Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa general manager Arbind Shrestha talks about the triple-hotel property’s extensive facilities and his ambition to make the resort an Omani icon.
How long have you been here and what was the attraction of joining this particular property?
I joined in February, and it's been a very exciting six months. I came from developing a similar kind of set-up in Malaysia - the Golden Sands Resort and Shangri-La's Rasa Sayan Resort.
There's really no need to go outside the property if you don't want to.
This had been an iconic resort for 35 years, but it was aging, it was getting old. So we closed it for two years, invested US $50 million in it and made it another six-star resort, and it has been highly successful.
In December the company said they needed me in the Middle East. I didn't know the Middle East, had never worked here, and so I was interested in checking it out.
I flew over one evening in January and when I got up in the morning I was blown away; it was just such a magical view and unique set-up, and I fell in love with it.
Also it was still an evolving product with a lot to be done, which gives me an opportunity to leave my mark on the project.
Tell us about the facilities on offer at the resort.
There are three hotels. Firstly there's Al Husn, which means ‘the castle'. It's right on top of a hill, designed like a castle with meticulous detail and very high quality hardware, to cater to the needs of highly discerning customers, be they business or leisure.
It has been positioned as a six-star deluxe resort, and the only one of its kind in Oman. It offers all the facilities you need: there are 180 rooms, six restaurants and bars, and the guests there can use any of the facilities at the other hotels, such as CHI, The Spa and the other outlets.
There are also little touches like butler service, complimentary mini-bar and complimentary high tea which make it a truly special product.
Al Bandar means ‘the town'. This hotel has 198 rooms, and has a lively feel to it; the whole piazza outside is like a town. It has shops, restaurants, nightclubs, bars - it's almost like a community.
The hotel itself has eight restaurants and bars; there's really no need to go outside the property if you don't want to. On top of that, Al Bandar has all the meetings facilities. We have the largest facilities of any hotel in Oman - almost 15,000m2, which can accommodate up to about 900 people - and we are still enhancing that sector.
Finally there's Al Waha, which means ‘the oasis'. This is separated from the other two hotels by a hill, but you still have access via the beach. It is truly a family hotel, and very popular.
We have 262 keys there, but 40 are family rooms, which entail two rooms joined together. There's a children's club, a wonderful play area and even the F&B concepts are slightly more casual and more family friendly.
We also offer diverse activities. There's the marina, any kind of water sport you could think of, from diving to dolphin-watching, and we also have a turtle hatchery on our beach, where guests can actually see a turtle laying its eggs or the eggs hatching.
The property's spa, CHI The Spa, is to be renovated later this year; what changes will be made?
We have a villa concept at the spa - individual villas where people can have a shower, relax and have their treatments in private. They range from about 65m2 to 150m2, so a lot of space has been dedicated to that.
It's been an extremely successful concept in Oman, so we feel the need to expand it and are going to build seven additional villas. Construction started in mid-July, so we're hoping to be completed by January or February next year.
What other developments are underway at the resort?
We are building a dhow restaurant on the beach outside Al Waha that will be a lifestyle family restaurant, serving steak, seafood and family-style cuisine. That concept should be ready by mid-2009.
Also coming up is the Heritage Village, which will have a cultural show on a daily basis, and we will also have an amphitheatre there which can house up to 1200 people for open air functions.
Then we will also have a souq with 32 lifestyle shops and restaurants inside; so including the local Omani craft shops that will be in Heritage Village, we will have 50 different retails outlets.
Regarding the residential area, there are 15 villas with their own pool, then we have a townhouse section as well. Construction should be completed by early next year.
We will also have serviced residences, offering customers an additional choice. And we are going to build some more shops and restaurants around that area which should be finished by 2010. That's the final phase of the property.
What are your ambitions for Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa?
Our objective is to become the iconic lifestyle resort destination. Oman is of course a destination, but once you come to this property you realise it's a destination in itself because we'll be pretty much self-sufficient with all the services and facilities. So basically what we offer is a very diverse experience in terms of product, service and every other aspect.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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