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Mon 24 Sep 2007 04:00 AM

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Banquets without boundaries

As competition intensifies among properties eager to clinch shares in the region's banqueting boom, concerted efforts have resulted in diversification strategies and world-class services.

As competition intensifies among properties eager to clinch shares in the region's banqueting boom, concerted efforts have resulted in diversification strategies and world-class services.

What are the current trends in the region's banqueting sector?

We have witnessed escalating demand for modern set ups, set menus and live cooking stations.

Nizar Saadi:Emirates Palace's MICE facilities cater to all types of events, from intimate meetings to large conferences, weddings and gala events, held at our flexible ballroom, fully equipped auditorium, landscaped gardens and 1.3km stretch of private beach. Generally speaking, clients look more into venues that offer a unique experience and superior service, with attention to detail. One of the biggest challenges our pastry chef has faced was the creation of a six metre high wedding cake for a royal wedding, which stipulated working on it from a forklift.

Aboud Haroury:Four Seasons Hotel Damascus has introduced set menus, which are far more elegant in terms of presentation, achieved particularly through the layout of service. One server is assigned per table and a supervisor for every row of four, with the sequence of service becoming more of a performance as the food is brought out and served to all of the tables simultaneously.

Russell Hanson:We have witnessed escalating demand for modern set ups, and a departure from traditional skirting, buffets, linens and props. We tend to have our equipment fabricated according to our specifications rather than purchasing it off the shelf or from catalogues. Cuisines have changed dramatically, not just in terms of variety, but rather that our guests are responding to healthier menus. Set menus and live action stations are far more popular, which allow guests to interact with our culinary team, including colleagues from award-winning restaurants at Jumeirah Emirates Towers. We request guests to experience food tastings and presentations in advance to really showcase ourselves and pinpoint their needs so we can ensure that we deliver even beyond the hosts' expectations on the occasion.

What banqueting services do you offer to clients?

Russell Hanson:The Godolphin Ballroom spans 787.5m² across three meeting areas, and comfortably accommodates 600 guests for banquet dinners, or 1000 guests for buffet or cocktail receptions with its Dolby surround system, backed by twelve Congress Rooms on levels one to five of the hotel tower and five banquet rooms. The team also holds responsibility for catering at events on the grounds of the complex, covering the gardens, terraces, the Boulevard and the Office Tower.

Aboud Haroury:We offer a capacity for 450 seated guests, alongside a dance floor and stage, with our packages including buffets or set menus of three to five course formats, the cake, soft drinks, sweets, show plates, chair covers and ribbons. Our prices are not much more expensive than other properties in the city, approximately 20% and we cater to 25 events monthly, 30% of which are corporate clients.

Nizar Saadi:The 7000m² of space includes high-tech meeting rooms, its state-of-the-art auditorium with a capacity for 1100 people seated, and its grand ballroom - adorned with 15 Swarovski crystal chandeliers - hosting up to 2500 people. Our banquet sales, banquet operations and catering teams encompass 80 professionals, with a dedicated event planner working alongside customers for every event. The AV equipment requirements are by and large available on-site, to be installed and controlled by our technical team.

Rosanna Fung:More than 3500m² of indoor space includes Al Noor Ballroom, Al Ghazal Ballroom, the Grand Foyer, Rotonda, Library and four meeting rooms. Outdoor venues include our Arabian tent Al Khayma, the poolside, the croquet lawn and our private island. Clients are searching for unique and accessible locations, and want their events to be different and the best, so it is vital that the team has a firm understanding of their needs to offer suggestions and create tailor-made solutions.
How do you stand apart from competitors in the market?

Rosanna Fung:The state-of-the-art facilities are matched with a team of conference service professionals who will work in partnership with meeting planners to create a truly memorable event, with our Technology Butler on call 24-hours. To have a one-stop service for guests, we provide convenience and ease the stress level for them.

Aboud Haroury:Despite the emergence of new companies and event planners in the city every month, we have a lot of loyal, repeat clients. We have introduced a new level of service since March of last year, with well-trained staff and modern cuisine.

Nizar Saadi:The banqueting standard in the Middle East is very high, and it is very impressive to see what events have been accomplished in the past and what we are capable of doing for our clients. Emirates Palace stands apart from competitors due to its exquisite location, combined with international culinary expertise and great service quality.

Russell Hanson:Conference and banqueting at Jumeirah Emirates Towers hosts between 20 and 40 events every day. Jumeirah Hospitality catered to more than 70,000 guests over four days at the Dubai Desert Classic 2007. Jumeirah Hospitality specialises in taking care of every aspect of any event at any location, from decoration and lighting to suit the selected theme to entertainers, guest transport and cameramen. Our 10 warehouses have an inventory of approximately 190,000 pieces of cutlery, 130,000 pieces of crockery, 120,000 glassware items. We have a pool of 1100 colleagues at Jumeirah Emirates Towers and collaboration with the 12,000 colleagues at our sister hotels. Emirates Towers' immense expertise, resources and creativity. If the GPS point is given.

How important is location to banqueting services nowadays?

Rosanna Fung:Clients are in search of unique and accessible locations with one-stop personalised services that the hotel can provide. They have their ideas and special requirements, and they want their events to be different and to be the best. In order to make the banquet a success, it is important to have a team which understands the guests' needs clearly. With the vast experience and creative ideas within our team, recommendations and suggestions would be advised to assist the guest in organising for any location and to create tailor-made solutions.

Nizar Saadi:Emirates Palace offers beautifully landscaped parks with several open lawns, a 1.3km beachfront, excellent food and beverage outlets and superb banqueting services; it can be the perfect venue for spectacular outdoor events and gala dinners. For instance, we take pride in having a highly trained team of butlers on call throughout a conference, exhibition or show.

Russell Hanson:Jumeirah Hospitality has catered to gigantic gatherings including the International Monetary Fund closing gala dinner in 2003, the Dubai World Cup, and Dubai Air Show. If the requirements for the event exceeds our pool of colleagues, for example at large-scale outside events, we collaborate with the other hotels and business units, including Burj Al Arab, Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa, Wild Wadi Water Park or Jumeirah Restaurants. We can also partner with external companies related to building, fabrication, lighting, sound, fireworks, interior and exterior design, valet parking, transport, entertainment, gardening, marquees and first aid.

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