How has the Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection Dubai performed post-pandemic?
It is true that the post-pandemic era brings a lot of reserve and consideration when it comes to the performance of luxury hospitality and travel sector. Luckily in Dubai, the perspective of EXPO 2020 has given the chance for Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection to host some resounding luxury events, such as: The Emirates Literature Festival, The Prime Minister’s, The World Police Summit and much more.
To add to the list, in May we enjoyed a most successful Arabian Travel Market (ATM), creating further opportunity for our brand, which enjoys a unique “glocal” positioning, with 2 resounding namesakes: the Hilton portfolio of brands globally renowned as industry-leading, along with the Habtoor family conglomerate, its aura in the Arab world, and its genuine engagement on the local communities.
Following the 2020 Expo, the Holy month of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, the ATM has epitomized an exceptional start of the year 2022 for Dubai and we took part with great ambitions – telling the story of Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection being the ‘1,001 Arabian Nights’ destination- since we have the capacity to hold over 1,000 guests in one single property – Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City, including mesmerizing entertainment at La Perle – Dubai’s #1 Show with 1,288 seating capacities, and a choice of more than 30 restaurants, lounges, bars and recreational venues.
What were the key factors which attracted guests to a safe environment? How was this communicated?
With all that Al Habtoor City has to offer, it brings such great excitement to welcome back our privileged guests as they are to finally be able to travel, with renewed behaviors and expectations about what travel now means to them. The success of EXPO 2020 has been overly positive with around 20 million visitors over the past 6 months flying down to Dubai with a direct positive impact on the hospitality sector.
We understand that our guest’s expectations for cleaning and disinfection have changed as to what is was pre pandemic. As a renowned global brand, Hilton partnered with Reckitt, Lysol and Dettol to help deliver a cleaner stay for our guests with the creation of the Hilton CleanStay program. Our promise is to deliver the same level of reliable and friendly service you would expect from Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection with the added confidence of hygiene practices to keep our guests safe.
Plus, with over 30 entertainment destinations including live music, live cooking stations kids club and more, three rooftop pools, two spas and the beautiful outdoor winter garden, there is enough venues for the guests to feel a sense safe space and social distance that feels truly natural and enjoyable.
Has the guest profile changed post pandemic? To what extent you targeted different markets?
Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection consists of three hotels- Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City, V Hotel Dubai – Curio Collection by Hilton and Habtoor Palace Dubai – LXR Hotels & Resorts, and all three hotels have their own distinct character and target market. Indeed, since the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed the Abraham Accords and our pioneer move for Kosher Kitchen certification following our owners’ visionary and considerate leadership, we have been overwhelmed with the love they have for our beautiful City!
Our target market has slightly moved towards the Jewish community; hence Al Habtoor City is now fully catering to Kosher travelers’ needs specifically for the Israeli guests- a home away from home! One of our biggest target markets is the Indian market, especially with their luxurious destination weddings. In fact, Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection now also operates in-field representation for both Indian and Israeli markets.
The UK and European market had a huge positive impact on the Dubai economy post pandemic, we had British and European nationals flocked into the city. At Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection, we have some iconic lounges and suites such as the The Polo Bar at Habtoor City Dubai which takes you back to the classic bars of UK exuding an aura of sophistication, Le Patio at Habtoor Palace, the hidden gem with its open air atrium reminiscent of true Parisian Palaces, the famous Sir Winston Churchill Suite at Habtoor Palace Dubai which could be termed as the classification of luxury with landscape garden views, majestic in room staircase, rooftop plunge pool and an enormous sized majlis.
Also not to forget Habtoor Palace Dubai is home to another exquisite suite which is the Bentley Suite, inspired by the bespoke craftsmanship of the flagship Bentley Mulsanne, the custom designed one-bedroom suite is a setting for magical moments.
To what extent you attract locals? Has this changed?
Well… post lockdown, locals/residents were our biggest market since ‘stay-cations’ was the new travel at that time. So we focused on domestic tourism, offering staycation deals – featuring La Perle, food and beverages discounts for in-house guests, complimentary upgrades, reservations flexibility and much more. As per Dubai Tourism Statistics hotels led a significant growth in room nights sold to domestic visitors towards end 2020. To support the hotel sector in the country, the government launched the first federal domestic tourism campaign ‘World’s coolest winter’, which worked in our favor. This helped us position Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection as the one stop entertainment destination.
Moving forward, with travel restrictions eased out, not many destinations need a PCR test anymore and EXPO 2020’s success with around 20 million people flying into Dubai in the last six months we can finally say UAE has recovered from the pandemic and according to a new report by Travelport, UAE has been recognized as the most recovered country post pandemic.
Of all the major international delegations who have entrusted Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection and more specifically Habtoor Palace Dubai with their business especially during Expo 2020, we could not feel more ready to welcome the world! We have recently announced our ‘Dine Around – culinary staycation´ where guests can reserve a room at any of three hotels and enjoy our half board and full board deals, starting from AED 740.
Last but definitely not the least, our spectacular Winter Garden that takes place every year with lines of food kiosks, delicious mulled wine to keep guests warm during peak winter (even though we are in a desert, it does get cold haha), kids play area, pop up shops and a lot more. The Winter Garden attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
What was the importance for EXPO 2020 for Al Habtoor City Collection? Tell us about the benefits but also the challenges in the sense of missed opportunities? Has the EXPO generated a different profile of guests? (ex MICE, Government)
The success of EXPO 2020 has been overly positive with around 20 million visitors over the past 6 months flying down to Dubai with a direct constructive impact on the hospitality sector. Now is the occasion for hospitality leaders from Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection to reflect on the EXPO 2020 success stories as the ideal transition to a no lesser exciting year ahead. EXPO 2020 has given the chance to Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection to host some of the most highly anticipated private and corporate events, since Dubai has catapulted to the number one business travel destination.
Few key events being: Firstly, The Emirates Literature festival which is the world’s leading international literary festival as well as the Arab world’s largest celebration of the written and spoken world which had taken over 400 rooms at Habtoor Palace and 15 banquet venues within the complex. Secondly, The Prime Minister’s office event which focuses on the driver of leadership and excellence in the government through providing direct support to federal entities. This event had secured the complex 1000 rooms in the span of 4 days.
Last but not the least, the World Police Summit was held the complex in February 2022 which is hosted by Dubai Police under the Patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum with participation of over 200 key leaders and more than 150 exhibitors, over 2,000 delegates and more than 10,000 visitors. Expo 2020 has also acted as a global tourism platform, bringing us closer to what travel now truly means for visitors from around the world. It has been such a wonderful opportunity to connect with how the post-pandemic era is interpreted by different cultures and travel segments.
Is there a DNA of the Al Habtoor City Collection? How is this reflected across the Habtoor Group?
Our 2 namesakes: Hilton (great international recognition) + Habtoor (authoritative legacy and a resounding aura like no other in Dubai and the region), best translated at Habtoor Palace Dubai as a true Maison de Maitre (with some major proofpoints: butler service, memorabilia, legacy suites – Sir Winston Churchill and Bentley Suite, not to mention our Bentley fleet with our direct affiliation with Al Habtoor Group being the official dealership of Bentley in the region).
It is a Palace in the true authentic sense – it makes an impression on you from the moment you step through its temple sized doors and find yourself in awe in front of magnificent symmetrical marble staircases…the majesty of the place combined with the craftsmanship and hotelier leadership of the Hilton brand helps to elevate each guest to the grandeur of the lieu…
Finally, La Perle – a magical place of enchantment that is a gift from the Habtoors and from Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection to the city of Dubai. In essence, Al Habtoor City is a destination in-the-know, for the well-traveled, discerning guests, to see and be seen Dubai locale at its finest.
How important has been the strategic approach to F&B and entertainment?
Al Habtoor City is a destination within a destination. First being the Winter Garden, every year from October to March, that is the talk of town and Dubai’s most anticipated event with stalls of food and beverages, kids play area, pop up shops and a lot more. Second being the famous La Perle show – a Las-Vegas-style water based themed extravaganza by Dragone which is now extending dining packages with dining venues through all three hotels’ outlets.
Third, Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection introduced their brand new ‘culinary staycation’ where guests can book a room at any three hotels and enjoy our half board and full board deal in our world of cuisines prepared by our newly appointed Complex Executive Chef Nicholas Shadbolt and Executive Sous Chef Deniz Katranci. Last but not the least, the Michelin Guide coming to Dubai this year (2022) and Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection will be part of it as we are arming ourselves with exceptional activations and enhancement in order to enhance our positioning as a culinary city!
Habtoor owns and operates hospitality assets but also collaborates with major international hotel groups / brands. Tell us more.
Al Habtoor does not only have hospitality under his name but also has Al Habtoor Motors, Diamondlease car rental and chauffeured transportation services, real estate, education establishment and a publication house.
In Dubai, Al Habtoor Group offers a full suite of hotels and resorts, including Habtoor Grand Resort, Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, Habtoor Palace Dubai – LXR Hotels and Resorts, Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City, V Hotel Dubai – Curio Collection by Hilton, Al Habtoor Polo Resort and Metropolitan Hotel Dubai- which was Al Habtoor’s first hospitality venture.
Moving forward, internationally Al Habtoor has properties in Vienna – Imperial Hotel, a Luxury Collection, UK- Hilton London Wembley, Lebanon – Hilton Beirut Habtoor Grand and Hilton Beirut Metropolitan Palace, US- Prsident braham Lincoln Springfield, Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, Budapest – InterContinental and The Ritz Carlton Budapest. Our Chairman Mr Habtoor has also been named as the ‘Top 25 Tourism Power List’ in Forbes Middle East. Hospitality and the human and community elements are deeply rooted in Habtoor Hospitality’s DNA.
What about the expertise and understanding in delivering consistently high customer service standards?
Al Habtoor started its visionary journey in 1970 as a small engineering company, and moved towards hospitality in 1979. Providing high customer service has been Al Habtoor’s number one priority starting with – knowledge about the industry the consumers, introducing training for all team members’ customer facing and back office, providing personalized services across all properties and lastly listen to the customers to understand what they need instead of just what we can provide.
Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection’s Trip Advisor score as we speak is 5 out of 5, considering we are just out of EXPO 2020 and Arabian Travel Market season. Habtoor Palace Dubai itself ranks top 10 in the city. This is an achievement we feel speaks so strongly about how unique the Habtoor name is when it comes to delivering exceptional and global hospitality like no other. Finally it is not a coincidence that most of their hotels hold the Habtoor name – it is probably one of the most important proofs of how deeply enamoured and committed our owners are when it comes to hospitality.
How was ATM this year for Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection?
As the hub of the Arab continent, Dubai hosted more than 150 countries at the World Trade Center during the Arabian Travel Market 2022 (ATM 2022) to map out the Future of International Travel. Traditionally hosted in May, the global exhibition has now become one of the major rendez-vous in the industry’s calendar of the year. The travel and tourism sector is expected to rise by over $400 billion by 2028.
These figures are remarkable given lockdowns are still in place in some destinations, one of the biggest being China. The travel and tourism sector in the Middle East shows no signs of lessening with GCC hospitality to increase by 16% in 2022, especially with our neighboring country Qatar hosting the FIFA World Cup. ATM 2022 saw more than 23,000 visitors including industry leaders to discuss and share visions.
ATM as a networking platform has proven the strength and appeal of Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection as a destination, with its local (Habtoor) and global (Hilton) namesakes enjoying great media traction. Firstly, being Fredrik Reinisch, our Complex General Manager seen on interview with Forbes Middle East. This followed the nomination of our Chairman in the top 10 ranking in Forbes Middle East Travel & Tourism List earlier this year.
Even more significant is the fact that we could considerably expand and even sign new agreements onsite at our ATM stand as a testimony of the confidence in the travel industry and in Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection and all it has to offer. Lastly, with hard work comes great team work, and our team at Al Habtoor City threw the greatest ‘Back to the future’ ATM after party of the year for all our guests, partners and associates in reflection of this year’s focus ‘the future of international travel and tourism’. Privileged guests enjoyed an evening full of music, dancing, performances, competitions, raffle draws and a lot more fun at the V Lounge with sensational views of the Arabian sunset upon the Dubai Water Canal and the sea afar.
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