Bahrain will soon get 612 new hotel rooms with the opening of the Ramada Hotel & Suites Amwaj Islands this month and the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Manama Al Juffair by the second quarter of this year.
'Our focus will be on developing the existing market related to Saudi travellers and looking at new business from airline crews, leisure and corporate travellers and the Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) industry,' says Mukul Mehta, cluster general manager Ramada Hotel & Suites Amwaj/Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Manama Al Juffair.
Bahrain’s hoteliers are well aware that Saudi travellers are their single largest source of business and are willing to develop and nurture this market.
To this end, the property at Amwaj is designed with a choice of one-, two- and three-bedroom suites and will have options such as flexible check-in/check-out timings, complimentary shuttles and transport, which cater specifically to this market, Mehta says.
Leisure facilities and food and beverage outlets are now playing an increasing role in swaying travellers’ decisions on where to stay and with this in mind, both properties have been designed with several dining options and recreation facilities.
'Our culinary experts offer extraordinary service - from morning coffee and pastries to full-scale banquets, receptions and other social events. Menus can be tailored to ones tastes and we can help you to create a signature event,' he says.
Also, the Ramada property’s meeting and events rooms are state of the art and ideal for teleconferences, conventions, cocktail receptions and other events. Offering breath-taking views of the island with a pre-function foyer, the facilities can accommodate up to 200 guests.
Meanwhile, guests at both the hotels will benefit from Wyndham Rewards, a free-to-join loyalty programme.
They will be able to earn points during their stay which may be redeemed for a wide variety of reward options including free hotel stays, air travel, gift cards for leading retailers and more.
The hotels will not eat into each other’s business but rather complement each other: the Amwaj property is predominantly a suite concept and as it is alcohol-free, is ideal for the Arab traveller and families.
'Both properties are strategically classified as four-star hotels in order to position them into the right business segment,' adds Mehta.
Elaborating on how the new properties will be promoted, Mehta says the cluster will grab every chance it gets to gain visibility in overseas markets.
This would include taking part in major trade shows.
'We are new in Bahrain and would like to utilise every single opportunity to place our hotels on the international map,' he points out.
Referring to the current market downturn, Mehta says the scenario this year is challenging and he expects a 'flat 2016'.
Hotels will have to tighten their belts this year to stay profitable, he says, but points out that cluster teams would help both hotels through economies of scale.
However, Mehta is looking at the longer term and on how Bahrain should further develop its non-oil businesses such as tourism.
He says that a planned new exhibition centre, Gulf Air’s expansion to emerging markets and a continued focus on the Saudi market will be crucial to the growth of the tourism industry.
Developing Bahrain’s infrastructure too will be key. 'We need to offer visitors a choice of attractions to keep them in the city for a few days. Theme parks, heritage sites, safaris and desert camps and cruise are some of the things that Bahrain should capitalise on,' he says.
Secondly, Bahrain needs to find a way to develop weekday business, possibly by wooing more corporate travellers to the city. 'Bahrain’s plan to develop a new exhibition and convention centre would help it make a mark in the regional and international convention arena,' he says.
Mehta is also hopeful that with easier visa rules now in place, Bahrain will see a lot more international tourists visit the island, though he concedes that a lot will depend on how well their countries are connected by flights to Bahrain.
'Airline connectivity is the key and with Gulf Air looking at more routes, this will boost the flow of tourists into the country,' he says.
In addition, water sports and cruise tourism should be further developed, he says.
Referring to the skills shortage in the hospitality sector, he says this is likely to be one of the biggest challenges in the coming years, especially bearing in mind that expatriates form the bulk of the hospitality workforce in the region.
'As an organisation, we are committed to developing the expertise and skills of the local resources available and I must say that we have seen a positive impact with initiatives already taken on this front,' Mehta says.
By K S Sreekumar
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
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