Aiman Roujouleh, the brand new regional director of sales Middle East at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, outlines his plan to enhance the Hong Kong firm’s Middle East profile.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group recently promoted Aiman Roujouleh to regional director of sales for the Middle East as the luxury hospitality firm looks to consolidate its position as the brand of choice for discerning Middle East travellers.
Roujouleh, the group’s former regional director of sales for Saudi Arabia and Bahrain (since April 2012), is now responsible for developing Mandarin Oriental’s sales strategy across the Middle East and Turkey, as well as managing a team of six across KSA and Dubai. Here, Roujouleh tells Hotel News ME his game plan.
What’s the latest on Mandarin Oriental’s regional footprint and pipeline?
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is the award winning owner and operator of some of the most luxurious hotels, resorts and residences located in prime destinations globally.
The group currently operates or has under development 43 hotels (almost 11,000 rooms) and 15 Residences in 24 countries.
The Middle East is an important destination for our brand and we are actively pursuing development opportunities here, as we are elsewhere in the world. We will soon open three properties in the region, in Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The final opening dates are determined by each project’s owner/developer. Our objective for each new hotel is to select the right project, in the right location, with the right sponsors in order to ensure each project is consistent with our luxury brand and reputation for excellence.
Given the huge proliferation of luxury hotel brands in the Middle East market, what does Mandarin Oriental bring to the mix that’s different?
Increasingly recognised for creating some of the world’s most sought-after properties, the group combines 21st century luxury with oriental charm. Our properties are design- and architecture-led and known for the legendary Mandarin Oriental service. Each has a sense of place, reflecting the best of the city or country in which they are located. We have also earned an enviable reputation in delivering award-winning restaurants that compete in major cities with stand-alone concepts. We have 16 Michelin stars at 11 restaurants around the world, which is more than any other hotel group.
We have also established a name for our holistic spas and wellness centres, with more Forbes Five Star spas than any other hotel group and we are also leading the field in providing customer-centric technology and highly sophisticated in-house entertainment systems
Looking to the future our aim is not to be the biggest hotel group in the world, but to continue to be recognised as providing the very best in luxury hospitality.
What are your top priorities in your new role?
The Middle East is one of our top five markets globally in terms of revenue. My top priorities are four-fold: to further establish the Mandarin Oriental brand in preparation for our openings in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha; to develop a sales team in Dubai and Riyadh and restructure the office as part of our regional expansion plan; to continue to grow market share by introducing the brand to potential customers; and to develop strategic partnerships with high-end agencies and airline and trade partners
What are the key facets of your 2015-2016 sales and marketing strategy?
The Middle East region is an important outbound market for our group. Some of our properties, particularly in Europe, are very attractive to Middle East travellers because they are all unique places to stay whether in Barcelona, Paris, Geneva or London. We also see a growing interest in other destinations such as Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, New York and Munich. We are seeing greater interest for family travel from the Middle East too.
In 2014 we opened our first resort in Bodrum, Turkey and this year we will be opening two great new properties in the heart of Milan (this summer) and in Marrakech (H2, 2015).
We will also focus on the sponsorship of niche events such as the Art of Heritage Foundation in Saudi Arabia, which we supported in April.
What opportunities are there for the Mandarin Oriental brand to expand its Middle East presence going forward?
We continue to review development opportunities around the world and have a number of potential projects under evaluation at any one time, including prospects in the Middle East. We never comment on these opportunities until a project is officially confirmed.
MANDARIN ORIENTAL, MARRAKECH
Leading-edge design, Spanish and Arabic influences, landscaped gardens and mountains views define this new property
Scheduled to open any day now, the Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech is set among 20 hectares of landscaped gardens, filled with the scent of 100,000 roses, bougainvillea, olive trees and prickly pears, and is a short drive from the bustling medina.
Contemporary in style, the resort’s interiors have been conceived by French design duo Patrick Gilles and Dorothée Boissier who have combined their contrasting styles to create a balanced look. Patrick has focused on clean lines and symmetrical forms while Dorothée has added subtle Berber and Spanish Arabic touches.
Each of the property’s 54 villas has its own garden and private pool while nine spacious suites have terraces boasting views of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. Two of them are dedicated to wellbeing and feature their own spa treatment room and lap pool.
Berber’s inspiration is also found in the hotel’s five restaurants and bars, which are decorated with contemporary reminders of Moroccan arts and crafts, while the interior decor at the Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech, is inspired by the cathedrals of Andalusia.