New Opening: DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai Business Bay

The four-star DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai Business Bay is all about its community

Operators

Two-and-a-half years after the contract was signed in December 2014, the Dubai Properties-owned DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai — Business Bay started welcoming guests in July 2017. The first milestone for the general manager, Remco Werkhoven, has been seeing the building move from paper through to existence. He adds: “With Hilton we have got great support. You have to play with the information you have. I ask: ‘who are my customers, what’s going to work for them?’ We have to think about what’s a successful business model and what will make it successful for the owners.”

Walking into the lobby, which can be accessed both through a main entrance and the Bay Square podium, the high ceiling and Arabesque design is one that strikes visitors immediately. Design Worldwide Partnership worked on the design, which has been created with a nod to local arts and culture. The design focus continues to the rooms, which have a round shape emphasised with circular lighting and carpets, with the bed diagonally placed across the room. And surprisingly, it works. Most rooms have a sofa bed to be functional for families, says Werkhoven. The sofa bed was designed in Dubai, and has the same bedding as the standard DoubleTree bed. Werkhoven notes: “This opened up a completely new market for us because it’s very affordable for families. Normally they would need two rooms, but this space is great for a GCC family.”

The standard rooms at the hotel are fairly large, between 37-47m2 and all rooms have bathtubs except 20. It also has 11 suites, all overlooking the Burj Khalifa, with the 12th suite overlooking Bay Square. Additionally, the hotel offers a free shuttle to a number of tourist attractions in the area, including Burj Khalifa, The Dubai Mall, and more.

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Werkhoven adds: “Dubai Tourism asked why we’re not going for a five-star rating. Commercially, we said we’d rather be — instead of another five-star in Dubai — the best of the four stars. We have wonderful properties in Downtown, but we want to be more accessible. We want to tell people that they’re very welcome.”

Werkhoven believes the property is suitable to both leisure and corporate clients, especially in light of its location. The main target, at least initially, will be the GCC market — and specifically the UAE. But he reveals that the hotel has already welcomed guests from China, Germany, UK, France and Russia.

The make-up of the team is equally diverse, with more than 30 nationalities on board, and there has been a real focus on diversity within Hilton overall, which has transferred to the hotel. Werkhoven has also worked with a number of his current team before — and has brought the cream of the crop with him. While this is DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai — Business Bay operations manager Johanna Suttie’s first time working with Werkhoven, he was her mentor while she was on her path towards developing into an operations manager, and she now calls him her “partner in crime” on property.

Suttie says that recruitment was an important element during pre-opening. “We did so much planning prior to the opening, around training, what would be the culture. What we put to paper, we’re doing it live,” she says. In a nod to the initiatives surrounding women in leadership in the global Hilton family, the hotel also focused on diversity in recruitment.

“When we started we wanted to focus on 50/50. We thought that it’s important to really make a difference in terms of opportunities. It’s not that we’re going to hire a specific gender or nationality but we really opened our books to everybody. Many didn’t have experience in hotels but they had the wit, they had the character and personality, and we thought, why not bring this character into our property. This is how we continued. We are still set in stone that we’re aiming for 50%. We are currently 42% but we want to have more, and our set target was 48% and we’re still aiming for that,” she notes.

Suttie also reveals that the hotel approached DTCM to work with the authority on pushing Emiratisation within the property. “We want Emiratis to feel at home. And what better way than to have people working with us who are from the Emirates.” Both Suttie and Werkhoven name-check their Emirati colleague, Naila Al Mazroui, who is the hotel’s guest relations executive. Suttie calls her a “hidden gem” and says Al Mazroui has created a huge impact on the local community. Following on from this success, the hotel is set to launch a part-time programme with DTCM where Emiratis can work on property as lobby ambassadors. Suttie adds: “It just adds value and goes to our need to offer experiential travel. Guests come from all parts of the world and want to experience the local culture. Some people want to see our heritage and what best than to have a local person to talk about the country?”

All of this also played into the hotel’s positioning in the market. The hotel’s director of business development, Antonio Bissoni, says that as the hotel’s commercial leader, his role was about articulating the hotel positioning and defining the framework for clear and consistent short- to medium-term commercial operations — which was also related to manning. “We had discussions about where the hotel was going to fit on a local, regional and international scale. Bringing together the team was a key component and we wanted to blend together a mix of international profiles with expertise and youngsters so we could bring together different perspectives. What was important being in opening was to make sure everyone’s energy levels could go the distance,” he notes.

Bissoni adds: “We set up a clear hotel personality and the key word behind it was ‘quirky’ and that was articulated in everything we were trying to do in a commercial and operational point of view. We are approachable and easy-going and that had to filter down to operations.”

One important part of its operations, apart from F&B [see pg50], is its MICE. While the property is never going to be a MICE hotel, it does offer ample meeting areas for smaller events. It has six meeting rooms, all with a drop-down screen with a projector, and all have a view of Bay Square, except one. Bissoni says: “We are not necessarily a MICE hotel, but we do have an interesting and funky meeting space. The feel of the meeting space is different. That funkiness and quirkiness is helping us craft our positioning.” Able to cater to 150 people when it comes to MICE events, the product called Meetings Simplified which is designed for small- and medium-sized groups has given the hotel a lot of flexibility, he adds.

All of this is a nod to the research and data Werkhoven mentioned earlier, and Bissoni agrees that it has been essential.

He says: “When we first started we looked into our products and services to make sure we had a match with what travellers expected nowadays.”

And it looks like travellers are getting what they expected. Bissoni points out that within two weeks of opening, the hotel has garnered great reviews. Just before going to print, the brand is ranked among the top 100 hotels in Dubai, with a 9.2/10 rating on Booking.com. “It’s quite phenomenal,” says Bissoni. A quick scan of the TripAdvisor reviews shows that no matter what the review says — whether positive, or with constructive criticism — the GM has personally responded to all of them.Werkhoven concludes: “When my guests are happy, I’m happy right?”

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