Frank Owens, general manager of Emirates Grand Hotel, tells Hotelier Middle East why operator Iberotel has keen plans to refurbish its Dubai property and expand its presence in the emirate
Barely six months into his tenure as general manager at the Emirates Grand Hotel, located in the bustling commercial and business hub of Downtown Dubai, Frank Owens has been charged with the task of overseeing not only the redevelopment of key areas in the hotel, but also the opening of a new sister property on the other side of Sheikh Zayed Road.
However, after 25 years in the industry, Owens has all the experience he needs to successfully see the hotel take on a new lease of life.
He started his career in hospitality in his native South Africa. After graduating from hotel school, Owens moved into renowned hospitality venue the Gold Reef City Hotel, which later became a casino. “My background is actually in food and beverage. I was F&B director in my first few hotels,” he explains.
His first taste of being a general manager came near Cape Town at the Lanzerac Hotel, a position he had been striving towards since he first started in the business.
“There should always be goals and there should always be a challenge,” Owens says. “If there’s no challenge, then there’s nothing to chase. So people always say it must be stressful, but it’s not really, because it’s a different type of stress — you achieve something from it.”
In 2004 Owens moved to Dubai, having been drawn by the reputation of its luxury hotels. He took up the role of hotel manager for Moscow Hotel, part of the Byblos management group, before joining Ascot and Royal Ascot in Bur Dubai in 2007 as manager. Four years later and the hotelier secured his place on Sheikh Zayed Road, at Emirates Grand Hotel, part of German hotel chain Iberotel Hotels and Resorts.
He says: “I am not sorry for one day that I came to Dubai. I have been here for eight years and it still feels like I arrived only last year, because of all the changes.”
However, Owens doesn’t think that Dubai is anywhere near completion.
“There will never be enough hotels. We have so many months during the year that you cannot find rooms in Dubai, so I am sure Dubai is still growing and I am sure that it doesn’t matter how many new hotels will open in the near future, they will always have good business.”
This is evident in the first quarter results for the property, which enjoyed average occupancies of above 90% for each month, with results up around 35% year-on-year. Owens admits that during summer, levels normally subside to around 70%, but he “foresees a good summer”. He says that with the turmoil in other areas of the Middle East, “it’s not a nice thing to say, but Dubai will see a big proportion of business coming from this”.
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