How did you select Nurai Island, and how will demand for it grow in the future?
It is a natural island, with white sandy beaches, and its location targets a wide market. The idea was to create something with the same feeling as the Maldives, though on the doorstep of our guests in the region. So far it has been successful; we receive both local and international guests, and growth will continue since Abu Dhabi is growing. In this sense, demand has been mostly driven by Europeans, given their geographical proximity and the number of direct flights; they also happen to stay for a longer time. The Indian market is next, followed by the Russians. There will not be a boom anytime soon for the Chinese market, though it offers a great opportunity for the long term. The Australian market is currently being developed, and there are more Australians coming. Within the umbrella of luxury, we offer families, honeymooners, business executives, and international celebrities complete privacy and comfort, a spa that has become a true driver of tourism, and different types of water sports. In the future, we seek to target diplomatic delegations visiting Abu Dhabi and grow the family segment, for which we are increasing investments in the entertainment business, such as a new water park.
What is Abu Dhabi's competitive advantage in driving tourism?
Abu Dhabi is growing rapidly, and the opening of the Louvre and Warner Bros follow the same tradition of the Emirate becoming a cultural establishment. Abu Dhabi has everything that Dubai offers, albeit with less stress and hassle. Tourists in Dubai are always stuck in traffic, while in Abu Dhabi one can go from any resort to their destination in less than half an hour. This ease of mobility attracts people, who claim beaches in Abu Dhabi are better than Dubai, and where a great deal of attention is given to minimizing pollution through effective sewage systems, solar panels, and waste management practices with regard to food.
What are your thoughts on the new investment proposals such as the creation of a Louvre marina and the Hyperloop?
Regarding the Louvre marina, it is a necessary investment, and I hope it will be done soon. According to the Louvre manager, the museum cannot have one at the moment for safety reasons, so it will have another marina next door. However, guests would still need to walk 10-15 minutes once they get off the boat, which goes against the concept of luxury. As for the Hyperloop, people would prefer to live in Abu Dhabi, and it will be interesting to see what happens with rentals, which may go up further.
What challenges does a luxury hotel manager face in training human resources and maintaining high standards?
Unlike what is taught at top management schools, here there is a pressing need to teach and inspect several times until the information is processed. In the beginning, it is not an easy task, though training managers who are willing to learn will adapt faster. Certain personnel may not do a five-star professional job, though they serve from the heart and are able to compensate for the lack of professional technicalities. With the right compensation and incentive structure, we gain their loyalty and keep their morale high; a happy employee equals a happy guest. Each place, like Zaya Nurai, has its own culture and philosophy, and we need to find both workers and guests that fit that mentality. At the moment, we seek Chinese and South American staff to join our German, French, and staff from other nationalities.