By Joe Mortimer
Wolfgang Maier, GM of the Jeddah Hilton and the chain’s latest addition to The Waldorf=Astoria Collection, Qasr Al Sharq, tells ATN why the property is no ordinary hotel.
ATN: How is Qasr Al Sharq different to a typical five star hotel?
Qasr Al Sharq is more than a hotel; it is a palace. It is a unique palace consisting of 46 luxurious suites, with four types of accommodation. The Royal and Qasr Suites have one and two bedrooms respectively, but as you can tell from the dimensions (450m
) they have a tremendous amount of living space; a traditional Arabic majilis, and a separate dining room and the Royal Suite has its own mini spa. Every suite has a designated 24-hour butler; we have a stretch limo available to take people around; and you have a control panel which does everything from your lights to you're a/c to your butler call and your curtain opening and closing.
ATN: Where does Qasr Al Sharq fall in the Hilton hierarchy?
Qasr Al Sharq is the first palace managed by Hilton in the world. The soft opening was June last year and in December we successfully made it part of the Hilton Waldorf=Astoria Collection; the epitome of the Hilton properties. We now have four in the US, including The Waldorf = Astoria New York, but there are no others in the world outside of the US except Qasr Al Sharq.
ATN: Who would be the target market?
The target market is sheikhs - not only from KSA but throughout the region - international business leaders who want to give a certain impression, and of course GCC royalty. It is either business or religious tourism, although in the summer we also have a fair amount of people up from Riyadh on leisure trips.
ATN: What is the average length of stay here?
It is very difficult to define that. With a hotel I could tell you it is 2.3 days with the snap of a finger, but I can't do that here. You could have somebody here who can be here for business or in transit and he will stay one night on the way in and then be straight out, but we also have long stay guests who take temporary residence - we could also do permanent residence.
ATN: Does this affect the top end product in the neighbouring Jeddah Hilton?
I would have to say yes and know. Yes because we do have two Royal suites in the Jeddah Hilton, which are quite spacious and well fitted, but no we don't offer an environment like this and we can't offer the privacy and the exclusivity that this has. I think if you compare staying in one of the Royal suites here or there, the answer for me would be very clear - I would go for this. It offers a level of sophistication, exclusivity and privacy that the hotel does not offer and cannot offer because it is too big.
ATN: Do you do any business through the travel trade?
We haven't yet but we are looking for opportunities. We are looking for agents that have exclusive focus on this type of accommodation as opposed to agents who do the volume business, which I suppose it is fair to say is the bulk of agencies. What we are looking for are agents throughout the Gulf States who focus on royal families or senior business leaders or sheikhs in their countries - that is the right market we would like to get to know better in order to establish ties to market the palace.
ATN: What new products are being introduced in 2007?
We're about to open up a very nice spa by Clarence, a lady spa on the 9
floor rooftop that will open up this summer. By June/July we should hopefully be in operation. It's exclusively a ladies membership spa with the full range of Clarence body treatments, in addition to gym, pool, locker rooms - the usual you would find in a spa.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.