the most of the outdoor spaces,” he says. Following the global economic crisis, Sault says that hotels are looking at their outdoor areas as a way of enticing customers with new surroundings without needing to completely refurbish their properties. “The credit crunch has taught many businesses to tighten their belts and hotels are no exception. By utilising the often stunning outdoor space they can create new venues, increase covers and create a winning ambience, all for a relatively small outlay,” maintains Sault. “Hoteliers are really viewing the outdoor spaces as a value added area rather than just

as an add-on to the interiors.” Sault believes that the use of outdoor furniture is particularly important in the Middle East, as both tourists and locals want to sit outside and enjoy the weather — particularly in winter. “All hotels in this region should really encompass al fresco dining. It is essential to have comfortable and stylish furniture to reflect the entire ambience of the particular hotel. Given that some of our leading hotels have spectacular vistas they must ensure that their furniture enhances the sense of occasion,” he says. “Tourists and residents alike love to enjoy the outdoor atmosphere, which is available for many months of the year. Hotels should create

CREATING STYLE Many hotels in the region have really impressed with their exterior layouts. We particularly liked the work we did with The Horizon Lounge at The Habtoor Grand, where we created a real chilled out beach club style. It has really succeeded in becoming a great venue with style and a warm ambience.

Utilising outdoor space can create new venues, increase covers and create winning ambience for little money.

ALL HOTELS IN THIS REGION SHOULD REALLY ENCOMPASS AL FRESCO DINING an escapist fantasy — and by creating outdoor havens they will help any visitor feel relaxed and indulged,” observes Sault. The current demand in outdoor furniture, Sault says, is for furniture which compliments the outdoor swimming pool area.

“Great sun beds, day beds and loungers are yet another essential — for many tourists these represent the area where most of the holiday will be spent. It is therefore essential to ensure comfort, quality and a great design,” he stresses.

DESERT RIVER Desert River represents European seating, lighting and contemporary products for homes and commercial projects. Desert River owner Claudia Van Der Werf says that hotels in the region, particularly in Dubai, are using branding to make their outdoor spaces stand out.

NEW PRODUCTS New products include the Karim Rashid designed Blos arm chair —specifically designed for outdoor use. It is available in various funky colours.Also new is the rap bench seat, designed by Karim Rashid. Both products are very different from the traditional wooden or wicker outdoor furniture which is usually on offer.

“Dubai has always been known for its glamorous outdoor venues, but nowadays every hotel has to have at least one outdoor venue that is branded, for example; The Sky Lounge, The Terrace, The Peroni Lounge at Bussola at the Mina Seyahi. So rather than just having an outdoor place to have drinks, hotels make a concept of it and market it as such, to maximise revenue,” she asserts. Van Der Werf says that the current trend in outdoor furniture is about producing quality furniture on a post-downturn budget. “The trend is for clean, modern lines with a twist. Quality remains a focus, of course, for heavy duty use but staying within budget is equally important nowadays. Our European products are all in the mid-to-high end of the price range but they are never excessive. We offer good value for money.”


The current trend Van Der Werf is seeing in outdoor furniture is for products with modern lines and a twist. Desert River has launched several new products this year such as the Slide range from Italy and is continuing to do well with its established ranges. “The outdoor furniture favourites from

Desert River include the Blofied range; inflatable sofas which are available in three new colours and in a four-seater option, which can be used to good effect for outdoor lounging,” she says.

For more information about Hotelier Middle East suppliers contact or +971 4 210 8475

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East


Manufacturer of Quality Indoor & Outdoor Contract Furniture Banquet, Conference, Restaurant, Beach & Poolside PO Box 22285, Sharjah, UAE TEL +971 6 5322462, Fax +971 6 5337271 Email: Website:



FALAKNAZ THE WAREHOUSE Falaknaz The Warehouse has been operating in the furniture industry in Dubai since 1996. The company initially focused on providing a range of indoor teak furniture and subsequently expanded its reach to include areas such as accessories, lighting and teak and synthetic garden furniture. Falaknaz The Warehouse marketing manager Stephen Foot believes that the essential item for hotels to use in outdoor spaces is an umbrella.

BEST SELLERS We have a range called Malta which is a synthetic range with a modular design — so you can make it up for the areas you want it in. That is always a very popular range, we are always running out of it and that is the number one outdoor furniture product I would say we are always selling.

“For essential products, it’s got to be an umbrella for sure. It is easy for staff to use, you can reposition it. It’s so hot here that you need shade and it’s got to be a good fabric,” Foot says. “We have noticed, with Dubai being windy, that people buy inferior umbrellas and then they break in the conditions; the wind, the sand, the heat. The new range of umbrellas that we are launching is made up of quality products designed for the hotel industry.” In addition to the trend for umbrellas, Foot says that he has noticed a recent preference for the use of synthetic materials in outdoor furniture products. “Trying to make (synthetic) look a little more natural; that will be the next big thing for design,” Foot says. “One of the important things for hotels to think about is maintaining outdoor furniture. The thing with a synthetic product is that it is lightweight, the staff can move it, but also when it comes to cleaning you just jet wash it and it’s done — you don’t


The use of synthetic outdoor furniture makes for low maintenance products which are easy for staff to move. need to do anything else and it’s very low maintenance, you don’t need to do much to it if it’s a good synthetic,” he adds. Foot cites the Burj Al Arab as a hotel which has made good use of the outdoor space, particularly pointing at the area around the pool and the bar area as examples of outdoor space done well. It is this use of outdoor space in hotels which Foot believes is such a big attraction to tourists if utilised properly.

“I think people come here for sunshine, and sitting by the beach and the pool – it makes hotels realise that their outdoor space is one of the key selling points. “People want to get out of rainy England and top up their tan, so I mean that is the big pull and they have to make it enticing. There is competition with hotels to try and lure the customers in. Have a nice ambience, a nice feel and it really adds to the value of a hotel,” Foot asserts.

GANDIA BLASCO Gandia Blasco started business in 1941 in Valencia, as a producer and manufacturer of blankets. Following the production of other textile products during the early 1990s, the company launched its first outdoor furniture range in 1996. Current trends in outdoor furniture are leaning towards the high end of the market according to Gandia Blasco area sales manager Alejandro Morelló. “What is popular at the moment is the chaise lounges and the special items which are used to create VIP areas. In a VIP area you would have day beds, or a double chaise which gives your privacy when it is covered. This creates more luxury and is the sort of outdoor

furniture that hotels are using for their VIP areas,” says Morelló. And according to Morelló, the use of outdoor space in the region has not yet reached its full potential. “The use of outdoor space in the region — it’s just starting. Here in the Middle East it’s just recently that people see that it is important to have outdoor furniture as it makes their hotel more special and it is the way to make a difference between one hotel and another one,” he says. “Nowadays everybody is starting to recognise across all of the brands that it is important for hotels to have this outdoor space, for the quality of their property.”


The use of outdoor space in the region is just beginning.

OUTDOOR ESSENTIALS In this region, people enjoy being outside. I think it is quite important if hotels have a swimming pool to have the correct chaise lounges and a sofa where people can sit and relax. A beautiful outdoor space will add more value to a hotel.

For more information about Hotelier Middle East suppliers contact or +971 4 210 8475

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East


ZENIA HOME Zenia Home launched in 2009 as a wholesale company which supplies a range of outdoor garden furniture and accessories to commercial and private clients. Zenia Home managing director Reem Nassar maintains that the essential outdoor products for any hotel are sunbeds and outdoor seating. ‘Sunbeds are important as well as seating. Lots of hotels in the area have restaurants with outdoor seating because of the lovely weather we have here. With seating, it is good to have square seats which attach to one another depending on how many people you have at the table. As a practical consideration, it is also important that they are stackable so that it can be put away,” maintains Nassar. In terms of the materials that are used in outdoor seating, Nassar believes that hotels are looking for options which are both practical and attractive. “Rattan is popular at the moment, synthetic

rattan. It is right for the weather here as it can take the humidity and the heat — it is even fine if it rains. You just hose it down to clean it and it is very light weight because it has an aluminum frame,” she says. As the popularity of outdoor furniture increases, it is the lounge culture which Nassar believes is dominating the outdoor furniture trend at the moment. “In terms of trends, daybeds are very popular

WHY USE OUTDOOR SPACE IN HOTELS? It is important to use outdoor space because we have such a lovely winter here. The sun is out for so many days of the year and people who are coming here on holidays, that is what they come here for — so hotels must make the most of it.

The outdoor furniture trend is for the lounge culture, with daybeds, side and dining tables becoming popular.

RATTAN IS POPULAR AT THE MOMENT, IT IS RIGHT FOR THE WEATHER HERE at the moment. Primarily hotels are looking for sunbeds, daybeds and side tables. Also dining tables, especially those that are round

or square that can fit four chairs at the table — they are very popular with cafes and terraces,” asserts Nassar.

For more information about Hotelier Middle East suppliers contact or +971 4 210 8475.

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010


This month Hotelier brings you the latest in floor coverings, from decking to soft carpets NORDIC HOMEWORX LLC REAL WOOD FLOORING Tel: +971 4 341 5010 Fax: + 971 4 341 5020 Email: Web:

ALOMI Tel: +971 4 885 8825 Fax: +971 4 885 8824 Web:

COASTAL COLLECTION The Coastal Collection from Nordic Homeworx has been designed with a maritime spirit, deriving inspiration from the light, warmth and beauty captured whenever sea meets land. The tone of the Collection incorporates the essence of coastal style, with elements of the sea, wind and waves. Each floor has narrow boards, softly brushed surfaces and a matt lacquer. The boards have a length-way pattern allowing the customer to create a unique style when laying the floor and the colours range from Seaweed – a medium brown with white details — to Driftwood Grey and Natural Oak with white details.

CRYSTAL INLAY Crystal Inlay by Preferred Specialist Services LLC is a new entrant to the Middle East market. Made from a variety of natural minerals, it can be used on a range of surfaces from interiors, exteriors, walls and floors to swimming pools and is tailored towards the luxury market. It is a very strong product which is quick to apply and can be walked on after just half an hour. The designs come in a range of stenciled outlines, personal designs of your choice, different colours and a glow in the dark option. Preferred Specialist Services LLC is the official applicator of Crystal Inlay in the Gulf region.

PREFERRED SPECIALIST SERVICES LLC Tel: +971 4 880 3100 Fax: +971 4 880 3102 Web:

ALOMI WALNUT Currently Alomi’s best selling product is the Alomi Walnut outdoor decking in select and better Grade-A material. It comprises a long and wide board in a very distinctive dark brown colour. It is ideal for use in GCC environmental conditions such as high temperatures and humidity. The growth in external natural wood decking is quite amazing, according to Alomi, and the majority of use comes from hotel projects both old and new.

MESSARA TRADING Tel: +971 6 533 6625 Fax: +971 6 533 6626 Web:

ALLURE The Allure floating resilient plank flooring products by Messara Trading are 100% vinyl products which come in planks of 15cm by 91cm. The luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) look like wood flooring but have an advantage over wood or laminate products in that they are 100% waterproof, according to Messara Trading. The tiles do not expand or contract with humidity and can be used in wet areas like kitchens, bathrooms, restaurants and bars. The product is dimensionally stable so there is no need to leave gaps on installation and it is ‘floating’ so doesn’t need to be glued down — each plank sticks to each other so you can easily remove the tiles and leave the flooring below intact. The product can be installed by the purchaser or by a company representative.

For more information about Hotelier Middle East suppliers contact or +971 (0)4 210 8475.

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010


Product Guide: flooring



AL SORAYAI GROUP Tel: +966 2 691 8222 Fax: +966 2 697 4771 Web:

PRINTED CARPETS Printed Carpets by Al Sorayai are made of heavy duty fire retardant nylon. The weight of the carpets varies from 100 grams to 2500 grams — depending on the density and the market requirements. Any design can be printed on this kind of carpet — from existing designs to photographs — and it can be made up depending on the specifications of the customer.

CONVERT HD Inspired by the allure of vintage couture, InterfaceFlor’s Convert HD category of carpet tiles has been designed exclusively for the hospitality market. From racy animal prints and novelty mod patterns to the graphic strength and energy of Gothic-inspired design, Convert HD products celebrate the iconic fabrics, textures and patterns that define the enduring, interesting and influential styles of yesterday. These styles are manufactured with neverbefore-seen levels of postconsumer (PC) recycled content — uniquely INTERFACEFLOR MEA SHOWROOM reclaimed from just about Tel: +971 4 399 6934 any used carpet harvested Web: through InterfaceFlor’s ReEntry® 2.0 programme, a closed loop recycling process. These new styles of flooring transform waste into something which is both fashionable and beautiful.

TORLYS ME Tel: +971 4 341 3484 Email: Website:

TOTAL WOOD SOLUTIONS Mob: + 971 50 922 0168 Tel: + 971 4 329 7339 Fax: + 971 4 329 7340 TOTAL WOOD SOLUTIONS Total Wood Solutions is a specialist in wooden flooring. Besides installation the company specialises in refurbishment and maintenance of all wooden surfaces, with German certified wooden floor experts with 25 years’ experience guaranteeing the specialist assistance needed to find the right surface treatment. Products used are made in Germany and carefully chosen to perfectly match the requirements of every wooden surface.

TORLYS ME Torlys ME Leather Floors are made with a cork backing — a totally renewable resource and a natural insulator — for extra comfort, warmth and quietness. This innovative use of cork eliminates the need for an underlay in most cases, saving time and money on installation. In addition to the environmental benefit of using recycled leather, Torlys ME Leather Floors contain no harmful VOC emissions, no added formaldehyde, and exceed California Indoor Air Quality standards, among the most stringent in the world. According to Torlys ME,the leather stands up beautifully to the wear and tear of everyday living and carries a 25-year wear warranty. Every floor can be easily disassembled and moved to another room or second property, and moved up to three times under warranty.

For more information about Hotelier Middle East suppliers contact or +971 (0)4 210 8475.

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East


SOUNDMASTER© DESSO Carpet manufacturer Desso Tel: + 971 4 398 5900 has utilised new technology Web: Email: to develop a next-generation carpet backing that is able to absorb sound. Standard carpet gives sound reduction properties of between 20 and 30 decibels. SoundMaster© gives a further reduction of 10 dB or more, says Desso, which means the sound is 10 times quieter — reducing the impact of noise in busy open plan offices, or other environments where noise can be distracting, intrusive or damaging to health. SoundMaster© is made from a special layer construction and is uniquely designed to provide optimal sound absorption and insulation. It is made from 100% polyester (40% recycled) that also offers eco-efficient benefits, and is now available with many of Desso’s existing ranges of carpet tiles.

ADNC Tel: +971 2 551 5100 Fax: +971 2 551 5101 Web: ABU DHABI NATIONAL CARPET FACTORY A wide range of carpets are made in the UAE at the Abu Dhabi National Carpet Factory. Ranging from 80% wool carpets, which are used for the hospitality industry, to nylon or polypropane carpets, all carpets are made up to the customers’ specification and can be fashioned to match existing interior or to suit consumers’ unique needs.

For more information about Hotelier Middle East suppliers contact or +971 (0)4 210 8475.

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010

We refurbish wooden floors. We do it so well

in fact, that we have a hard time walking away once we’re done. • • • • •

Wooden floor refurbishment Scratches and hole removal Sanding and lacquering Maintenance and care services Products for protection and long life

Certified German parquet experts in the UAE.

PO Box 34022, Grosvenor Building, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, UAE Tel: +971 4 329 7339 | Fax: +971 4 329 7340 | Mob: +971 50 9220168 A division of Total Automation Co LLC


Products: pick of the month Hotelier Middle East brings you a selection of the latest products to hit the hospitality marketplace

ECLECTIC FURNITURE LG Hausys has introduced Twisted, an eclectic collection of furniture designed by Philip Michael Wolfson. The collection’s complex shapes create a choreography of motion and continual transformation. Twisted includes Eruption, a low table, the Twisted Bar, the Split stool and low chair, the Twisted Desk, and the Why Not console.

NEW FROM BOCONCEPT BoConcept has unveiled its latest collection of lamps. While the colour basics are still black and white, this year’s palette also includes turquoise, orange, red and multi-coloured stripes. Shades come in all sizes and in a range of materials, including glass, wood and coloured aluminium.

BoConcept Tel: +971 4 341 4144 Web:

Wolfson Design Tel: +44 207 229 3221 Web:

TWISTER & WISPER Orange Technology has introduced Twister and Wisper in the Middle East. Developed by Austrian environmental engineer, Siegfried Kogelbauer, the brass fittings are inserted into shower and tap fixtures and contribute to water savings of up to 68%. Water is swirled as it passes through the fixture, ensuring that it is enriched with oxygen. ORANGE TECHNOLOGY Tel: +971 50 640 8189 Web:

Technogym Tel: +971 4 337 5337 Email: Web: FITNESS FOR FACEBOOK FANS VISIOweb from Technogym is the first integrated display offering internet, TV and iPod connections during workouts. With VISIOweb, the most incurable social network addicts have no more excuses for skipping physical exercise, as now they too can dedicate more time to their health while twittering, contacting friends on facebook and keeping up-to-date with all the latest news.

For more information about Hotelier Middle East suppliers contact or +971 4 210 8475

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010

Immaculately Manufactured. Impeccably Presented. Custom Designed Furniture for Hotels.

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• News • Analysis • Innovations • Trends

Front office managers tire of technology Self check-in kiosks suitVirtual concierges will never replace the human touch able for all hotel scales Hotels are at risk of losing their “personal touch” amid an increased reliance on technology, gadgets and online applications, especially in the front office. Speaking at a Hotelier Middle East roundtable, Mövenpick Hotel and Apartments Bur Dubai front office manager Dan Benzaquen said “there is enough technology” on the market already. “Hospitality is one of the oldest businesses and if you add more technology, you’ll lose the personal touch,” said Benzaquen. “It will never be able to replace that personal touch and it will never manage to create that guest retention,” agreed The Address Dubai Mall front office manager Frank Motzkus.

Despite the introduction by many hotels of virtual concierge systems, for example, Benzaquen and Motzkus said that guests would choose a real concierge if one was available. Motzkus explained: “While our clientele like to see progress and new designs, and are fairly new kids on the block who like to try and test things, they also enjoy the human touch. “There are so many requests that would be impossible on a computerised, automated system.” Media One Hotel director of front office Steven Mueller added: “For years, many hotels and companies have provided these pages on the internet where you can look up everything from weather to restaurants, and it’s actu-

Marriott Dubai Harbour Hotel and Suites front office manager Murat Askin and The Address Dubai Mall front office manager Frank Motzkus talk about the personal touch.

ally proven that nobody uses them”. At Marriott Dubai Harbour Hotel and Suites, front office manager Murat Askin said he spent three and a half months setting up a virtual concierge, whereby prior to arrival guests can use it for everything from requesting a special type of pillow to booking an excursion. “When they book they are sent an email with the virtual concierge, then you have a wish list and different options where you can choose certain amenities for your room, arrival time etc,” said Askin. “It’s been going for two months and the only thing the guest updates is the arrival time and requests an early check in. ” Motzkus said that at The Address Dubai Mall, only 1% of guests complete the guest profile attachment sent with every reservation email confirmation made through the CRS. “The best way to get to know guests is to get them in the hotel. Before that, it’s literally impossible, which I think falls back to the personal touch,” said Motzkus.

Electronic self check-in kiosks are relevant for all sectors of the hospitality industry said panelists at a technology seminar held last month. The seminar, which was held at The Hotel Show, in Dubai Exhibition Centre, discussed the importance of technology versus the importance of people. Infosight technical advisor and panel member Ted Horner said: “Kiosks can fit across the range. The reality today is that if I’m in a fivestar hotel, why shouldn’t there be a kiosk to give me the choice? If I want to get to my room quickly and I’m familiar with kiosks, they speed up the check in.” This view was shared by fellow panelist and ProtempIT ltd director Kirsten

Molle who said: “It widens the customer choice. You don’t want to have to go to reception, to have to talk to somebody. For me a check-in kiosk, if I can manage it by myself, is perfect”. “A lot of this to me is about what our product portfolio is — so you may have a reception desk as well as [a kiosk],” she added. Although Horner stated that kiosks were relevant for the five-star sector, he did concede that they were more likely to be used in lower to mid-scale hotels. “You will see a greater proliferation of kiosks in the lower priced hotel scales because it’s a cost scenario, there is a very strong investment analysis when you look at the cost of labour versus the cost of kiosks,” he said.

Infosight’s Ted Horner and ProtempIT ltd’s Kirsten Molle discuss technology and people.

Hilton Hotels and Time Out Dubai launch iPhone city guide app The Hilton Hotels brand in association with Time Out Dubai is set to launch the UAE’s first downloadable city guide. The new application will be available for complimentary download for all iPhone

and iPod Touch users via iPhone and features extensive hotel, restaurant, nightlife and film listings, as well as reviews. “Dubai is a business and cultural magnet, attract-

ing people from around the world and there is a constant need for updated information on where to go in the city,” said Hilton Hotels global brand marketing vice president Andrew Flack. “With this in mind, we

are sponsoring the Time Out Dubai application, which will offer residents and visitors, an interactive guide on the things to do and places to see, supplemented by satellite maps, and reviews on the city’s attractions.”

iPhone and iPod Touch users will be able to download the Hilton Time Out Dubai Application for free, from their device’s application store when it launches from May 31st (subject to Apple approval). Hotelier Middle East • June 2010



From geek to grandma Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts regional IT guru Roger MacFarlaine says that as long as in-room technology is simple to use and responsive, it will improve the guest’s experience in your hotel

IT EXPERT efore the days of internet, mobile phones and online booking engines, guests enjoyed a more personal touch when checking in and staying at hotels. A bright smile and warm greeting was a pleasing sight for many a weary traveler. The personal interaction between guests and hotel staff was, and still is, a key differentiator between one hotel and another. In recent years the ‘fly in the ointment’ that may be seen as spoiling that marriage has been the implementation and use of technology in our hotels. This begs the question — what is the right amount of technology to employ to comfort our guests without them being overwhelmed or irritated? For IT persons and hoteliers, it is both a science and an art to find that happy medium. Today’s guest cannot be corralled by any genre nor demographic because all guests now travel with notebook pcs, mp3 players, and mobile phones all containing personal content, so they look for a hotel experience that provides them some levels of familiarity. These tech savvy guests are generally on the move and look to understand technology in our hotels quickly. In our hotels, the technology services we provide must work and operate without any problems. To a guest


June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

Make sure it’s not merely the IT geeks who understand how to use your in-room technology, says MacFarlaine.


there is nothing more frustrating than when a piece of technology is too complicated, difficult to understand or just does not work. After all, how many times have we heard or read guests comments like this: ‘The remote that controlled all of the lights and TV was downright confusing to use’. No doubt some of us have had the exact same feeling! When it comes to in-room technology, the average guest would allow about 30 seconds to come to terms with a piece of technology and

if it is too complicated, then they give in and are generally frustrated. In my experience, many adopt technology for technology’s sake, working ‘on the fly’ as to how to use it to deliver a particular service. I would rather hotels implement one technology offering and do it well, than presenting many and failing in all of them.

COMMON SENSE APPROACH Sometimes hotel IT geeks dream up technology services that overwhelm

the guest instead of applying a common sense approach to the technology that is so easy that grandma can use it. I believe that the IT geeks must always put themselves in the shoes of the guest and look at technology and the functionality from their perspective. High tech in the back and low tech in the front is a good credo to have. Are we hurting the guest service experience by delivering individual services using technology? On the contrary — technology in our hotels should be responsive and in response to guests’ needs. Now, I am not implying that we move away from providing our guests with a personal touch and letting technology services take over — instead, the technology should enhance the personal touch and servicing of our guests. In reality, technology in our hotels has been evolutionary because today’s guests are now computer literate, so providing such technologies is not only helping our hotel operations but actually giving our guests what they want. For example, a guest who is looking for a restaurant destination can access the web quickly from his room (via a hotel’s internet and wifi network,) can select a restaurant to eat at, and also determine the appropriate dress. They don’t have to wait for the concierge to call back with questions to determine the guests’ likes, needs and preferences. In summary, service technology options have enhanced the guest service experience. And it doesn’t matter whether this guest is staying for business or pleasure; fast and efficient servicing, via technology, is key to addressing their needs. Once thought of as a ‘value -add’, in-room technology-based services are now a critical success factor in a hotel’s day to day operations. For more on in-room technology, see our analysis on pages 76-79. HME



Get Connected! Lee Jamieson discovers that guests are demanding more from their in-room systems. Technology moves fast — but can hoteliers keep up?


IN-ROOM TECHNOLOGY oteliers across the region are discovering that the technological demands of their guests are becoming increasingly more complex. The role of in-room technology has evolved: whereas hotels once provided discrete in-room systems, they now have to support a wide range of devices and technological platforms. The travellers of today require “plug and play” compatibility between their own personal devices and the hotel’s in-room technology provision. networks. “Guests arrive at the hotel with all the technology they need,” explains Rotana corporate vice president for information technology, Samir Abi Frem. “The challenge is to find a way to integrate their devices into the existing in-room hotel systems.” “Nowadays, nearly every guest is carrying an iPod, digital camera and a 3G mobile. The customers’ changing needs are therefore driving market developments. For example at Rotana, our guests can connect their media devices to our in-room audiovisual equipment to create a more homely experience.” As guests change their media consumption habits, hoteliers must realign their in-room technology


Marwan Al Ali, of Jumeirah Group: We want to help guests reduce their carbon footprint. June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

appropriately. It is therefore essential for hoteliers to fully understand the evolving technological and media consumption requirements of their customers and to enable quick and easy connectivity between media devices and formats. Anticipating the growing momentum behind this trend, Starwood placed connectivity at the heart of its Aloft brand when it opened in Right: VingCard lock. Below: MediaHub by TeleAdapt.

STAY CONNECTED Guests are demanding more from internet-based services. On top of accessing the hotel’s services they also expect to be able to stream video, access VoIP accounts and upload photos and videos to their networks.

STAY WIRELESS With an increasing number of guests arriving with wireless enabled devices, it is essential to support their business and personal needs. A good, reliable wireless network can benefit both your guests and streamline your operations by providing real-time reports on guest room status.

STAY COMPATIBLE The technologies you invest in must be scalable and adaptable. Invest in a system that uses industry standard protocols and is capable of adapting to new technologies as they emerge.

STAY SIMPLE Guests want “plug and play” compatibility. Ensure that you invest in user-friendly systems that can be operated intuitively by your guests.


STAY HUMAN In all the excitement, don’t forget that superior customer service lies at the heart of every guest’s experience. Technology can only ever assist that experience.


GUESTS ARRIVE AT THE HOTEL WITH ALL THE TECHNOLOGY THEY NEED. THE CHALLENGE IS TO FIND A WAY TO INTEGRATE THEIR DEVICES INTO THE EXISTING IN-ROOM HOTEL SYSTEMS Aloft guest rooms, which are equipped with a plug and play device connected to a 42 inch LCD TV. Abu Dhabi in October last year. “We recognised that being able to connect laptops and media players is extremely important for our guests,” explains Aloft Abu Dhabi’s director of operations, Rainer Weinberg. “We have therefore equipped our guest rooms with a plug and play device connected to a 42 inch LCD TV.”

Aloft partnered with TeleAdapt and installed their in-room media connectivity solution for hotels, MediaHub. The product works by acting as an extension of the inroom TV by providing ports for the guest’s own electronics. “Business travellers who are away from their families appreciate a conduit to reconnect them with their

homes,” says TeleAdapt regional manager Inam Haider. “They want to enjoy their own media choices on the in-room TV without feeling like they have to crack into a safe in order to do it.” Speaking of safes, the technology for in-room security can also be linked to guests’ own products and systems. This has enabled VingCard Elsafe to secure a sizable mar-

Samir Abi Frem of Rotana: We must incorporate the guests’ own technology in the rooms. ket share of the region’s guestroom lock market. VingCard’s RFID locks are compatible with a guest’s personal technology — with a NFC-enabled cell

TABOU innovation and design by burgess

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Hotelier Middle East • June 2010



ON THE MARKET: BEOVISION 10 – BY BANG AND OLUFSEN The newly-released BeoVision 10 is Bang and Olufsen’s slimmest flat screen TV. The screen uses the latest LED backlight technology and a “judder cancellation” system to ensure crisp, high-quality visuals. More importantly, the TV’s aesthetic is typical of Bang and Olufsen design and would add a mark of quality to any hotel guestroom. TEL: +971 4 367 1801 EMAIL: WEB:

TEL: +1 425 776 4946 EMAIL: WEB: TV MIRROR – BY ELECTRIC MIRROR Designed for the luxury hotel guest room, this TV screen vanishes behind a mirror when not in use. The 70 by 86-inch thin-profile mirror places an emphasis on the guest room décor by removing the need to design the entire room around the TV. The integrated 42-inch HDTV comes with DVD and Bose speakers.

TEL: +971 6 526 2435 EMAIL: WEB: RFID ELECTRONIC LOCKS – BY VINGCARD ELSAFE Contactless RFID electronic locks are fast replacing mag-stripe locks because they offer security benefits to the guest and operational benefits for the hotelier. VingCard has become a market leader and over 40,000 guestrooms are using the technology. For extra security, VingCard’s locks come with “anti-cloning” technology to identify and stop cloned RFID key cards.

phone a guest can dispense with the traditional room key. They can check in remotely from the airport, go straight to the room upon arrival and operate the door lock with their mobile phone. “By having every lock wirelessly connected, a new array of features and benefits becomes available,” explains VingCard Elsafe regional vice president Manit Narang. “You can cancel, extend and also reassign cards with just one click from a central computer. “You can even use pre-issued loyalty key cards so that guests don’t need to get their room key issued at June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

the front desk. And this same technology also extends to some of our in-room safes.”

HOME FROM HOME The modern guestroom has become a hub – a place where guest technology connects with the hotel’s; a place where guests can connect with their work, their families and their virtual lives. For many foreign business travellers the ability to connect with their colleagues, partners and customers with minimal disruption is of paramount importance. The growth in VoIP, the standard protocol for

TEL: +971 4 3678283 EMAIL: WEB:

MEDIAHUB – BY TELEADAPT MediaHub allows guests to plug their portable electronics into the inroom entertainment system via a single console. TeleAdapt’s MediaHub HD product also features a stereo Bluetooth pairing point so guests can wirelessly connect their iPods or MP3-playing SmartPhones to the inroom sound system.

voice over the internet, is making this possible by enabling users to make audio and video calls via the internet regardless of their location — and for a fraction of the price charged by traditional telephone service providers. “The demand for internet-based call solutions is increasing as more and more guests seek to connect online with colleagues and family whilst on the road,” says City Seasons group IT manager Ehab Medhat. “This technology could dramatically reduce costs for hotels.” However, VoIP has been a contentious issue in the Middle East for

many years. The UAE only legalised it in March and Etisalat’s VoIP rollout strategy is not yet complete. In time, the introduction of VoIP in the UAE has the potential to radically change guestroom technology. “I think that IT professionals will be working hard to implement IP Telephony over the next few years,” adds Medhat. “Screen-based IP phones offer a more interactive way to communicate with our guests. For example, hotels could share promotions that could be accepted via a touch sensitive phone screen.” The need for connectivity is now fully embedded into the modern


concept of “room service”. Indeed, a good in-room entertainment system has the potential to improve a hotel’s RevPAR with guests feeling more comfortable and productive in their rooms. “Technology suppliers have to realise that the screen has become more than just a TV,” explains Bang and Olufsen Enterprise managing director Flemming Nielsen. “It’s an interface for the guest. ” It is therefore essential that manufacturers use standard communication protocols to enable connectivity between third party devices — now and in the future.

ECO TRAVELLERS As guests become more environmentally aware, the installation of in-room technology designed to reduce travellers’ carbon footprints has gone to the top of the agenda. The UAE’s performance is very poor, ranking in the bottom 15 on the 2010 Environmental Performance Index — more than 30 places

BeoVision 10 by Bang and Olufsen: TV can be more than a screen, it has become a guest interface. behind industrial giant, China. “Enabling our guests to reduce their carbon footprint is certainly important to us,” says Jumeirah Group chief information officer, Marwan Al Ali. “We currently deploy energy management systems that use sensors and interfaces to ensure that the energy consumption is reduced without impacting upon the guest experience.

“For example, movement sensors only activate lights when required and the air conditioning switches off when balcony doors are opened.” RWN Trading supplies a novel guestroom automation system, Zity, which is designed to reduce energy consumption, operational costs and increase guest comfort. Zity wirelessly automates things like lighting, blinds, and audio-visual settings.

RWN Trading marketing director, Carol Prince, explained: “Zity optimises the guestroom’s energy consumption, which soon adds up to a substantial saving for the hotel.” Potentially, general managers could use the data collected through their EOS systems as a marketing tool — touting their green credentials to attract carbon-conscious guests. “Occupancy rates of green buildings are approximately 3.5% higher,” adds Prince. The revolution for introducing robust in-room technologies is now in full swing across the Middle East. But hoteliers should remember that, although this trend may feel cutting edge, it is actually an extension of a very simple, age-old principle. Hoteliers have long understood the importance of adapting their services and facilities around the changing needs of their guests — and with today’s customers arriving with an array of “plug and play” technology, the modern guestroom needs to adapt with them. HME

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• News • Trends • Analysis • Hotel listings

Middle East market ready for shared ownership Summit addresses new trends in the market, from whole ownership to rental exchange plans TRENDS The predictions for shared ownership in emerging markets such as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are predominantly positive, a recent summit concluded. Speaking at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference Shared Ownership Summit, RCI Middle East and North Africa managing director Jeff Tisdall said that the shared ownership model had good potential in the region. “If the history of more mature markets repeats itself in Dubai — what we are going to find is that in markets like Abu Dhabi, Dubai, the north coast of Egypt — we are in the very early stages of a phenomenally attractive growth curve. “We are also seeing a true formula for success in emerging markets and it really is taking the lessons and successful models from mature markets, coupling those with regional development expertise and then combining local consumer insights,” Tisdall said. However, the MENA region would not be without challenges

in the shared ownership market, warned Northcourse managing director Claude Attala. “The weaknesses in the MENA region are basically that there is no natural demand [for shared ownership]; we have to try and stimulate demand, we have to organise well to be able to do it. One of the greatest challenges in the region has been the question of skilled labour and finding the right kind of personnel, especially on the sales and marketing side,” Attala maintained. Attala also pointed to the need to consider other negative factors such as the low market entry price for real estate in the region, which could erode purchase rationale. If the shared ownership market is to develop in the region, Tisdall indicated a number of emerging trends which should be capitalised upon to enhance the potential of shared ownership developments. The trends in the shared ownership market include whole ownership within a mixed-use development and the rental and exchange programme discussed by RCI, both of which Tisdall felt were important aspects of the mixed-use market.

Attala: We must create a shared ownership demand.

Jeff Tisdall: Rental and exchange good for end users.

“We’ve seen mixed use developments that have been heavily powered by whole ownership. Now whole ownership has been incredibly important to mixed-use developments, not only in MENA but around the world over the last 10 years,” he added. In addition to this, Tisdall felt that the RCI rental and exchange programme would address a gap in the market, and enhance the value proposition of end users.

“Our rental exchange product aims to bolster the value proposition of developers of second homes in two ways — firstly it expands the personal use options of end users by enabling them to exchange a portion of their resort home to travel around the world. The second thing it does is to provide them with rental income when they’re not using their home. If you take a step back and look at it, this is the basis of competitive advantage,” Tisdall said.





BX Blackstone Group (NYSE)



CHH Choice Hotels International (NYSE)



MAR Marriott International (NYSE)



KHI Kingdom Hotels (LSE)



IHG InterContinental Hotels Group (NYSE)



REZT Rezidor Hotel Group (SSE)



HOT Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide (NYSE)



LHO LaSalle Hotel Properties (NYSE)



WYN Wyndham Worldwide Corporation (NYSE)



AC Accor (PSE)



Notes: Relevant exchanges are indicated in brackets: New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), London Stock Exchange (LSE), Stockholm Stock Exchange (SSE), Paris Stock Exchange (PSE). Quotes sourced from, and Figures for May 2010 are based on quotes from April 24, 2010, compared with May 25, 2010.

For a list of upcoming properties, see To update your company’s list, contact

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010



Operators overcome security issues in Iraq Safir Hotels puts the onus on owners to fund the extensive hospitality training of Iraqi locals STORY OF THE MONTH Safir Hotels & Resorts has announced a strong focus on expanding in Iraq and associated training and security measures to enable it to manage its properties successfully. “We want to increase our presence aggressively in Iraq,” Safir Hotels CEO Helmut H Meckelburg told Hotelier Middle East at Arabian Travel Market. The Kuwait-based management company already operates one hotel in Iraq, Safir Hoda Al Wali – Karbala’a, which attracts business and pilgrimage visitors. According to Meckelburg, the company’s focus on security was a key factor in Safir Hoda Al Wali being the only hotel in the country to win a World Travel Award this year. “The key issue in Iraq is really the security concern. And while we’re seeing that Iraq as a country is stabilising every day, you still have serious security issues. So we are working with an international security company and this is one of the reasons why our hotel won the Leading Hotel in Iraq, because the security in the location we are in is very, very strong,” said Meckelburg. With Iraq one of the emerging markets under discussion at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, Meckelburg’s advice to hoteliers looking to enter Iraq was to have a “certain level of flexibility”. “You cannot insist on having your standards implemented 100%, you have to show a certain level of flexibility,” he said. “I think that we as an Arabic hospitality company understand the culture and language better than many of the international companies. We are also in a more secure position; I bring the security aspect up again and again. For us to go into Iraq it is probably less sensitive than for a foreign company going into Iraq,” Meckelburg added. Another challenge, he added, was recruitment because there are no trained hotel personnel in Iraq. June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

Safir Hoda Al Wali in Iraq.

Helmut H Meckelburg: The key issue is security here.

“One of the things we have discussed in the past few months with Iraqi owners is how do we prepare employees for a property in Iraq,” said Meckelburg. “You have to start your recruitment process much earlier and you have to provide a platform where

you can train these people long in advance instead of bringing foreigners in down the line, which is expensive and has a certain security aspect. “The management company will provide the training but the cost of it really has to be borne by the owner,” he emphasised. Safir Hoda Al Wali – Karbala’a has 385 staff, 360 of which are Iraqi. Meckelburg said that Safir had moved a taskforce of regional management and its head of risk management into Iraq prior to opening, as well as some staff from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Rotana is also expanding into Iraq, with the five-star Erbil Rotana scheduled to open this year. Rotana president and CEO Selim El Zyr said he faced exactly the same challenges as Safir Hotels. “That’s going to be a big challenge because first of all the human resources issue, and number two, safety and security,” said El Zyr. He said the plan was to train “a lot” of Iraqis, but that this had not started yet because the hotel was not ready. “Unfortunately we have to have the product to train them. We brought a few here to train in the

Emirates but very few, because also if they have the experience here they don’t want to go back. We have to train them in situ in the hotel, the dining room, in their place of work,” said El Zyr. “Initially we are going to bring in a big task force and this task force’s job would be to train and develop local resources and at the end we will keep a skeleton management team, department heads and maybe the first layer will be foreigners until we develop, because it is very expensive to bring in labour,” he added. Meanwhile, Emirates will launch flights to Baghdad from July 1, to capitalise on the “high proportion of traffic heading both in and out of Iraq”. “We are in the right position to capitalise on this demand,” said HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, chairman and chief executive, Emirates Airline and Group. Emirates expects passengers travelling in and out of Iraq to come from a variety of sources, with a significant skew towards industry and government personnel. The construction, telecommunications and oil sectors are expected to make up three of the largest industry segments.

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A view from AHIC

Bench events chairman Jonathan Worsley reports from the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference

COMMENT n the wake of the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), I am left contemplating how things have changed in a year. With AHIC 2010 now behind us and after listening to three days of high level debate and insight from industry leaders, I am pleased to say that I am somewhat optimistic about the state of the market and excited to see where the next 12 months will take us. I’m not going to lie, going into this year’s conference, I was nervous. During the last 12 months, we have seen some of the toughest market conditions ever experienced in the region. With such a strong speaker line-up in place, I was not concerned about the quality of AHIC, I was worried that the tone and message would be somewhat downbeat. My fears proved to be unfounded, although far from the giddy rhetoric of 2008, there was a positive and healthy dialogue, as our opening keynote speaker, Nenad Pacek of Global Success Advisors, assured us, “looking forward, the outlook for MENA is markedly better than 2009. The region is likely to grow 4.4% this year and 4.6% in 2011”. This places MENA as the secondfastest growing region of the world, outperforming the developed world on aggregate, which is excellent news for those of us active in region.


Pacek also highlighted some interesting mega-trends that will impact international business over the next June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

Rotana’s Selim El Zyr, HE Saif Mohammad Al Hajeri and HE Sheikh Mubarak Abdulla Al Mubarak Al Sabah discuss hotel investment in a post economic-crisis world.

the importance of efficiency in both operations and build to ensure a sustainable return on investment.


Owner-operator hard talk during AHIC, from left Hilton’s Jean-Paul Herzog, IHG’s Kirk Kinsell, Abu Dhabi National Hotels’ Richard Riley and Seven Tides’ Mike Scully, with Hamilton Hotel Partners’ Frank Croston.

decade: 1. Age of economic moderation 2. Rise of emerging markets and relative decline of the developed world 3. Sales growth will be largely in emerging markets 4. Competitive landscape will be tighter than ever 5. Age of relentless innovation – with external and internal focus Pacek commented: “Whilst MENA sits in a good position on the global economic map, emerging markets will face more competition

and slower growth. Ground-level intelligence and innovation is critical and companies will need to be closer to their clients”. I sat through most sessions but Alex Kyriakidis of Deloitte moderated a particularly memorable panel, demonstrating the new remit of MENA’s hotel investors in the post economic – crisis world. As summarised by HH Sheikh Mubarak Abdullah Al Mubarak Al Sabah, chairman of Action Hotels, “today it must be about return on equity not return on ego”. Indeed a great deal of dialogue revolved around

The geographic split of AHIC attendees (600+ delegates in total) over previous years is reflective, I believe, in the shift to serious investors who are looking at the long-term potential of the region. Attendance by delegates from the UK was down 35% on 2009, whilst from Saudi Arabia there was a 40% growth. The gap left by European attendees was filled by new attendees based in MENA. As the regional hotel investment market has matured, we are seeing strong regional players leading the industry forward. Contributions from the likes of HE Saif Mohamed Al Hajeri, chairman of Abu Dhabi National Hotels; Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, chairman, TDIC & chairman, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and Sheikh Mubarak, as mentioned earlier, left no doubt as to the presence of visionaries with a clear direction for development in the region. John Defterios of CNN Marketplace Middle East was back with us


again and wisely said “co-operation is the new destination discussion” and moderated a distinguished panel including HE Dr Rajiha Abdul Ameer Ali, Minister of Tourism for the Sultanate of Oman; HE Yassir Zenagui, Minister of Tourism & Handicraft for the Kingdom of Morocco and Dr Salah K AlBukkayet, Vice President Investment for the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities. It was illuminating to hear from those shaping the regulatory environment in which many of us are investing and operating. The importance of government involvement in securing the success of a destination came across in many panels, particularly in discussions relating to The Levant. No wrap-up of AHIC would be complete without a nod to the outstanding receptions hosted by the Jumeirah Group and Emaar Hospitality. Both generated a buzz with Emaar showing off the sleek Armani Hotel, and Jumeirah changing its ballroom to a white wonderland.

With a successful AHIC behind me, I now am off (volcanic ash allowing!) to Lausanne, where we are running the advisory board

meeting for the 14th annual International Hotel Investment Forum to be held next March in Berlin. As the event focuses on Europe, I am brac-

ing myself for a much more sombre few days. Although as I have learnt, a lot can change in a relatively short space of time —here’s hoping! HME

ACCORDING TO THE EXPERTS… AHIC on investors “Investors holding — or wanting to hold — hospitality assets must look very carefully at the market relevance and sustainable return of the asset and not just to the shortterm gain from operations.” Siegfried Nierhaus, Atlas Hospitality

“Don’t go into a ‘tax incentive’ market expecting occupancy success.” Christian Karaoglanian, Accor Hospitality

“It’s high time the operators (international flags) put something back into the markets in which they ‘play’….they should contribute to destination marketing, not leaving inbound feed to the tourism offices and airlines….”

Selim El Zyr, Rotana

Christian Karaoglanian, Accor Hospitality

Mike Scully, Seven Tides

AHIC on demand generation “Build it and they will stay…. (meaning, build the KSA tourism infrastructure, and Saudi nationals will ‘holiday’ within the Kingdom)” Dr Salah AlBukkayet, SCTA

AHIC on the operator – owner dynamic “The average management contact lasts longer than a marriage….”

AHIC on the diversification debate “Budget hotels is the way to go…. you can’t double the (occupancy) numbers at a $250 room rate any more…”

“The Levant needs ‘one destination’ promotion and fluidity more than any other cluster….” Bani Haddad, Wyndham Hotel Group

“Luxury isn’t going anywhere but here to stay – 70% of new development is in luxury…” Roeland Vos, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide

“All supply channels from architects, interior designers, contractors and so on, must understand the ‘cost engineering’ of the mid-scale segment…” Sheikh Mubarak AM Al Sabah, Action Hotels

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010


Business insights for attractions, fitness, sports and spa professionals

Bliss Spa dominates at first Spa Awards W Doha’s urban spa bags three awards at The Hotel Show’s awards breakfast ceremony AWARDS Bliss Spa at W Hotel Doha dominated the inaugural Middle East Spa Awards with three separate accolades. Announced at The Hotel Show in a breakfast ceremony attended by more than 60 spa professionals, Bliss Spa won Best Spa in the Middle East, beating runners up Amara at Park Hyatt Dubai and the Six Senses Spa at Six Senses Zighy Bay. Bliss also scooped the awards for best Spa Marketing, for which Thai Privilege Spa and SensAsia Urban Spa in Dubai were shortlisted, and best Spa Design, again beating Six Senses Zighy Bay as well as Anantara Qasr Al Sarab. Director of Bliss Spa Liliana Matic Moore said: “The awards are recognition for all our hard work. There are so many beautiful spas around the Middle East but Bliss is different because it’s so modern but people took to it straight away. I’m overwhelmed but the team works really hard and they are the ones who make the spa”.

Director of Bliss Spa at W Hotel Doha, award winner Liliana Matic Moore, collected one of her awards from European Spa Summit director David Bundy.

Bliss Spa at W Hotel Doha, which won the coveted title of Best Spa in the Middle East at the Spa Awards.

In the other categories, Thai Privilege Spa’s general manager Dr Deepa Dharjekar took home the Spa Personality Award, while the Signature Body Treatment Award was won by The Spa, The Palace, The Old Town for its One Desert Journey treatment. The Hotel Show sales director Ray Tinston said: “We would like to congratulate all the winners. The calibre of entries was outstanding and as

such the bar was set very high. Following the success of today’s awards, I hope they will continue and expand for many years to come”. Overall, 25 spas in the region entered the awards, submitting 45 separate entries across the five categories. These were then whittled down to the top three in each category before the judges visited the shortlisted spas and decided on the winners.

The five judges were: editorial consultant Kathi Everden, who specialises in the hospitality sector; Ebi Malekzadeh, owner of Esadore in Dubai and Kiousati Malek in Melbourne, which specialises in spa and medi-spa resurrections and expansions; Sonette van Rensburg, who has been in the beauty industry for 22 years as a technician and assessor; spa and hotel architect Theodora Kioussis; and Tiina-Maija Bergman, part of the business development team at Rmal Hospitality. Van Rensburg said: “The introduction of the Middle East Spa Awards is very important and an excellent way of recognising and awarding spas that are providing professional and exceptional services, innovative treatments and outstanding client care”. Of the winners she added:“Bliss is unlike any other spa concept I have come across. It is fun and exciting, with a different, unique atmosphere, the design is clean, fresh and modern with a touch of Doha and signature elements of Bliss, which are evident all over the spa but not over the top”.

Dubailand chief says project won’t be complete until 2025 ATTRACTIONS Dubailand, which was officially announced in 2003, will not be completed in its entirety until 2025, its CEO has revealed. Speaking to Leisure Manager at Arabian Travel Market, Dubailand chief executive officer Mohammed Al Habbai said that while the project was 15 years off completion, he expected to launch a new project every year in the lead up to 2025.

Dubailand chief executive officer Mohammed Al Habbai said he expects to launch a project annually until 2025.

Al Habbai said: “Most of our projects will be in phases due to the scale

of the development. By the end of this year we will have the Renaissance Hotel operating, hopefully by the end of July for the soft opening and the official opening around September”. Other future developments include the Palmarosa wellness resort, which construction is expected to begin on next month. Dubailand will cover an area of three billion square feet when completed, and currently has several projects in operation including Dubai Sports City and Dubai Outlet City.

The existing projects in Dubailand make up less than 10% of the total developments expected over the next 15 years. Dubailand currently has 130,000 people living and working there, and projects a population of 2.2 million, including tourists, residents and workers, when finally completed. “We will attract people from all over the world — they will be coming to experience the attractions from the sports academy to ecotourism, theme parks to shopping,” Al Habbai added. Hotelier Middle East • June 2010


Schletterer teams up with Mövenpick in Oman New 400 room hideaway resort and spa is under development in the Oroscom Salalah project DEVELOPMENT Spa company Schletterer has announced it will be working with Mövenpick on its new hotel and resort in the Orascom Salalah development in Oman. The Mövenpick Resort and Spa Salalah has more than 400 rooms and suites and will be situated in a tropical garden around artificial lagoons on the Arabian Sea. Schletterer Middle East regional director Gerald Huber said: “This is very interesting project. This will be a destination with a garden spa, pool experiences. It is done in a hideaway style because Salalah really offers a lot of natural surroundings and is much more based in nature and grounded than a lot of places in Dubai. “With spas in hotels, you must do things correctly and then the spa becomes a part of the brand identity of the hotel. A hotel and spa means the two work together, support each other and sell each other,” he added.

In addition to the planned spa at the Mövenpick in Salalah, Schletterer is also in the process of developing a future-pointing new health resort approach in Egypt, in co-operation with a luxury brand from Dubai. Huber says that the move towards the health resort approach is an emerging trend in the spa industry at the moment, along with an increase in ceremonial treatments, which are particularly popular in the region. “Spending a long time in the flow of the spa experience rather than having a singular treatment is popular. We are also seeing a lot of people come in with their partners or with their friends. So it is a lifestyle choice now, where you are pampering your body and your soul and you will also experience the health improvements as well,” Huber said. Schletterer will be making an official announcement about which company it is working with on the health resort development in Egypt in the near future.

Schletterer regional director Middle East Gerald Huber says spa trends are health and ceremonial treatments.

Maximum occupancy at Timeless Spa AIRPORT SPA Timeless Spa at Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport ran at 98% occupancy for a week during the flight disruptions caused by the Iceland volcano ash cloud, Emirates Hotels & Resorts senior vice president Tony Williams revealed. “For the week we ran at 98% occupancy on a spa. If you think about how long it takes to turn over a spa from when one customer leaves to the time the next customer comes, it was spooky. It was amazing,” said Williams. “It’s a great service to provide to customers and people really appreciate it and the feedback we get from it is just brilliant. When we open in the next terminal we’ll be doing it as well,” he added. June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

Emirates Hotels & Resorts Tony Williams: Feedback we get from the airport Timeless Spa is “brilliant”.

Generally speaking, Williams said that the airport spa had been “very well received”. “It’s packed, if I had another spa at the airport it would also be packed,” said Williams. Emirates Hotels & Resorts also operates Timeless Spas at its Al Maha Desert Resort and at the Emirates-owned Marriott Harbour Hotel and Suites in Dubai, but does not have any plans as yet to run its spas in properties outside of the Emirates business. “We’ve been asked a couple of times on this and quite frankly the two or three times in the last six months that we’ve looked at it, I wouldn’t have done it with either of those two, but if the right spa comes along I’ll take it up with senior management and show them the opportunity,” said Williams.

Ferrari World to open ahead of F1 Grand Prix THEME PARK Ferrari, Aldar Properties PJSC and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi have announced that the world’s first Ferrari theme park will open on October 28, 2010, ahead of the second Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Located on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi will feature more than 20 rides and attractions designed to “bring to life the Ferrari brand in ways which appeal to a diverse international audience”. At the opening date announcement, held on May 6 in Barcelona at the Spanish Grand Prix, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi unveiled one of the attractions, Formula Rossa. Billed as the world’s fastest rollercoaster, it will reach up to 240km/h.

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Fireworks mark FIBO’s 25th anniversary Raymond Sport managing director Raymond Kelly explains how FIBO 2010 emerged from the shadows of Iceland’s volcanic ash cloud to achieve record attendance at its biggest event yet

FITNESS COLUMNIST he fireworks originated in Iceland with the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano on April 14. But as the opening of Essen-based FIBO approached on April 22, the majority of airports across Europe remained closed with hundreds of thousands of travellers affected. Disaster loomed large for the FIBO conference delegates, the manufacturers, their product specialists and the marketing teams for whom this major fitness industry trade show is the highlight of the year. FIBO could be a make or break opportunity for some businesses, a must attend for industry events, or even simply entertainment for consumers on the weekend — whatever the individual drivers, for the first time in 25 years it was in jeopardy. But the fitness industry is all about making things happen. There was no better example of this than, when it looked like flights were not going to resume anytime soon, fleets of cars crammed full of marketing literature, product samples and sweaty bodies headed to Germany, taking over ferries and trains with the aim of ‘getting this show on the road’. As it was, much of European airspace opened 24 hours before the show started and the watchword is that FIBO was a resounding success with record attendance. Just don’t tell that to the exhibitors who could neither get their products there nor themselves. Every cloud has a silver lining they say and the silver lin-


June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

Proxowell’s Core Circuit machine bagged a FIBO Innovation Award for its focus on stabilising core muscles.

MANY EXHIBITORS HAVE REPORTED THAT UP TO 20% OF THEIR VISITORS AT THE SHOW WERE FROM THE MAINSTREAM HEALTH AND REHABILITATION SECTOR ing for the European-based manufacturers was that American and Asian manufacturers struggled to overcome the logistical nightmare imposed by the volcano and simply did not show up. That record attendance of more than 53,000 over the four-day extravaganza was up 5% on the 2009 number. The fact that 560 exhibitors made it despite the now famous ash cloud is a testament to the resilience of the fitness and health market. Fitness is a young industry — less than 35 years old — but now coming into its own in the mainstream. So to the show then, what was hot and what was not at FIBO? This year, the after-show buzz was the apparent long-overdue embrace between the fitness industry and the

health industry or more accurately, the injury rehabilitation industry. You would think that they were a natural fit, and they are, it’s just that market forces have conspired in the past to present them separately. Many exhibitors have reported that up to 20% of their show visitors were from the mainstream health and rehabilitation sector. If this is a trend then long may it continue, it brings much needed peer respectability to fitness and opens new markets.

THE INNOVATORS A good measure of the success of any venture is sales. FIBO is not a selling show but sales that result from a launch at FIBO often determine the future course of a business. The event also has a neat history of call-

ing the trends through its Innovation Awards Scheme. The nominees at the FIBO Innovation Awards, which count PowerPlate as one of their previous winners, help us to gauge the future direction of the fitness industry. Nine products were nominated this year and the winners were chosen by an independent jury of experts. Here’s the low-down on the winners: Proxowell’s Core Circuit product line focuses on torso and leg muscle stabilisation. This is made possible by seat construction which enables a half-sitting, half-standing training position. The benefits? Well, because the Core Circuit essentially manages without the otherwise common back padding or passive stabilisation supports, it’s less expensive to make and these savings are passed on to the customer, right? No, wrong — as a result of the half-sitting, half-standing training position the focus is on stabilising the core muscles throughout the weight training session, not just before exertion. The guys at Aipermon had an obvious winner, the AiperSunny. It’s worn on the hip and uses high-tech sensors to measure and calculate the daily movement and calorie burn of the wearer, and one click sends the data to the web server for analysis. No FIBO would be complete without a visit to the ‘wild side’. WildeSeile (Wild Ropes) is a training programme that recognises the effort and the core stability required to shake a rope! The resistance is easily adjustable by altering the length and thickness of the ropes. The longer the rope, the more difficult it is to generate a continuous wave and get the rope up off the ground along its complete length. The thicker the rope, the more difficult it is to grip and hold the rope. You get the idea. What can I say except, the model demonstrating said “wild ropes” was a knockout! HME Raymond Kelly manages Raymond Sport. He is contactable at raymond.

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Dream destination Six Senses deputy chairman and managing director Bernhard Bohnenberger reveals how he finds the perfect locations for resorts and why it is time for the company to rebrand be about hiding away and being private, another might be about more of a buzz, but we feel we can bring that across, we don’t have to put it in a name,” says Bohnenberger. “It’s too much of a mouthful. Nobody ever says Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay, they say either Six Senses Zighy Bay or they say The Hideaway Zighy Bay, so we make it easier in that respect. And the Sonevas will be called Soneva By Six Senses,” he adds. While this brings Soneva Fushi, Soneva Gili and Soneva Kiri firmly into the Six Senses family as far as consumers are concerned, one brand that will remain separate from the core Six Senses flag is Evason. “We are taking it slightly apart so the consumer will not necessarily see that it’s part of Six Senses, so we feel that the market is a little bit different,” says Bohnenberger.

INTERVIEW ix Senses was founded in 1991 with the dream of creating experiences that are true to the destination, according to deputy chairman and managing director Bernhard Bohnenberger, who spoke to Leisure Manager at the recent Arabian Travel Market. It has remained true to this vision ever since, with Six Senses Zighy Bay in the Musandam, a replica of a traditional Omani settlement, a perfect example of the approach. Six Senses now operates 13 resorts and close to 30 spas — comprising inhouse facilities and those managed for partners — with two resorts to open this year and plenty more in the masterplanning stage. Despite the growth, the philosophy has stayed as it always has been, says Bohnenberger. “With resorts we are very specific in design, we have a very clear style, which typically draws on the local vernacular architecture; our resorts feel as though they are a village which has grown organically over the years,” says Bohnenberger. “We have pioneered a lot of things I think; the difference is in our case I truly believe it comes from the heart and it’s a lot of passion, we do it because we believe in it and we don’t just do it because it’s a marketing gimmick,” he says, referring to the company’s embodiment of the Slow Food philosophy — which it developed into Slow Life — and matters of being green. Six Senses’ consistent approach has resulted in a base of loyal customers, which has prompted the company to undertake a rebranding, which is currently ongoing. The commonsense approach involves dropping some “superfluous” words, says Bohnenberger. By this, he refers to terms such as Hideaway and Latitude, sub brands


June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East


Six Senses deputy chairman and managing director Bernhard Bohnenberger: we will stay true to a destination.

WE ALWAYS BELIEVE WE HAVE TO KEEP PROPERTIES ALIVE AND BUZZING, SO FOR EVERY RESORT WE TRY TO ADD SOME LEVEL OF INNOVATION ON A YEARLY BASIS of Six Senses that he says are not necessary anymore. “So rather than having Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay, we’ll just call it Six Senses Zighy Bay,” explains Bohnenberger. “And rather than call it the Six Senses Latitude Laama, it will be Six Senses Laama, which is opening in the south of the Maldives this year — we have a beautiful island there, it will be our third Maldivian property.”

The rationale for the rebrand is simple — the company branding is strong enough to convey the message of each property, says Bohnenberger, plus some resort names are just too complicated. “We are taking that out because we feel the photography, brochures and text on every property website will give you the feel of what’s it all about. One resort might be about surfing and sports, the next might

Another brand that will keep its distinct identity is Six Senses Destination Spas. There is currently one destination spa in Phuket, Thailand, although Bohnenberger says he is focused on bringing concepts from this, such as nutritional programmes, iridology and expert practitioners, into more of the Six Senses Spas elsewhere. While the original Six Senses Destination Spa is located on a private island, providing pure sanctuary for guests staying in beautiful villas, Bohenberger belives the concepts can be transported to city centre spas, such as Six Senses Doha at Ritz-Carlton’s Sharq Village. “It’s ideal, because for example if you are a member at Six Senses in Doha it allows you to get a bit of that experience that you could only normally get if you travel to our destination spa and stay. Here you can have a bit of it every day and it’s quite addictive because the better you feel the more you do it, and the more


The Tented Camp concept planned for Zighy Bay.

Pool villa design for Six Senses Essaouira in Moroc


you want of it. So we see it as a huge potential,” says Bohnenberger. A future destination spa is planned for Six Senses Zighi Bay, which will be the first resort of its kind in the Middle East, although the realisation of this project is still some way off. “We are just taking it a bit slow, it has not been an easy year, business is down for everyone, although we are differentiated and stand out from the rest and people come to us not for price but experience, we are just taking it a bit more slowly.” For the same reasons, Bohnenberger has held off putting nine residential villas up for sale at the Destination Spa but says he will launch these “when things get better”. With regard to its third party Six Senses Spas, there is one due to open at Missoni Kuwait this year and a development at Al Bustan Palace in Muscat, which is spread across a valley in the bay of the Al Bustan. This is due to open in 2012, along with a spa at the new Baglioni being developed in Marrakech.

FUTURE RESORTS New resort openings for 2010 are the aforementioned Six Senses Laama in the Maldives and Six Senses Condao in the south of Vietnam, on the island of Condao. But Six Senses also has some projects underway closer to the Middle East, including three projects in Morocco, where Bohnenberger is determined to “stick to the Six Senses recipe of finding amazing

destinations and going out s o m e where”. A key part of his job is to travel around, looking at sites for Six Senses, which interestingly enough, he says, are often the sites no one else wants. “We have found three sites that are fabulous [in Morocco] and are masterplanning now. That’s my job — flying around and finding amazing places that no one values because they’re too far away and no-one will go there, and we get a lot of pristine nature in these sites and preserve it for the future. We never want to see neighbours, as with Zighy Bay, we want to preserve it so that it’s really private. And then we build on the local village style, blow it up in size and create something that is very Six Senses but still very Moroccan,” says Bohnenberger. Six Senses is working with one owner across the Moroccan sites, and the aim, he says, is to show them that “what we are doing is unique and will really put you on the map” — like when Zighy Bay raised the profile of the Musandam. “We have had to really demonstrate to the government that what we do is positive and really has a positive impact. So rather than putting 1000 rooms into Zighy Bay in five different hotels, to demonstrate it’s much more Oman to do some-

thi ll llow iimpactt thing really and we have had fabulous support,” says Bohnenberger. His wishlist of locations for the future includes more resorts in Jordan and Oman, and also something in Syria “These are countries with a lot of very strong culture, a lot of flavour, a lot of history. There’s a lot there to draw on and reasons to go,” he says. At the same time, Bohnenberger is continually working to refresh the existing resorts — even relatively new ones like Zighy Bay, where he is introducing a tented camp concept. “Your typical hotel gets a little bit of a make-up, a face lift every five years, that’s when you change the carpet, repaint, then every 10 years they may dream up a new F&B concept. But we always believe we have to keep properties alive and buzzing, so for every resort we try to add some level of innovation on a yearly basis,” explains Bohnenberger. “This will be a first for Six Senses. They will be permanent for the cool season,” says Bohnenberger. To make the most of Musandam, tented camps will be set in its wadis, peninsulas and plateaus, allowing guests to sleep under the stars and demonstrating Six Senses’ dream of staying true to a destination. HME Hotelier Middle East • June 2010



Contact details: Sarah Worth Tel: +971 4 210 8595 / Fax: +971 4 210 8080 Email:

Rezidor: Elie Younes

The Rezidor Hotel Group has appointed Elie Younes as vice president of business development for the Middle East and Africa. Here he discusses his goals and working his way up the ranks NEW RECRUIT

How did you begin your career in the hotel industry? It all started when I had just left high school and I needed to buy a car so I had to work as a bus-boy in a restaurant in Beirut in to raise the money. Everything else followed without any predetermined plans and by the time I left for Europe to study, I had worked my way up to running a restaurant and a nightclub. Following the completion of my MBA, I joined HVS International in London as an advisor and investment counsellor, starting as an analyst in 2001 and progressing to director (and designate managing director for the Middle East). In 2006 I joined Starwood and took responsibility for their development in the Middle East and part of the CIS, first based in London and then from the Dubai office before joining Hilton in 2008 to lead their development effort in the region.

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

What attracted you to the role with The Rezidor Hotel Group? Almost 11 years ago, I did an internship at Rezidor’s head office in Brussels and since then I have been fascinated by the company. I always thought that one day I would come back and work for the group. Both the people who work for the company and the opportunity to grow the business in this region were the main factors that attracted me to this role.

ness minded group when it comes to business deals with owners.

What do you hope to achieve in this new position? I strive to make a difference and a positive change in whatever I do. The goal I have set myself for this role is to significantly increase the group’s footprint in the Middle East and Africa over the next five years. I would like Rezidor to become the first and preferred partner for owners in the region and to be considered as the most efficient, friendly and busi-

What are your immediate and longterm plans at Rezidor? The immediate focus is to have an expansion strategy in place, followed by its successful execution. Once this has been achieved or is on track, I would start thinking long term, but I want to focus on the immediate goal first. The current objective and its execution is likely to pan out over three to five years.

As regional VP for business development,Younes plans to increase Rezidor’s footprint in Middle East and Africa.

What do you think sets Rezidor apart from other hotel companies? Firstly, the stability of its senior management; the president and CEO, Kurt Ritter and deputy president and CFO, Knut Kleiven, have been leading the group for the last 15 years; second is the quick decision making process that happens within the group. Decisions are taken very fast at Rezidor which, in the current environment, is something which is desperately needed. Finally, Rezidor is a young and dynamic company — which just sounds more fun to me!

For sponsorship opportunities at the Caterer Middle East Awards 2010, please contact: Diarmuid OMalley Publishing Director Tel: +971 4 210 8568 Mob: +971 50 5597339 Email:

Amanda Stewart International Sales Manager Hospitality & Catering Tel: +44 7908 117 333 Email:

For nomination enquiries please contact: Lucy Taylor Editor, Caterer Middle East Tel: +971 4 210 8493 Email:

For table bookings and further information regarding the Awards, please contact: Annie Chinoy Deputy Marketing Manager Tel: +971 4 210 8353 Email:



Contact details: Sarah Worth Tel: +971 04 210 8595/ Fax: +971 4 210 8080 Email:

ON THE MOVE… BERTULETTI BRINGS FLAVOUR TO RADISSON Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Media City has appointed Matteo Bertuletti the new Italian chef at Certo. Bertuletti’s role will involve planning, organising, and directing the work of the team in the culinary department at Certo, and he is also responsible for training and motivating staff to ensure that established cultural and core standards are met. BAGAEEN JOINS GRAND HYATT DOHA Grand Hyatt Doha has welcomed Tareq Bagaeen as director of marketing. Bagaeen

has more than eight years of experience in the luxury hospitality industry and most recently worked as director of sales for Ritz – Carlton. In his new position, Bagaeen will be responsible for all marketing and sales efforts for the property and his responsibilities include the overall strategic sales, marketing, revenue management, ecommerce, promotions and brand image for the hotel. ANOTHER SEASON FOR BURNELL Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has appointed Jane Burnell as regional vice president of sales for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Burnell joined Four Seasons in 2000, as regional director of sales for the UK, was promoted to regional director of sales for

Bin Eid Executive Search (Specialised in 5 * Hotel Sector)


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June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

Europe in 2004 and rapidly progressed to regional director of sales for Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2005. NEW CHEF FOR MEDIA ONE Nicolas Valero has joined Media One as the new executive chef. Valero, who grew up in the Pyrenees region in France, began his career at the one star Michelin restaurant L’Auberge Du Cheval Blanc in Bayonne In 2004, Valero became senior sous chef at Jebel Ali Golf Resort and Spa and in 2006 he opened The Nineteen Restaurant at The Montgomerie Dubai. Prior to his appointment at Media One, Valero worked as sous chef at The One and Only Royal Mirage. ABDOH JOINS RITZ CARLTON The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel and Spa has appointed Hassan Abdoh as director of sales. Abdoh, who holds a diploma in Hotel and Tourism Management, will be responsible for implementing strategies and executing activities to drive market share, customer satisfaction and strengthen the brand. Prior to his appointment, Abdoh was the director of business development of the pre-opening team at The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi. AYLA WELCOMES SOUSSAN Ayla Hotels and Resorts Management Company has appointed Mohamed Soussan as general manager to lead and develop the company’s new hospitality division. Soussan, who was born in Lebanon, has lived in the UAE for most of his life and began his career in the hospitality industry in 1992. He has worked for a variety of brands in the region including Sheraton, Rotana and IHG.

BEACH ROTANA MAKES CHANGES Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi has promoted Kozhaya Tannous to director of catering and events. Tannous, who has been working at Beach Rotana for the past two years, moved up from his previous position as assistant director of catering and events. Also at Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi, Natalia Maximova has been appointed assistant director of human resources. Maximova, a Russian national, has more than 10 years experience in the hospitality industry and has worked in the US, Germany, Seychelles and UAE. A TOUCH OF FRANCE FOR CROWNE PLAZA DUBAI Emmanuel Pauliat has been appointed the new executive chef at Crowne Plaza Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road. Pauliat began his career in 1991 at “Auberge de la Terriere” in France. Following 12 years of experience Pauliat became part of the IHG family at the InterContinental Muscat in 2005, where he worked prior to his appointment at Crowne Plaza Dubai. PELLAUD HAS SECOND TERM The Rezidor Hotel Group has announced the appointment of Philipe Pellaud as general manager of the Radisson Blu Hotel, Kuwait. This is Pellaud’s second term in charge of the hotel as he joined Rezidor in 1992 at the same property. He has also worked as general manager for Rezidor properties in various locations.



To celebrate the outstanding commercial interior design work taking place across the Middle East, CID is publishing a 100plus page, perfect bound special supplement showcasing the region’s most impressive interiors in the following sectors: • Hotels • Leisure & Entertainment • Offices • Retail • Restaurants • Institutional This invaluable reference source for Middle East interior designers will be distributed with the full run of

Commercial Interior Design’s July issue so it will reach the magazine’s full BPA audited run of 6,944 qualified individuals and be seen by the 26,245 readers that use CID each month. The CID: FAVOURITE 50 INTERIOR DESIGNS will also be available as a digital magazine on, where the 83,000-plus monthly visitors to the region’s leading construction portal will be able to enjoy this special publication.


JASON BOWMAN PUBLISHING DIRECTOR jason.bowman @ + 9 7 1 5 0 6 5 6 15 6 7

LEIGH ROCHE SALES MANAGER leigh.roche @ + 9 7 1 5 0 8 6 9 0 916


vel experts together at Dubai’s top tra d an s ier tel ho ht ug bro son sea Last month’s show nii Hotel launch party an Arma th the A t to i ite inv ive lus exc an ed gg ba o hotels, while Hotelier als

AHIC bash at Armani Hotel Dubai

Armani Hotel Dubai. It was the first time the majority of guests After a day of seminars and workshops, delegates continued their networking at the continued into the evening at exclusive nightclub, Armani Privé. had seen the long-awaited property and so after beginning in the ballroom, many

Mariko Yuki, head of interiors, Limitless LLC.

In the centre Armani Hotels and Resorts CEO Marc Dardenne welcomes guests Rajesh Chandani,VP director of strategy at WATG, and Paul Bell, MD of Aldar Hotels and Hospitality.

Tobias Weissinger, senior associate of Hamilton Hotel Partners with The Rezidor Hotel Group’s PR and communications manager Julie Deighton and financial controller Neil Reddington.

AHIC opening reception at Madinat Jumeirah Jumeirah Group welcomed delegates to the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference with an opening party at Mina A’Salam. The elegantly decorated space featured various seafood and sushi buffets, plus a vast cheese table.

Philippe Bijaoui,VP Rezidor Hotel Group, Mila Nouralla, gen director of Noor Hospitality Consulting, Mite Sabate, webcontent manager of Flip Media and Christian Krollig, developments associate,Viceroy Hotel Group.

Deloitte Global managing partner hospitality Marvin Rust with IHG chief operating officer MEA John Bamsey and IHG president EMEA Kirk Kinsell.

Bench Events chairman and AHIC organiser Jonathan Worsley with his daughter Charlotte and wife Laura. Hodema Consulting Services Remie el Asmar and Manal Aoun.

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010



Relaxation at Raffles Raffles Dubai transformed the terrace at Fire and Ice with FatBoy lounge bags, providing welcome relaxation to those that had been on their feet at the first day of Arabian Travel Market. The party continued indoors with ice sculptures and plenty of food.

Chefs freshly prepare a variety of delicacies.

Raffles Dubai general manager John Pelling (centre) with Steve Harrop and Keith Fernandez. Raffles Dubai marketing and communications manager Caroline Ismail and director of sales and marketing Sue Wheatley.

Live entertainment sets the party atmosphere.

Making moves at Mövenpick Newly-opened Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach made its mark at Arabian Travel Market with a Miami Beach style party at The Talk restaurant. Glam guests benefited from a sumptuous buffet and DJ.

Lighting the way to the Miami Beach themed party at Mövenpick.

Guests party on the pool top terrace at Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach.

Hilton beach party In another chilled-out affair during ATM’s second evening, Hilton celebrated with colleagues and partners at Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Beach with an outdoor beach party at Wavebreaker.

Essam Abouda, Mahmoud Mokhtar and Sherif Nassar.

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

Oliver Schmaeing, Samranda Cirjan, Khalid Motik and Samantha Wood.

Jean-Paul Herzog, Haakon Gaarder-Larsen, Sherif Nassar, and Dominique Dmytryszyn.


All white at Al Badia InterContinental Hotels Group Dubai Festival City properties clubbed together and held a spectacular white party in the middle of the golf course at Al Badia Golf Club, a location that will soon provide the setting for the group’s new concert venue. Guests were asked to wear white and they all obliged, with hundreds taking home a fluffy white rabbit as a souvenir.

Fairmont annual ATM party This year Fairmont celebrated the opening of its property in Abu Dhabi with a joint party organised by Fairmont Dubai and Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, which took guests on a culinary journey. The hotels showcased the best of their outlets — from Cin Cin to the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill — in a two-storey Imperial Suite atop the Fairmont Dubai. The suite was filled with tempting buffets. The theme of the party was black and gold, as sported by Liudmila Al Harasi, Yara Dehni and Marianna Metjkova.

Vanessa Andel, James Jary and Emma Fraser, director of marketing and communications at Fairmont’s sister property Raffles Dubai.

Hotelier Middle East • June 2010



Armani Hotel Dubai: Grand opening and fashion show Hotelier Middle East was on the guest list for the most exclusive party of the year; the grand opening of Armani Hotel Dubai on April 27. With the interiors kept under wraps until the opening day, this was the first chance we had to cast our eye over the design created by fashion icon Giorgio Armani, there himself not only to open the property, but also to put on a stellar catwalk show for the 350 invited guests.

Guests wait eagerly for the models to appear. A taster of the latest Armani Privé collection, presented in Dubai for the first time at the Armani Hotel.

After dinner, guests went to Armani Privé to continue the party. The models and crowd salute Giorgio Armani.

Giorgio Armani and EmaarProperties chairman Mohamed Alabbar celebrate the successful launch.

After the catwalk show, guests were treated to a display of the dancing Dubai Fountain at Burj Khalifa.

Jumeirah Group executive chairman Gerald Lawless, pictured here with his wife in Armani Hotel’s Japanese restaurant, was one of the hoteliers on the guest list.

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

BE PART OF AFTER HOURS... What exciting stories do you have to share? If you would like to feature in Hoteliers After Hours, send details and photographs of your parties, events and charity challenges to:




he month of May is behind us and that means, yes, we survived! With the events following in quick succession last month — AHIC, ATM, HOTEC, Domotex and The Hotel Show — many of you may have seen members of the Hotelier team scurrying around Dubai World Trade Centre, which became our temporary home for the month. Throughout the events, we broke a series of stories and announcements online at, with our special daily updates bringing you a news summary as it happened. But pipelines and projects aside, we promised to bring you some of the gossip, so here is a taster. At ATM, Dubailand claimed it would be completed in 2025, but one highly-respected chef spotted hovering outside its stand told us in no uncertain terms that this was a complete lie. Meanwhile, one of the hotel operators promising to deliver several hotels in Dubai this year, which are already delayed, fell victim to one disgruntled supplier, who said a certain Palm Jumeirah based hotel had been canned. The Hotel Show was, according to some “a disaster”, but others said if the leads they had generated

Save yourselves – and avoid Sheikh Zayed Road when Four Points by Sheraton is holding its mock fire drill.

resulted in business, that would cover the cost of exhibiting, while for one, the expense was justified as a marketing expense alone. Hotelier just hopes that some of the amenities companies from China that attended will rethink their strategy next year, as we were told on more than one occasion, quite adamantly, that “we don’t target hotels”. And you just can’t stop gossiping about Jumeirah Group, which is planning a major overhaul of some

of its outlets and an expansion of its Restaurants arm in partnership with Caprice Holdings. From celeb hang out The Ivy to nightclub Annabel’s, it seems that Dubai and Abu Dhabi are set to host some of London’s finest night spots. An annoucement is imminent, so watch this space for more details in the July issue. While the events were exciting, it was only when we got back into the office that the industry seemed to reveal its quirkier side. Firstly, Emirates Palace launched the world’s first gold vending machine. Developed by TG GoldSuper-Markt, a computer inside the machine ensures that the real-time prices are updated in line with the online shop at Gold-Super-Markt. de. In addition to 1g, 5g and 10g bars of gold, the machine also dispenses gold coins, which are sold in gift boxes at real-time prices. The press release provided the following quote: ‘“We wanted the Emirates Palace to play a pioneering role and be the first hotel in the world to offer its guests this golden service,” general manager Hans Olbertz states with pride’. It certainly got the hotel attention on a global scale, which was not quite the case for the other odd

announcement of the month. Not for the first time, Four Points by Sheraton invited Dubai’s media to a “fun, exciting and very realistic” mock fire drill at its Sheikh Zayed Road hotel, which the lovely PR “guaranteed” to be newsworthy. Here at Hotelier, we hope that hotels would keep their fire safety up to scratch as a matter of course, which means for us, it was quite the opposite, and we declined to attend. However, had we realised what a photo opportunity it would provide, we might have chosen otherwise. In total, we were sent 913 photos to choose from and so decided to bring you our favourite this issue… HME

Next issue • Special feature: Hotelier Middle East Salary Survey 2010

• Country report: Saudi Arabia • Industry best practice: F&B concepts • Roundtable: GMs • Product analysis: Tableware • Product guide: Bathrooms • Technology report: Cutting-edge products

Hotelier competition This month, one lucky reader has the chance to win a 90-minute Hot Stone Massage at the Flora Grand Hotel Health Club & Spa, located on Al Rigga Road in Dubai. This is an ultimate spa experience, in which the therapist will place different sized stones of varying temperatures on key pressure points and use them with massage to relieve tension, toxins, knots and kinks. A relaxing hand and foot massage completes the treatment.

Win a Hot Stone Massage at the Flora Grand Hotel Health Club & Spa.

To enter the competition, all you need to do is answer the following question: Where is the Flora Grand Hotel located? Send your answer and contact details via email to with the word COMPETITION in the subject line. Last month’s lucky winners of a Friday Barbeque Lunch at Mai Café at Aloft Abu Dhabi were Vetrivel V, divisional manager — hospitality products at Dutco Tennant LLC, and Seema Tekchandani, personal assistant to vice president — global sales at Jumeirah Group. To find out more about the Flora Grand Hotel Health Club and Spa contact: +971 4 223 3344 /

June 2010 • Hotelier Middle East

Hotelier Middle East - June 2010  

Hotelier Middle East - June 2010 - ITP Business

Hotelier Middle East - June 2010  

Hotelier Middle East - June 2010 - ITP Business