EVER popular with GCC travellers for both business and leisure, Bahrain’s Gulf Hotel will be putting particular emphasis on its events offering as it heads to Berlin for this year’s ITB and goes on the road to other exhibitions both regionally and internationally.
TTN spoke to director of business development DEE MCGUINNESS about the hotel’s onsite convention centre and how The Gulf is targeting the Mice market.
How long has the convention centre been running and what are the facilities available?
The Gulf Convention Centre has been running since 1997 during which time it has hosted some of the most prestigious events both Bahraini and international.
The state-of-the-art facility houses 21 venues and more than 4,780 metres of space to ensure there is plenty of room to put on almost any type of event. The contemporary surroundings are further enhanced by a team of professional staff who provide an impeccable service for all types of gatherings.
The Gulf Convention Centre’s crowning glory is its magnificent Al Dana Hall which makes the perfect venue for international seminars, exhibitions, gala dinners, banquets, weddings and award ceremonies. It comes equipped with a main ballroom floor area, stretching over 1,604 square metres, which can accommodate up to 3,000 guests for cocktail receptions and 1,260 for an elegant banquet.
An additional exhibition hall can hold 75 booths and boasts direct drive-in access, a built-in stage, catwalk facilities, power supply units and light rigs, as well as the option to divide the hall into separate conference areas. A further eight individual meeting rooms can cater for smaller functions, while the Gulf Hotel’s tropical gardens are a popular venue for weddings, parties and other outdoor occasions. These areas are accompanied by a sophisticated business centre, VIP lounge and bridal suite.
All conference rooms are fully equipped with the latest audiovisual equipment, including hi-tech projection systems, video conferencing facilities, multiple power and telephone points, high-speed internet access and three purpose-built translation booths for simultaneous translation in two languages – Arabic and English.
How does this tie in with the hotel?
The Gulf Hotel is positioned as Bahrain’s premier luxury hotel and convention centre strategically located and offering a high level of personalised service. Our focus is on offering our guests added value in how we service their business and differentiating ourselves in our levels of unique Bahraini hospitality. We strive to provide a unique product where our guests are valued, respected and their business truly appreciated. We are committed to creating the perfect ‘home from home’ ambience for our clients and we encourage our personnel to develop themselves in an environment of trust, loyalty and encouragement which trickles through our culture thus allowing us to effectively identify the needs of our guest.
Do you have any special rates or are you planning any particular specifically business-centred promotions in the coming months?
We have a package including everything a meeting planner requires from meeting room and signage throughout the hotel to buffet lunch, stationary and office supplies, lobby internet access and even a personal function host for the duration of the meeting and use of our gorgeous outdoor swimming pool all from just BD14 ($37) per person (minimum 10 delegates). This can, of course, be tied in with exceptionally competitive rates in our luxurious accommodation and we can also liaise with external providers to introduce entertainment options such as island tours and visits to places of interest.
How does the hotel work with travel agents and airlines to promote the Mice side of the business?
Naturally we work very closely with international Mice agencies, local DMC’s and associations to promote our property. Together with our partner Worldhotels and the Bahrain Tourism Board we participate annually in the most important international trade fairs that we use as a platform to increase our brand recognition and contacts in the industry. As an independent hotel, close collaboration with both entities is paramount to developing our reputation as a serious contender on the international arena that processes expertise to play host to the world’s most prestigious events. Continued differentiation, international positioning, local repositioning and growth are the four goals that we have set ourselves. Growth will take place by targeting new areas of business whereby establishing strategic partnerships with airlines will be key to the success in the development of new niche markets.
Can you give examples of some of the most recent large events you have dealt with?
A lot of the international events that are staged at the Gulf hotel are related to the oil and gas industry and financial services. The most recent that booked all of our facilities including the exhibition centre were the 25th International Aluminium Conference in 2010 which was comprised of 500 delegates, the World Islamic Banking Conference, which attracted more than 700 delegates, and the International Drilling Association that was organised by Helmsbriscowhich and had around 250 delegates. As well as these types of events, the Gulf Hotel & Convention centre is also one of the most popular venues in the region for weddings,gala dinners, graduations, award ceremonies and exhibitions as well as VIP board meetings.
Having worked in other areas of the world, how do you think Bahrain compares as a Mice and tourism venue?
Bahrain will recover from the recent turn of events and will continue to be seen as an ideal location to conduct business and a destination that offers huge potential for the Mice market. When choosing a destination for a meeting, conference or incentive, of course a wide range of factors play a role. The accessibility, costs (travel costs and costs at the destination), safety and the venue itself are the most important buying factors. The latter is especially relevant when it comes to meetings where, of course, the venue plays a bigger role. Safety is always important; the importance of accessibility cannot be exaggerated as this is an absolute ‘must’ for Mice travel. Bahrain as an international hub provides accessibility and a wide supply of international flight connections especially from the GCC, Europe and Southeast Asia.
Bahrain prides itself in providing a safe environment and a state-of-the-art convention bureau together with a wide range of luxury hotel accommodation; it also offers the discerning traveller a unique local cultural experience and sunshine all year round, which plays an important role in securing Mice business as buyers are always looking to combine business with leisure.
Since its political independence, Bahrain has thrived as a multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-lingual society and we should really look at promoting this.
Cultural tourism is product-based however, if demand-oriented marketing is taken seriously, cultural tourism should be approached as a process enabling tourists to experience local life. This strategy would establish clear markers of a distinct traditional identity. One opportunity for Bahrain would be to position itself as a destination that is able to satisfy various needs within close distance with a strong emphasis on the diversity of the kingdom with regard to different cultures living together to the diversity of activities available such as water, sport, culture/history and gastronomy.
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