Claudia Roth, area vice president, Europe, Middle East & Africa, the Leading Hotels of the World, talks to CHERYL MANDY.
What will LHW be presenting at the Arabian Travel Market?
We have a fully Arabic language brochure containing member hotels most relevant to the Arabic market. It gets released each year at the ATM and has received a very positive response from all of our customers. Clients and agents alike very much appreciate this professionalism and ease of access and we have consequently seen an increase in reservations from this market of 191 per cent comparing 2006 with 2007.
Also, we would like to promote our reservations and service centre at the Dubai office. This is a convenient and efficient point of service, where travel agents as well as direct consumers can arrange their travel needs.
How many hotels in the ME region belong to LHW?
The Leading Hotels of the World has currently 11 member hotels in the Middle East, covering Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman.
In MENA, what trends do you see developing with regard to guest hotel choice?
The trend for boutique hotels, private residences, executive floors and club sections, is a rising requirement that will continue to grow. The need to be exclusive will grow, while the prestige of staying in a reputed chain hotel with already established standards will become more and more a priority. Most five star hotels in the Middle East are now offering an extremely good service and have good facilities, so that only the extent of privacy becomes a unique selling point. Particular large families appreciate it if they can be in one unit within a resort, where they can roam unapproached and with a large degree of security.
What ME hotels have been granted LHW membership recently?
Among the newer members are The American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, Grand Regency Hotel in Doha, Qatar and the Chedi Muscat in Oman.
What do you see are the biggest problems facing the hotel industry in the ME?
The Middle East remains the fastest growing region in terms of tourism arrivals. Clients in the Middle East are by now not only used to extremely high facility standards but expect also faultless, personalised and unobtrusive service with attention to detail. Staff that can fulfill this level of expectation is increasingly difficult to come by, and with all the new openings on the horizon will prove a challenge to find in the future. Perfect service however is not optional but a necessity if the Middle East hotel industry wants to keep its reputation where it is at current.
Do you think there will be too many five star hotels here?
There seems the risk of this happening. Being a five star hotel means to be exceptional in any way, but true luxury has also to do with exclusivity and space. Dubai for example has got the reputation to be a luxury destination for many years now, however the building boom does carry the threat to destroy exactly that, simply by offering too much of a good thing within a small geographical area. Developers will have to take care that not only their projects are exceptional, but also that the entire infrastructure surrounding these projects remains first class and continues to offer what people want.
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