2015 saw a flurry of hotel operators rush to secure deals within the mid-market segment in Dubai, with Hilton Worldwide securing its spot as a firm mid-range ambassador for the region having successfully opened three Hilton Garden Inn hotels across the emirate in 2015. Hotel News ME sat down with the brand’s industry leaders to discuss the ins and outs of the three new properties.
Hilton Garden Inn Dubai Al Mina
The 181-guestroom Hilton Garden Inn Dubai Al Mina is owned by wasl Hospitality and is located between the well-known districts of Bur Dubai and Jumeirah. Particularly beneficial for business travellers, the hotel is accessible from Port Rashid, Dubai’s largest and expanding port and dry docks as well as from the city’s convention and financial centres.
Hilton Garden Inn Dubai Al Muraqabat
Located in the busy heart of Deira, Dubai’s original and historic district, the 183-guestroom Hilton Garden Inn Dubai Al Muraqabat is surrounded by bustling streets, filled with traditional souks, mosques, museums and shops. Also owned by wasl Hospitality, the hotel provides convenient access to the diplomatic district of the city and Dubai International Airport.
Hilton Garden Inn Dubai Mall of the Emirates
The new 370-guestroom Hilton Garden Inn Dubai Mall of the Emirates, owned by Majid Al Futtaim Properties L.L.C opened in December 2015 and is centrally located adjacent to the Mall of the Emirates. The hotel is Hilton Garden Inn’s second largest property in the world.
With Dubai Al Mina marking the second Garden Inn in Dubai, how well do you think this property will perform in comparison to the other two?
Nogal: From a broader brand standpoint we look at where our partners want to develop hotels and we try to determine where they want to
develop hotels and we work together to assess the markets. So when you look at all three Hilton Garden Inn properties in the region, they are not cookie cutter hotels, by this I mean that they are all different and have their own unique identity. Each property has its own source of business, for example Mall of the Emirates Garden Inn will draw from the mall itself and Al Muraqabat that’s a big business area and it has the even bigger benefit of the airport and Al Mina, right by Port Rashid which is quickly growing interest. So from our standpoint, looking at these hotels they each have a different market that they are looking at and we are going to be bringing more hotels to this city and to the region.
Allaf: We’ve had amazing feedback so far from our guests staying in Al Mina, and so far everything is running smoothly, I believe that we are in the golden time with great opportunities to establish a remarkable platform for the mid-range service industry here in the region. Dubai had a calling for mid-range properties and here we are answering that call as a company. Yes, Hilton Garden Inn is a new brand in the region, but is well established overall as it has been operating since the nineties and has proven to be a solid performer in all other markets. I am confident that all three Hilton Garden Inn properties will flourish in the region and become market leaders in the mid-range
Nogal: Touching on that point, the term we use is focused service, this means from our perspective t Hilton Garden Inn, we don’t focus on what we take away, it is about what additional extras we can give to be appealing and stand out. We focus on the elements that our guests focus on the most and try to make it as easy for the guests as possible. One defining cornerstone of this is our guarantee. Hampton by Hilton was the first hotel in the industry to put forth a 100% satisfaction guarantee which they introduced in the late 80s.
Kessler: Hilton Garden Inn Mall of the is the second largest property outside of the U.S in the Garden Inn portfolio with 370 rooms. And we mostly anticipate that we will be extremely successful with local, GCC families within the region as we have a large portion of interconnecting
rooms. Additional guests will appreciate the key location so we cater to many segments. As for the competition in the surrounding area, our competitors don’t start their name with Hilton, that’s half the problem solved right there. families. Within the Al Barsha area, we sit very close to the mall and we will have a lot
Why were the locations chosen to launch the three Garden Inn properties?
Nogal: We have a dedicated development team that represents all of our brands, so meeting with our partners and determining which brand works best in a new area. So when these were brought up and understanding the request from the Dubai government for more mid-range hotels within the region and knowing the size and number of rooms that we were looking to do, these were the brands that made the most sense When you look at it we are not looking to take business from the small places, we are looking to take it from our competitors, and the completion is non Hilton Worldwide brands. What we are looking to do is to be the leader in the market and really set the benchmark.
Kessler: As it is down to the owners, opening in Al Barsha for the Mall of the Emirates property was definitely a smart choice. When you see the footfall from the mall itself we are sure to drive business through our doors. The decision to have an iconic Hilton Garden Inn so close to the mall marks a great achievement for us considering it is the second largest worldwide in the brand.
How well has Hilton Garden Inn been received into the Middle Eastern market?
Nogal: We are new to Dubai but not so much the Middle East. We’ve been in Saudi since 2008 and we opened our second hotel in Tabuk and now we have added our three Dubai properties which is pretty rapid succession. we have over 650 Hilton Garden Inn properties scattered around the world and that is the second largest brand in Hilton Worldwide’s portfolio and the first is Hampton by Hilton, believe it or not we have over 2,000 hotels around the world.
So based upon the great reviews on Trip Advisor and the feedback from talking to guests in the lobby I can confidently say that the Hilton Garden Inn brands have been extremely well received into the market today.
Allaf: I can confidently say that Hilton Garden Inn has been greatly received in Dubai and is making firm marks on the ground. Our first guest to the Al Muraqabat property were a family from Bahrain, a family that has never left Bahrain before and it was such a great opportunity to gather their feedback to learn that they had the best experience ever. The travel company that booked them with us alerted us that they had never before travelled outside of Bahrain, so we knew we have to make an impression and we were able to assist in their needs to personalise their stay. I now have them rebooked back to back every weekend at the Al Muraqabat property for the foreseeable future plus they are bringing more business through friends and family to stay.
What are the key factors driving demand and occupancies in your properties?
Kessler: If I just speak about my property, Hilton Garden Inn Mall of the Emirates, the name speaks for itself so it is right next to the mall a three-minute walk, 150 metres, you are then in one of the largest malls in the world with key attractions such as the indoor ski resort, so I am sure people are booking at our location because of the proximity to the mall and the easy access to the metro station. From a product point of view, we are confident that the large rooms will cater to families and weekend travellers too. These are all reasons for guests to book with us and stay. People are also looking for reasonably proceed accommodation with added extras such a breakfast and free WiFi. We offer all of these things at an extremely competitive rate in a competitive area.
Allaf: The Hilton name is a big driver, especially for a consumer to try a new brand within the region for the first time the trust factor that has been built over the years that is a driver. We come across as big investors in the returns for our guests so we normally deliver this through the exceptional level of service we can offer.
What are your key source markets for business and why?
Allaf: Each property differs, but we know that we already appeal to larger GCC families.
Kessler: For the Mall of the Emirates property we appeal to business, leisure and family travellers.
What differentiates Hilton Garden Inn to other mid-market properties in the region?
Nogal: When you take a look at Hilton Garden inn, part of what we do is a bundled offer, to make it simple and easy for the guest, so when you take a look at the guests needs, you will find that the most important meal of the day is breakfast so we’ve focused heavily on breakfast, we have a branded waffle that is included in breakfast so you can make your own waffle with your own toppings. So when we talk about breakfast and facilities that are on the properties every one of our Garden Inns have a gym on site we have a business centre that is free of charge if our guests need to print their boarding pass, tickets mean they can do so for free. We took away the old school traditional gift shop and introduced the pantry this is adjacent to the front desk there are snacks, gifts, souvenirs and that is available 24 hours a day. When you think about Dubai it is actually really important to have some kind of service available 24 hours a day because of the number of flights coming in and out of the city. Another differentiator is that all of the Garden Inn properties have a separate bar and restaurant, and a good few selection of F&B outlets.
Allaf: Touching upon F&B, we see great potential for revenue drivers for Al Mina due to its location, but what you have to remember is that what will work in one property may not work in another based on location, We drive our business model with healthy F&B revenues and we are counting on meeting room revenues in all three properties which offer modern facilities such as projectors, flat screen TVs.
Are there any plans for additional HGI across the Middle East, if so can you release any details?
Nogal: Apart from opening our three Hilton Garden Inn properties in 2015, we are focusing on the business model of mid-market properties, so I can tell you that we have announced the world’s largest Hampton by Hilton which will be coming in Al Qasais, at the same time we also announced that will be launching a Hampton by Hilton directly behind the Garden Inn Al Mina and will actually be attached to the current property. Ultimately the two brands in the region will complement each other, with around 240 rooms being planned for the Al Mina Hampton by Hilton. For Hilton Garden Inn within the MEA we have 27 properties in the pipeline with a keen focus on sub-Saharan Africa.
With much buzz in the industry about the next generation of travellers (Gen Y) how does HGI plan on securing its share of this lucrative market?
Nogal: When you think about having complementary Wifi throughout the building and the free business centre you automatically tap into this market because they are tech-savvy and want easy connectivity not just in their rooms but at breakfast, in the bar and this is something that we provide. We also have a refrigerator in every room with some basics already in there but leave the fridge ready to be used at their leisure., but what really taps into this market is the layout of our rooms. We have a chic modern feel in every room, with an area to work at the desk area if that is what they want to do, we also have an Easy chair and foot stool, so it means that people don’t need to sit at the desk, there is optional seating space. Additionally, our chairs are 98% recyclable, sustainability is a driving factor for millennials to our property.