For the Eastern Mangroves opening, the focus will be on personalised contacts and the right connections with government officials, with Arabic speakers being recruited and relied upon in the sales force.
“We open in May so we miss the request for pricing (RFP) season, which means that in the first year we’re going to go in the back door via local corporate contracts and go very strongly after the embassy markets and the government markets, but we also see a lot of potential with our quality of products and actually packaging with Qasr Al Sarab and Desert Islands [Anantara’s two existing UAE resorts] for the European leisure market as well as the European corporate market,” says Koopman.
The hotel’s competitors include Abu Dhabi’s Shangri-La and Fairmont, plus Emirates Palace for government contracts and Park Rotana for corporate business, and Koopman acknowledges that 2012 will be challenging because of increased supply.
“I think in 2012 there will be definitely pressure on the market but we’re not in the business for one year, we’re in the business for the long term. I’d be more worried if I had to fill a 500-room box hotel or if I have to fill a hotel on Saadiyat Island with no corporate market — they are all built for the future,” he says.
“We feel very comfortable with where we are and the amount of people who see the product when they travel. It’s a great location.
“We don’t have to fill up a hotel with 500 rooms. We have 222 rooms, we’re not going to run it at 80% in the first year for a few extra dollars.
“One question you asked earlier is what’s more important rate or occupancy, definitely rate because it’s long term positioning that really makes this hotel successful and our owners have been very specific — we have to maintain our asset.
“TDIC has spent a fortune on all our hotels so we are the custodians of the brand and the assets and that’s what we need to do,” says Koopman.
“I know the market and I’ve been to every hotel, they’re all fantastic hotels, but I think what we try to offer is something that is generous but understated, luxury but not in your face, and its something that is really for Abu Dhabi.
“We can compete at the top of the market with this product — we can, we should and we will,” Koopman confidently concludes.