LAST month, Kempinski made some important announcements: it revamped its loyalty programme, dropped Ajman Kempinski from its portfolio and prepared the public for two upcoming hotel openings – one in Dubai, the other in Muscat.
“Our hotels in the Middle East and Africa feature some of the most iconic luxury properties in the Kempinski portfolio and our upcoming openings, including Emerald Palace Kempinski Palm Jumeirah Dubai Hotel and Kempinski Hotel Muscat, are sure to fulfil this brand promise,” said Henk Meyknecht, COO Middle East and Africa. “At the same time, we are applying increasingly higher standards across our portfolio and, as a result, Kempinski Hotel Ajman will exit the portfolio as of January next year.”
In line with the long-term vision for Middle East and Africa, Kempinski targets operating luxury hotels in each key city within the GCC, as well actively expanding presence through selective growth in exciting destinations in Africa.
Here is an excerpt of our interview with Meyknecht.
Are you actively looking for another property in Ajman or one of the other Northern Emirates to regain your market share there? Will we have news of a takeover soon?
As a luxury operator, we are recognised for delivering exceptional service and experiences. Our Middle East portfolio reflects this brand promise and we are optimistic about the long-term outlook for luxury hospitality in the region. In addition to our existing presence in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Lebanon, we are actively pursuing selective growth opportunities, in line with our brand, in key destinations across the region and in this respect, we recognise the growing importance of other Emirates for their
What challenges do you face as COO of the Middle East properties?
The Middle East is a dynamic region where demand patterns and the competitive landscape are rapidly changing. Within this environment we cater to well-travelled, discerning guests who expect the very best, which requires constant attention to detail from our people committed to delivering service from the heart. In view of this external reality, alongside our upcoming openings and project pipeline, one of my priorities in 2018 will remain talent management – to source and develop employees so that we may continue to live up to our brand promise.
Does the renewed Discovery programme have any privileges for travel agents/tour operators and DMCs?
In early October, we launched our renewed Kempinski Discovery guest loyalty programme. This new scheme sees recognition taken to the next level, with emphasis on rewarding valued Kempinski guests in a personalised way, with benefits both within the hotel and beyond. With this programme, we aim to build even stronger connections between Kempinski and our most loyal guests, cultivating the preference of Kempinski as the go-to choice for elevated, luxury travel experiences. Building on this foundation we will review how this approach can further strengthen our partnerships with travel agents and tour operators.
In the region, what has been the contribution of agents/operators and DMCs in driving bookings to Kempinski properties?
The leisure segment is an important contributor to all hotels across the Middle East. We value our partnerships with international tour operators and local DMCs, as they are an important channel for driving business into our hotels. Online bookings are also important, fuelled by both online travel agents and our own brand website, where we have been investing heavily to continuously enhance kempinski.com and improve the guest booking journey.
What are some top travel trends for 2018 in the Middle East?
We expect to see a continued rise in demand for personalised luxury services focused on authentic experiences, so guest intelligence remains a key investment area to capture and reflect individual preferences, booking channels and seasonality in real time.
We also anticipate that opportunities in the leisure segment, as well as meetings and events, will benefit our hotels in the Gulf countries, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. We should see a substantial increase from inbound travellers coming from India and China, where we enjoy strong brand recognition.
Finally, I have observed a profound transformation in the way frequent travellers appreciate the concept of hotel loyalty. Premium travellers expect, first and foremost, recognition and emotional engagement when interacting with front line employees.
Rather than collecting points or exchangeable airline miles, there is a drive toward a more experiential engagement, especially among millennial travellers, where they seek a unique dinner for two, or a personalised visit to see a local art collector, or massage therapy at the beach. Our new Kempisnki Discovery loyalty programme caters to these emerging trends.
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
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