General manager, Ayman Gharib General manager, Ayman Gharib

With 38% repeat guests, Raffles Dubai has tapped into a success story that has taken a lot of staff training, and a keen eye for changing trends. General manager of the seven-year-old property, Ayman Gharib, speaks to Hotelier Middle East about what it takes to create a classic

Visitors often wonder what the 19-storey pyramid-shaped property is as they pass it on their right during a taxi ride from Dubai International Airport towards Downtown Dubai. Raffles Dubai is still one of the most discernable hotels in the emirate, and that is saying something.

The interiors of the 2007-built property are immaculate. Gushing waters can be heard in the lobby, and well-dressed guests wander from behind pillars on their phones, or talk quietly in corners.

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Ayman Gharib, the hotel’s young general manager welcomes me to the hotel for our interview, and looks uncertain when Hotelier’s photographer asks to take photos of him in the lobby. Gharib is reluctant, asserting that the hotel guests require privacy.

At first I’m taken aback by this, but a few minutes into our discussion, his reasoning becomes clear.

“What our guests look for is confidentiality, being discreet,” the Lebanese national explains.

“Sometimes I can have cousins staying here for a week not knowing they are both here.

“Firstly, the architecture of the hotel helps because it has three wings. So unless you really, by coincidence, meet in the lobby or the elevator, none of our colleagues are going to disclose any information, and that really has been an asset to this hotel, and is a reason for our repeat business.”

In 2014, 38% of business to the hotel was generated by repeat visitors, and this percentage has grown year-on-year from 33% in 2013, and 27% in 2012. Catering to the needs of regular guests is tantamount to ensuring their continued loyalty, and according to Gharib the regulars are crucial in an ever-competitive market.

While UK visitors make up a large proportion of guests, the US and France is growing, and business is also starting to come from the emerging markets of Nigeria and China. That said, 55% of guests are from the GCC, mostly coming from Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

“In the GCC, just like any other market, you have a certain niche of the market that is really up there and requires confidentiality, either because of their social status or because of security reasons,” explains Gharib.

“They want to spend time with their families when they come here and I think that’s one of the elements they keep in mind when they come back — that they’re going to have this time with their families.”

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