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Sat 25 Apr 2009 04:00 AM

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Personalised plans for Cove

Cove Rotana at Ras Al Khaimah opened in February. General manager Maurice De Rooij divulges the creative approaches to spending that helped keep a local focus and cut costs.

Personalised plans for Cove

Cove Rotana at Ras Al Khaimah opened in February. General manager Maurice De Rooij divulges the creative approaches to spending that helped keep a local focus and cut costs.

What brought you to Rotana and where did you work before?

A year ago I was working in Bali where I'd been for four years. At that time Dubai was still very much a place where things were happening. If you wanted to really go somewhere in international hotels, you went to Dubai or China.

I am very keen on resorts; I think there is a different mindset compared to city hotels or airport hotels. Rotana presented me with a unique opportunity - to come here and start from scratch. Rotana has a strong reputation in the market and has strong ethics and family values.

You can switch products and save money with local options.

What did you want to bring to the brand and to this property?

I wanted to get an understanding of where we were in the market. In the beginning it is crucial that you look at the product - we were talking about hotel rooms, villas and integrated development. You really need to have a good understanding of what you want to do and what the property is all about. If you position it wrongly it affects everything; the facilities, logistics and pricing. Normally you only get one chance to do it right. You can't reposition yourself after three months.

I think we were fortunate to work with very experienced developers, which went hand in hand with Rotana's management abilities. Some products are delivered with turnkey solutions, but Rotana steps in two to three years before.

What is your main priority in terms of customer service?

Everything has to be guest-driven. Once you have a guest orientation, instead of a back-of-house or operational orientation, you tend to focus everything - in terms of standards, quality and facilities - in the same direction. People are disappointed when hotels do not have a personal approach and the bigger the hotel, the more important it is to keep it personalised.

How has the global financial crisis impacted the project?

Once you start a project and hit the point of no return, there is no way back. You either put it on hold or you continue and finish it; you can't stop halfway and do half an opening.

The way we are affected is in terms of investment. Every investment needs to be either revenue- or cost-justified. It's not a matter of putting things in because they're fun. It's almost as though you are planning your own hotel - if you are the property owner you look at things in different ways before you spend. For example, our chinaware is all RAK-made.

This may cost 30-50% of an international brand coming in from Europe. There are many ways that you can switch products with quality local options. Creativity doesn't cost you much.

How do you view Ras Al Khaimah as a destination?

The uniqueness of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) is that it is an upcoming destination. If you see the development and the economical growth of RAK, I figure it is quite visionary to build a Rotana hotel here. The resort has the ‘wow' effect in that it is located on the main road so that passers-by will notice it.

Occupancy was high in February, but how are forward bookings?

They are good as well. It's not as though we take tourists only from one nationality; we follow what is happening in the area. There is a very strong demand from people within the country who are looking for villas for their families because they don't want to have two or three hotel rooms. This market is going well and weekend occupancy is good.

The European market usually travels at least twice a year; once during the winter and once during summer. They may sacrifice one of these holidays if they are under financial pressure, but they will still go on a holiday. There is an entire generation out there looking for short-haul destinations - the UAE is great for this market. People are very curious about this part of the world.

What is the game plan for this property in the coming year?

This will become one of the leading properties in the area. There is a lot of work to be done, but that is the focus. People will get true value for money and a product that they can identify with. This hotel could bring additional business to RAK from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, so we could help the local economy. We have to give back to the community.

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