Utell powers ahead in regional market

As Utell seeks to expand operations in the UAE, Diana Banks, tells TTN’s JONNA SIMON how the brand wants to represent smaller hotel chains
Diana Banks, Utell senior vice president, sales and marketing

CAN you describe the benefits which Utell offers to the hotels it represents? In other words, why do hotels need you?
We play a consultancy role, for instance in the opening of new hotels such as the Emirates Marina Hotel next month.

We help design the strategy of the rates system and slot the hotels into our global distribution system. We can organise marketing plans and bring business on a global footing to the hotels. For a small hotel group of three to six hotels, for instance, that is a costly procedure to tackle on their own, so they come to us. Utell never dominates the hotel brands, our members keep their own identity, for example, Rotana remains Rotana, we support our members instead.

I was interested to learn about you Collections brand – can you tell me how hotels qualify for the various segments, i.e. Utell Luxury, Utell Boutique, Utell Spa and Utell Golf Hotels and Resorts?
Utell has used the OHG grading system in order to achieve a standardised perspective on grading. Having said that though, we are currently looking at developing our own grading procedure, but this process will not be completed before the end of the next 18 months, somewhat like The Leading Hotels of the World system. We found the OHG to be the most neutral system, and one travel agents are also quite familiar with.
Utell represents about 30 UAE hotels – does your appointment indicate that the properties are to be increased and the number of hotels and services further developed?
The Middle East is obviously an important market for Utell in view of all the new hotels and infrastructure being built. Many of the new properties will probably employ the big hotel chains for their management needs. However, this trend is now somewhat changing, as hotel developers are looking for different solutions and this is where, we fit in, as we can adequately represent the smaller hotel chains such as Rotana, for instance, as well as individual hotels.

As the Dubai tourism business develops, how do you see Utell playing a role?
Utell is now part of Pegasus, which can provide sophisticated technology for various hotels and resorts. Utell has a huge amount of experience within the hotel industry and we can supply much help in the services we provide for our members. I must emphasize that we are a global player offering many benefits.

With the emergence of the internet and the various booking engines, does this trend help, hinder or compete with the Utell offerings?
We have our own booking engine, netbookers, which hotels in our portfolio can subscribe to and then develop their own internet strategy, which we can also assist with. We also operate our own website, which was only for our own hotels, but we are now opening that up to other hotels, we are currently marketing the website, which is an extra tool for hotel operators.

Utell was established 75 years ago, can you compare the services offered in the 1930s with the model product of today?
Well, the technology did not exist in the 1930s, all the business was done by telephone and telex. Utell was founded by Henry Utell, a German, in the UK. It has always been headquartered in the UK and has always been primarily a travel agent channel. Six years ago, Utell was bought by Pegasus, which is a technology-based company, which is good for us. was founded about 18 years ago as an electronic hotel directory.