The newly appointed general manager of the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay speaks to Hotel News about how Bahrain Bay is the best kept secret in the Middle East.
Richard Raab believes that Bahrain Bay is the next big thing in the Middle East. The general manager of the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay might say that anyway – but it’s clear from speaking to Raab that it’s something he passionately believes.
The Norwegian hotelier took over the 273-room property at the start of January and he hasn’t looked back since.
“We are off to a good start for the year, the first quarter is behind us, we have a good amount of business on the shelf for the next quarter – the very first six months of the year will be able to meet our budget,” he says.
“We are going into the third year of the hotel being in operation, it opened two years ago, we are very much at the maturity stage, the growing stage, we are still developing and we are expecting to see growth year over year.”
Raab believes the key to success is in the smaller details having immediately overseen a renovation of the lounge that is designed to create a livelier atmosphere for guests.
“We are doing little things – we have changed our lounge a bit to increase the permission for smoking,” he says.
“We are having more entertainment to make it a livelier experience and the bar is getting its own following now whereas before it was just a bar you go into to have dinner.”
He believes that big things are around the corner for the region and that Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay is perfectly positioned to capitalise on these.
“We have some very positive things happening in the second and third quarters of the year,” he says.
“We have the new Avenues Mall, which is opening up right in front of the hotel, and which we are hoping will add to the Bahrain Bay area. We want to attract even more guests.”
Bahrain Bay is constantly evolving and expanding, says Raab, with new players continually coming into the market. There could be a temptation, he says, for each property to put the shutters up, so to speak, and look after their own interests first but, as far as Raab is concerned, that is just not the Bahrain Bay way.
“We want to expand the pie rather than just steal the pie from each other,” he says, making it clear that the property is in such a position of strength that it doesn’t need to isolate itself from the rest of the market in Bahrain Bay.
“I think the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay is positioned as one of the top hotels in the GCC as it is an iconic building with world class interiors providing a world class service that is second to none, and we are extremely proud to have the hotel in our portfolio.”
It comes as little surprise to find that Raab is enamoured with the design of the building he presides over.
“The hotel is almost two years old. The architect firm, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, designed some of the world’s most iconic buildings and hotels,” he says, pointing out that the hotel has interiors inspired by sea voyages.
If anyone should know about Four Seasons it’s Raab, having been with the company for 18 years across different continents in destinations as diverse as London, Cairo, St Petersburg, the Caribbean and Hawaii, not to mention a stint in the US that took in Beverly Hills.
“It has very much been an international experience with the company and I worked for some of our greatest hoteliers within our company and learned from them,” he says.
“With the international experience it gives you a very global perspective. It means you have global markets and global guests. I think our guests do travel all over the world at the moment and having worked and lived in different places around the world helps you accommodate and understand the needs of the guests that are travelling.”
So what has Raab learned in his 18 years with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts?
“I think you need a lot of emotional intelligence because it is a people business, our guests are people and our staff are people and you need to understand them on an individual basis in order to get it right. You have to get the staff right and motivate them, teach them and grow them to do very well for you,” he says.
“For guests it is all about personalisation and you have to provide exactly what the guest needs at different times.”
As important as having the personal touch is, Raab is under no illusions about the primary objectives of the role.
“You need to be business savvy. It is a business as well and you need to keep yourself up to date and abreast of new trends, be it in IT or even in HR and marketing. Things change constantly, it is a 24/7 business,” he says.
“You need vision, you need to be able to look at things with a broad vision and see opportunities for the future and take action to make sure your ship is heading in the right direction based on the vision and the future that you see.”