Kai Schukowski, Hotel Manager at Kempinski Hotel Ajman, talking about hospitality trends and sustainability in UAE
What are the three trends that one can expect in the UAE’s hotel industry?
Food & Beverage is becoming even more important. Whilst there are many fantastic F&B concepts already available, guests are still hungry to try and experience new ones, so much so that it often can be the deciding factor for a guests’ stay.
Technology is extremely important and in order to stay competitive in today’s market being on par with the latest technological standards is a must.
It is encouraging to see that more and more hotels are working towards sustainable operations. I see it as an increasing trend and it is becoming more important within the hospitality industry, especially with the stricter regulations from governmental organizations that we have seen lately.
Are hotels more or less concerned with sustainability, for instance, compared to the rest of the world?
I think hoteliers talk a lot about this subject and make it part of their operations, however, we are just scratching the surface. Sustainability should be more holistic and fully embraced without impacting the guest experience. If for example you pay $500 for a night, you would surely want a crisp clean towel every day and not help the hotel save their laundry expenses. So we need to go from these ‘quick fixes’ to more relevant and truly impactful measures.
Are they more likely to be super-specialised in terms of segments?
With the immense growth of new hotels in Dubai and the region, the need for differentiation is essential and therefore I strongly believe that focusing on a niche can surely help. From Celebrity hotels and Theme Hotels to Beauty Clinics and Cyber Hotels, we see more and more the rise of these specialized hotels, which I believe is healthy to stand out from an often-homogenous mass.
Are the hotel ownership and resale patterns here any different compared to other markets?
From my experience they are fairly similar. I believe ultimately it is about the relationship the operator can build with the owner which influences their level of involvement. If the owner can fully rely on the operator and the results follow suit, then surely in a striving market like the UAE, his inclination to sell a property would be minimized.
What are the three guest trends for the region and how do they differ from the rest of the world?
Similar to Sunday brunch in Europe, Friday brunches in the UAE happen on larger scale here and are part of big social engagements.
The emergence of mass luxury; 60% of hotels are 5 star in Dubai vs. 30% in London, restaurants in hotels are frequented by people here in the region on regular basis.
Guests expect the latest and greatest trends, whilst in Europe, classic, timeless buildings with history are very often regarded as the most luxurious hotel e.g. Savoy, The Adlon, etc. As for the service, the general perception would be more guest oriented. Alone the staff to guest ratio can be up to triple the amount than in the Western world.
How is occupancy in Dubai/UAE compared to the rest of the world in this quarter?
Despite the staggering pipeline of hotels soon to open in addition to the already massive portfolio of operating hotels, we do see occupancies fairly stable. With Dubai being one of the best connected hubs and an ever increasing appeal of the city and offerings, I am very optimistic about the strong growth on in-bound demand. Political situations however do have an effect as we see for example with the current situation in Russia & Ukraine, which affected this key feeder market by up to 30% in reduction of guests. Nevertheless, GCC market is continuing to pick up at a fast pace and I am confident that hoteliers will be able to capitalize on the growth of the country at large.
Dubai hotels are attracting the attention of financial funds as well. How do you see this affecting the market?
Hotels are a preferred part of any good and diversified financial portfolio as it provides a steady cash flow, which investors very much appreciate. Furthermore, Dubai has been said to be one of the most successful and well performing Real Estate Markets in the world, further fueling the interest of investors looking for asset appreciate and with the EXPO2020 to come, investors remain optimistic.
The last few launches have been very focused on micro-segments – for instance, a hotel in Healthcare City for medical tourism. Is this something we are likely to see more of?
I am sure we will. By having such specialized segments, the country can really focus their resources and attention in excelling at the various disciplines, which in turn fuels the guest and visitors pipeline.