GM interview: Alessandro Redaelli

The general manager of Kempinski Palm Jumeirah reveals more about the five-year-old property

Alessandro Redaelli.
Alessandro Redaelli.

Alessandro Redaelli is the general manager of the Kempinski Palm Jumeirah, having climbed his way through the hospitality industry ranks since he began his career in 1987 as a chef de partie in Princess Cruises, California.

After that, he decided to not pursue the F&B route into the industry. Redaelli tells Hotelier Middle East: “That’s where my passion came from — food and beverage. I did my hotel school in Italy, and started working on a cruise ship. But eventually, I didn’t see myself as an executive chef. I didn’t want to throw away all the years I worked in the industry, so I decided to go into management and develop myself into the managerial side.”

After graduating from Geneva Hotel Management School, Redaelli joined Hilton Worldwide in Paris as a sales manager in. He played a role in the opening of the luxury hotel in the French capital and proceeded to work as the director of banqueting and outside catering at Mövenpick Cendrier Geneva.

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In 1997, Redaelli began his career in the Middle East with Sheraton Doha as its restaurants manager and was then appointed assistant F&B manager by InterContinental Asmara in Eritrea. He was promoted to director F&B by InterContinental in 2000 and relocated to Riyadh. In 2002, he moved to Parkroyal Noumea, and later in 2004, to InterContinental Malta as hotel manager.

Then it was back to Europe with Boscola Luxury Hotels, Italy in 2006 as GM where he was shortly promoted to managing director in 2007. In 2008, Redaelli moved to Geneva, Switzerland to head Concorde Hotel and Resorts as general manager. On completing three years with the establishment, he headed the team at Nikolskaya Kempinski Moscow as general manager in 2011. In 2013, Redaelli moved to Dubai to his current role.

The property, which just celebrated being open for five years, has had a few changes over the years, and certainly since Redaelli joined. He says the overall aesthetics of the property was given a soft uplift, including on the terrace, garden, lobby and rooms. The F&B of the property has also been tweaked since he joined. Bonfire, a beach BBQ casual restaurant, opened a year-and-a-half ago, which Redaelli says sees a lot of traction with outside guests.

In addition, a venue called the Emerald Pavilion opened a year ago — meant to be just a restaurant — has become popular for wedding functions. Able to host up to 150 guests, Redaelli says: “Emerald Pavilion is very popular with weddings because it’s intimate, and the design is similar to the hotel — palatial European, like Versailles.” He says the property has been successful with hosting events such as weddings, gala dinners and product launches.

The Italian restaurant Brunello has, in the last year, changed its menu as well as hired a new executive chef, Massimiliano Sperli. The ingredients in the outlet are largely from Italy, all with DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta/Protected Designation of Origin) labelling. “We really look at details when we look at the product that we use; we have Italian food that is completely different from what we can find in Dubai. It’s really back to the roots of what can be done family-style.”

And soon to open is the hotel’s sister property, Emerald Palace Kempinski Hotel next door. After remaining a shell for a while, the hotel is set to open next year. Redaelli says: “We continue to build up on five years of operation, and we have the Emerald Palace opening next year.”

On that note, I point out that there are a lot of properties which have opened on The Palm Jumeirah, with many more to come — which amplifies the competition.

He agrees and says: “The fact is that there are a lot of hotels opening, not only in the next year but over the next three years – the competition is already difficult. The Palm is a leisure destination and then we already see a drop in average rate, the ADR, which is not only here but everywhere.”

However, Redaelli is confident that with the differentiated product in this sub-market, his property still has a shot at success. The hotel does not have what one would consider ‘traditional’ hotel rooms, instead offers suites (one- and two-bedroom) along with a penthouse, duplexes and villas.

“Already as the product, we have created a niche for ourselves for a certain clientele. People here are the ones looking for a more discreet environment. If you go into a typical resort on the Palm there will be a lot of people around or you might queue for breakfast. Here there’s a different environment,” notes Redaelli.

Aware of options across the Palm Jumeirah that might entice tourists, the hotel organises activities for its guests along with providing a free chauffeur driver service to take them there and back again. “This is an example of how you can have your experience outside but still come back here.”

He says the hotel has a lot of returning guests, especially families. And while the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the CIS countries have been the resort’s top markets, he confirms the need to diversify in a difficult market. He says: “With the competition, you must find other markets and other sources of business. CIS has been difficult in Dubai for the last two years but we still have a good percentage of CIS business. It’s slowly coming back; I feel positive about the CIS market.”

He adds: “Then we have to continue to develop some other markets in Europe like the UK, France, Italy, and Germany. There are other nationalities like Africa which is an emerging market. And the Chinese, which is definitely a market that we are working on.”

The hotel has, in the last few months, also created a membership programme for outside guests as an additional revenue stream.

Redaelli explains the move: “We didn’t have a membership as such before. On Friday, we have a ‘Friday family fun day’, which includes brunch, lots of activities for children, and pool and beach access. Based on this, people have asked us about memberships. We did not create a membership before because we wanted to have a certain exclusivity.”

He adds: Now we want to keep our exclusivity, but provide a membership programme with different benefits, including access to pool and beach, and benefits with GHA (Global Hotel Alliance).”

An annual membership can range from US $3,800-7,950 (AED 14,000-29,200) depending on the package, and Redaelli says that the property has seen a good response in the four months since its launch.

“It’s actually worked quite well. We haven’t advertised it too much because we want to offer a product to the person who can identify with the exclusivity,” he adds.

Moving forward, Redaelli says the plan is to work in synergy with the new hotel, the Emerald Palace property.

“It will actually enrich the experience with the hotel, which will still have its own identity,” he concludes.

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