Gulf Hotels Group takes Bahrain to the world

With properties in Dubai, Zanzibar and Georgia, apart from six in Bahrain, the group is a flag-bearer for the Kingdom's hospitality in the international market, says Garfield Jones, CEO of Gulf Hotels Group.

"We will have a strong team at ATM, comprising people from Bahrain and Dubai. Our full range of hotels will be highlighted at the show and our team will be ready there to take any questions. We expect a busy show this year," Jones says.

“ATM is a good opportunity to network with clients and people from the industry. We get to see a lot of people from different companies at the show and, hopefully, we will do some good business as well," Jones continues.

"Predominantly, our philosophy has been to focus on the quality of the product and the delivery of a high standard of food and service”
– Garfield Jones


A particular focus for the group at ATM will be its upcoming Georgia property – Gulf Aquamarine Hotel. "It's a property on the outskirts of Tbilisi overlooking a reservoir and the complex comprises a very large waterpark. This property is a great opportunity for us," confides Jones.

The hotel has 218 apartment-style rooms, two restaurants and a couple of bars. The group will also manage an existing waterpark and a wellness centre with a luxurious spa and other facilities within the complex. The hotel is in the final stages of construction and handover is due by May-end. It is expected to open in June and the waterpark will reopen earlier on May 15.

"The Georgian inbound tourism market is growing rapidly, particularly from the Gulf region, from where many airlines fly to the country. We certainly hope to capitalise on that,” he says.

With so much competition from international hotel chains, what is the unique selling point (USP) of Gulf Hotels Group? Jones is quick to point out: "Predominantly, our philosophy has been to focus on the quality of the product and the delivery of a high standard of food and service. We have the same kind of philosophy in all of our hotels.”

On the question of post-Covid recovery, Jones feels the industry is not yet back to normal. However, it is moving in the right direction. “Things are better since the lifting of testing requirements; it has opened the door to increase flights. The summer months are expected to see more traffic and we hope to see a steady growth in business.”

He continues: "The leisure market has bounced back very quickly; people do not like to be restricted and want to go on holidays. However, business and MICE travel is much slower to come back. Companies are reluctant to send their people abroad when there is still a risk factor and many executives are comfortable with virtual meetings. On the positive side, the majority still prefer face-to-face meetings and the market will return.”

Occupancy-wise, the first quarter was strong in Bahrain, while the Dubai market has done exceptionally well towards the end of 2021 and Q1 of this year.

"We are confident that 2022 is going to be a much better year... the Q1 was good and we expect to see a growth during the rest of the year compared to 2021 as the business and markets strengthen towards the end of the year.

“Though it will remain difficult for a couple of years, there is definitely an improvement and we are hoping to match pre-Covid levels next year and in 2024, we will see a growth,” Jones says.

On the Bahrain market, he says during the Covid lull, the Kingdom launched various initiatives to encourage tourism. “They have added facilities such as the Al Dana Amphitheatre; a new convention centre is under construction, which when complete will give a fantastic MICE product and enable hosting of larger events.

“The Formula 1 this year was a huge success as it was the busiest ever. Most hotels were full. They really put on a good show and it proves people want to get to some kind of a normality,” he adds.

The Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA) has also announced various initiatives including a beach plot development in Bahrain Bay. “Gulf Hotels Group has acquired a plot in the project and is developing a beach club that is expected to open next year. This fits well into our plan to expand our leisure portfolio," says Jones.

* Find Gulf Hotels Group at stand HC0700