Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri general manager Adrian Rudin discusses the property's competitive advantage of being the first international hotel brand to have come to Abu Dhabi for 15 years.
How long have you been working at the property?
I've been here since May 2006, when I joined the pre-opening team.
We had enough preparation time to properly teach our staff, so this helped to take them to a certain level, and we can now see the fruits of that effort.
Tell us about the facilities at Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri.
The hotel has 214 rooms, all sea-facing. We have four restaurants at the moment and one more opening in the summer, the concept for which has yet to be finalised. But right now we have Lebanese, Chinese and French outlets and then we have the all-day dining restaurant as well.
We have a function room for 300, plus the fifth floor ‘Majilis', as we call it, also for functions. Then we have 161 serviced apartments and then six villas for rent, each with four bedrooms.
We also have a souk adjacent, with about 47 shops and eight restaurants. The restaurants there are all leased out. Then further down from the souk there's another hotel being built, which will also be managed by Shangri-La.
What are the unique selling points of this particular property?
I believe for one it's the location: we are 10 minutes from the airport, we are 10 minutes from the golf course, we are 10 minutes from the convention centre. Then of course there's our unique situation by the water. I think we have one of the longest waterfront sites in the UAE, and obviously it's very calm and tranquil.
We also have the Chi spa, which is obviously a great added benefit to the hotel.
How has the hotel been performing since it opened last August?
We had our soft opening in the summer, in the Ramadan period. It was quite successful, and I would say the last few months of the year were very successful. We became the market leader in the city and had a very good performance, so we are very pleased with the build-up; it was unusually fast.
I think it helped that we really had enough time to do proper training for all our staff, so we managed to go through all our training programme regarding Shangri-La care the month before; we had enough preparation time to properly teach our staff, so this helped to take them to a certain level, and we can now see the fruits of that effort.
What's your target clientele here?
Our target clientele has a business focus; we have about 80% business and 20% leisure at the moment. Obviously it's also going to be an experience now for us, regarding the customers we get and how we get them, and we can see that we'll get a lot of business from the leisure market in this region - people coming to relax for the weekend from Dubai and other cities nearby, so it could be that in the week we are more business and at the weekends we are more leisure - we'll see.
Where are the majority of your guests coming from?
We get a lot of GCC business. Also guests are coming from Europe, the UK mainly and Germany.
Did you have any problem recruiting staff for the hotel?
Obviously one of the challenges was to time the hiring, to get the balance right between hiring people and when we opened the hotel. We did recruitment trips to all the Arabian countries and all the Asian countries - everywhere you can think of we sent teams to recruit.
What properties do you consider your biggest competitors?
Of course we have competition - Rotana, InterContinental, they're the main players at the moment for us to look out for in terms of business volume and prestige of name within Abu Dhabi.
How do you think the extensive development plans for Abu Dhabi over the nest few years will affect the property?
There will be several other international brands coming into the city, and that is for the good of Abu Dhabi, I think, and also for the good of us - I mean, it's good for the destination as a whole.
And we have the big advantage of being first on the scene, so we can start to build on that; being the first is always a good thing, and we'll have a solid foundation to build and improve on.
The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is working very closely with us, because we are the first hotel in a long time to come online here; I think we are the first international hotel brand to come here in 15 years. So we are working closely with them, and it's a mutual effort to sell the destination.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.
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