Ammar Hilal Ammar Hilal

Q & A with Ammar Hilal, General Manager, Sofitel Dubai Downtown

WITH ROOM SUPPLY EXPANDING AT AN EXPONENTIAL RATE, HOTELIERS IN DUBAI

HAVE TO BE ON TOP OF THEIR GAME, ACCORDING TO AMMAR HILAL, GENERAL MANAGER, SOFITEL DUBAI DOWNTOWN, WHO SHARES HIS VIEWS ON THE MARKET’S CURRENT CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How has business been at the hotel as compared to previous years?

AMMAR HILAL: Sofitel Dubai Downtown is now in its second year of operation. We opened the hotel on May 1, 2014 and the property has enjoyed high occupancy levels ever since, as well as a number of successes, including winning three prestigious awards […].

The hotel’s main markets are Saudi Arabia, GCC, UK, Australia, Germany and France, and we are currently identifying Brazil, China and Africa as emerging markets.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How will the anticipated rise in both demand and supply affect hotel performance levels?

AMMAR HILAL: Undoubtedly, the competition in Dubai has increased over the past few years as more properties are entering the market. In this highly competitive space, each hotel has to showcase its unique selling points, the teams need to be on top of their game and the service levels need to be at the highest standards.

Competition ushers all of us to be at our best every day. In the five-star hotel industry, only those who are consistent in their service standards and who deliver the brand experience they promise their guests, will [excel] in both occupancy and revenue.

Overall, those in the hotel industry believe there will be a decline in average daily rate (ADR) over the next 12 to 18 months. However, I strongly feel the new and continual tourism projects will drive further demand to the destination.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: By 2020, Dubai’s total hotel room count is set to reach 140,000 – 160,000 units with around 20 percent of these targeting the midmarket sector. How will this shift affect Dubai’s profile?

AMMAR HILAL: With a vibrant combination of culture and dynamism, Dubai is an amazing city and looking at what it has achieved over the past 50 years is quite incredible.

The team at Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing works hard to promote the destination and identify the communication channels, focussing on existing and emerging markets.

Like in any other city in the world, everyone should have the opportunity to visit Dubai. Introducing more rooms for the midmarket sector will enrich the country in many ways and provide long-term benefits to all sectors of the economy.

I do not believe this will reduce Dubai’s glamour, exciting offerings and amazing architectural wonders.

We would not seek to drastically alter our strategy or target markets, as our key audience will remain the same.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What are the management’s priorities for the coming months?

AMMAR HILAL: This fall [marked] the launch of new restaurant and bar concepts at Sofitel Dubai Downtown. We are offering visitors and residents a culinary destination with many cuisines on offer within the heart of Downtown Dubai.

Furthermore, our very successful lounge has recently been refurbished to have a more organic, elegant look and feel, with unbeatable views of downtown and the iconic Burj Khalifa.

Al Jazira Chez Louis is a branch of the popular, well-known restaurant from Lebanon, which specialises in quality Mediterranean seafood.

Wakame offers a culinary experience like no other, transporting guests to the Far East, where a team of expert chefs perform behind the sushi and dim sum bars.

Inka welcomes guests to feast on a variety of pallet teasing delights on a culinary journey through Peru. With a colonial and chic design, Inka boasts an unobstructed view of the majestic Burj Khalifa with the hustle and bustle of Downtown Dubai surrounding it.

By the end of the year we will bring more to the table as we welcome a French-inspired restaurant and an exciting new nightlife destination.