Sofitel Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa is a luxury five star beach resort on the East Crescent of the world’s famous island Palm Jumeirah located in a tropical retreat yet so near to Dubai’s many exciting attractions and landmarks. Aviamost speaks to Mr. Nijat Aliyev about the evolution of the brand, the market trends and his role as owner's representative at Sofitel The Palm Dubai.
Congratulations on the 5th Anniversary of Sofitel The Palm Dubai. Please tell us a little bit about the importance of the Sofitel The Palm Dubai hospitality brand.
Thank you. Our collection of luxury brands is unique and one of the most exciting to promote in the region. Sofitel is well-recognized for its luxurious experience and over the last five years we have ensured to provide that to every guest that walks through the door.
This is the place to experience Arabic hospitality in a setting inspired by the culture and architecture of the South Pacific. Long white sandy beaches, the turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf, magnifique touches of French elegance everywhere to make our guests relaxed, revived and restored.
In a competitive industry, what differentiates Sofitel The Palm Dubai from other hospitality brands so that occupancy remains high and rooms are filled, especially with many mid-market / non-luxury properties entering the market?
The current industry temperament is that there is an oversupply in the market. I agree to a large extent, but I think a strong brand can sustain if they have a unique selling point. Looking at it from an industry perspective, I believe that hospitality segment should grow but it must be at a controlled pace. At the end of the day all hospitality brands should understand when is the right time to launch a brand, how to launch and who to partner with.
Another crucial factor in succeeding in this market is a strong team. I am always evaluating my staff. My staff is my asset. Always was and always will be. They are bringing the business; they are controlling, enhancing and evolving the property.
Why do you think it's important to have an owner's representative in the GCC hospitality industry?
While this is a new concept for the GCC, it is a common practice in other North American markets. The owner’s representative is normally called asset manager and is a crucial cog in taking objectives of the owners and fulfilling them in collaboration with the operator.
I say crucial because the owner’s representative can give an unbiased opinion to both parties and help navigate the differences in objectives between the two. We always have to keep the guest and the service of the brand in mind first before anything else.
What are the challenges you face most often and how do you adapt to the ever evolving dynamics and requirements?
It’s very important to understand that there are not my requirements but guests’ requirements. The guest is the king of this property. Once he steps in the hotel he is the king and we need to treat him as a king. Nowadays the customers are very demanding and all of them are different but what makes us unique is our ability to recognize and quickly provide to their needs.
What recommendations and investments has the Sofitel made in the past 5 years that has contributed to its success with Chinese and Russian tourists?
We look at our Chinese guests as a group tourists. Typically, they are travelling in groups and at least vising two hotels or two different cities in one trip. They are not 100% here as leisure travellers rather like shoppers and city’s explorers. I do believe that Chinese consider Dubai more as real estate hub rather than hospitality that’s why there are a lot of Chinese purchase apartments and do bring business to the nation. We understand that and are happy to connect our guests to the right channels for business or leisure.
Similarly, since beginning of 2018 and implementation of visa-on-arrival Russian and CIS markets have shown steady growth and many Russian guests come to us directly without tour operators with the aim of receiving a luxurious experience. By investing heavily into our property landscape and spa we continue to attract Russian guests.
From your perspective how do you see the hospitality segment today and in the future?
I think for the next five years the industry will change. It will be technology base, artificial intelligent base, robotic base. Nowadays we see some concepts and some hotels which successfully open the hotels without a reception. They don’t need even the receptionist.
That being said, it is about bridging a gap between technology and the human experience. People may enjoy the ease of technology but will always crave a conversation about hidden gems in the city from a resident.
Do you think that will work considering that hospitality industry based on human relations and people want to be personalized?
It depends on the customers. Some wants to be talked and to be treated with a smile however the new generation – millennials are more flexible. It’s all about the type of the consumers therefore owners must decide what type guests they are targeting. It could be luxury, millennial, mid type, corporate, honey moon, family.
What is your target audience?
Mainly, we are focusing on the families however we have services and facilities in the hotel to accommodate the corporate, as well nice villas for VVIP’s and leisure market. Families today stay longer period 5 to 7 days, they are eating together, having fun together and that’s why we are as Sofitel The Palm giving these facilities mainly to the families.
What industry trend would you bank on in the run up to Expo 2020?
A seamless guest room experience – from the ability to choose your temperature digitally to unlock your room door and having access to a variety of video of demand content like Netflix.
Besides that, I believe that Expo 2020 will give additional PR to the city. Government has a target to bring over 20 million of visitors and definitely hotels will reap the benefits of it.