Constant evolution is key to success at Gulf Hotel

The new Sato Sushi Bar

BAHRAIN’S Gulf Hotel is less than a year away from celebrating its 40th birthday and was awarded ‘Bahrain’s Leading Hotel’ at the recently concluded World Trade Awards.

With this in mind, you would think they could afford to sit back, relax and wallow in the knowledge that they are indeed top of their game.
Not so. The hotel is always evolving and trying to better itself. Having this year opened its highly popular residential block it is now working on a multitude of upgrades and refurbishments that will stretch into the coming year, with new projects also planned for next year.
The nearest to completion includes the revamped Sherlock Holmes Bar and Restaurant, which has been moved downstairs and will now include a large bar and various forms of seating to offer different types of atmosphere, from comfortable armchairs to bar counters and a games area. “It’s very exciting,” says hotel general manager Stuart Chase. “We’ve been putting together a pretty full programme of events and live entertainment to take us from Ramadan all the way up to December. I think it’s going to become a very popular haven for everybody.” Also due for the end of Ramadan is the reopening of their Japanese restaurant Sato with it’s new 45- to 50-seater sushi bar and minimalist black marble décor.
Other renovations due before the end of 2006 include the main kitchen and a new walkway to the pool area and Thai restaurant. A 600-bay multi-storey car park is due for completion around April with proposals also underway for a new outlet to be located where the old Sherlock Holmes used to be. A colonial-style cocktail bar is being built as an addition to the Royal Thai Restaurant. It will spread out onto the lawn and pool area and is likely to be ready for opening by May 2007. “It’s a nice feature that we really haven’t had before,” says Chase, “the main feature being cocktails and show barmen, that sort of thing so that if any of our customers are coming to the hotel for dinner, there will be somewhere a little bit more up market to relax and have a pre-meal drink”.
Upgrades and new features galore but if all that weren’t enough, the main event due to start in May, with a completion date of October next year, is a renovation of their tower block, set to cost between BD7.5 million ($20 million) and BD8 million.
It will entail a complete gutting and refurbishment of the entire area, including the exterior as well as the creation of a new lobby at the foot of the escalators. Chase says, “The room design is very modern and comparable to some of the latest cutting-edge Far Eastern designs. I really think the rooms will be some of the best in the Gulf not just Bahrain. By this time next year to coincide with our 40th Anniversary we will almost be in a re-launch situation. It’s going to be a brand new product with lots of new outlets, rooms, car park and other facilities.”
In addition to all of this, there are plans for a spa to be built in 2008 with the possibility of a further extension as well.
The Eid holiday and beyond will not only bring the reopening of the Sherlock Holmes and Sato outlets, it also brings a concert with Massari as well as a couple of other big names coming in over the course of the next couple of months. “One of our objectives is to use our conference centre a lot more for some major events,” continued Chase. “We are trying to put a whole calendar of events together for next year, incorporating the whole sphere of music and culture. We’re looking at opera singers, orchestras and Broadway shows through to individual singers. We’re going to mix it up a little bit and we are aiming to host at least one main event a month.”
The Gulf Hotel has been doing a lot of promotion through trade shows of late and will be attending the WTM that takes place this November in London where they will be able to network and promote their new and improved product.
With so many new hotels such are the Rotana and Zallaq coming up all over Bahrain, the Gulf Hotel feels the thrill rather than the threat of competition. Chase is confident that they will hold their own in the hospitality arena, saying that such hotels can only improve the possibility of increased tourism as well as the quality of hospitality offered.
From where I’m sitting it certainly looks like the Gulf Hotel is going to be more than able to compete with the best the region has to offer.
by Marie Claire