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Shahzad Butt Shahzad Butt

Q & A with Shahzad Butt, General Manager, Ramada Downtown, Dubai

IN A CROWDED MARKETPLACE LIKE DUBAI, LOCATION IS IMPORTANT BUT AS SHAHZAD BUTT, GENERAL MANAGER, RAMADA DOWNTOWN DUBAI, EXPLAINS, GUESTS ARE LOOKING TO GET

MORE AND MORE FOR THEIR MONEY.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Having recently completed the first three months at Ramada Downtown Dubai, what achievements are you most proud of?

SHAHZAD BUTT: I came in during the summer months and the main challenge during that period, not just in our property but in the entire emirate, is the occupancy and the average daily rate.

We are proud that we have been able to stabilise the business and achieve a 96 percent occupancy and further increase our average daily rate.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: With supply and competition for a fair share of the market growing apace in Dubai, what have been the main challenges over the past few months for you and the hotel’s management team?

SHAHZAD BUTT: With a lot of new options coming in the market, guests have become more picky.

Sometimes, it is not even a matter of pricing but managing guest expectations.

You have to create an experience for them which will exceed their expectations and provide good value for money. With these in mind, our main focus has always been on the quality of service.

Our property’s competitive advantage over other five-star properties in Downtown Dubai and the Business Bay is that we are the only hotel apartment in the area.

We are ideal for the family market, with our one- and two-bedroom apartments, and the facilities like fully-equipped kitchenettes.

Our studio apartments are also perfect for a romantic stay, with views of Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountain, which will suit honeymooners and staycationers.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What strategies will you be using in order to make the most of the hotel’s idyllic location and facilities?

SHAHZAD BUTT: The development in Downtown Dubai never stops, that is the beauty of our location.

Right now, the next big [project in the proximity] of our hotel is Dubai Opera, which is only a five- to 10-minute walk from the property.

We are exploring opportunities as to how to make the most of this newest attraction through sponsorships or by possibly offering packages with discounted ticket prices.

These are just some strategies that we are looking at, where we will basically pass on the advantage of our location onto our guests.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: With the UAE’s airlines continuously expanding their network and Dubai becoming one of the world’s busiest hubs, how are these developments shifting your focus towards new, previously overlooked or out-of-reach destinations? How important are long-haul markets, such as Australia or the US – where Gulf carriers continue to build a stronger presence – to your business?

SHAHZAD BUTT: Emirates, along with the other airlines, have always been valuable in bringing visitors to Dubai, through their continuous expansion and the inauguration of new routes.

Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing (DTCM) has also been very effective in capitalising on these new routes by organising various roadshows to create awareness of Dubai as a tourist destination.

We are working closely with DTCM in order to have presence in these new markets, and we are looking at their yearly calendar of exhibitions and roadshows to see where we can take part in.

Right now, we are looking at assigning general sales agents and representatives in emerging markets, such as Africa, mainly West Africa. China continues to grow and is yet to reach its full potential, and as Emirates expands its presence in [the Asian country], there will be a better opportunity to attract and penetrate this huge market.

For the long-haul markets, specifically Australia, Dubai has become a proper tourism destination, and not just a stop-over destination.

Both Emirates and DTCM have done a great job in promoting Dubai to the Australian market through various roadshows, and the agreement between Emirates and Qantas Airways.

Likewise, the US market is also on the radar of DTCM.

Based on statistics, almost 90 – 95 percent of passengers from the US just pass [through] Dubai International and do not really visit the city.

The challenge is to get them to stay in the emirate and not just inside the airport.

With the opening of the new theme parks including IMG Worlds of Adventure and Dubai Parks and Resorts, they will have more reasons to visit the city and stay for two – three days.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What are the most important tasks in your agenda?

SHAHZAD BUTT: We have to make sure that the property is up to the standard of the guests.

Our team is doing well at the moment but guests will always look for more value for their money.

We have plans to upgrade and enhance our services and facilities, and make sure that they match the guests’ requirements.