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Sat 21 Jun 2008 04:00 AM

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Rocco Forte talks travel trade tactics

Rocco Forte Collection global sales director Mark Allvey explains why Middle East travel agents are crucial to the UK-based luxury hotel group's distribution strategy.

Rocco Forte Collection global sales director Mark Allvey explains why Middle East travel agents are crucial to the UK-based luxury hotel group's distribution strategy.

The Rocco Forte Collection has revealed ambitions to work closely with the Middle East's travel trade to drive sales to its growing portfolio of luxury properties.

The hotel group, which currently operates 11 top-end properties across Europe, hopes to open a sales office in the UAE by the summer and has also embarked on its first round of sales missions targeting travel agents and tour operators that specialise in the luxury market.

We have prided ourselves on a strong relationship with the trade and it’s always been our policy not to sell direct.

This move comes as the company gets set to open five new properties in the next two years including two in the Middle East - one in Abu Dhabi and the other in Jeddah.

It is hoped that by ramping up trade activity The Rocco Forte Collection brand will become better known for its entire portfolio, rather than its individual properties.

"At this point in time, a number of our individual hotels have a stronger image than the collective brand," explained the company's global sales director, Mark Allvey.

The agents here know certain hotels like the Hotel de Russie, Rome and The Balmoral, Edinburgh, but the majority don't realise these come under the Rocco Forte Collection brand and that we have eight or nine more properties in our portfolio.

Allvey said the intention was to improve brand awareness ahead of the company's Middle East openings.

To kick-start this campaign, Allvey and the GMs of nine properties visited agents and operators in Saudi Arabia and the UAE last month.

Their plan is to conduct several more such sales missions across the GCC this year - topped up with fam trips to the properties to allow travel agents to experience the brand first-hand.

Allvey hopes to open a Middle East sales office within the next three months.

"It maybe in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, I haven't decided - Abu Dhabi would be useful because that's where our new property will be located," he said. "I'm in the process of interviewing for the sales position right now.

Allvey said the trade was essential to The Rocco Forte Collection's distribution strategy: "We have prided ourselves on a strong relationship with the trade and it's always been our policy not to sell direct," he explained.

"We want to work with quality tour operators that focus on the luxury market and make sure that by visiting them we establish relationships so they know they have a point of contact when they want to make a booking at one of our properties."

Allvey stressed that the Middle East market had "great potential" with the company's properties in Munich, London and Switzerland already boasting a strong Middle East following.

"All our hotels are geared up to the Middle East market - we have a high percentage of suites, many of which are interconnecting and we offer Halal cuisine, Arabic newspapers and TV channels. We also employ several Arabic-speaking staff," he added.

In terms of brand positioning, The Rocco Forte Collection adhered to the philosophy of "the art of simple luxury", said Allvey.

"We have a contemporary feel and our locations are very important - in Geneva we are by the lake and in Rome we are by the Spanish steps. Our guests are where they should be rather than where they expect to be," he said.

"I know a lot of hotels say it, but we try to reference the locations we are in. For instance, our Prague property is in a thirteenth century monastery, a third of which is still inhabited by Augustine monks," he added.

Allvey said Rocco Forte Collection properties competed with the likes of Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental, but noted that the company was currently the largest hotel brand in Europe, with more key European city openings planned.

The sales pitchThe Rocco Forte Collection includes:

Hotel de Russie, Rome

Hotel Savoy, Florence

The Balmoral, Edinburgh

The Lowry Hotel, Manchester

Hotel Astoria, St Petersburg

Hotel Amigo, Brussels

Le Richemond, Geneva

Brown's Hotel, London

Villa Kennedy, Frankfurt

Hotel de Rome, Berlin

The Charles Hotel, Munich

Future openings:

Prague:2008

Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, Sicily:2008

Marrakech:2009

Abu Dhabi:2010

Jeddah:2010 Abu Dhabi property:A 12-floor 282-room five-star property featuring two pools, a health club, spa and several F&B outlets including a bar suspended on the fifth floor of a 10-storey atrium. There will also be extensive meetings facilities including nine function rooms.

Jeddah property:A new-build project located in the shopping district on Tahlia Road. The two-tower 19-floor hotel will comprise 159 rooms with a high proportion of suites and around 50 serviced apartments. Facilities comprise a business centre 1700m² of conference space, a health club and a pool.

To book:The Forte Collection has its own GDS code: FC.

Commission:10% and during promotions, sometimes 12%.

Visit:www.roccofortecollection.com or call +44 (0) 800 988 4040 for more information.

A dedicated online resource for travel agents is found at www.rfctraveltrade.com

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