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Sat 29 Jan 2011 12:00 AM

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Getting ahead online

Rotana boss Selim El Zyr on why the company spent a whopping AED1.5m on upgrading its website

Getting ahead online
Selim El Zyr, president and CEO of Rotana.

Rotana’s mission for the next few years is clearly marked out: a massive development expansion plan will take the portfolio to 100 hotels, while a new, in-house central reservation system (CRS) and an AED 1.5 million website upgrade is aimed at keeping the company ahead online - thus generating the business required to fill the new hotels.

The rationale for the investment in the all new rotana.com and the prioritisation of all things digital was simple for the man behind the plan, Selim El Zyr, who co-founded Rotana with longtime friend Nasser Al Nowais 19 years ago.

El Zyr explains: “In this day and age, the ability to adapt to a fast-moving business environment is the only sure means of survival. If a company cannot adapt - or cannot adapt fast enough - it will be overtaken by those that do”.

To enable Rotana to adapt, El Zyr says the team works constantly to create innovative ideas based on the “ever changing nature of the hospitality industry and its evolution”.

When it comes to technology, therefore, the development is based on the observation of new trends - which emerge because of changing customer demands.

“We use our technology to push our business boundaries, to ensure innovation and efficiency across each of our departments, and to meet the evolving needs of our guests,” says El Zyr.

“We do not invest in technology for technology’s sake. Instead, we discover how our customers’ needs and expectations are evolving - and how we can provide them with the added services that enhance their experience.”

As a result, Rotana already offers wireless computing; on-demand video; personalised television and a host of what El Zyr terms ‘ease-of-use’ services, such as express check out, view bill and IP telephony.

In 2011 though, the company is shifting into higher gear and embracing the digital era more than ever before.

The aim is to increase online bookings by 50%, as this is where El Zyr sees the most opportunity for growth for Rotana.

“It is certainly online technologies since we anticipate that up to 50% of our business will be generated online within the next two to four years,” he says.

The development of Rotana’s online infrastructure took two main routes: the CRS, which El Zyr describes as a “leap forward into the world of international hospitality” and the technologically advanced company website.

The project was initiated back in 2008, when an internal committee comprising of Rotana corporate office executives hired the services of h2c, one of the leading consultants in this field to assist with the central reservation system (CRS) project. The resulting new CRS was provided by Trust International.

“Managing our own private label central reservation system is a milestone for our company and this project will allow us to have the proper infrastructure to manage our booking channels and provide us with the flexible, customisable and scalable distribution solutions that will accommodate and foster our growth across the region,” El Zyr asserts.

“This certainly reaffirms our position as a solid, leading brand of matching operations to the biggest international hotel names, who in turn also maintain their own private reservation systems.”

It will also complement the website, which integrates each of Rotana’s sub brands, Rotana Hotels & Resorts, Centro Hotels by Rotana, Rayhaan Hotels & Resorts by Rotana and Arjaan Hotel Apartments by Rotana.

The rotana.com relaunch project was handled and developed by Nonweiler Associates, an international online technology company with head office based in the UK.

“We have re-designed it with a vibrant modern look, significant layout updates and features that make it more user-friendly, while providing our visitors, of which an increasing 38.5% book their stays online, with the best rates through our new internet booking engine.

“Not only does the website feature in-depth details on Rotana’s individual properties, but it also serves as a gateway to the countries in which each property lies. The new website shines the light on Rotana’s hotels and resorts across all destinations through a comprehensive and progressive information portal,” explains El Zyr.

Rotana.com communicates a large amount of information on existing and upcoming properties, which will add 3257 new rooms to the fold in 2011.

“In addition to the new site’s informative content, the design and interface are developed in a way so as to provide excellent user experience, and the topics are well defined and categorised while effectively showcasing each hotel brand’s distinctive look and feel.

“The website features an online booking capability that interfaces to our recently commissioned central reservation system and visitors can easily book and obtain the best available rates at any of our hotels and resorts across all destinations,” says El Zyr.

It seems every detail was taken into account in the development of the website - technology ensures that browsing is just as easy and colourful for the colour-blind and rotana.com also offers a social network facility.

“Another exciting feature of the website is the new online Rotana Times www.rotanatimes.com, which, styled like a social network, features all of our promotions, upcoming events and activities across all properties,” says El Zyr.

Ultimately, as well as increasing the number of online bookings, the latest digital developments at Rotana are intended to take the home-grown brand’s excellent reputation beyond the Middle East - attracting new, first time customers to the company.

“As Rotana continues to reach out to a wider client base worldwide, the website also serves as a complete primary reference point,” explains El Zyr. “We are continually innovating and improving our products and services, and while we launch our new website, offering richer content with a more attractive and captivating new interface, we always strive to add more information to update our visitors with the latest news and offers by Rotana Hotels.

“As a technology adopter, it is vital that we use technology and the internet to its best advantage and that Rotana is accurately showcased as a growing international brand representing the region’s hospitality at its best,” he concludes.

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