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Fri 5 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Back to basics at Four Points

Four Points by Sheraton general manager Erik Vedsegaard discusses his decision to focus on life's simple pleasures at the brand's two new properties: Downtown Dubai and Sheik Zayed Road.

Four Points by Sheraton general manager Erik Vedsegaard discusses his decision to focus on life's simple pleasures at the brand's two new properties: Downtown Dubai and Sheik Zayed Road.

How many properties are there under the Four Points brand in Dubai?

I am based in the Four Points on Sheikh Zayed Road, which we opened in May. We have another one which we call Downtown in the Mankhool area, which we opened in October last year and we have another in Bur Dubai that has been there for quite some years. We are starting the renovation of that now.

The four points brand is all about being uncomplicated and comfortable.

Do you target the same market for each of these three properties?

In one way yes and in one way no. There are a lot of similarities in the type of market that we are looking at but even though there are only five kilometres between them, the market differentiates from Sheikh Zayed Road to the other areas.

On Sheikh Zayed Road it's very business focused. We have lots of people going to the financial centre and the offices around here, but also plenty of tourists.

We have a good number of tourists from the GCC area who love the apartments. When you go downtown you have a mix of business and leisure as well, but it's a slightly different clientele. I think even though Dubai is small, people get very familiar with locations and they want to be in a specific area. Soon we will be able to walk from the Sheikh Zayed Road hotel to the Dubai Mall.

Tell me a little about the concept behind the Four Points brand.

Four Points is part of the Starwood family. All of the nine Starwood brands have been reshaped and brought back to life in a way to have a stronger stance in the market.

Here we are lucky because we have two new Four Points buildings that were built to the new Four Points standards. The Four Points brand is all about being uncomplicated and comfortable. It's honesty in the product. With some of the other brands it's all about pampering, but our brand is focused on being uncomplicated and offering easy access to the product.

Do you think that makes the brand stand out in Dubai, where there is such an emphasis on over-the-top luxury?

I think because it is uncomplicated and honest there are not so many questions and people understand what it is all about. We have a lot of the services that you will find in a five-star hotel but in a simpler way, in an easier way. However, there is a huge difference between simple and cheap. In fact, doing things simply is sometimes more difficult than the alternative. We are trying to go back to the basics.

How is this brand idea reflected in the services and products that you offer?

If we look at a typical guestroom I would say that all the elements you will find in a five-star, we have here, but they are simpler. There is the language of brochures and the compendium - the whole thing is laid out in a simpler way.

With our dining facilities we are looking at different things; simple cooking methods and good fresh products. It is like mama's home cooking; we can never top your mama 100%, but we can go in this direction.

We call it comfort food. We are also working on small meals, or ‘sharing food', where everybody can take a bite and share. We also have introduced takeaway coffee. We know there are busy business people who run out of here in the morning and are not interested in spending time on the buffet, so we have very nice good quality coffee in takeaway cups. This is what the simplified, self-sufficient business travellers want.

Could you describe this type of "self sufficient" guest?

The self-sufficient business traveller is one of our target audiences. He is the guy you will see arriving at the hotel with his rolling suitcase - he doesn't want anyone to take his luggage - he just wants to hand over his credit card and roll up to the room himself. It is the same guy who will get his takeaway coffee in the morning.

We have also seen a lot of people that I would consider to be five-star hotel guests. These are people with very high positions and we find them in our hotel. I won't say I am surprised - OK, maybe pleasantly surprised!

Have you seen any impact of the global credit crisis and international financial issues on local business?

I think there has been more talking in the lobby and the bar than real impact. Of course that is a big black cloud but we haven't seen much impact so far. We expect that if the world gets squeezed we will also get squeezed, but so far we haven't seen anything. People are coming because it is still ticking here. In fact, many people are coming and saying, ‘we've never looked at doing business in Dubai, maybe it's time we tried'.

Does the international growth of the brand bring you more business in Dubai?

We have statistics and from the surveys we can read to see how many people know the brand, prompted or unprompted. From this we have seen a dramatic increase in the Dubai market from last year to this year. It shows that we are moving in the right direction with the brand.

What promotion have you done to push the new properties?

When you start branding a property it is not a process that ends; you have to keep evolving and coming up with new ideas. We send our ideas to head office and that's where the brand family starts to become really strong.

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