Mr.Tannous joined the Amwaj Rotana hotel, which is located on the The Walk, Jumeirah Beach, October 2013.
What are your current target markets and what new segments are you planning to tap into for 2015 and why?
Amwaj Rotana is positioned such that it attracts guests from over 40 different countries on average, of which the majority are currently from the UK, Germany and the GCC countries including a lot of local Emirati guests.
Chinese and Indian travellers are two large potential markets for us predominantly because they tend to travel in groups and still shift a lot of their business through travel agents. This is extremely convenient for us because it means that we have only a few sources to explore in order to attract these markets. We place high importance in establishing and maintaining key relationships with our travel partners in order to reach such potential guests.
How was your property doing in 2014 in terms of the Russian Market? How do you identify this market in comparison with other European markets?
Despite the turn of events impacting this particular market in 2014, we still welcomed a large number of Russian guests and we credit this to our local travel partners who increased their efforts to drive tourist business from Russia.
Furthermore, the hotel's location remains very attractive to tourists so this gives us an edge over other hotels towards the guests who still plan to make a trip from Russia.
Amwaj Rotana is also well-known to the Russian residents based in Dubai who frequently visit the hotels' restaurants. This helps to create a lot of positive word-of-mouth and build the hotel's reputation among the Russian market.
The Russian market is just as important to us, if not more, as compared to other European markets and this is largely due to the size of its population. One crippling factor, however, is the need to process travel visas through a travel partner rather than to have a visa on arrival at the airport, which numerous other European guests have the privilege of.
Could you tell us about the response from your Chinese guests?
We have had an overwhelming response from the Chinese guests we have hosted thus far and positive reviews of their stays with us. The location to enjoy good food in close proximity, new retail stores at The Beach development just at the doorstep of the hotel, complimentary shuttle service to Dubai's most prominent malls such as Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Mall, Dubai Outlet Mall and Burjuman Mall and views out onto the sea from our rooms have been very well-received by them.
We were also able to gather some valuable insights from them on the services we can offer at the hotel in order to attract more Chinese guests.
How would you compare managing your hotel with any of your other hotel experiences?
Dubai is a very different ball game compared to many other destinations in the region. It's vibrancy, fast pace and international setting are unlike any other. Dubai is a city that doesn't sleep, which just means that I'm having to be on my toes a lot more.
Competition is rife and consequently, I've had to respond to trends more, seize any opportunity that came in front of me and adjust my outlook time and time again in order to keep with today's challenges.
I've had the chance to work with a larger variety of nationalities in my team and we have over 35 different nationalities. This has given me great opportunity to learn a lot about cultural differences, sensitivities and adapt to a very different work environment. It isn't my first time in the UAE but the landscape in Dubai changes so quickly that what I knew yesterday immediately becomes old news today. It's that quick a turnaround.
As a city hotel + resort, tell us a little about the offerings provided to your guests?
Being in such a position spells out a need for customising experiences more than ever. For instance, we have a significant amount of corporate clientele for whom we have introduced a wake up call service where coffee and a newspaper is brought to the room several minutes after the wake up call is placed, business packages were introduced to combine all the elements that a business guest would find important all in one price and an online check-in service was also introduced.
For leisure travellers, we launched a complimentary beach kit service which guests can take with them to the beach containing umbrellas, towels, mat and cooler box with water. We also introduced a traditional French-style picnic basket with salad, fruits, quiche, sandwiches, tartlets, cheese and drinks for guests to enjoy at the beach or lawn in front of the hotel.
Guests who opt for value will appreciate the variety of packages we offer tailored to different needs such as one which includes a desert safari - great for those who wish to explore the UAE's natural landscape and another which is for couples to enjoy.
Our three signature restaurants have won a number of awards such as from Time Out, What's On and BBC Good Food. We stay very focused on the culinary aspects so that we don't fall short of standards.
For guests who stay on a long-term basis, we ensure that the menu at the all-day dining changes daily and we offer a large variety of dishes at breakfast so that they won't tire of the menu.
Tell us about the challenges which you have faced so far since you have been appointed and how you and your team managed to overcome these.
In the initial stages, we had to counter a lot of challenges related to the construction of The Beach development in front of the hotel as well as the Dubai Tram network. At each step, we made it a point to communicate the progress of these works to our travel partners selling the hotel, included information regarding the construction work on our website and communication channels. We placed heavy importance on ensuring that our guests were fully aware of the developments in the vicinity instead of shying away from the truth.
To cope with the traffic woes, we informed guests of the timing to set aside for any form of travel especially to the airport so that they would not face any delays. We also deployed additional transportation for them to get around the city since there was a general lack of taxis in the area. It is key that guests do not experience a shortfall in our service.
The last year has seen a lot of newly developed hotels in the city, which nevertheless can act as a potential threat to business. However, we strived hard to develop good relationships with our guests and initiated a whole host of benefits as described above in order to encourage them to choose us on their subsequent visits to Dubai, and we are proud to save that over 25% of our guests are repeat visitors.
What are your hotel’s unique selling points and how are you currently promoting these?
Each room in our hotel offers a view of the sea which is so integral to enhancing the experience of a guest who chooses to stay in a beachside location.
Our terrace on the second level is large and the only one of its kind along Jumeirah Beach Residence which almost all our guests rave about. It is the best spot in the hotel to enjoy a meal or two and watch the sun set over the sea.
In terms of pricing, we are proud to say that we are very competitive. Guests will certainly feel a value for money during their stay with us.
Rotana offers a very comprehensive and attractive loyalty programme called Rotana Rewards which entitles guests to up to 50% off on dining including privileges on stays and spa visits such as discounts, complimentary WiFi and late check-out in addition to accumulating points which can later be redeemed.
We have a very aggressive marketing plan and we utilise the internet the most to keep a constant stream of awareness flowing to potential guests.
In order to reach our target markets adequately, we offer our website in six different languages, namely English, German, Russian, Chinese, Arabic and Spanish. The hotel regularly runs online campaigns such as on Google in order to gain better rankings on online searches, for example.
Amwaj Rotana also engages with the media on a regular basis and hosts familiarisation trips for corporate bookers, tour operators and journalists based both locally in the UAE as well as abroad. The radio is another medium that is used to target guests from abroad.