EXCLUSIVE: New horizons of hospitality

Bahrain’s homegrown hospitality brand has set its sights on the massive Saudi market next door as part of its international expansion plans.

The Gulf Hotels Group, however, is just as keen on its home market having acquired the Novotel Bahrain Al Dana Resort in a move that brings it by the sea again.

Talking exclusively to the GDN, the group’s top management led by chief executive Garfield Jones said the addition of a beach resort represents a “significant investment and an important milestone” in the 55-year history of the group.

“Bahrain’s first five-star property, the Gulf Hotel, was founded on the waterfront in 1968 and we realised that our current portfolio includes numerous business hotels but was a little bit light in the leisure portfolio,” he explained.

Mr Jones is confident that the four-star Novotel property will strengthen the group’s income streams, particularly in the weekend leisure market while complementing the group’s diverse hospitality offering and opening up new synergies. After the operational transfer of the property to GHG last week, an extensive refurbishment has begun which will include re-engineering the resort’s food and beverage product and the introduction of new features and leisure services. According to Mr Jones, staying true to the founders’ vision of ‘providing a standard of hospitality unrivalled on the Island’ has helped the group to not only compete with international hotel chains in the kingdom but also carry the flag of Bahraini hospitality to bustling markets like Dubai and Zanzibar.

“Our philosophy has been to focus on the quality of the product and the delivery of a high standard of food and service and I’m sure that will be well-received everywhere we go, including Saudi Arabia,” Mr Jones added.

The group has a three-pronged business development strategy – the first of which is outright acquisition, Novotel Al Dana being a case in point.

Equity investment linked to a management contract is another way to grow the portfolio, the chief executive said.

“We have done this with the Ocean Paradise Resort in Zanzibar and the Bahrain Airport Hotel within the new terminal – in both cases we have made a partial investment in the property and we manage it,” he explained.

The third option is via a management contract, the latest example of which is the Bayview Hotel in the Seef District.

Overlooking views of Bahrain and Seef bays as well as the skyline of the city, Bayview Hotel Seef offers 195 luxurious suites, an all-day-dining restaurant, a roof-top pool and sports bar, shisha lounge, a unisex health club and spa and day-care facilities for children.

Bayview Hotel Seef will also be introducing Bahrain’s first upmarket Moroccan restaurant.

Adding to the CEO’s comments, Fares Yactine, general manager of Gulf Hotel Bahrain Convention and Spa and group vice-president for Middle East and Africa, said, “We’re looking to build great experiences setting a solid foundation for the group’s global expansion plan.”

Mr Yactine said he was excited about the addition of the Novotel Al Dana resort to the group’s offering.

“We have an obligation under a management contract with Novotel till December this year... After that, the options are open, we can carry on with the management contract or we can do it similar to the Crowne Plaza Model, with the property being a franchise under Novotel. We are also open to other options in case a deal is not closed with the Accor Group that owns the Novotel brand.

“It won’t be done this year because obviously we have officially taken over last week and then we will have a year to decide what we do alongside the planned renovation of the hotel.”

The hotelier was emphatic that the resort’s four-star badge would be retained.

“I believe we should keep it as a four-star property as it is the only standard beach resort in a prime location in Manama and that is its USP,” he added.

Noting that the hotel would cater to a certain market that wants to enjoy a five-star experience without paying five-star rates, Mr Yactine said Novotel has some beautiful venues which he felt were underutilised.

“We will capitalise on the sea-view and the beach and put in some new concepts which I’m sure will be very well-received,” he revealed.

Also in the works is a strategy to offer beach/waterfront access to guests in the group’s porfolio hotels across Bahrain.

Mr Yactine said another potential project was an exclusive five-star standard beach club that might come up on a vacant plot of land acquired as part of the Novotel deal.

Talking of plans for the group’s flagship – the 361-room Gulf Hotel Bahrain Convention and Spa, he was hopeful of a steady growth in business after delivering a 15 per cent occupancy growth and a 50pc growth on covers served last year compared with 2021.

“We have a huge array of F&B options within the hotel – 13 to be precise – and we need to be competitive,” he said,“Renovation, creation of new concepts, partnering with established international brands and celebrity chefs are all options we are looking at so we retain the edge.

“I can tell you that we may combine all Asian concepts under one roof, except for Sato, which will be going for renovation, and we may add a more East Asian concept and a new upscale concept.”


Source: https://www.gdnonline.com/Details/1254175/EXCLUSIVE-New-horizons-of-hospitality


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