54 A NEW BRAND IN DOHA

WITH THE AR­RIVAL OF BUSI­NESS PARK'S HOL­I­DAY INN, GEN­ERAL MAN­AGER MAR­CUS SUT­TON IS CHAL­LENG­ING TRA­DI­TIONAL HOTE­LIER PRAC­TICES AND LOOK­ING FOR­WARD TO THE FU­TURE OF TOURISM IN QATAR.

Qatar Today - - INSIDE THIS ISSUE - BY LIND­SEY KNEPSHIELD

With the ar­rival of Busi­ness Park's Hol­i­day Inn, Gen­eral Man­ager Mar­cus Sut­ton is chal­leng­ing tra­di­tional hote­lier prac­tices and look­ing for­ward to the fu­ture of tourism in Qatar.

Gen­eral Man­ager Mar­cus Sut­tonoften has to cover up his high-end suits with a neon con­struc­tion vest these days, duck­ing un­der wooden beams and weav­ing his way through half-painted hall­ways as he over­sees the cre­ation of Qatar's first Hol­i­day Inn branch. An Aus­tralian na­tive, Sut­ton has lived in the Mid­dle East for the past nine years, work­ing within the ho­tel in­dus­try in Jor­dan, the UAE and now Qatar. Though he is rel­a­tively new to the coun­try, hav­ing moved here last April, his ex­pe­ri­ences have led to per­cep­tive in­sights on both Qatar's tourism in­dus­try and the in­dus­try within the greater Mid­dle Eastern re­gion. Other GCC coun­tries might have suf­fered due to re­duced oil prices and a spend­ing-con­scious pop­u­la­tion, but Sut­ton be­lieves that the gov­ern­ment's fo­cus on hos­pi­tal­ity along with Qatar Air­ways grow­ing in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion has el­e­vated Qatar's tourism in­dus­try. “There's been a nat­u­ral align­ment of the mar­ket,” said Sut­ton. “And with the gov­ern­ment open­ing up travel visas, it's hav­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact on the num­ber of leisure trav­ellers com­ing into the

re­gion.” The In­terCon­tential Ho­tels Group (IHG) saw an op­por­tu­nity to cater to this wider ar­ray of trav­ellers in Qatar's un­der­de­vel­oped four-star ho­tel mar­ket and in 2014 they broke ground on The Hol­i­day Inn - Busi­ness Park.

A mix of the fresh and the fa­mil­iar

The Hol­i­day Inn is more play­ful than its Crowne Plaza neigh­bour just a few steps away. Bright or­ange ac­cent walls and bold geo­met­ric de­signs, in­clud­ing an eye­catch­ing spi­ral stair­case in the lobby and sev­eral uniquely beau­ti­ful light­ing fea­tures, cre­ate warm, en­er­getic pub­lic spa­ces. Com­bat­ting the clichÈ of bland ho­tel art, The Hol­i­day Inn fea­tures prints and re­pro­duc­tions of work done by lo­cal artists as well as be­spoke Doha-in­spired mod­ern con­tem­po­rary art. Within the guest rooms, the colours cool to soft blues and greys with stylish hints of hexagons on the car­pet. There are six floors with 307guest rooms and suites, which on av­er­age are more com­pact than those of­fered at Crowne Plaza. Six of those rooms are hand­i­cappedac­ces­si­ble, with shorter beds and fur­ni­ture, wider spa­ces for wheel­chair use, and a walkin shower. There is an out­door pool and lounge along with a 24-hour fit­ness cen­tre. Sut­ton and the rest of his col­leagues at the Busi­ness Cen­ter are hop­ing that the fresh at­mos­phere might tempt those look­ing for a more eco­nom­i­cal, less busi­ness-ori­ented stay in Doha.

Not to say that the Hol­i­day Inn is un­able to cater to busi­ness-minded vis­i­tors-far from it. There are seven meet­ing rooms within the ho­tel, equipped with all the lat­est tech­nol­ogy. The Hub on the ground floor is a multi-func­tion busi­ness cen­tre where guests can catch up on emails and stay con­nected to their com­pany. The Hol­i­day Inn will also have the largest ball­room in Busi­ness Park, able to ac­com­mo­date up to 850 guests with a di­rect en­trance for cars and a con­nect­ing green room, which is fully pri­vate and could be the per­fect place for a bride on her wed­ding day. Most of these rooms can be par­ti­tioned to form sev­eral smaller spa­ces if that bet­ter suits a guest's needs. An added ben­e­fit: the fa­cil­i­ties in Crowne Plaza are avail­able for Hol­i­day Inn guests as well.

Two brands; one Busi­ness Park

Sut­ton em­pha­sised the in­ter­con­nec­tiv­ity of the two ho­tels in Busi­ness Park, stat­ing that the in­ten­tion is for them to func­tion as dis­tinct brands un­der the same man­age­ment

since they are both IHG com­pa­nies and are lo­cated so close to­gether. This has led to an un­tra­di­tional man­age­rial struc­tureSut­ton will be Gen­eral Man­ager for both ho­tels, and there will be only one Food and Bev­er­age Man­ager. House­keep­ing will stay based in Crowne Plaza. IHG's de­sire to stream­line and in­crease ef­fi­ciency makes a com­mu­ni­ca­tion break­down be­tween ho­tels less likely, and means that that staff is ex­pected to be more dy­namic. For in­stance, a re­cep­tion­ist at the Hol­i­day Inn might come out from be­hind the desk to help a guest with lug­gage.

For larger events, say a wed­ding in the ball­room, man­age­ment will be able to pull staff from one ho­tel and del­e­gate them new re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. This lessens the need for out­side help, mak­ing larger events more cost-ef­fi­cient for IHG and en­sur­ing the brand's high stan­dards of customer ser­vice re­main in­tact. Per­son­nel will be ex­pected to “switch hats” when mov­ing be­tween the more con­ser­va­tive, for­mal ambiance pre­ferred in the Crowne Plaza to the easy­go­ing con­ver­sa­tional one of the Hol­i­day Inn, en­sur­ing that the at­mos­pheres of the two ho­tels re­main dis­tinct from each other. A tun­nel un­der­neath the prop­erty makes the con­nec­tion lit­eral as well as fig­u­ra­tive, en­abling staff to move quickly be­tween the two ho­tels.

The sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship be­tween the ho­tels will cer­tainly ben­e­fit guests as well. The ex­em­plary din­ing op­tions in Crowne Plaza will be com­ple­mented by less for­mal op­tions in Hol­i­day Inn, such as the new sports bar fea­tur­ing food by U.K. sta­ple Stock Burger Com­pany and Ital­ian cui­sine at Sirocco serv­ing break­fast, lunch, and din­ner. If a guest chooses a res­tau­rant in the op­po­site ho­tel from his own, he will still be able to charge it to his room. Now guests can sam­ple a wide ar­ray of food with­out leav­ing the prop­erty. By ap­proach­ing the din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with the mind­set of an in­de­pen­dent restau­ra­teur rather than an hote­lier, Sut­ton be­lieves the cui­sine will be more than just “good ho­tel food” and will make Busi­ness Park a din­ing des­ti­na­tion in its own right. This will be made even eas­ier once the Crowne Plaza stop of the Qatar Rail is com­plete.

A ho­tel to par­al­lel a na­tion

Ul­ti­mately, Sut­ton be­lieves that vis­i­tors to Qatar are look­ing for a more au­then­tic Mid­dle Eastern ex­pe­ri­ence than larger, fast-paced cities like Dubai might be able to pro­vide. “Qatar is pitched as more cul­tural,” Sut­ton said, adding that the gov­ern­ment's in­vest­ment in developing Qatar as both a leisure and sports des­ti­na­tion could quite pos­si­bly so­lid­ify its place as a global va­ca­tion hotspot. Qatar is not un­fa­mil­iar with the in­ter­na­tional stage by any means, but 2030 vi­sion looks ahead to a world where the coun­try's sta­tus is el­e­vated. This com­bi­na­tion of cul­ture and am­bi­tion made Qatar an ideal fit for the Hol­i­day Inn brand, which mod­els it­self as a ho­tel for ris­ing stars.

The Hol­i­day Inn - Busi­ness Park will be ac­cept­ing reser­va­tions as of this Au­gust, and con­struc­tion is ex­pected to be com­plete for a soft open­ing in May and a grand open­ing in early au­tumn

A tun­nel un­der­neath the prop­erty makes the con­nec­tion lit­eral as well as fig­u­ra­tive, en­abling staff to move quickly be­tween the two ho­tels.

MAR­CUS SUT­TON Gen­eral Man­ager Hol­i­day Inn and Crowne Plaza

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