Why did Al Khaleel Group decide to build a new hotel in Muscat, and what challenges did you face when executing that idea in the middle of a pandemic?
The process of building the Ramada Encore by Wyndham started years ago. Nevertheless, the construction closing phases had their fair share of drawbacks due to the logistical challenges across the globe in 2020, namely a lack of building materials, hiring team members, and many other operational difficulties. On another note, the hospitality industry was deeply affected by the pandemic due to the lockdown, the closure of airports, and travel bans. These factors had a direct impact on occupancy levels and rate structures, which impacted overall revenues. Nevertheless, Al Khaleel Group did not cut any corners in order to construct a landmark for years to come.
What key characteristics of the hospitality industry in Oman did you incorporate into the property and what are the features of the hotel?
Al Khaleel Group always believes the soul of any building remains in the artwork on display in public areas. Wanting to exude and represent the essence of a true Omani, the group was honored to work with a female Omani artist who crafted custom-made paintings for every room of the hotel, in addition to the public areas. Each of these works of art provides a strong Omani flavor in every corner of the hotel and helps communicates the Omani culture and feel to guests. The Ramada Encore Muscat Hotel is a 163-room property with an Italian cuisine specialty restaurant and a craft coffee shop. The rooms are spacious and come with hardwood floors, flatscreen TVs, and a high-tech control panel for the lighting system and air-conditioning. There are also 23 premiere and executive suites, a fully equipped fitness center, and a rooftop pool. The hotel's location in the middle of the city, in addition to its ease of access to the airport and various government offices and companies, makes it ideal for both business and leisure travelers.
How will the hotel fit within the Muscat hospitality landscape and remain competitive?
With the economic effects of the pandemic on businesses, companies are now looking at significant savings across the board. We have lined up our selling strategies accordingly, giving companies that choose the Ramada Encore Muscat value for their money. We have included breakfast for all companies that sign a corporate rate with us and provide them with additional benefits such as drop-offs to their local offices in the area, free Wi-Fi, and others. When it comes to international hotel chains branded products, the local market is extremely heavy on upscale and upper upscale properties, which constitute more than 70% of the available rooms inventory. The Ramada Encore by Wyndham is positioned in the upper-midscale categories at an attractive price point for travelers.
How will technology impact the tourism sector and travelers' patterns in the long term?
Since 2020, the tourism industry has started focusing on integrating technology for safety and ease of use, namely by reducing the touchpoints travelers have to go through while on the road. It started with boarding pass scanning from a device at airports to now checking into a hotel through an app and allowing guests to use their phone RFID signals to open up hotel room doors. Ordering a meal on one's phone after browsing through the hotel room service menu all while staying in the room is now a common thing. The industry's digital advancement is looking even brighter with the latest focus on integrating all travel services onto a single platform where flights, car rentals, and accommodations are all interconnected. With one press of a button, one will be able to change their flight, triggering their car rental reservation to shift and match their new flight details coupled with a change in their accommodation arrival time. This will save the consumer multiple logins or calls to work around changes in their schedules or flight cancellations.