Positioned adjacent to the Mall of Qatar there’s little doubt that Hilton is banking on the Al Rayyan Hotel Doha, Curio Collection By Hilton being a success. It marks the first entry into the Middle East of the Curio brand. Patrick Ryan spoke to the global head of Curio Mark Nogal and Al Rayyan Hotel Doha, Curio – A Collection by Hilton general manager Luca Crocco about their new opening and why they can’t wait to see the public’s reaction
With the football World Cup being held in Qatar in 2022 the country is going to be the focus of worldwide attention. But this is just one of many reasons why Hilton Worldwide decided to open its latest addition to the Curio brand in Doha. Curio Collection by Hilton global head Mark Nogal confirms that it is the first of several properties the brand has earmarked for the Middle East.
The Curio brand appeals to someone who has been travelling for two, three or four nights, Nogal says, who wants to do some exploration of the neighbourhood where the hotel is located. The Curio brand was created to allow guests to find out more about the city in which they are visiting. The size of each hotel under the umbrella, varies from location to location — the smallest offers 32 bedrooms while, in contrast, the largest property holds 1,000 rooms.
Nogal says: “Curio was started to help fulfil a niche that we saw where the traveller was changing. It was from this standpoint we began with our Curio properties, we’ve got a wide spread of properties but each one is unique to itself.
“While this hotel was the first to join the brand in the Middle East and Africa, we are looking at other opportunities to open additional properties in the region and will be opening a new hotel in Dubai towards the end of next year. There is great potential for Curio Collection to expand across the Middle East and Africa in key strategic locations.”
Curio is a portfolio of independent upper upscale hotels and resorts targeted at travellers seeking authentic experiences. The hotels benefit from being part of Hilton’s distribution system and Hilton Honors rewards programme.
Doha was picked, says Nogal, because it is a city of growth and testament to this is the Qatar Vision 2030 which was launched to serve as a clear road map for Qatar’s future in terms of economic, social and environmental developments. He points to the hotel’s proximity to the Mall of Qatar, the biggest in the country, as an indication of its appeal to tourists.
“It starts with the name,” he says. “Each one of the Curio properties has an independent name and there is a story that goes behind it.”
The property is located within the oldest district in Qatar. He adds that the Al Rayyan is synonymous with affluence in the region.
Nogal says the hotel will fit right in with the local culture, which he describes as “unique”.
He says: “It has been very well received by the locals. In the GCC, the hotel is timeless and has local traditions which go hand in hand. There has been high demand especially from the leisure point of view in the weekends and then of course the mid-week is more on the corporate side in terms of demand. From the GCC, we are primarily attracting Qataris and then people from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”
Crocco says it is vital to ensure the hotel maintains the Curio ethos of enjoying an organic relationship with its neighbours and becoming a part of the fabric of the community in which it is located.
He says: “That is essentially what we are doing with the brand, each property is part of the fabric of the neighbourhood. The team members who are on-site help the guest better understand those hidden areas, those local unknown elements.
“So, if you are coming from out of town and you want to go for dinner and you are interested in going to a place where only locals go to, you will be able to do that. We are recommending what we have in the hotel, but if the guests want something else, we would be able to assist them with that as well.”
Nogal says that from design to delivery, the local culture and tradition has been embedded in the project. A deliberate decision was taken to make sure the property was located away from where most of the hotels are in Doha. A touch, he says, that was appreciated by the local community.
He says: “They were surprised that a grand hotel opened in this area, so they came to look at all the features of the Arabic culture. So, it was a huge success. I would not say we are traditional, we are a bit more on the modern side.
“Curio was created two and a half years ago, now we have 33 open hotels and it was to help fulfill a niche that travellers are looking for – the independent travel experience – and what may have been leisure oriented has actually turned into a business orientation as well.”
Being attached to the luxury court of the mall, Nogal says, has made complete sense as it goes hand-in-hand with the development and the growth of Doha.
Crocco adds that the hotel will very much focus on the needs of the local community.
He says:“I have been here for a year and a half in Doha and when I was talking with someone from the local community, he told me that we would appreciate if you had a place where we could leave the children to go for dinner or shopping, and we offer these facilities in here.”