We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Sat 11 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Reaffirming the brand promise

Newly-appointed Sheraton Deira general manager Francois Waller explains why he plans to stick with Starwood and reveals a host of exciting upcoming plans for rejuvenating the property.

Newly-appointed Sheraton Deira general manager Francois Waller explains why he plans to stick with Starwood and reveals a host of exciting upcoming plans for rejuvenating the property.

How long have you been at the property and what was the attraction of joining?

I arrived on August 11, so not that long ago. I was previously in Aleppo, Syria; I went out there two-and-a-half years ago to open the Sheraton Aleppo. It was a beautiful property and Syria's a beautiful country, but for a family it's not as good, predominantly because of the schooling facilities. They are not yet quite up to the same level as in Dubai and other places. I have a ten-year old son and a daughter who's 14, so good schooling is vital. So when this opportunity came up I jumped at it.

We're back. Sheraton is back at the Sheraton Deira.

I first started with Sheraton in 1998. I have worked for various groups before - Hilton, InterContinental, Shangri-La - and then I joined Starwood.

I think out of all the companies I've worked with, they are the most progressive, the most technologically advanced and the one with the biggest expansion plans. On top of that, it's about the people you work with. I've had great GMs and really good people to work with, so that's a big part of the reason to stay.

Tell us about the facilities at the Sheraton Deira.

The hotel has 224 rooms. I'm lucky joining at this stage, because half of the rooms have been renovated and the other half are being done at the moment, so three months into the job I'll have a brand new product, which helps tremendously - especially in Dubai. I mean, when I look at the old rooms and I look at the price they got for them, I take my hat off to my predecessor because he did very well!

But I think the new product will make a big difference. And I've also found that the team of staff is incredibly friendly - the service I've seen is top-notch. And once there's the renovated product as well, there we'll have the whole package to offer guests.

What kind of business facilities do you have?

Something we're working on at the moment is a Sheraton trademark, Then Link, which is kind of a business centre within a business centre. It's a meeting place for the business person travelling alone who wants to work in a nice atmosphere and maybe meet other people.

Then we have a ballroom of 750m² and a business centre, which has wireless internet access and so on.

We're also planning three very nice executive meeting rooms for the fifth floor, with all the technology you could need. At the moment one slot is occupied by a tenant, an Iranian restaurant, but I'm hoping they are out by the end of the year so that next year we can make a real conference centre up there; hopefully a Lindbergh's Bar, as well.

I don't think meetings in the future will have this rigid set up with a set coffee break at the back of the meeting room between 10.30 and 11, when the hotel is ready. People should be allowed to get up, to take their breaks when it suits them and if they want to wander into Lindbergh's and get a coffee, make a sandwich, grab a Coke or whatever, they should be able to do so. I want to get away from the rigid style and be able to offer flexible packages, where the client has the freedom to structure their day as they wish. I think that would be an extremely unique and saleable concept.

Are there any other developments or initiatives you'd like to implement?

The rooms should be finished by early November and we are also repainting the courtyard; it's going to be terracotta, so really a very Mediterranean look.

Then the restaurant that is around the courtyard terrace - currently our ‘all-day dining' concept - can become a wonderful themed Italian. I have to wait to get this idea approved, but I think it would be fantastic to make it like a proper Italian piazza, with a pizza oven as the centerpiece, some nice Italian music and a talented young chef.

Our Link will be situated on our mezzanine floor, and I'm hoping we'll be able to redesign that whole area and have a bar and restaurant in there too. I want the emphasis to be on serving lunch and dinner, but we'll also serve breakfast there.

So with the three of them in the same area - although the three areas will be distinct - it will become a place where people can meet, eat and dine. I'm working on the concept and the plans before we get any designers in, but the dream is starting to come alive.Then there will be the conference centre upstairs and the Lindbergh's Bar.

And I think with these additions, we'll be fine. We don't need lots of outlets and so on; we're not the Westin and we don't have the same appeal. Here you need to look at exactly who your clients are and what they need, then deliver that quality. Then people will come and it will work. So I hope all that will happen within the next year.

What do you want this property to say to guests?

We're back. Sheraton is back at the Sheraton Deira - Sheraton quality, people and programmes.

This is still a good location - there are a lot of things happening, we're close to the airport, plus we have the brand promise. For me that's the biggest thing to let people know: that the brand promise is here.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

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.
Real news, real analysis and real insight have real value – especially at a time like this. Unlimited access ArabianBusiness.com can be unlocked for as little as $4.75 per month. Click here for more details.