Unverdi is keen to continue his progress and cement the four properties under his command as the go-to venues for the luxury leisure market.
All aboard the all-inclusive
Rixos Hotels UAE regional general manager Cenk Unverdi discusses the brand’s all-inclusive concept: “The all-inclusive concept started in Rixos Antalya Turkey in the early 2000s by the founder and chairman of Rixos Hotels, Mr. Fettah Tamince. Rixos pioneered the luxury all-inclusive concept and has since positioned itself as the UAE’s first luxury multi-concept resort, with resounding success. Thanks to its traditional Turkish hospitality, unparalleled professional entertainment and sports activities, world class dining outlets and unique spa treatments all under one roof, Rixos offers an outstanding resort experience which caters to everyone, from adults to children, families and couples. At Rixos, the all-inclusive is all-exclusive.”
Cenk Unverdi’s Leadership Style
“I like to keep up to date with the business on a daily basis but besides revenue and numbers, it is the human interaction that drives me the most. Seeing the collective efforts and great results brought on by my team inspires me, which is why staff development is very important to me. I’m all for employee empowerment: I like to connect with my team and listen to their needs. I believe in supporting and coaching them and giving them the necessary tools to get the best out of them.”
In April 2019, Cenk Unverdi was promoted to the role of regional general manager of Rixos Hotels in the UAE, and is now overseeing all day-to-day operations of the four five-star properties in the UAE, including Rixos The Palm Dubai Hotel & Suites, Rixos Premium Dubai, the newly opened Rixos Saadiyat Island, and Rixos Bab Al Bahr.
Unverdi’s rise to this position within the company has been steady over the last few years. He comments: “After completing my Master’ degree in Hospitality, I started my career with the Rixos Group. Rixos is a truly unique Turkish brand; it has a very distinct identity that focuses on the highest level of service and hospitality, which has always appealed to me.”
Unverdi first joined Rixos Turkey as an intern while still in university before transitioning to the finance, purchasing, sales & marketing departments. He then moved to Kazakhstan to work as the operations manager of the Rixos President Astana. Unverdi’s Middle Eastern journey began in 2012 when he moved to Dubai.
Since then, he helped oversee the pre-opening of Rixos The Palm Dubai as operations manager, oversaw the restructuring of Rixos the Palm Dubai as it transitioned into a luxury multi-concept resort in 2016, and was assigned project leader for the pre-opening of Rixos Premium Dubai in 2017. Unverdi was then promoted to the role of cluster general manager of Rixos The Palm Dubai Hotels & Suites and Rixos Premium Dubai in 2018 before taking up his current role.
This was perhaps always in the cards for Unverdi, who tells Hotel & Catering News Middle East that his love for the industry has been strong. He comments: “I’ve always felt passionate toward the hospitality industry. There’s a special thrill in the day-to-day operations where no two days are alike. It has its own set of challenges – whether we are striving to exceed customer expectations in a competitive market, or focusing on the strategic side of revenue, where my love for numbers and budgets comes into play.”
Now, in his new role, he spends his time in a different hotel every day, meeting with key people to review and evaluate the business and its needs, from revenue to e-commerce, marketing, PR and sales. Unverdi adds: “I focus more on the strategic and corporate side with my regional team, to develop new opportunities and maximise hotel revenue with a continued focus on tour operator relationships and our key accounts.” He also reveals that a key part of his role is also to assess Rixos UAE’s hotels’ management team, to nurture and grow their talents, so that they can continue to develop in their areas of expertise and prepare for their next role.
As a hotelier, of course, Unverdi’s responsibility is also towards his owners, and the launch of new properties in the UAE in the last few years has meant a continued development of source markets as well. As a Turkish brand, Rixos is, naturally, well established in Turkey, asserts Unverdi. Currently, the UAE properties’ main markets are leisure-related, principally from CIS countries (mainly Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine), followed by the UK and Germany. Unverdi shares: “We are also focusing on pro-actively looking to attract and expand new markets such as China. We have largely focused our efforts towards growth expansion in the Middle East; the GCC market is very important to us, we have dedicated a lot of our attention improving our services and unique selling points to be more attractive to our GCC guests.
“For example, Rixos Saadiyat Island is the only resort in Saadiyat to offer with our villas, a private pool overlooking the beach and enhanced 24/7 butler service, while the recently launched Luxury Suite Collection in Rixos The Palm Dubai Hotel & Suites offers spacious layout and homely touches of a private residence, alongside the resort’s unparalleled service and amenities. There, guests looking for exclusivity and privacy can choose from a collection of two, three, four and five bedroom family suites, ideal for larger groups and multigenerational families seeking the ultimate holiday sanctuary.”
Unverdi also claims that the last calendar year was a good one for the brand, commenting: “2018 has been a very successful year for Rixos, and has seen us paving the way and being a market leader in terms of hotel occupancy, ADR and guests’ satisfaction, which has been monitored by the increase of returning guests ratio. We’ve also consolidated our strength in the UAE last year by opening Rixos Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, bringing the number of Rixos properties in the UAE to four.”
The regional general manager is keen to capitalise on the success. “In 2019, greater attention has been placed to continue and improve our guests’ expectations and personal experiences, which has led us to invest in and to upgrade our facilities and leisure attractions in all our properties,” he says.
Expanding on some of these upgrades, Unverdi notes: “The latest hot spot to open in Rixos Premium Dubai is District Lounge, a traditional cocktail hideaway which is bringing understated sophistication, with the mission to continue and position this particular property as the ultimate urban lifestyle in the heart of JBR, while a Godiva café is set to open after Eid – the first to launch in a luxury hotel in the UAE. Meanwhile, Rixos The Palm Dubai Hotel & Suites has unlocked a new level of entertainment by recently re-launching a newly enhanced Rixy Club, which offers the first children’s amphitheatre in the UAE.”
In addition to continued facilities’ investment, the backing of Accor is also a boon. In March 2017, Accor and Rixos Hotels announced a long-term joint venture, where both parties revealed their intent to collaborate, develop and manage Rixos-branded resorts & hotels worldwide. Upon closing, Accor would own a 50% interest in the joint venture management company. Unverdi reiterates: “The partnership with Accor, which was signed around two years ago, is part of a joint venture between Rixos and Accor – which sees Accor managing the existing 25 Rixos properties, while helping to expand the Rixos name and position it among the top luxury hotel brands globally.”
The partnership has plenty of benefits, asserts Unverdi. “With its resources, Accor brings to the table a bigger distribution with its own platform channelled through its 4,400 hotels and 38 brands, bringing more visibility and market exposure in countries and continents such as the USA and emerging feeder markets like Asia, where we were not present before. With their know-how and development team as well as their Le Club loyalty programme, we have access to more than 1.3 million members worldwide who can experience the Rixos brand.”
So there is a lot on Unverdi’s plate right now, who is not willing to simply rest on his laurels, rather he is looking to move forward. “My priority for the next coming months is to ensure we will provide the highest level of standards and excellence in our four properties while continue to position Rixos UAE as the ultimate resort destination in the UAE. Meanwhile, my vision for Rixos UAE is to strengthen the footprint of our existing four hotels in the region and to achieve greater focus on our growth of economy,” he concludes.