Gurnoor Bindra, hotel manager at Aloft City Centre Deira, has over 11 years of experience within the hospitality industry.
What are the unique points of the hotel?
At Aloft City Centre Deira, we offer our guests an experience beyond a typical room stay. Our location is convenient for our guests, being directly connected to the City Centre Deira mall and walking distance from the metro as well.
We have a VOX Outdoor cinema, where our guests have the ability to relax on comfy couches and watch their favorite movies under the stars with some delicious food and beverages. The space can also transform into an event space. It has a retractable roof and can open up to our poolside, which offers some great views of the Dubai skyline.
We also have four cinema-themed suites: Hollywood, Bollywood, Agent and Superhero. Each themed suite is fitted with state-of-the-art, in-built projectors in the living room with high quality speakers and many movies to choose from. To add to the private in-room cinema experience is your personal vending machine…
What are the main challenges you face in hotel management?
The fun fact is: I’m not a hotel management graduate and pursued my education in finance with the aim of becoming a corporate finance consultant.
Given that, I don’t see a particular challenge with hotel management, but look at it as a business unit with its SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). There has been and always will be changes in the environment we do business in and the only challenge can be if we’re not agile enough to respond to the changes around us.
What’s the importance of online hotel reviews and social media feedback, and how much of it do you take on board?
Our guests are the reason we all run hotels and the only way we can stay relevant and continue to wow our guests is by listening to them. With the digital age, the most common way to listen to them is via social media, Google reviews, online travel agent channels and our in-house guest surveys.
Nothing can be more frustrating for a guest than feeling they aren’t heard or responded to, hence it’s a very critical KPI for us, not only to respond to guest issues promptly, but also to resolve them to ensure we constantly improve.
I personally read and respond to each guest feedback on these channels so we as a team are fully aligned with guest expectations. In today’s ever-changing business environment, the only thing that is totally under your control is making your guests happy, and that can be only done when we listen to them and act quickly.
How do you evaluate employee performance, and keep your team motivated?
Every employee including myself wants to know what good performance means and hence the concept of SMART Goals is very critical to answering that question.
We at Marriott set SMART goals for our employees and discuss the same with them at the beginning of the year so they are very clear on what is expected from them and how it will be defined and measured.
Once the goals are discussed and agreed, I personally do one-to-one catch-ups with my team every month to see how they are progressing on their goals and where they need more support either from me or from other peers.
This session is also my opportunity to critique their performance with feedback: things they are doing really well and ones they can improve on. When I was climbing up the food chain, I felt that such critiques were very helpful to reflect on one’s performance. If an employee is aligned on the feedback, they will be very motivated to work towards it.
Another thing which I feel really motivates employees is identifying their development needs – personal or professional. I remember some of my leaders guiding me on which courses to study outside of work, which places to travel and experience, etc. Relating to your team on their passion, things they want to learn and knowledge they want to acquire is extremely motivating as you also connect with them as a mentor.
What systems do you have in place for resolving guest complaints?
We endeavour to ensure we resolve guest issues before they depart from the hotel so they leave with pleasant experiences and would want to come back.
Technology, empowerment processes and guest engagement are key pillars to resolving guest issues. Our technology enables teams to communicate on reported issues and measure the time it took to resolve the problem. This ensures we are prompt and that we also can use this data to anticipate future guest needs.
Our empowerment programme is called “You’ve got the Power”, and it’s where our talent is empowered to resolve guest problems on the spot by making relevant decisions based on the severity of the problem, without the need for approvals.
What would you like to tell visitors about the hotels’ F&B offerings?
We have some fun and creative F&B offerings such as a new concept, ‘Boodle Fest’, inspired by a Filipino trend to dig in with your hands and share a large portion of food on a table. With karaoke and beverages to go along with it, it’s been quite the hit.
The Canteen is our main dining outlet which has a unique bowl-sharing concept. Guests are able to share large-portioned, healthy meals with their family and friends. Everyone can really engage in conversations while sharing a variety of dishes.
Our W XYZ bar compliments our cinematic theme in the hotel, with our signature movie beverages. Guest can sip away and enjoy amazing views of the Dubai city skyline.