Interview with Timothy M. Kelly, Senior Vice-President, Atlantis The Palm

By Olga_Gafurova Thursday, 20 September 2018 4:36 PM

Interview with Timothy M. Kelly, Senior Vice-President, Atlantis The Palm

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Atlantis, The Palm’s Senior Vice President, Operations and General Manager Timothy M. Kelly talked to Aviamost about the brand's new properties such as The Royal Atlantis Resort & Residences on the Palm which is coming soon in 2019 and much anticipated Atlantis Sanya opening on China's Hainan Island in February this year.

Atlantis, The Palm remains one of the most popular resorts in Dubai and UAE, welcoming guests from across the world. How do you stand out in a competitive ever-growing hospitality market in Dubai with the record-breaking occupancy level?

Starting 2018 in such a strong position, with an occupancy rate of 96% in Q1, is testament to the hard work and on-going dedication of our team of colleagues. We strive to be innovative and always look for ways that we can build on our existing customer experience. If 30% of our guests return on an annual basis, we want them to notice an improvement – whether it’s our service or our offering.

Currently, we are working on The Royal Atlantis, which will open right next door to Atlantis, The Palm. Split between luxury residences and resort rooms and suites, the property will offer a sophisticated experience that will become Dubai’s ultimate residential address, redefining the city on a regional and global level. We are also working on our water park, Aquaventure, to ensure it remains the leading water park in the Middle East and a fun-filled attraction for guests and visitors of all ages. In April this year, Atlantis unveiled the completion of two new children’s areas – a mini Atlantis-themed play area and Splashers Island.  

To top it off, we are in the midst of a three-year resort-wide refurbishment project. All our rooms and suites as well as our club lounges are undergoing renovation to achieve a fresh look and feel. Each time a guest returns they will be treated to something unique, different and new. I think this is at the heart of the Atlantis philosophy and its approach to hospitality.

Despite adjustments to its design, The Royal Atlantis Resort & Residences is still on course to complete and open in 2019. What is the difference between the existing Atlantis The Palm and Royal Atlantis?

I think one of the biggest differences will be cementing Atlantis, The Palm as a high energy property. Atlantis, The Palm offers a wide range of experiences and entertainment options for families and couples alike, and that is the fun of being part of the Atlantis experience. With 23 restaurants and bars, we have a huge variety, and this is something that resonates with our guests and sets us apart.

On the residences side, what you are going to see is a more personalized luxury experience. The beauty of The Royal Atlantis is that you’ll have celebrity chef restaurants, a leading waterpark, one of the world’s largest aquariums (The Ambassador Lagoon) right outside your doorstep at Atlantis, The Palm. Residents will be able to enjoy cuisine from Michelin star chefs, such as Gordon Ramsay, Giorgio Locatelli and Nobu Matsuhisa, just steps from their home. An unprecedented variety of restaurants give residents the ultimate choice in dining.

As you mentioned, Royal Atlantis project is right next door property with the existing Atlantis The Palm? It is possibility of competition?

The Royal Atlantis is a different niche all together. Atlantis, The Palm has been offering one-of-a-kind experiences for nearly ten years and this is something that resonates with our guests. With a high number of return visitors, we have no doubts that Atlantis, The Palm will remain a much-loved destination in Dubai. The Royal Atlantis will aim to attract an all new demographic of customers. It will complement Atlantis, The Palm rather than compete against it.

Earlier this year Kerzner marked opening of its first resort in China, Sanya Atlantis.

Yes, we are very excited about this opening. The new Atlantis Sanya is a massive development on Hainan Island, which is sometimes referred to as the “Hawaii of China” thanks to its balmy weather and numerous beaches. It’s a very popular tourist park for Chinese who don’t require visa to travel.

Atlantis Sanya promises to redefine holidaymaking and propel Hainan Island into a new era of world-class hospitality and tourism, solidifying the strong ties between the UAE and China.

The resort occupies 540,000 sqm of land and is designed as a modern interpretation of the mythical city of Atlantis. With a cutting-edge design, towering over Sanya as a new icon of the South China Sea, the new resort features 1,324 rooms and suites including five uniquely-designed Underwater Suites, a now globally-recognised feature of the Atlantis brand.

What could you say about Chinese customers visiting Atlantis in Dubai?

Atlantis remains one of the most popular resorts in Dubai for Chinese visitors, with China being the resort’s leading source market in Q1 2018. We are noticing a significant year-on-year increase, particularly during Chinese New Year, which saw an 18% increase of Chinese guests compared to the same period in 2017.

Initially, Chinese guests would say for just one or two nights, but now they are opting to stay longer. People from China are adventurers - they love to visit different places and experience as much of a city as they possibly can. This is why Dubai and its diversity of activities and sights makes it perfectly positioned for this market.

The number of Russian visitors coming to Dubai increased up to 77% over the same period of last year. How significant the Russian market for you?

Very significant, in fact, our goal and objective for Atlantis, The Palm is for Russia to be the resort’s number two market. The UK currently takes the number one spot however by the end of 2018, Russia will closely follow.

We’ve invested in our sales teams within the Russian and Ukraine markets, we’ve invested in our marketing in those particular areas, and we do a lot of social media as well as events. So, it’s an area we feel has a lot of opportunity.

Guests from this region stay longer and truly make the most of Atlantis and its facilities. We’ve even put a focus on adding more Russian staff to look after our Russian guests, personally helping with reservations, questions and anything else they may need.

What combined offers are in progress with The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) to promote Dubai as tourism destination?

We are working hand-in-hand with Dubai Tourism (DTCM) to establish three main goals. The first goal is positioning Dubai as the number one tourist destination in the world. The second is to encourage guests to return visitors, making it one of the world’s most popular cities. We partner with Dubai Tourism to help achieve both of these objectives.

The third and most important goal is customer service. We are working closely with DTCM on customer service engagement as well as a specialized programme called “The Dubai Way.” This training programme has been rolled out within Atlantis, The Palm ensuring that all our colleagues learn about the history of Dubai and know how to competently talk about the different areas, the history, transportation and impressive variety of entertainment options. In a nutshell, it helps our staff be familiarized with everything Dubai.

This is very important initiative considering the recent statement of Issam Kazim, Chief Executive Officer of DTCM, “We want Dubai to be a city people not must to visit, but people must to experience.” How do you find Dubai?

I love Dubai. I think it is a thriving city, full of opportunities that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.  All the design, all the developments, all the buildings are on another level and there is so much to see and observe.