Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates General Manager Slim Zaiane gives Hotel & Catering News ME an overview of the property’s latest developments.
Can you tell us a bit more about the unique points of the hotel?
As a pioneer in European luxury hospitality, Kempinski Hotels has been a market leader in the UAE since 2006. Our fully renovated Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates is a jewel in the region’s luxury hotelier crown, which caters to the lifestyle and leisure needs of travellers with a keen eye for detail and unforgettable experiences.
Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates is located in one of the city’s prime locations and in one of the region’s best and most popular malls, offering guests instant access to added value in leisure, world-class entertainment options and retail experiences. We’re only a few minutes’ drive away from both Downtown Dubai on one side and thriving areas like the Dubai Marina on the other.
Our hotel is also home to the remarkable, Colorado’s Rocky Mountains-inspired Aspen Ski Chalet, the region’s only experience of its kind within luxury accommodation, which comes with a spectacular view of the wintery slopes of Ski Dubai. This spacious and immensely cosy space is distributed over two floors, featuring a separate bedroom, dining room and living room.
Guests can enjoy a stone faux fireplace, two marble bathrooms with a freestanding bathtub, a kitchenette and exclusive access to a dedicated butler service. Meanwhile, the VOX@Kempinski experience is our guests’ ticket to the ultimate cinematic journey. They can bask in their own private screening of the latest blockbusters and electrify their senses with opulent décor and exceptional dining. And as a family-oriented hotel, we make sure that our guests’ little ones are also always taken care of with plenty of activities to keep them busy.
What are some of the main challenges you face in hotel management?These are unprecedented times of crisis, to be sure. We’ve been reaching out to our customers as gently as possible in order to alleviate their concerns in deciding to travel and visit us again, while reassuring them of our commitment to their health and safety.
Even during the worst of the pandemic, our doors remained open, as we took the time to come up with a comprehensive plan and adapt to the new challenges, while supporting the community and our nation’s health workers. The new social distancing guidelines are certainly a foreign concept in an industry that requires close interaction with our clientele, so training our people to keep their smiles behind their masks and adopt this new approach has been crucial.
It must be said that we remain cautiously optimistic about the future, even as we do our best to show our guests the benefits of choosing to stay with us, and to relax and enjoy leisure experiences that we all sorely need at a time like this. We must remain in tune with the feelings our customers, as well as do our best to ensure that our staff are motivated, healthy and safe at all times. We’re all in this together, after all.
What’s the importance of online hotel reviews and social media feedback, and how much of it do you take on board?
Listening to our customers’ voices and catering to their feedback and needs has always been one of our top priorities. This is exactly why online reviews and social media are incredibly important to us and a key factor in the decision-making process when it comes to bookings.
We analyse all of the feedback that we receive from the various digital channels on a daily basis, which plays a crucial role in the effort to constantly improve our product and services and remain at the top of our game at all times.
How do you evaluate employee performance, and keep your team motivated?
As part of our human resources strategy, we conduct one, three and six-year reviews with staff. At the same time, however, we also have regular one-on-one discussions with all our teams, where we mutually assess any challenges and opportunities, and map out the way to turn them into achievements. These are a valuable method of empowering staff, as well as encouraging them to think outside the box: it’s a great way of inspiring creativity and maintaining morale.
What systems do you have in place for resolving guest complaints?
As a measure specific to the guest experience at our property, we review any feedback when the guest initially connects with us during the booking process. This enables them to provide us with any concerns or comments without delay – even before check-in – and helps us react and respond immediately.
Post-check-out, we employ the use of our comprehensive Kempinski guest survey to evaluate impressions and get a full overview of the guest’s experience with our facilities, amenities and staff. We also gather and examine online guest reviews of our property from various social media sources and third-party websites.
What would you like to tell visitors about the hotels’ F&B offerings?Since reopening, we have not only been working on brand new menus and restaurant offerings at Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, but also implementing stringent measures to ensure the health and safety of guests, visitors and staff.
As part of our Kempinski White Glove Services initiative, all service staff wear masks and gloves/PPE at all times, while guests are kindly requested to use the sanitiser available at the reception of every restaurant before being seated at the tables (occupied by a minimum of four persons).
We’re applying a minimum distance of two metres between tables, while our servers check guests’ body temperature from time to time as well. Disposable and digital menus are available, along with contactless payment, while tables and chairs are disinfected after each use, and cutlery and glassware are fully replaced.
These measures are there to make our guests feel safe in exploring some of the most diverse and exciting aspects of our dining experience, including authentic Spanish tapas, paellas and traditional food-sharing platters with a modern twist at Salero Tapas & Bodega.
Olea serves up genuine, contemporary Levantine dishes from across Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Southern Turkey, Lebanon and Cyprus. Meanwhile, our lobby lounge is home to Aspen by Kempinski, which offers delectable, European cuisine-inspired all-day dining, as the resident barista serves over 20 varieties of tea and more than 10 different Illy coffee creations.
Tell us a bit more about the specific new measures in place for COVID-19.
While being meticulously implemented across our entire F&B offering, the Kempinski White Glove Services initiative is also at the centre of our efforts across our properties worldwide to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Our group was the very first among hoteliers internationally to introduce such measures, as well as receive the certification for top hygiene standards by a third-party audit.
All hotel staff mirror our restaurant and bar policy of wearing masks and gloves/PPE, while thermal cameras for temperature checks and the use of hand sanitisers, as well as social distancing of between 1.5 and 2 metres, are enforced at all times.
Contactless payment provides guests with additional assurance, as well as disinfection measures for all public spaces, guest and meeting rooms and gyms and pools. In a business that requires constant interaction with guests, it’s certainly been a challenge to recalibrate and deliver a contactless experience while guaranteeing the same level of luxury. But we’ve truly thought of everything.
To take it even further, our hotel has undergone a Safeguard Program, a certification held by the Bureau Veritas and field experts through independent audits to ensure health, safety, and hygiene procedures and processes are implemented and in line with local regulations and best practices. Our hotel is one of the Top 5 Hotels in the World to have been awarded Bureau Veritas’ Safeguard label.
How has your strategy shifted?
While we’ve obviously been going through what is probably the most challenging period in the past century – not only for the world, but also the hospitality industry – the worst of the shock factor is now behind us.
We’re now entering a new phase of trying to reclaim our lives and lifestyles. At this stage, younger people will likely lead the way in seeking new travel and leisure experiences, and we are helping them on that journey by offering discounts and promotions. Meanwhile, I’m convinced that staycation and daycation offers and packages are among the key initiatives to drive demand and offer hotels a path to recovery. Globally, we’re always keeping one eye on international trends and doing our utmost to adjust to conditions as they evolve.
Aside from the very important Kempinski White Glove Services initiative, we have introduced many innovations that truly take the guest experience to a new level. While they can take full advantage of enjoying their own screenings of blockbuster films at VOX@Kempinski, guests can also shop online at select stores across Mall of the Emirates, and get their items delivered directly to their room courtesy of our door drop service.
At the same time, we have implemented contactless payment across all our outlets and service points, as we continue to think creatively and convert hotel space that’s not necessarily in full use at the moment. For example, we have temporarily adapted some of our meeting rooms into office space and remote work facilities in order to keep up with and respond to these challenging times.
We’re in a privileged position in the UAE – the public health and safety protocols in place and our government’s outstanding work to attract international travellers again makes me enthusiastic and carefully confident about the way forward.