More opportunities than challenges in Qatar’s hotel industry
Hilton Doha is the first Hilton Worldwide property in Qatar, home to the famous Trader Vic’s restaurant and bar, and the first eforea spa in the Middle East. Erika Widén spoke with Andreas Searty, general manager of Hilton Doha, about how he believes the forecast looks promising for Hilton’s future expansion in Doha and the region.
Hilton Doha opened to the public in May 2012. How many guest rooms and suites, business centres, meeting rooms and grand ballrooms does the property have to offer? What are the unique features Hilton Doha offers in comparison to other upscale hotels available in Doha?
We have 309 sea view rooms and suites. Our strategic location is an excellent added value to business and leisure guests alike. The hotel also has seven meeting rooms, a grand ballroom which fits up to 740 people, and the first eforea spa in the region. The eforea spa has eight spacious treatment rooms, and we also offer a variety of dining options, from our all-day dining restaurant, Mawasem, to Qatar’s first Trader Vic’s. I think Hilton Doha has established itself as a hotel of firsts.
How is the hospitality business in Qatar, and how do you think it will grow?
In comparison to our competition, Hilton Doha has maintained and exceeded the average occupancy rate. I see Qatar as a country with many opportunities and there is a great deal of projects within the infrastructure, and many investments taking place over the next few years in preparation for the World Cup. We see that all hotels and especially the Hilton Doha will benefit from the influx of business people coming into the country and using the facilities of the hotel. The advantage of Hilton Doha is that people come here for leisure and business. We like to be a hotel that attracts business people who benefit from Hilton’s business facilities and strategic location in the heart of Doha city, but at the same time, extend their stay for a day or two to enjoy our leisure facilities. eforea spa at Hilton, as well as our recreational areas and prime location at the beach, helps us by complementing the leisure part of their stay in Doha.
What aspects and/or factors have made Doha an important market for Hilton? And are there any other expansion developments Hilton has for the future?
Qatar is a nation that is expanding and developing rapidly. Its strategic location and position within the Gulf and its significance within the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Middle East makes Qatar an attractive destination as a whole. Therefore, we felt that we needed to be a part of it and its development. Hilton Doha was a matter of the right time with the right partners, and here we are, open to the public and doing very well. Hilton is a worldwide and international hotel company with 10 hotel brands and more than 3000 hotels around the world, 56 of which are in the Middle East and Africa. More importantly Hilton Worldwide has acknowledged the importance of the region and its expanding economies and has planned to sign more than 100 Hilton properties within the next five years in Europe, Middle East and North Africa Region. Qatar has established itself as the wealthiest nation in the world, and we have several other Hilton brands coming to Qatar soon.
According to reports, approximately 75 percent of hotels in Doha are upscale five-star hotels, which may be a negative in the long run since it means there is not a lot of diversity. What is your opinion in this regard? Are the figures exaggerated, and do you feel this will eventually change?
I believe that with supply and demand things are changing, and the market is the key factor in determining what sort of hotels are required and what sort of level of hotels, and what kind of brands are required. The market dictates that and whatever the demand is, supply will have to adjust accordingly.
Hilton Garden Inn Doha Al Sadd is expected to open in 2013. How does the property differ to Hilton Doha? And why choose the Al Sadd area?
There are more than 500 Hilton Garden Inns around the world, Hilton Garden Inn Doha Al Sadd will actually be the second in the Middle East, and the first is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It is a very unique business hotel in its segment, which will be located in Al Sadd district, a booming commercial area. It will target and cater to a different business sector, including smaller businesses and middle management, providing all necessary facilities of a business hotel while being affordable. We felt expanding the Hilton name into the Al Sadd area was necessary and would give us a competitive edge as well as giving our loyal Hilton guests and members an alternative.
Hilton Doha has recently launched six restaurants. Why open so many restaurants within one property? Surely it must be a challenge for Hilton Doha to attract people to those restaurants with the hotel’s close proximity to Katara Cultural Village?
At Hilton Hotels and Resorts, our most important value is to make sure every guest feels valued, cared for, and respected. We believe it is our responsibility to cater to all our guests’ needs and that is why we like to offer a choice for every palate. Mawasem, our all-day dining, has a variety of cuisines from around the world as well as theme nights. La Sahtaine is for the more sophisticated palate with French Mediterranean cuisine, and a spectacular beverage cellar.
Trader Vic’s, which is the first to open in Qatar, offers an Asian Polynesian fusion cuisine as well as signature cocktails. Zawaya Lounge is the perfect lounge for happy hour or watching sports games with a classic bar menu. Ya Hala our lobby lounge and Bab Al Baher our pool and beach bar have classic favourites to accommodate clients. We have received very positive feedback and results from in-house guests, locals and residents using and enjoying our dining facilities. It is always a good sign when guests come back.
What is Hilton Doha’s unique selling point?
Our strategic location, services, extensive facilities and the quality of service we offer to all of our guests are our unique selling points in addition to being a hotel of firsts. We are approachable people, we are there for everybody for all of our guests and for our entire expatriate and local guests here in Qatar.
What are some of the challenges Hilton Doha might face as being part of Qatar’s dynamic hospitality industry in the future?
I see that there will be more opportunities than challenges. In fact, the first signs and the first indication that we have noticed since our opening a few months ago is that there is a lot of interest in Hilton. A lot of interest in the facilities and the style of our approach and being available to all segments within the business sectors. We see the future in Qatar as very positive.
What other projects does Hilton have in the pipeline? A Hilton Resort in the future? A Hilton expansion beyond Doha?
We are keeping all options open, in fact several discussions are taking place as we speak and therefore we will have several other Hilton brands within Doha. All options are possible.
What special offers does Hilton Doha offer local residents?
We have special prices and packages for the local and Gulf Cooperation Council market on night stays and restaurants. Some of our offers, in fact, include weekend stays and Eid Holiday stays during the festive season, which gives a fresh alternative for a family stay. My advice to guests is to keep their eyes on our website, on our Facebook page and check out our marketing offers, promotions and events which we announce regularly to all our customers locally and abroad, providing incentive to use our facilities.
Could you elaborate on Hilton’s unique eforea spa? How does it differ from other upscale spas?
The eforea spa at Hilton is a global spa experience from Hilton that combines three distinct ranges of treatments focused on organic, natural and scientific, results-driven practices, giving every type of traveller the unique therapeutic journey they seek.
How does Hilton Doha train their employees for any emergency circumstance, such as a fire etcetera?
We take safety very seriously, we have our own dedicated safety teams within the hotel. We have our own control systems in place and we do regular training and emergency drills for all of our employees with regards to any type of crisis or emergency situation.
What projects and or events will Hilton Doha have in 2013? And what is Hilton Doha’s vision for the next five years?
We are still conducting research and basic preparations. We will be making announcements very soon. Moreover, our vision is to be the best hotel in this region, we have already begun very well this year since our grand opening.