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Fri 17 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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Bringing the Dead Sea to life

Kempinski Ishtar Dead Sea general manager and regional director Bugra Berberoglu discusses the property’s completion, its newly-opened Anantara spa and the joys of life by the Dead Sea.

Kempinski Ishtar Dead Sea general manager and regional director Bugra Berberoglu discusses the property's completion, its newly-opened Anantara spa and the joys of life by the Dead Sea.

When did you join Kempinski Ishtar Dead Sea and what was the appeal of coming to this property?

I arrived on June 10 this year - prior to that I was at Djibouti Palace Kempinski. It was a great promotion for me; I came here as not only general manager of the property but also the regional director for Kempinski, so it's quite a challenge.

There are hundreds of beautiful beaches in the world, there are many mountain resorts and many big cities — but there is only one Dead Sea.

The hotel is a wonderful project - we just completed our final phase with the opening of our Anantara spa in September, so we now have a complete product.

This property had already opened very successfully, in various phases, and now I'm looking forward to working across the finished property. Our main task now is to live up to guest expectations and provide the standard they expect from us.

Tell us about the property and the facilities it offers.

Including the new rooms in the spa, we have 345 rooms, but two or three different products. We have Ishtar, a small village of luxury villas which include the honeymoon suites, the cabanas, the Royal Villa; then we have the main building, which offers our modern luxury hotel product; then there are the 28 suites in the spa, some simplex some duplex.

The spa is wonderful; totally unique, I would say. It is being managed by one of the biggest spa operators in the world, Anantara.

Then regarding F&B offerings we have a great range, including an Italian restaurant, our all-day dining area, Akkad - our poolside snack bar - and Kish Bar.

But now we have a project to open a new restaurant: we've talked about concepts but haven't decided anything yet, so that's very exciting. We're going to have two or three concepts in one area; it'll be a lounge bar, two different restaurants and maybe a night club. But it's not finalised yet.

Then on the beach we have another area where we're working on opening a final restaurant. We've been working on ideas for that recently too. I would love to create a Greek taverna, to honour our Greek friendships.

Also we are working with two different entertainment consultants to boost our entertainment in the resort. This is based on feedback we've had from guests, which we always take into consideration.

What are the USPs of your location on the Dead Sea?

I heard someone say in a speech once that there is only one Dead Sea; there are hundreds of beautiful beaches in the world, there are many mountain resorts and many big cities - but there is only one Dead Sea. So this is already one unique aspect.

Jordan as a country is one of the must-sees, with Petra and Aqaba, so I think we're contributing to the general tourist demand in Jordan with our product.

As a Kempinski brand, there are no limits to what we can do for our guests. If you want to set up a fantastic party in the Royal Villa or whatever, we're there, we're happy to oblige.

Who is your target clientele here?

As Kempinski we are of course offering to high-end customers, and the good thing about this property is that we can cater to our leisure part of the business but also groups and MICE. We have a fantastic ballroom - it's a really sexy, state-of-the-art ballroom geared towards catering for MICE business.

This is something we're focusing on building at the moment. We have a very strong sales team and with all the facilities we have to offer, it shouldn't be hard to promote.

So we have worked on building corporate business this year.

What impact will the new spa have on the property?

Well it really completes the product. We are in a fantastic location in a great country, and I think the Dead Sea is really complemented by a great spa, because there's that emphasis on natural wellbeing.

When you're here for a few days there's nothing better than trying out the different massages and facials when you want a relaxing day; it meets our guests' requirements. So I think with the spa we really do have a full product.

Have you come across any particular challenges to operating in this region during your time here?

Well each country and each destination has its own set of challenges. Jordan is a great destination. I can tell you during the first few days I was here the Jordan Tourism Board got in contact to offer their support in our promoting of Jordan.

I don't really foresee any difficulties, other than the fact that we need to work on creating awareness of this great property.

What are your ambitions for Kempinski Ishtar?

My goals are very clear. On the very first day I came here, I said ‘we are aiming to be the best hotel in the Middle East' and I hope we achieve that.

Obviously it will be a lot of hard work - but I have great staff, a great property and I am confident that we can attain that goal.

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