BOH INTERVIEW: Habtoor's Nicolas Villemin

New Dubai hotel business development director reveals renovation plans

Nicolas Villemin, director of business development, Habtoor Grand.
Nicolas Villemin, director of business development, Habtoor Grand.

Nicolas Villemin, director of business development, Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa Jumeirah Beach, a member of the hotel’s new executive team, reveals a range of renovations planned for 2013

How is your department structured and operated?
As director of business development all the sales and marketing functions fall within my department. The department comprises of the following units: sales, marketing, banquet and event sales, reservations and revenue management. Business development is responsible for F&B and recreation commercial strategies.

You’ve worked for a lot of international chains prior to Habtoor, a local company – what are the main differences?
When working with a large international chain there are certain global guidelines and SOPs which need to be adhered to — a road map that is followed across the chain. Working with a different structure at Habtoor Hotels allows for a more tailored, responsive and local approach.

With the current structure I find the decision-making process and putting strategies into practice is a fast procedure. This is fantastic when adapting to local market conditions, and allows my team to bring ideas, projects and strategies that are relevant into play in real time.

Marketing is another area of difference, as we have more freedom when creating our campaign concepts and messages. Out-of-the-box marketing and communications strategy means that our message can be heard through the general ‘noise’ in the market.

And of course the tailored approach to our guests means that we create operating procedures that are bespoke to our markets.

Which departments do you work closest to and how do you go about getting things done efficiently?
As controller you have to work with all departments in the hotel. You need to have a solid understanding of all functions to be in a position to analyse and to improve the financial performance, although you are not running them.

Driving initiatives and projects with good communication, a clear road map and a great team is crucial for success.

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What new launches can we expect from Habtoor Grand in 2013?
With the new executive team on board we can expect many new initiatives and changes at the property in the coming year, including:


- New F&B concepts: we will launch our new Salamar Lounge in Q1, 2013. The al fresco Cuban lounge is sure to become a regular on the Dubai night scene with its mix of cocktails, Cuban beats and tapas cuisine.

- We have just introduced two new brunches: The Habtoor Brunch at Al Dhiyafa restaurant and Luciano’s Saturday brunch.

- Beach & Brunch: a new concept will be launching that gives guests the opportunity on the weekends to combine fine cuisine with the beach and pool facilities.

- Renovated F&B outlets: A few of our outlets are scheduled to go under renovation including The Underground Pub.

- Guest Rooms: A full refurbishment across guest rooms will be happening in 2013.


Habtoor has 14 F&B outlets – how do you approach sales and marketing?
As an umbrella strategy we do ‘destination’ marketing. However, we also drill down into each outlet — giving each its own strategy dependent on the audience.

Each outlet is a business unit within the bigger mix of the property, so we need to ensure the communications strategy supports this.

My Best & Worst
- My best piece of advice is know what you want and stick to it; don't let people influence you otherwise. You have to believe and don't give up.
- My best hotel stay was One&Only Reethi Rah in Maldives, simply superb.
- My best place in Dubai is Dubai Autodrome. As a petrol head I love hanging around the autodrome.
- My worst marketing nightmare is being overtaken by a competitor or a competitor getting the idea first for a specific marketing campaign.
- My worst piece of advice on my first job was: “Don't try to understand what’s good or bad for the hotel, just do what you are told…”

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