As the refurbishment of the Sheraton Oman Hotel in Muscat continues, general manager Martin Cramer tells HME that this month's tasks took the hotel's team from Oman to Berlin.
Last month the refurbishment process of the Sheraton Oman Hotel hit its first speed bump with the European holiday season delaying the process of obtaining some materials.
This month, the hotel disposed of its furniture, fittings and electrical goods (FF&E), finalised room designs, and then previewed the finished product at ITB in Berlin.
Sheraton Oman Hotel general manager Martin Cramer said disposing of the hotel's FF&E was one of the major challenges in the process of decommissioning the hotel before handing it over to the contractor.
"After exploring different avenues on how to dispose of the largest quantity of FF&E while achieving the highest sale price, we discovered a Dubai based auction house," he explained.
"Together with them [we developed] a plan that included advertising, an open day to view the items and the actual auction itself."
Cramer said the goods sold were mainly beds, chairs, desks, televisions, safes and gymnasium equipment.
"The auctioneer's marketing activities ensured a large attendance with good prices being fetched for all items," he said.
"Heavy duty items - for example laundry and kitchen equipment - are being offered separately to companies that could make good use of the same for their own operations."
The hotel also reviewed and finalised the designs of the mock-up rooms - a process that was covered in depth in last month's
Hotelier Middle East.
"This entailed the Starwood team, owners, designer and project manager inspecting and commenting on the two mock up rooms that had been prepared," Cramer added.
"The two rooms reflected a different bathroom set-up; one being a four-element bathroom - featuring a toilet, bidet, bath and shower, and sink - whilst the other was a five-element bathroom showing a separate bath and shower."
Cramer said the team decided to use the four-element bathroom design, because the five-element set-up reduced the available space in the main bedroom.
Several other operational and design issues were discussed with the designer for changes to be made, with Cramer estimating that the initial room designs were "70% of the way there".
The changes and additions recommended by the team were being incorporated now, either physically or in computer renderings, before the final design received approval, Cramer said.
After a presentation by the designer on the look and feel of the renovated interior, the sales and marketing team stepped in to translate the vision into a workable presentation for ITB Berlin, one of the world's leading travel trade shows.
"With the development of Oman not quite in the same league as the United Arab Emirates, finding a company with the technical skills to produce this was a challenge in itself," Cramer said. "Linked to this was a very tight deadline of seven days and the task started to look like Mount Everest. Help was at hand though, at Muscat Knowledge Oasis, a technology park recently started in the Sultanate.
"With the help of a company called ebrain and the founder, Fuad Al Busaidy, a presentation was made, with the final presentation download being made en-route to the exhibition grounds in Berlin. It's amazing how far technology has come."
Participants and visitors at the show gave positive feedback.
"The overall feeling was that the renovated hotel will complement the destination offering through a range of quality bedrooms that the market needs," Cramer said.
"In addition the hotel will feature many Sheraton brand ‘first' initiatives in the region. This will include the Sheraton Link among others."
Sheraton Oman Hotel will be the first in the Gulf to feature the link, which is a corner of the lobby where guests can access the Internet, read the newspapers and socialise.
Cramer said another project completed during the month was finalising time frames for different areas of work to be done - including the tower, lobby, outlets, conference facilities and outdoor landscaping.
"Obviously the first priority is the room, because if you don't have rooms you don't have a hotel," he said. "The second priority is accessibility; the lobby and so on for checking-in. Then there is the restaurant and all-day dining facilities. And then, because we are a business hotel located downtown, we need to provide what the customers need - access to technology, the Internet, and a business centre."
A final point of discussion was the hotel's mechanical, electrical and plumbing fixtures.
"Because we are in a 25-year-old building we had to audit everything," Cramer explained.
"The wiring, the cabling, the chiller for the airconditioning - we need to know what condition they are in, and what is needed to make them into perfect condition."
Cramer said it was a matter of prioritisation again, coupled with the cost factor: deciding whether or not it was a better investment to replace aged equipment or recondition it to perfect working order.
Making the process easier was the fact the hotel's systems could be fully shut down, he added.
"We have received the audit, but we have not finished the process yet," Cramer concluded.