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Sun 16 Aug 2020 10:11 AM

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Palazzo Versace Dubai returns to 90% occupancy

MD Monther Darwish hails staycation market as hotel reveals hiring spree during lockdown

Palazzo Versace Dubai returns to 90% occupancy

The hotel in Dubai, which is a joint venture between Enshaa’s subsidiary Emirates International Holdings and Australian-based Sunland Group Limited, cost $626 million to build.

Occupancy levels at the Palazzo Versace Dubai have increased to up to 70 percent during the week and 90 percent at weekends, according to managing director Monther Darwish, who hailed the strength of the UAE staycation market.

Darwish told Arabian Business that the hotel, which is approaching its fifth birthday, remained open throughout, despite the strict lockdown measures enforced at the start of the second quarter to contain the spread of coronavirus.

He revealed that an intense marketing campaign, costing “millions of dirhams”, which included reaching out to around 400 influencers, has produced promising results, with 2,700 people welcomed through the doors on a particular Friday earlier this month.

“During those tough times we took a decision to go very intense in the marketing to market that we are the most fashionable and safest hotel in town. We started taking the procedures, from disinfecting gates to sanitising the rooms, and the hygiene all over the place in the hotel and we started a big push in this manner.

“We started engaging many influencers. We want to position ourselves in the client’s mind that it is the safest.

“We succeeded in this and that’s why we’re seeing our reservations up to 60-70 percent during the week and at the weekend, 90 percent. It is purely local business. A lot of people said they didn’t know about us; now they are hearing about us.”

The hotel in Dubai, which is owned by Enshaa’s subsidiary Emirates International Holdings, cost $626 million to build.

The hospitality industry has arguably been hit the hardest throughout this global pandemic. According to a recent report from Cavendish Maxwell, as of June 2020, 16 percent of hotels within the UAE tracked by hotel data firm AM:PM had closed their doors, while the number of rooms closed within Dubai stood at 27 percent.

During this time, Dubai’s RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room) fell 73.5 percent when compared with June 2019.

Hiring

Darwish, however, revealed there had been no redundancies at the hotel, although the basic salaries of staff were reduced by 50 percent.

He said the company, which now employs 500 people, had actually gone on a hiring spree, recruiting almost 90 new members of staff.

“We hired people. We didn’t do a restructuring, we didn’t cut the number of people,” he said.

With many countries across the world experiencing a second wave of infections, prompting further lockdown measures in parts of Australia, New Zealand, throughout Europe, the UK and Ireland, the critical importance of finding a vaccine for Covid-19 is paramount.

Phase III clinical trials are underway in several countries, including Saudi Arabia the UAE and Bahrain, while Russia has claimed it has developed a successful vaccine.

Whether these can be brought to market as soon as possible or not, Marwish remains bullish about the future of the industry.

He said: “With the positive news that maybe there’s a vaccination coming or the restrictions to be reduced from Europe, we expect that we will go to minimum 80 percent average for the coming four to five months.”

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