A Miramarvellous beach resort

The Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort has enjoyed a warm reception on the sunny coast of Fujairah; now general manager Ashraf Helmy explains why Iberotel's first UAE property is proving such a hit.

Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort general manager Ashraf Helmy.
Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort general manager Ashraf Helmy.

The Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort has enjoyed a warm reception on the sunny coast of Fujairah; now general manager Ashraf Helmy explains why Iberotel's first UAE property is proving such a hit.

What was the appeal of Al Aqah for Iberotel's first UAE property?

Iberotel is a company that specialises in resorts, and the very nature of Al Aqah is a resort area. It's somehow remote, but near. We're close enough to get to from pretty much anywhere else, but far enough away to be secluded. And the nature of the area itself, with the mountains in the background and the beautiful ocean and the beach in front, makes it an ideal spot for a resort.

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There's a saying: 'don't put all your eggs in one basket', and that's good advice.

We feel that the future is in this area. Dubai is a beautiful place but it's become so crowded, and now it looks like any big city in any big country in Europe or America. But here it still has a feeling of the UAE; you can still see the culture, still see the locals, still see low-rise building and still see nature. And we believe that this is exactly what our guests want.

Tell us about what facilities the property offers.

This hotel is the first hotel of a small complex here. There's going to be two hotels and a madinat - so like Madinat Jumeirah, we'll have Madinat Miramar.

This first hotel is 321 rooms, comprising standard rooms, deluxe rooms, executive rooms, which have a small lounge, and finally there's the suites.

I think we are the most complete hotel regarding leisure facilities; we've got an animation team here who provide sports during the day. In the evening we will be holding shows in the theatre we have here, which can accommodate 450 guests.

Then we have our wellness centre and spa, which has an indoor swimming pool - the first in the area. We have both ladies and gents areas for sauna, Jacuzzi and massage, and very soon we're having an extension to incorporate eight more treatment rooms.

We have a kids club, with indoor and outdoor games, lots of toys and so on. There's a full programme for them which is fun and entertaining but also educational: we involve different languages; we talk about marine life, endangered animals and the environment; we have cooking lessons. So the kids enjoy themselves as well as learning.

We have multi-purpose courts for basketball, football or whatever, tennis courts and an archery range. Plus we have our aqua-centre, which provides parasailing, glass-bottomed boat trips, fishing trips, kayaking and windsurfing. So we're catering for every need there.

Plus we have a contract with an external company that does safaris, mountain hiking, biking and all sorts of adventure activities.

We also have a meeting room which can accommodate up to 150 people, which is great for small events or corporate meetings.

Then looking to F&B services, we also have a good variety of restaurants and bars. We have our main lobby lounge, which is in an Arabic-Mediterranean style. We then have our main restaurant, Al Majilis, which serves an international buffet and is open for breakfast lunch and dinner. Then we have our Far East fusion restaurant, an Italian restaurant, the pool bar, the beach bar, and our shisha corner.

We also have a discotheque called Bliss, which can accommodate up to 120 guests.

How have you positioned yourself in the market?

We cannot say we are cheap or expensive or whatever; what we can say is that we have value for money. Our rates are about average for the area, but that's not on the low side. We want to provide quality of service and quality of food that is deserving of the money spent.

Who is your target clientele, and how have you gone about promoting the property to this sector?

We are actually targeting every market, not one specific sector. There's a saying: ‘don't put all your eggs in one basket', and that's good advice!

We have a lot of guests from all over the place: Germany, the UK, Belgium. But on the other hand our local market and expats also play a big part, and we have the corporate and incentives markets as well.

What has customer feedback been like since you opened?

People love the building, and they appreciate the service. We are not yet 100% open, so of course there are the good parts and the aspects that might need some adjusting, but the vast majority of the guests love it, they love the activities available.

We're fairly unique in the UAE; we're a real beach resort, and I think the market needed that.

What's your view on the increasing competition in Fujairah, now so many hotel groups are expanding here?

We believe competition is always healthy. We are competing to give better service, better quality of food - and the increasing number of hotels here is also good because it's making the place a destination.

With the new airport coming, the railway line connecting Abu Dhabi to Fujairah, the new roads - all this is changing the area and creating a place that people can travel to and access easily. It's a true destination.

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