Centara's UAE debut to feature first kids' spa
Centara Mirage Beach Resort Dubai will likely open by Q4 this year, Markland Blaiklock, deputy CEO of Centara Hotels & Resorts, tells TTN in an exclusive interview. The 607-key resort will be the largest property in the Thai hospitality brand’s worldwide network, when it makes its grand UAE debut.
Centara Mirage Beach Resort Dubai will be an outstanding family-friendly themed resort comprising 607 rooms and suites and a wealth of activities for all ages, including a lazy river, waterslides, cliff jumping, multiple restaurants, a kids’ club and SPA Cenvaree.
“We are happy to have a strong and well-informed partner in Nakheel, which owns 60 per cent of the venture. We are looking forward to the opening of Arabian/adventure themed resort, which will be our largest property to date,” Blaiklock says.
FIRST KIDS’ SPA
The Nakheel-Centara joint venture will also have another, quite unique stand out feature: it will have the region’s first kids’ spa. Spa Candy will be a spa and entertainment area for kids up to the age of 15 years, where sweets and sweet things will be the key theme. Rooms in Spa Candy will appropriately be named the Cake Room, the Lollipop Room, and the like. Children can have spa treatments in here, make their own products and scrubs, and throw birthday parties. All the spa treatments will be specially modified for kids, of course, says Blaiklock.
“We're positioning the resort at a four-star price level given that there is so much luxury and upper upscale in the Dubai market. We feel there’s an appetite for a product at a more affordable price level with a strong theme and different packages, all-inclusive packages, and a lot of interesting facilities on offer.”
In Qatar, The B Premiere Hotel, an 85-room property under the Centara Boutique Collection, will also be introduced this year.
Another much anticipated opening for Centara this year is actually a reopening: Centara’s first luxury Reserve property in Samui, which was a Centara Grand, and has been on the property for the last 20 years. Centara Grand Samui is very well established and has a great location both on one of the most beautiful beaches and also in the heart of the town. “It’s a brand-new hotel really – a complete makeover. The only thing we are not changing is the exterior walls,” Blaiklock clarifies.
The company will plant its flag in two new countries this year; the 95-room Centara KMA Resort Inle Lake will become its first location in Myanmar in Q2, and the 162-room Centara Plumeria Resort Pakse will launch in Q4 to mark Centara’s introduction to Laos.
“We also have a project that we have been working on in Turkey. An existing property, which will be branded Centara for now and then possibly a Mirage after further upgrades. It’s a beautiful beachfront property situated in Antalya and has a golf course,” he adds.
Centara is plodding ahead with its expansion plans but keenly remembers the basics of the hospitality business. Blaiklock shares some key operational insights with TTN, along with one elusive silver lining.
“It’s always important to remember who we are working for – our guests. We also pay tribute to our staff who have been with us through these tough times and we appreciate their professionalism and their dedication.
“Staffing is one of the biggest challenges the industry faces. Generally, we can't find enough qualified people. During a downturn, everything gets scaled down; overtime work, part-time and casual workers, outsourcing companies, etc. We have instigated a programme asking staff to take leave without pay and that has been successful with management leading by example.
“We will do everything in our power to reduce the workload for the 7,000 staff but still retain them on the payroll - so that we will be in in the best possible shape for the rebound when it occurs.
“We have partnerships with clients and suppliers. We have been very flexible in our cancellation policies. We had some big conventions in Bangkok, when all the international as well as domestic conferences were cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. Where individuals are concerned, rather than requesting reimbursement, they've been happy to carry them over to some future period.
“On the supplier front, we've gone back to our landlords where we have them, we've gone back to any of our contractual relationships and asked for some relief over a period of time.”
A SILVER LINING
The only silver lining in a situation like this is it gives you, in some cases, opportunities to accelerate upgrades and renovations, he explains. “We're investing over 650 million baht in the renovation of Centara Grand at CentralWorld Bangkok and we were only doing two floors at a time because that's all we could spare and the project was going to be complete by the middle of next year.
“Given the current situation, we can accelerate our project so it will be completed by the end of the year and we can even get better pricing on it. That's an example of taking advantage of a quieter time to fast track some renovation work and be ready with a new product and upgraded product when the whole situation is more normalised.”
It is impossible to correctly predict exactly when that will happen, but the deputy CEO says that things may return to normality by Q4 of this year.
“We are reliant on domestic business now and in the near term. But given that we're the leading hotel operator of Thai origin, we're kind of a household name in Thailand and that's where most of our hotels are, we still feel that we'll be able to kind of sustain ourselves over this difficult period.”