Marriott woos tourists
The Doha Marriott Gulf Hotel used to be called the Sheraton Gulf until July 1999 when the Marriott chain took over the landmark hotel, established 21 years ago.Marriott immediately set about refurbishing and improving the 352-room property, putting in place a brand new lobby, one of the most spacious in the Gulf. According to director of sales and marketing Julian Hagger, every food and beverage outlet has been subjected to some kind of renovation. One tower of the hotel has been completed and another one is due to be renovated in 2002. "We are a mix between an airport hotel and a resort, the only one so far with its own private marina," boasted Hagger. He said the Marriott had gained a reputation as a "social centre" among Qataris with the large, Arabic-style lobby featuring live grand piano music impressing visitors. The emergence of several luxury hotels in Doha does not discourage Hagger who believes there is potential for all in the rapidly developing corporate business and tourism scenario of Qatar. As regards the endeavour to bring in larger numbers of tourists to Doha, he said it would succeed best if it became a co-operative venture with government authorities, local hotels, tour operators and airlines acting in the interests of all. The approach should be market-based, he said, pointing out that short getaway packages had already become established business in many Gulf cities, which should inspire Doha to do the same. "We're starting to change our image from a corporate hotel to a more leisurely hotel," said Hagger. The Marriott is now emphasising strongly its sports and fitness facilities to attract the short getaway tourists. "We've done the whole of the exterior pool deck. We're focusing on the leisure aspects," he said. The hotel has announced what it says are attractive rates to lure Qatar residents for weekend stays. "Corporate people don't stay for the weekend, so we are making up by having the local community come in for that period," said Hagger. They are offered use of the Health Club featuring steam and Turkish baths, Jacuzzi, massage and therapy rooms as well as a gymnasium with the latest equipment. Fare highlights at the four restaurants are Asian, Indian, Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines. The leisure side is further emphasised by arrangements for dhow trips and visits to the dunes and monuments. The hotel sees opportunities in convention tourism and has the facilities to cater to that aspect of the business with three seminar rooms and the ballroom Al Fayrouz which can host corporate banquets as well as weddings and state banquets. The Executive Tower Concierge Lounge is the largest facility of its kind in Doha with meetings and conference rooms overlooking the bay.