MICHEL Pierre Jean Noblet, managing director, Coral Inter-national Hotels-Resorts-Spas, is a man in a hurry.
From the age of 14 he has struck it out on his own – yes, Noblet started working when other children his age were still at school – and through the dint of sheer hard work and steely determination rose to become the Middle East and West Asia president of Le Méridien Hotels and Resorts before going on to head a hotel management company of his own.
A year ago, Noblet created Coral International LLC, a premier hotel chain in association with HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Faisal Al Qassimi. A fully home-grown brand of Dubai, Coral International holds an array of hotels in its portfolio including many exciting ‘new-generation’ properties like leisure resorts, boutique hotels and desert camps – most of these projects are at various stages of development and are spread across the GCC.
But again this is not something that Noblet had planned. “I was just sitting over a cup of coffee with HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Faisal Al Qassimi one day when he suddenly tossed the idea of starting a hotel management company and asked me if I would like to get into it,” he recalls. “That was it… I told him why not?”
Well, to be honest, it’s this why-not attitude that has made Noblet, at 58, one of the most respected hoteliers in the Middle East. A respect he has earned from the time he became one of the founding members of Le Méridien Hotels and Resorts in 1971 and then
went on to become the managing director of Le Méridien Hotels and Resorts for the Middle East and West Asia from 1999 to 2001, when he developed four- and five-star and deluxe hotels in 25 countries.
Not surprising then that, in 2000, he had achieved a staggering £230 million in total revenue and operated 25 hotels comprising 7,000 rooms and representing 10,000 employees!
Ask him about the secret of his success and pat comes Noblet’s reply. “Hospitality is all about having your own personal stamp,” he points out. “It has its own signature. Often, the problem is that there is a very fine line between good and bad service. Too much of it can be overwhelming, too little can be upsetting. I believe in hospitality the way it should be!”
Noblet certainly knows what “hospitality” is all about and is keen to redefine it ever since he established Coral International in September last year. He moved quickly to acquire the first property – Coral Beach Resort Sharjah – under the Coral International banner and hasn’t looked back since. In January this year, he had in his kitty Coral Deira Dubai, a swanky five-star hotel in the commercial heart of the city and, in the same month, construction started on Coral Boutique Residence Al Barshaa – a first-class deluxe hotel/residence on Sheikh Zayed Road, boasting 78 five-star furnished apartments. At the same time, he also undertook a major expansion at Coral Beach Resort that would add 58 Deluxe Chalets, a banquet hall with a seating capacity for 900 people and a unique state-of-the-art Spa and Fitness Centre to the property. But that’s not all. There are several other properties being developed all over the GCC including the 40-storey Coral Tower, Sharjah.
“The Middle East is without doubt emerging as a region with the greatest growth prospects in terms of tourism, trade and business meetings, and we intend to substantially increase our presence in more ways than one,” says Noblet. “We are in the process of developing many exciting projects and plan to hold 25 properties in the next five years. The idea is to nurture good properties in unusual areas.”
The reason why Michel is moving at this incredible pace is because his views are very simple and his colleagues attribute Noblet’s success to his marvelous intuition about people and properties. Needless to say, all this comes from hard work and the fact that he believes in doing his homework to stay ahead of the game. It helps matters that Noblet is passionate about his work – he is usually the first one to come to office and the last one to leave.
Like his son Ralph says, “Dad is usually very hard on himself. He doesn’t believe in leaving things for tomorrow. Even when he is sick, you literally have to strap him to bed to force him to take a day off. He is a fighter and always tells me that no matter what one should never give up. For him the game is never over.”
Noblet’s exceptional talent has been recognised in more ways than one. He won the top honours at Singapore World Travel Awards 2000, Kuala Lumpur World Travel Awards 2001, Dubai, The Travel Intelligence Awards 2000 and Dubai, The Travel Intelligence Awards 2001. More recently, Coral International was presented with the New Millennium International Award for Tourist, Hotel and Catering Industry.
With so much going for him, Noblet’s dream is to make Coral International one of the leading hotel chains in the region. But does he have a secret formula to make a success of the new company in this highly-competitive market? “Getting away from the herd is not easy but I can tell you that, at Coral International, we believe in doing things differently,” he says. “We want to create an emotional equation with the local and expat community. The international market is volatile and depends on a lot of external factors but if we can get close to the local community – both corporate and otherwise – and win over their loyalty then we have every chance of succeeding.” And right now, Noblet is not doing too badly. He is working hard to see that his staff go that extra mile and provide a service that is unmatched. “I tell my staff that they should go to the guest,” he says. “They shouldn’t wait for the guest to come to them. We should let the guest know that he or she is very valuable and our mission is to make him happy. And when we have done that successfully, it will only be a matter of time before we emerge as the market leaders.” Don’t take that lightly.