Fairmont Hotel Dubai, 5 Star Hotel in Dubai

Kamal Naamani, General Manager of Fairmont Dubai The future looks great for Fairmont Dubai and, because Fairmont Dubai has great opportunities and great ownership. We’re in a very strong position now and we’ll be even stronger in the future. Our expansion plans are aggressive, but as I said, for the right reasons and locations. The industry is very healthy now so we’re very confident.

You have more than 25 years of experience in the industry, you have moved on multiple occasions, you started in Canada then you moved to Bermuda and now you are here in Dubai. How is Dubai different from other regions and locations?

If you look around, it’s a very exciting destination. The growth we have seen over the past four to five years is something that we have never experienced, not in my lifetime and I don’t think anybody will, in their lifetime. It is amazing, the growth that we have seen. What is interesting is that you see growth not just in tourism industry but in all industries here in Dubai.

Is this growth sustainable?

Well I can sit here and tell you it is sustainable for ever and ever, maybe yes, maybe no, I mean everybody is asking that question. We see a lot of strength behind what they’re doing, at least for the foreseeable future. Like any city, like any business, I guess you have an adjustment term, you have settling time and what have you. For the foreseeable future we see this as the most sustainable growth.

Fairmont Dubai was named the business hotel of the year in 2007 by DPA, then you also won an award for the leading meeting hotel by World Travel. What are your key success factors and how did you achieve this?

Well, the philosophy is very simple. We try to operate with a unique mentality in unique places and cities. We look at the needs of the business client here in Dubai, what means the most to them, you know, what are they looking for and then customize our services to these things rather than saying ok, this is what we provide. We are trying to make it fit for everybody, to match our services and products with each individual client, whether you are a room guest or a meeting guest. That’s what makes the difference really. Also, the strength of the people we have at the hotel, in terms of experience, in terms of engaging service, is a major factor in our success.

The staff is staying an average of 1.5 years then they move to another chain. How are you going to react to this, for service consistency?

Well, again, if you look at the culture of our company, Fairmont, and how we treat our guests, we treat our colleagues in the same manner. The growth potential that we offer them, the training that we offer them, the caring that we offer them, it makes a big difference and goes a long way. As a philosophy here, whether it’s our leadership or colleagues, the opportunities that we offer and the training makes all the difference here. Our turnover is a little bit higher than the industry. The growth does offer a challenge here, but at the end of the day an individual stands and says why would I move? I would move for a reason, either I move for money or I move for an opportunity, I move for a reason. We obviously try to address all these here, we create an environment where you’re not an employee, you’re part of the family basically, you’re well compensated, you’re well looked after, you’re well taken care of. We offer great accommodations, we offer great facilities, entertainment facilities for them, educational facilities and assistance. You do all you can here and it makes a big difference.

In 2007 the group had about 50 hotels in 10 countries. How is this property different in terms of the growth?

Each hotel we have is fairly unique Fairmont, and that is what makes the company a unique company. This hotel is unique in many ways; unique in it’s location, unique in its structure, in its positioning, unique in its services and design, unique in the type of people that we have here. For example, we work with 46 different nationalities here in terms of our colleagues and leaders, which is different from some other Fairmonts. For example, looking at North America, although you will have multicultural but they’re all North Americans, so it’s different in every aspect. This is not a typical Fairmont hotel, not in terms of the view or the furniture, but in terms of the fabric of the culture and the depth of the people.

How do you assess the five years of operations of this region?

This hotel has actually been the launchpad for…Well, we opened in 02-02-02, a famous date, I guess, February 2nd of 2002, and this was the first Fairmont, outside of North America and very far away from the head office and what have you. But we saw the opportunity and what could potentially happen in this part of the world here, but this particular hotel has been a great launchpad for Fairmont in the Middle East as well as in Europe. In the past five years we have seen great opportunities as a result of this particular hotel, from introducing the brand to this part of the world, people knowing and understanding what Fairmont is all about and what we stand for, so we’ve grown in this area and we’ll see in the next three to four years what is in store in this area, coming up here.

So this is how you are reacting to the growth around the 2015 plan to attract 2 million tourists. Like you are building the new properties, are establishing 12 new hotels?

Well, with Fairmont and the uniqueness of our company and our experience we’re not acting on numbers, you know, we need to have so many hotels developed by this date. The uniqueness of Fairmont is we look for the right hotels, we look for the right partnership, we look for the right destinations. We have to have a really good mix of the three. So it’s not a question of we have to achieve a target of so many hotels by such and such a time, but also we look at the growth opportunities, like the Middle East; the Middle East is a great growth opportunity for us, Asia is, so we’re positioning ourselves and putting ourselves in the key destinations that we feel would work very well in terms of what a destination offers and the location of the property itself, how good it is for the company and so on. So a lot of things are taken into consideration. But obviously we see the potential in the future, and we say yes we want to be a part of it but for the right reasons.

I can imagine that this strategy is very challenging, to find the right location and to push it through?

It is, it’s not easy, but we have a great development team here now in the Middle East, in Asia, in North America, that go out and look for the right opportunity. There are a lot of opportunities out there, but they don’t all fit with what our goal and target is.

You are an American chain?

It’s a Canadian chain. The current company is Fairmont Raffles Holding of which Fairmont Hotels and Resorts is part of. As far as Raffles Hotels and Resorts, Swiss hotels, Fairmont Heritage Place which is vacation ownership as well.

So as a Canadian brand, are you attracting mostly the tourists or business travelers from Canada and America?

With this hotel actually we have a small percentage of tourism or business coming from Canada to the UAE in comparison to everything else, that is. The majority of our guests here are from the GCC region, and then we have a good mix from North America, obviously a big percentage of Europeans.

The future of the group looks bright. Can you tell us something for our viewers; would you like to address some message to them?

The future looks great for the industry and for Fairmont, because we have great opportunities and great ownership. We’re in a very strong position now and we’ll be even stronger in the future. Our expansion plans are aggressive, but as I said, for the right reasons and locations. The industry is very healthy now so we’re very confident.

I just wanted to ask about Raffles, which you had mentioned earlier.

The Raffles Hotel opened three months ago, Raffles Dubai, here. In this part of the Middle East, this is the first one. Obviously there is a lot coming up here in this part of the world. Again, it follows the same philosophy as Fairmont; it’s about finding the right location, the right ownership, the right mix.

A question that is a bit more personal: you have been in charge of this hotel since the beginning of its soft-launching. What is your personal mission and perspective for this group?

My personal mission as far as the group is concerned? Well, obviously we have opened this, our mission is to come here, introduce the firm, launch it, which we did and are very proud of what we’ve done and what we’ve achieved so far, so our mission is really to continue to do that. If you look back at our achievements, this group, the hotel, and the team that opened the hotel, we’re extremely proud of the results. The ownership came in, looked at it saying this is what Fairmont is all about, this is what I want my new hotel to look like, this is how I want my new hotel to be managed like, as a result of this particular one. I want to see some of these hotels opening up, get involved with the opening. I think opening hotels is probably the most exciting thing for me personally because it just gives you that opportunity to put your touch and make your impression right from the beginning and hand-select your team and your group. There are a lot of opportunities and I would like to be a part of them.

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