St. Regis to double resort portfolio
These highly anticipated new resorts will introduce the brand’s visionary spirit, avant-garde style and bespoke service in some of the most dynamic and compelling markets across the globe. In the Middle East, the brand plans to grow its presence in Qatar with the expected early 2022 opening of The St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island, The Pearl, which will feature architecture influenced by the distinct Andalusian and Arabesque style and offer stunning views of the Arabian Gulf.
The brand also anticipates celebrating its entry into Oman in 2024 with The St. Regis Al Mouj Resort in Muscat, and open a property in Africa, with the debut of The St. Regis Marrakech Resort slated for 2025.
It isn’t a coincidence perhaps that the media first met Sandeep Walia, Chief Operations Officer, Middle East, Marriott International, during a dinner hosted by the brand at their newly opened St. Regis Dubai The Palm. During the iconic sabring ceremony, which celebrates 100+ years of tradition and old-world charm, the spirit was forward-thinking and innovation.
Here are some excerpts of our conversation:
“Every organisation needs to have innovation in its soul. In many ways, Covid has accelerated change that was already on the cards. We have 153 million Marriott Bonvoy members who book through the app, in some cases, choose their room on the ap, check-in there and then use the app as their key. 65 per cent of our hotels in the Middle East now accept the mobile key. This was a long time coming but Covid really accelerated that – people wanted contact free, they didn’t want to engage and go straight to their rooms.
“On a micro level, there was a need to find new revenue streams. The rooms weren’t doing great, so we started our Dine Around programme by More Cravings, we had an inventory of 160 restaurants. It was great for cash flow and owners appreciated it.”
Launched on March 1, 2021, the ‘Dine Around by More Cravings Half Board Package’ invites guests to discover the UAE’s dining scene through its award-winning restaurants, celebrity chef venues, stunning outdoor terraces, city hot spots, casual lounges and family restaurants. The package was initially only available to guests booking a stay through Marriott’s participating travel agents.
“Extended stay and residential are two strong trends we have seen over the pandemic – people are looking at hotels and hotel apartments over residential projects. It could be that they are going asset light, it could be that they feel safe in a controlled environment or it could be that the rates are just never-before-seen. Just to illustrate the importance of this trend, there are some 25 projects in the extended stay portfolio opening up in EMEA alone in the next couple years.
“Localisation is another key trend we have obviously noticed. We always looked outside for feeder markets, but with lockdowns we were looking at locals as the primary source of income, both in terms of staycations because people couldn’t leave the country or didn’t want to, as well as food and beverage.
“Often, we connect innovation to the latest digital novelty or improvement but that’s limiting the scope of the word - it’s a lot more than that – it could even be a different way of doing business.”