Last month, I was fortunate enough to be the first journalist to stay at St. Regis Doha. In recent issues, you may have noticed it takes a lot to impress me and like the St. Regis general manager and this month’s cover star, Tareq Derbas, I’m not too forgiving of mistakes.
But St. Regis truly won me over and even made me see Doha as a destination in a new light. This may have something to do with the Rolls Royce I was ferried around the city in, a plate of the softest macaroons at my disposal should I get peckish, but nevertheless, my experience was of the superior, sophisticated standard I had been promised.
There was just one problem, entirely out of St. Regis’ control; its terribly noisy neighbour, InterContinental Doha. On the Thursday of my stay, I noticed a few whispers between the St. Regis team, and though this group of highly professional hoteliers would never allow themselves to get in a flap, something was obviously concerning them.
A letter hand-delivered and explained by my butler soon made things clear; InterContinental was holding a Hed Kandi party that night on their beach, right next door to St. Regis. In a matter of hours, Qatar’s clubbing crowd — yes it has one — was to descend on the hotel, with the DJs taking the party on until 2am.
Now to be fair, InterContinental was, in a way, meeting a need Qatar Tourism Authority director of Tourism Abdulla Al-Bader said he was looking into at Hotelier’s Qatar GM Debate last month; offering more for the people living and working in the city to do. But what about the hotel guests, paying good rates to stay in the West Bay area? After all, it wasn’t just St. Regis’ residents that InterContinental was impacting but its own, most of which I expect did not attend the beach party.
This situation got me thinking; hotels in this part of the world have a fairly unique task in that they must meet the needs of two often very different guest bases, both of huge importance. Those staying the night may be contributing more to the bottom line, but, with F&B operations often adding up to 50% of revenues, and in-house capture rates notoriously small for hotel restaurants when there is so much for tourists to see and do, the outside guests are pretty important too.
Take the approach of Fairmont, The Palm Dubai, opening on September 1 and previewed on pages 70-75. Here, general manager Martin Van Kan is planning on establishing the hotel as part of the Palm Jumeirah ‘neighbourhood’, heavily relying on its diverse F&B offering to draw in the local residents. He even has plans to organise “neighbourhood block parties” — fantastic for the ‘Palmies’, but perhaps not so good for the in-house guests.
The challenge then is how the needs of these two client bases are managed and communicated. At St. Regis, I was told of the neighbouring event in advance and offered ear plugs. The next day, I was asked if it had been a problem, so the situation was followed up on. That was all they could do in this case I believe, although, from the whispers I overheard, I get the impression the St. Regis team will be battling to ensure their noisy neighbours remain a little quieter in future.
Louise Oakley, group editor