Bill Keffer, general manager, JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai discusses the top ten strategies in order to maintain a hotels strong identity throughout the summer season
Hailing from the southern state of Tennessee in the US, Bill Keffer has held managerial positions with Marriott International for 25 years. Beginning his career at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Keffer joined Marriott International in his home state of Tennessee, followed by positions in Florida and at the New York Marriott Marquis.
In 2000, Keffer decided on a move to Asia and spent two years in Japan as the food and beverage director of the Renaissance Hotel, Sapporo, followed by three years in South Korea as director of operations in the JW Marriott, Seoul.
Throughout his career, Keffer has been the recipient of a number of prestigious awards including Continent General Manager of the Year 2014 and 2012, Continent Hotel of the Year 2011, Global Hotel of the Year for 2011, three individual recognitions for leadership and engagement excellence between 2010 and 2012.
Business and leisure guests want to find the best deals as the emirate heats up, summer is a great time in Dubai for people to benefit from many special deals on offer across the region. People are looking for the most value they get when spending, so offers which deliver the most bang for a buck quickly become favourites. Hotel’s should always strive to provide the very best-in-class products and services to business and leisure guests during their stay, and this summer season should be no different, for example we offer at JW Marriott Marquis include, stay for three nights but only pay for two, children may also dine for free, while adults enjoy a 50% discount across a number of our restaurants.
There is huge emphasis on team building and activities during Ramadan, particularly companies look to engage in team building exercises and training, however; due to the heat, indoor options are essential. For this reason it’s important to think about what innovative concepts you can introduce to bolster your existing offering, and aim to think outside the box for a refreshing corporate approach that will attract new clients. For example, we have launched a new brand initiative called ‘Meetings Imagined’ which allows and encourages businesses to get creative when holding MICE events.
Often travelling myself, and having visited several continents in the last few months, I know firsthand how demanding changing time zones can be for our international guests. It is vital for us to ensure that those who may be travelling from locations have access to all the facilities they need. This is important all year round, but especially in the summer when some venues across the city close for the season. As a fully international business hotel we have 24/7 guest facilities such as the state-of-the-art gym, business center and 15 check-in desks.
With the intense summer heat, finding creative ways to keep guests occupied are essential, and helping them stay connected is one of them. To make life easier for guests it’s important to have taken all the steps to ensure they are seamlessly connected. For example, we have launched mobile check-in allowing guests to check in online as soon as their plane lands and waste no time waiting for their room. We also have cashless pay and an app for meeting planners called JW Concierge, which allows them to insta-message the hotel event planners with updates even during conferences. This is in addition to all the in-built technology in rooms allowing guests to connect their devices to the screens and watch their own downloaded content.
This summer is full of seasonal holidays, which bring families and friends together. It is a festive season and a wonderful time to experience UAE culture, national customs and religious observances such as Ramadan. Ramadan in particular is one of my favourite times in the year, as it is a time for reflection and quality time spent with loved ones. That’s why it is very important to create the right setting for people to enjoy Ramadan. This year for Ramadan we will transform the Dubai Ballroom into a beautiful lounge adorned in gold and cream for Iftar and Sohour.
We all appreciate flexibility, and venues which can offer dynamic solutions to both our business and leisure needs and we have the capacity to host groups of up to 1,000 to meet, eat and sleep in one location and the only hotel in Dubai that can host groups of this scale. Previously, conference and event organisers would have needed to split their group between numerous different hotels within the same city, so now Dubai is a viable MICE destination even in the summer months.
When avoiding the summer heat, I personally prefer to seek a range of entertainment that is under one roof, and I believe many individuals, families and groups in Dubai feel the same way. It’s also a great time to treat your loyal guests during summer, so it’s important to consider valuable ways to do this. At JW Marriott Marquis we will be launching a destination campaign, which invites customers to claim instant rewards for dining in our restaurants and lounges, as well as entering draws to win holidays to iconic places.
Ramadan and summer is an ideal time to get involved and reach out to those who deserve that extra bit of support in the community. We regularly organise activities with organisations to stay connected. It’s very humbling to see people value certain things in life that we may take for granted. So it’s very important to keep that awareness top of mind. This year we have special plans for our staff and the various charities in town and we encourage all companies to make a habit of getting involved however they can.
Social media has advanced so far and is such a great way to keep up to date with family, friends and brands that you are interested in, as well as Dubai’s plethora of events. For the property, we have almost 30,000 followers on Facebook and we work hard to keep them engaged with our brand. This is particularly necessary in summer, when people are stuck indoors with less activities available outside. Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat are all ways in which we stay dynamic and involved, maintaining an ongoing conversation that is mutually beneficial.
Tailor made Solutions
Executive travellers from within the GCC are often seeking not only world class business facilities but a balance of luxury conveniences and outstanding service. It is important for bespoke service based industries to cater to this niche. Service is obviously at the heart of our offering, and we focus on training and upskilling our associates as an absolute priority to ensure we provide exceptional service that is crafted, intuitive and authentic –which are the central pillars of the JW Marriott brand.