Sneak Peek: Radisson Blu Hotel, Ajman
The new Radisson Blu, located in the Northern Emirates, has opened its doors; we get a sneak peek of the property
In November 2014, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group revealed that it had signed an agreement for a Radisson Blu Hotel in the Northern Emirate of Ajman, owned by West Wood Hotels by Holiday Group. On October 23, 2017, the hotel opened its doors to welcome guests.
A week before its opening, I journeyed to Ajman, and not having seen any photos prior to getting there, was slightly thrown as the car turned a corner. Whatever I was expecting, a castle-like structure mimicking European architecture was not it. As you enter the hotel, a high light-filled open atrium greets you, with orange-tinted lamps artistically arranged at the skylight to shade from the harsh glare of the sun. Two ‘bubble elevators’ are at the end of the open space, leading people up and down four floors. The hotel’s floors will open in phases; with the first phase being the opening on October 23, and the second phase scheduled for November 15.
The hotel’s general manager Sid Sattanathan is a hospitality veteran, and has previous experience with brands such as Millennium, IHG, and HMH. This marks his first foray into The Rezidor Hotel Group, with him joining the property in February 2017.
“The first thing we looked at was selecting the management team, and that’s one of the nicest parts of opening a new hotel: handpicking your team,” says Sattanathan, smiling. The second person to join the team was Radisson Blu Hotel EAM Kamal Rijhwani, who was in the UAE through his high school years, and is well aware of the nuances of the region. The first thing Rijhwani worked on was the room configuration process. As the property had already been built by the time the team came on board, Rijhwani’s work was to divide the existing units into four room categories — rather than 11 suggested by a consultant. The second thing he worked on was creating the hotel website, and then assisting with recruitment.
Sattanathan notes that he’s met at least 90% of the team members during final interviews, and adds that it was important for him to recruit from within. “Since I was an external candidate and new to the company, I wanted to surround myself with people who are familiar with the processes and systems of Rezidor, so half the management team are internal candidates. Although I was new to the company, I felt it was my duty to provide internal growth for deserving candidates who were waiting to take that step forward. Where we couldn’t find appropriate internal candidates, we went out to market. I’m proud of the team we’ve assembled, and that’s one of the key elements: having the right talent,” stresses Sattanathan.
While the service philosophy matters, Sattanathan subscribes to the policy of making his team happy and consistently motivating them. Calling the employee area the ‘heart-of-house, Sattanathan says it’s important to lay a strong foundation and keep the team happy and motivated. He admits candidly: “Being in the Northern Emirates, retention is a big challenge. During recruitment, people kept saying they wanted to come to Dubai.” He’s keen to give every single member of the team their due, often calling them ‘co-creators’.
Sattanathan says he focused on creating a positive environment for the staff accommodation which is located just 1km away from the hotel, and ensuring there are health and recreational facilities for them to take advantage of, along with finding a caterer that served healthy, and delicious food.
With the hotel soon to open, as a city centre offering, Sattanathan says the property will target both government and corporate business, especially considering its proximity to places such as the Hamriya Free Trade Zone, the Sharjah Port, and so on. He adds: “We’ve tied up with Al Zorah Golf Club as their preferred hotel partner. We’re working closely with them over partnership marketing.”
And certainly, Rijhwani’s sales strategy is aggressive, yet sensible. The excitement pours through his voice, as he quickly says: “We have reached out to the various segments of our business. So government accounts have been approached, we have reached out to various corporates, a low-yielding segment but long stays and high-yielding, with short stays.
“We have finished our contracting with 28-odd companies, so they have our rates live. I have forged partnerships all over, so Al Zorah Golf Club being my first partner, Voyage Partners being our second partner, which is renting a desk as well as supporting business throughout the year.”
Rijhwani continues: “We have partnered with sports clubs in the area — including the Ajman Sports Club, and Hamriya Sports Club — and we are working towards getting partnerships with the Sharjah Cricket Stadium and the Ajman Cricket Council.” When asked why this pro-active stance on sports, he counters: “The reason is that our competition includes beach hotels which command a higher price and sports teams are not able to stay there because of the fluctuating prices due to leisure demand. This is a segment in which we found a gap, so it’s a strategy to go into this segment.”
Leisure business will also play a role, and while the hotel is not directly on the beach, the owners have given the Radisson Blu Hotel, Ajman with access to a beach strip, and shuttles running to and from the hotel.
And working closely with Ajman Tourism is important, notes Sattanathan. For example, Rijhwani is set to attend World Travel Market in November to promote the property and destination. In other initiatives Sattanathan is keen about, he adds: “We have spoken to Ajman Tourism about potentially all the hotels getting together and having a shuttle from Dubai Airport to our respective hotels. Ras Al Khaimah does it, we don’t do it yet. For the DMCs that’s a big plus.”
The hotel also plays into the developer’s plans to create an entertainment destination in that area. On one side of the hotel, Sattanathan reveals, there will be an entertainment centre with a sports bar and a nightclub, and on the right to the hotel will be the emirate’s first McGettigan’s and Jones the Grocer. “Our developers want to make it an entertainment destination,” adds Sattanathan.
He continues: “We have a great product; we are very proud of the hardware we have, and we are among the best hotels in Ajman. The other USP we have is that we are the only upscale international branded city centre hotel in Ajman, the other upscale branded hotels are beach hotels on the Corniche. Good products and lovely beaches, but ours is as good. This is where we focus on our software, and we will make every moment matter. We’re going to focus on service delivery. We have a fantastic offering of food & drink options in the hotel.”
“We will ultimately be known for our service at the end of the day and the figures will automatically be in the green,” agrees Rijhwani.
Sattanathan adds: “When I joined Rezidor, one of the things that caught my attention is the 4D strategy. The first D is for ‘develop’ (a property). The second ‘D’ is delight (guests), third is for ‘drive’ (business), and finally, ‘deliver’ (results). All our actions should have some relation to these four Ds; if they don’t, let’s not waste our time doing them.”