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Sharjah 2016 | TOURISM | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Syed Mohammad Asad Zaidi, General Manager of Ramada Chelsea Hotel, on making a name in a competitive market, location, and the effects of internet review sites.

What milestones have you been able to achieve in the past year?

A tough year, 2016 saw sluggish demand, and Dubai is always a competitive market. Yet we still achieved more than 4% of our occupancy target and closed revenue per available room at an impressive 90% for our 299-room hotel. Our location, Al Barsha, is one of the biggest hubs for hotels making it even more competitive. When we opened in 2010 there were five hotels here and now there are 65. We believe that the intense competition helps us to thrive, to challenge ourselves, and hold every aspect of our hotel to a higher standard. 2016 was a success for Ramada Chelsea with a strong percentage of occupancy and ending the year with high revenues.

How would you assess growth in the Dubai tourism market?

For each of our 12 years being here in Dubai, we have achieved growth in line with the city's growth. New markets continue to open, old markets are flourishing, and the Emirate is doing well as we approach 2020, where we expect a further boom. The buildup to Expo 2020 will include building infrastructure, roads, and retail facilities, which will directly impact the hospitality industry as well. The government itself supports the industry through cooperation with the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and Dubai Tourism on promotion through roadshows and inviting hotels onto different platforms of promotion in foreign countries. The best feather in the cap is creating visas on arrival for Chinese passport holders and permitting any Indian passport holder with a valid US visa, a visa on arrival. This illustrates the commitment of the Dubai government to be involved in supporting the industry and developing a stronger hospitality sector.

Do you host many guests from the Far East?

We receive a lot of guests from the East, mostly China. The majority of our guests come from Germany, occupying nearly 60 to 70 rooms every day. We receive guests from all over the EU, France, Austria, and Italy. Our other largest customer group is the GCC, particularly Saudi Arabia.

What opportunities have been made available by your central location?

Internet City is quite competitive because there are a lot of hotels located in the telecoms area in general. In terms of attracting customers, Internet City helps, and Jebel Ali Free Zone helps as well, but the greatest unique selling point is being walking distance from the Mall of Emirates. This is why within a radius of one kilometer you will find over 65 hotels. We heavily promote that we are in walking distance to the Mall of Emirates as our primary USP as Dubai is major shopping hub for the entire region.

How have user-review websites affected your business?

User-review websites can often offer a deciding factor in terms of choosing a hotel, as guests go to the portal, check ratings, and measure what they are looking for against extensive reviews. Reviews play a major role in instructing and directing our internal development so that we can operate at peak levels in accordance to our guest's preferences. Therefore, next time, we can provide a better overall experience for them and all future guests. Other services like AirBnB have been in place for a long time and do not affect the hospitality sector. We offer a something more extensive than a room or an apartment with full service rooms, bar and restaurant options, and other services. Competition is important for us to do better and is instrumental in informing our strategy to better to achieve our operational goals. Because of both the nature and magnitude of the market, if someone can survive in Dubai, they can survive anywhere in the world.

How does Ramada Chelsea differentiate itself from the competition?

While every hotel has similar rooms, here we pride ourselves on our F&B options and uniqueness it brings to our property. We have five dining options: an authentic Indian restaurant with live classical music each night. We have a sports bar with a British band playing five nights a week. Then we have the Arabic restaurant, which offers guests Shisha and Arabic cuisine. We also have a Chinese restaurant, as well as a 24-hour dining restaurant. The sports bar is the official sports bar for Glasgow Rangers fans and is one of the most popular in Al Barsha and is packed each night. Five days a week we have a band playing from 9:30pm to 2am, and on Saturday and Sunday evenings we have Premier League football. Giving guests five distinctly different cuisines to choose from offers not only accommodation for any taste, but also an inclusive experience at our hotel.

What kinds of opportunities and challenges are presented by offering such a mixed cultural cocktail?

Our Arabic restaurant Mezz is one of the top choices for the GCC guests. We have channels so that guests can be segregated if they choose to be. Sometimes guests prefer to retain their privacy within the confines of their own tradition and culture. Other times they choose to mix together, for which we provide several options. The main challenges we are facing are with new hotels opening. In the next four to six months we are expecting another five or six hotels to open in Al Barsha alone. And as we were the fifth hotel to open here, our success has led others to replicate what we have done. While this competition may take away a small amount of business it ultimately forces us to continue to improve, offer new products, and chase innovation. In other words, it makes us pull our socks up and continue to be the best.


 

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