Joining in January 2012, multi-property GM John Northen missed the hectic preopening of the three-brand Marriott Doha complex the previous October, leaving him free to focus on longer-term objectives of attracting business and fine-tuning each hotel product.
There are still a few opening niggles at the West Bay two-tower property attached to the City Centre Mall, housing three brands new to Doha: Renaissance, Courtyard by Marriott and Marriott Executive Apartments.
“We haven’t got all of our signage yet. We want to open all our facilities too; the last outlet to open will be the Aqua Chill lounge on the seventh floor,” says Northen.
“We opened our Brazilian restaurant [Ipanema] about six weeks ago as well as our French brasserie. We have nine F&B outlets all together, so we’ve fed them in one by one and have been very pleased with the results,” he says.
In terms of hotel performance, Northen discusses occupancy, but is reluctant to reveal room rates. Online, room rates start from QAR 880 (US $242) per night at Renaissance, QAR 950 (US $261) at Courtyard by Marriott and QAR 2100 (US $577) for a two-bedroom unit at Marriott Executive Apartments – with the varying levels reflecting varying demand for each brand to date.
Marriott Executive Apartments
“The executive apartments are very much in demand in Qatar as we’ve seen already. [They] are basically fully booked right through until the end of the year and we see that [trend] continuing,” says Northen.
He expects around 60%-70% of the 120 Marriott Executive Apartment bookings to be long-stay contracts of around a year. “The serviced apartment concept is popular with people relocating to Qatar; coming here for project work for short- and long-term assignments because there are a lot of developments happening.
“We only have around 21 Marriott Executive Apartments around the world, but they’ve already been recognised as one of the leading brands of serviced apartments, even compared with other competitors in that field,” explains Northen.
“So we’ll see them expanding more in the region. They’re already doing very well in the Asia Pacific and there are more coming in other markets including South America.”
There are currently four Marriott Executive Apartment-branded properties in the Middle East and Africa region comprising 633 apartments. Outside of Doha, there are two properties in Dubai and one in Bahrain.
For those who get it right, the serviced apartment concept is a very profitable business model.
“Serviced apartments are a model that makes sense for the operator and the client. Even though prices on a daily basis are comparable to five-star rates, we don’t do daily housekeeping because it’s the same person [staying there] and in your own home you’d probably change your bedding once a week. We provide full housekeeping twice a week and light cleaning three times a week.
“We also have people staying here for six months, but only using it on week days,” adds Northen.
Courtyard by Marriott
Occupancies at the 204-key Courtyard by Marriott are also relatively high at around 60%-70%. Northen expects the average occupancy for 2012 to come out slightly higher than this at between 70% and 75%, with an average stay of two to three nights.
“Business has ramped up pretty quickly. Courtyard is our largest brand by far and it has been clearly defined. It’s very popular with the business traveller and has a broad base. When we first introduced it, we went out to business travellers and asked them what they were looking for and we’ve stayed true to that,” explains Northen.
However, in the Middle East and Africa area, Marriott only has three Courtyard hotels, including the new Doha property. The other two are located in Dubai and Kuwait.
“The brand varies slightly from continent to continent, but here it’s a four to five-star category hotel, and the price point is as well,” he adds.
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