There are so many hotels in Dubai, that you really have to think outside of the box, when it comes to opening a new property in the city.
That’s exactly what David Allan, general manager of the 432-room Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Waterfront, and his team, have done – they aim to create the friendliest hotel in the region.
“We want to position ourselves as the friendliest five-star hotel in Dubai,” says Allan, cluster general manager, Radisson Blu Hotels, Dubai Waterfront and Dubai Canal Views.
“The reason we say that is because we think that service technically is very good in this part of the world but less so on the soul and personality front and that’s something that we are very much looking to address.”
He says this has to start with the management team into whom the ethos is very much ingrained. The reason, Allan says, is that any hotel opening in Dubai will have to show that it offers something different, especially in the competitive cauldron of Business Bay.
“I understand what people are saying about the wider market in Dubai and we have got some sterling competition nearby,” he says, naming the JW Marriott Marquis, The Habtoor City Hotel Collection and the Steigenberger off the top of his head.
“We have an awful lot of lovely hotels near us. It goes back to the friendliest five-star hotel in Dubai proposition to make a point of difference. We hope by tapping into something in peoples’ psyche and having the nicest bunch of hoteliers, running it, that people will buy into it.”
The key to implementing a policy of friendliness, Allan says, is ensuring that it becomes the very culture of the hotel.
“It’s very much a cultural thing. We speak to each other exactly the same way we speak to our guests,” says Allan.
“There’s no Mr David or Sir, there’s no Ma’am. We are taking a different approach.”
Allan is adamant that the goal can be achieved by instilling the right attitude into the staff from the very start.
“At Radisson Blu we have some tremendous brand standards and brand values already,” he says.
“We are having our guys go through body language training, cultural awareness and language training.
“It all sounds incredibly basic but we think these are things that can make a big difference and if we can get that across everywhere, I’d like to think people would believe we are the friendliest five-star hotel in Dubai,” he adds.
Odile de Groot, executive assistant manager, (pictured right) believes the friendly culture must be felt at every touch point.
“From the time you arrive at the hotel, how does the security guard treat you? How does the valet treat you? The parking agent? What happens in the restaurant? It is the overall experience we want to focus on,” she says.
It’s clear that Allan places a premium on a happy working environment, which he hopes will resonate with the guests as well. He explains that he likes nothing more than working with a broad team of nationalities from all over the world, getting to know them in the process and aiding in their development.
“I can try and have fun with them if I stand in a lobby for half an hour and greet people as they come through the door but that has nowhere near as much of an impact as if I walk around the departments making sure the concierge, the reception guys, the guys behind the bar or in the café are laughing and smiling,” he says.
“If we can create that infectious happiness then they will go and touch more guests than I ever could.”
The Waterfront property is clustered with the Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Canal View, which is scheduled to open in 2018.
Khamis Kazzaz, the on-site representative of owners, Al Hammad Group of Companies, (pictured right) is delighted with the progress of both projects.
“We are on track; the first property will definitely open on time in the last quarter of this year and 12 months after this one opens is when we expect the Canal View to be operational,” he says.
Allan is adamant that both Waterfront and Canal View will be hits with guests.
“We have to deliver for our owners, we have to deliver for Rezidor. The simplest way to do that is get the correct volume of happy guests coming through the hotel.
“The short-term objective is to get the hotel open and to get the culture we want in place and the longer-term objective is to get the hotel recognised as a centre of excellence for this part of the world.”
Kazzaz is clear in his belief that there is room, not just for one, but two, new five-star projects in Dubai’s Business Bay.
“The majority of cranes located in Dubai are in Business Bay. This is definitely the right place at the right time,” he says.
“Every time a hotel opens or a new area opens, we say ‘what are we going to do with all these hotels?’ Having been here for the last 22 years, Dubai has changed dramatically but what hasn’t changed is that occupancy has been very steady along with all the supply that comes in.
“The message is that Dubai has seen the good, the bad and the ugly and it is here to stay and survive.”
Allan is equally confident and stresses the cluster aspect of the properties will only serve to strengthen the team’s hand.
“There are a lot of people involved in cluster roles ahead of the opening of Canal View next year, and then we will try and split off on the assumption we have success here on the Waterfront and will replicate that,” he says.
“I can categorically say that we will not cluster anything that is front-facing as that would be a complete contradiction to what we are trying to do. I will never take any resources away from making sure that we get that friendliness and welcoming atmosphere for guests as soon as they arrive at the hotel.”
If there was any doubt about Allan’s determination to put his money where his mouth is, he says: “As soon as we’re open, everyone is welcome. Ask for the weird Scottish guy with the beard and I’ll buy you a drink in our Scottish bar, Makar!”