Radisson SAS, Media City, Leading Business Hotel in Dubai

Siegfried Nierhaus, General Manager of Radisson SAS, Media City The same is the case with our Rezidor hotel group and the Radisson SAS grand. 2 years ago we brought the Radisson SAS back to Dubai, we took over a very important hotel in the Creek which is a former Intercontinental hotel which was the land mark of Dubai when it comes to five star hotels. The Radisson SAS took over this project to show to all the people in the Middle East who are used to this hotel that Radisson is here, Radisson is and is going to be an important player in the region and like all the important hotel companies we are having as well at least 20 projects in the pipeline

Jean-Claude Baumgarten the president of the world travel and tourism council said that tourists arrivals in the Middle East surged by 12.9 % in 2007 against the global average of 6%. In 2008, while the region enjoys a record 14 % growth the global tourist arrivals are slowing down because of credit crunch, higher oil prices and weak US dollar. How do you assess the development of the tourist industry in the region and what is the competitive advantage of the Emirates?

You talk about fantastic, outstanding new projects which are being build through out the Middle East, you talk about Doha, you talk about Muscat, you talk about Saudi Arabia as developing very importantly and of course we talk about the UAE and firstly Dubai and then the capital which is Abu Dhabi. I can see the vision of Sheikh Mohamed who is the ruler of Dubai to be the best city in the world. I can see the growth of the UAE and the vision is followed by the travel industry and you heard certainly about the purchase of the Airbus A380. The UAE which is a small country purchased 50 of these 380 planes which can carry more than 600 people and their goal destination and is to make Dubai an airport hub between Asia and Europe to attract first of all, all the long carriers to land in Dubai to bring additional business to the city and to the country and in addition it receives development as tourism attraction. You see as well there is a clear vision, a clear focus and if today you talk about three million visitors to Dubai, they would like to extend it to 12 million in 2015 which is a figure which is very impressive. But if you see that all the planes are following the infrastructure when it comes to hotel industry following, I clearly see the development goes into the right direction for the UAE and for Dubai.

What is going to be the role of the Radisson in the development of the country in the tourist sector, what is the indication of the group here?

Let’s say all the important hotel companies, and we are one of the major hotel companies, Rezidor hotel group are undertaking outstanding projects for the Middle East, every hotel company we talk to has at least 15, 20, 30 projects coming out in the next two to three years. The same the case with our Rezidor hotel group and the Radisson SAS grand. 2 years ago we brought the Radisson SAS back to Dubai, we took over a very important hotel in the Creek which is a former Intercontinental hotel which was the land mark of Dubai when it comes to five star hotels. The Radisson SAS took over this project to show to all the people in the Middle East who are used to this hotel that Radisson is here, Radisson is and is going to be an important player in the region and like all the important hotel companies we are having as well at least 20 projects in the pipeline; we are doubling the amount of hotels in the Middle East and this is a sign that we believe very strongly in this market. We will defiantly develop to cater to the needs of the people and I think with the right products and as I mentioned we have the Radisson SAS grand that will bring us both the Regent hotel into the Middle East. The Regent is a five star deluxe hotels very known in Asia, we will bring Regent hotel to Abu Dhabi and we hope to open this place in 2010 which should be one of the land marks of Abu Dhabi.

You started very recently, starting in 2006, here as the Radisson and something that amazed me is that you had very limited amount of time to start and straight away you started with 90% percent occupancy. So imagine you arrive and straight away you had a very high occupancy and at the same time you managed to have a very high guest satisfaction score in the group, so how do you manage this trick to get every body satisfied in such a quick time?

First of all I would like to say that the total company Rezidor hotel group never experienced a hotel like us which opened and in the first month the occupancy reached a 93%, second month was 94% and 95%. This means from the very first day this hotel was very busy and of course this brings a lot of challenges. When it comes to opening the building, you have to function the building and there are some constructional issues that you have to face but I think we succeeded in terms of training of the staff , in terms of commitment from the staff to satisfy the guest as much as we could even if we had challenges, of course every hotel that opens has challenges in terms of fluidity of the people when they go from A to B, very basic things, when it comes to food supply, beverage supply because we are all quite surprised by the response of the guests who came in so quickly and such an important amount of people came to the hotel. The other thing was our, we call it a “Yes I can spirit” which is the Rezidor hotel group service spirit and standard. I think we faced all these challenges extremely well with an actualism and with a passion to serve the guests best as possible. We exceeded some of this highest guest satisfaction score which makes me feel very proud of the team because at the end it’s a team effort, it’s a team work making a difference. Something which is different here when it comes to Europe, that here we, I managed this place with 300 employees, I would say in Europe for example I would have managed this place with 150 employees. So this is as well something which makes a big difference that your resources, financial or manning wise, people wise that you have much more resources here than in Europe. So somehow, yes you have to concentrate on training much more than we do in Europe because you bring people here from all over the world to work here. First thing that we did is we went to the Philippines, we went to India, we went to Sri Lanka, hired people from these countries and had to train them to bring them to the higher Rezidor standard and I think we exceeded quite well the expectations.

Booking and occupancy is not what you should worry about. What really is the challenge that you have to face? Is it the market itself? To get the highest share of the market in Dubai? What are the challenges that you face?

You are right to say that business in Dubai is booming. You see whenever you compare the statistics about hotel occupancy rates through out the world, Dubai has the highest occupancy through out the world so somehow yes; business is not the major focus you are having, the major focus is on guest satisfaction; is on service standard and concepts because at the end people who are coming to the Emirates, especially to Dubai, their expectations are very high when it comes to experiencing something new and experiencing exceptional service. Some of the major focus as you rightly said it’s the people itself, another major focus is to position Europe’s product in the market as best as possible. For our property we talk about a business hotel and a perfect business hotel in a very strategic business location which is Media City and Internet City which is the media hub of the Middle East. Somehow the authorities achieved that all the international media and internet companies are coming to this place and relocate, from wherever they were, to Dubai and to make this the real happening place in the Middle East. So yes, we talk about strategic alliance with these companies to make sure when more competition is coming that you still remain the first choice of these companies.

Can you describe to us very quickly what the media city is where you are based.

Media city and Internet city is an entity, which didn’t exist five years ago and this is an amazing city, if you look out the window. You have now 2,200 international companies settled within 5 years into an area where there was only sand before. The authorities built up ultra modern offices, all the facilities that media and internet city people need in a free zone environment. Also the media city and the internet city is a free zone environment in the UAE. So it is tax free. Some of this is extremely important for the companies to come here. So this is basically the success of media city and internet city which is today recognized in the Middle East as a place to be for media companies.

Can you tell us more about this hotel based in media city and how does it connect to the whole concepts Media city, Internet city?

I am extremely pleased that we got seven awards this year in the first year of operation, seven awards for our hotel. It concerns the services, it concerns the F&B outlet where we got as well nominated best Italian restaurant, but we won one award that goes into this direction which is the IT implementation award for the Middle East. That means whatever we have in terms of communication its on the highest level of all hotel companies and we talk about of course wireless high speed internet access which is free of charge for all the guests, we talk about the IP phones, we have very high profile IP phones where you can surf on the internet, you can do all kinds of connections through this i-phone. We have of course flat screens in every room. So somehow our implementation is on the highest level of what people are expecting when they come to the media hub of the Middle East which is the Media city. We have to adapt our product to the high profile guests which are coming here. We are having bars, we have restaurants which are happening places. We are organizing concerts, and we just finished the Jazz festival which is in Dubai, and we are making programs with seven days of the Jazz festival happened in this hotel in one of our rooftop bars. So we make this place as well a happening place within Dubai and people talk extremely positive about this. We bring artists to this hotel to as well attract additional people coming to the hotel and not only for business but to experience something else like entertainment in this hotel.

Maybe to wrap up the interview, maybe a more personal question; you had experience abroad people coming especially in France. What have you brought from your different experience to Dubai, with your management experience? What have you brought from there? And what are the lessons that can be taught from one country to another?

I think the European “know-how” and knowledge is very much appreciated in this area, in the region itself. So somehow, let’s say my personal experience is based on the European education, German, French. So somehow I think the combination of the European “know how” when it comes to hospitality, when it comes to being a perfect host and greatly in getting the people working for this hotel today to a service level which is one of the highest ones mixed with the motivational skills that you bring whenever you get an education from the States. I think that this combination is very much appreciated by the staff working here, very much appreciated by the owner as well who is very much convinced about this hotel here when it comes to financial return, but the guest satisfaction is as well very important, which is as well the focus for all the Emiratis. They would like that all the people visiting their country be happy when they return, so this is a major focus. And of course I am a more hands on GM; somehow I would like to see the people, I would like to talk to the guests but as well to talk to the employees which is very important, and they represent at the end your property and they represent at the end whatever you would like to put in place. I put very much importance on how to deal with people and how to work with them and how to watch their back

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