LIVE from Hotelier's Great GM Debate 2012 in Dubai

Exclusive news and updates from the UAE's biggest GM networking event

Reports, Hotelier middle east great gm debate

8am: The hotel general managers are a timely bunch, it's only 8am and already more than a hundred hoteliers are gathered at Jumeirah Beach Hotel. 

9am: ITP Business group editor Louise Oakley has taken to the stage to welcome the audience. 

"In this third edition of our UAE general managers conference, once again being held at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, we are delighted to present our most exciting agenda to date.

"In total, 42 industry experts will address you today through a variety of topical and interactive panel sessions and workshops," says Oakley, before welcoming Jumeirah CEO Gerald Lawless to the stage. 


905am: Gerald Lawless starts his address with thoughts on the opportunities hoteliers offer hospitality students on placement...

"I look upon myself as a hotel gm, that’s my background and one I’m very proud of. We see a lot of students coming up in the industry and as hoteliers we have really a big obligation to these young people to offer them the opportunity to enjoy such a wonderful career… But I do think as I see some of these graduates after four years in a university course... we bring these people in for graduate placements but very often we don’t give them enough responsibility. I would urge all of us to look again at how we do this."

Lawless continues his speech recognising the work of airlines and tourism authorites in establishing the UAE as an international tourist destination, as well as the importance of welcoming Emiratis to the workforce. 

"I keep encouraging all our GMs and colleagues to embrace Emiratis... I’ve always felt so welcome by Emirati citizens and I’m gratified nowadays to see so many coming into the industry," says Lawless.

910am: The first panel commences: Destination Marketing - Sharing a Vision 
The issue being addressed is people don’t travel for hotels, they travel to a destination. Showcasing the best of what the UAE has to offer while distinguishing it from other countries in the region is critical to continue to attract corporate and leisure guests alike. In addition, each emirate has something unique to offer and highlighting this will help inform travellers of the opportunities in all regions across the UAE.

Moderator: Costas Verginis, Industry Leader - Travel Hospitality & Leisure, Deloitte Middle East
Saleh Al Gaziry, Director Of Overseas Promotions and Inward Mission, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing UAE
Sultan Al Dhaheri, Tourism Strategy & Planning Section Head, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority
Victor Louis, Chief Operating Officer, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority
Ignace Bauwens, Vice President - UAE, Near East and Africa, Intercontinental Hotels group
Michel Noblet, President & CEO, HMH – Hospitality Management Holdings

QU: Verginis:  What can the UAE do continue to raise its profile as a business and tourist destination?

ANS: Noblet:  "We need to develop more midmarket hotels and budget hotels... and develop specific packages for business, leisure travel to boost he average length of stay. Today it's 3.6 days but we want to reach 4.5."

Al Dhaheri: We’re complementing the overall experience of the UAE. To attract more tourists we need to understand the market, the needs and cater to those needs… We want to increase length of stay and positioning of the UAE as a major tourist destination."

In order to increase tourism to the UAE - the panel concluded that there had to be continued differentiation between the emirates which all have something unique to offer. 

940am:  KEYNOTE: UAE Pipeline – Where, When and Why?
John Podaras, Director, Christie + Co


 - Out of the UAE pipeline of 70,000 rooms the project status is as below: 

- Abu Dhabi and Dubai comprises 75% of the UAE pipeline, more than two thirds is focused in upscale hotels. There’s a very clear focus on upper end of market in terms of new supply.

- There is a peak of supply due to be delivered in 2013 then tapering off

- Dubai has almost twice the number of rooms in its pipeline as Abu Dhabi; Abu Dhabi almost twice the number as Sharjah.

- Fujairah is going to have 900 rooms - three to four hotels- - delivered next year adding half its current room inventory

 - RAK already has some supply but due to have another chunk of delivery in 2014.

Moderator: Gavin Samson, Managing Director, Christie + Co
Olivier Hick, Vice President Operations - Gulf and Levant, Accor Middle East
Bani Haddad, Regional Vice President, Wyndham Hotel Group
Paul Diab, Regional Director of Operation, Golden Tulip MENA
Kevin Wallace, President and CEO, JA Resorts and Hotels

The panel is addressing challenges to the UAE market in terms of supply and demand. 

"Yas Island is unfortunately still a one-day destination – not up to one or two nights yet, need to increase the offering like Dubai has done," says Hick. Do you agree? Let us know @HotelierME

1020am: Peter Goddard, Managing Director, TRI Hospitality takes the stage to take a closer look at performance and boosting profitability... 

HOT OFF THE PRESS: Hotstats - MENA performance - the very latest data (Jan-Aug 2012) 

Occ (%) ARR (US $)
Dubai 80.0 280.58
Jeddah 80.9 224.90
Riyadh 59.4 250.76
Kuwait 52.1 258.31
Abu Dhabi 66.4 139.98
Cairo 45.0 109.29
Sharm El Sheikh 60.7 46.52

TRI's Peter Goddard predicts the Dubai Market Outlook for 2013
• Dubai entering into a stage of maturity due to its diverse demand generators and a breadth of hotel products
• Ongoing regional conflict benefited hotels
• Demand expected to absorb new supply, however rates could soften
• Palm Jumeirah will become a formidable destination as new hotels including the Sofitel and Fairmont open in early 2013

And here's the outlook for Abu Dhabi

• Abu Dhabi will be challenged in 2012/2013 with flat demand and new hotels opening
• Rates likely to soften
• Ongoing development of tourism infrastructure will assist with growing and attracting leisure demand
• The performance gap between luxury and upmarket hotels will widen as luxury hotels maintain rate premiums while upmarket hotels compete head to head for business

1030am: Now over to the panelists to find out whether they agree with these conclusions: 

Moderator: Chris Hewett, Consultant, TRI Hospitality
Rupprecht Queitsch, General Manager, JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai
Heiner Werdeling, General Manager, Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi
Stephan Schupbach, General Manager, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray
Alejandro Bernabe, General Manager, Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates
Oliver Key, General Manager, St.Regis Abu Dhabi

One of the first issues to be address in this panel is how hoteliers are coping with rising payroll costs... 

Queitsch: "It’s an interesting issue. The benefits are the moving target. When you look at the surveys, the pay per se for different positions are pretty stable in some areas and what you do with benefits is key.You realise what you have to do to bridge that benefit gap. We have an Italian restaurant and I said I want an authentic Italian with Italians working there. They came back to me and said it’s difficult... They’re better off at home with unemployment, jack up your price and I’ll send you someone.
"If we remember our employees are the most important asset. You’ve got to recognise what you have to do to treat that asset well. Dubai has been a very good market for hoteliers, with a good labour market and good conditions. I see the benefits factor an interesting factor for years to come.

Heiner Werdeling: "The challenge is housing Abu Dhabi - one of our major costs is the housing costs."

Stephan Schupbach: "But you have to fight for the right talent and pay for it."

Alejandro Bernabe: "Payroll costs for the operating department are very low we don’t have a problem there, the problem in Dubai is the support of the departments and admin has gone up -vwe have big finance and HR departments and that’s where we have to become more efficient."

Oliver key: "The challenge for next year if we open in the first quarter is the projected occupancies and what can sustain an employee count to deliver five-star experiences, so it’s trying to balance housing costs and pay roll to sustain the number of employees we need in a luxury environment – which is very difficult. We’re about to hire a lot of people. Talent I agree is very important.

11am: Time for a coffee, and to see what our audience thought of the morning's sessions... 

11.30am:  Back to business, time for the next panel: Crunching the Numbers – The Real Value of Guest Experience

Introducing the speakers... 
Moderator: Ayman al Deik, Group Director of Brand Loyalty and Acquisition, Jumeirah Group
Laurent Chaudet, General Manager, Pullman Mall of Emirates
Lothar Quarz, General Manager, Ritz Carlton DIFC
Jean Pierre Simon, Regional General Manager - Northern UAE, Coral Beach Resort


"The empowerment needs to be improved in the UAE for line staff," says Jean Pierre Simon. Do you agree? Let us know @HotelierME

"65% of guests who had a bad experience at your hotel would move to a competition’s property...  27% would never come back, It’s important to ensure training for employees and also to make sure open communication is there with guests," says Lothar Quarz.

3:35pm: It's been a busy afternoon of workshops covering topics from staff rentention and working with owners to modern methods of revenue management. We'll bring you more indepth reports on these workshops on tomorrow's newsletter but now the GMs have gathered back in the main conference room for the afternoon's panel sessions. 

3:40pm: The first afternoon panel kicks off - on the topic of 'ditch the campaigning and rediscover relationship building'
Moderator: Gaurav Sinha, Founder & Managing Director, Insignia
Francois Galoisy, General Manager, Radisson Blu Hotel - Dubai Media City
David Brown, General Manager, Fraser Suites Dubai
Horst Walther-Jones, General Manager, Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach


The panellists address the importance of managing social media…
Horst Walther-Jones: "It shouldn’t be seen only as a way to sell. It should be a dialoge with the community. Have interaction on special events when the community can come and join. You will lose out in the long term if you use it only as a sales pitch."

David Brown: "People who use social media are very savvy and we have to respect them. Social media creates a community that is global and promoting Dubai as a destination is important. It’s important for all of us to innovate communication to make it relevant and effective and make people interested."

Francois Galoisy: "We have to embrace social media. I visit Tripadvisor daily –even the food and beverage outlets have their own reviews. The local social media forum here in Dubai is amazing. Every guest now is a journalist. "

The hoteliers webt into discuss the importance of CSR - saying most of the UAE's hotels could do more in this field. 

 420pm: Now for the final session concluding the 2012 GM Debate looking at emerging trends

Moderator: Louise Oakley, Editor, Hotelier Middle East
Yannis Anagnostakis, Area General Manager - Dubai Festival City, InterContinental Hotels Group
Stewart Selbie, General Manager, Le Meridien and Westin Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina
Anders Dimblad, Area General Manager, Banyan Tree Ras Al Khaimah

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