In November 2014, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group revealed that it had signed an agreement for a Radisson Blu Hotel in the Northern Emirate of Ajman, owned by West Wood Hotels by Holiday Group. On October 23, 2017, the hotel opened its doors to welcome guests.
A week before its opening, I journeyed to Ajman, and not having seen any photos prior to getting there, was slightly surprised as the car turned a corner. Whatever I was expecting, a castle-like structure mimicking European architecture was not it. As you enter the hotel, a high light-filled open atrium greets you, with orange-tinted lamps artistically arranged at the skylight to shade from the harsh glare of the sun. Two ‘bubble elevators’ are at the end of the open space, leading people up and down four floors. The hotel’s floors will open in phases; with the first phase being the opening on October 23, and the second phase scheduled for November 15.
The hotel’s general manager Sid Sattanathan is a hospitality veteran, and has previous experience with brands such as Millennium, IHG, and HMH. This marks his first foray into The Rezidor Hotel Group, with him joining the property in February 2017.
“The first thing we looked at was selecting the management team, and that’s one of the nicest parts of opening a new hotel: handpicking your team,” says Sattanathan, smiling. The second person to join the team was Radisson Blu Hotel EAM Kamal Rijhwani, who was in the UAE through his high school years, and is well aware of the nuances of the region. The first thing Rijhwani worked on was the room configuration process. As the property had already been built by the time the team came on board, Rijhwani’s work was to divide the existing units into four room categories — rather than 11 suggested by a consultant. The second thing he worked on was creating the hotel website, and then assisting with recruitment.
Sattanathan notes that he’s met at least 90% of the team members during final interviews, and adds that it was important for him to recruit from within. “Since I was an external candidate and new to the company, I wanted to surround myself with people who are familiar with the processes and systems of Rezidor, so half the management team are internal candidates. Although I was new to the company, I felt it was my duty to provide internal growth for deserving candidates who were waiting to take that step forward. Where we couldn’t find appropriate internal candidates, we went out to market. I’m proud of the team we’ve assembled, and that’s one of the key elements: having the right talent,” stresses Sattanathan.
While the service philosophy matters, Sattanathan subscribes to the policy of making his team happy and consistently motivating them. Calling the employee area the ‘heart-of-house, Sattanathan says it’s important to lay a strong foundation and keep the team happy and motivated. He admits candidly: “Being in the Northern Emirates, retention is a big challenge. During recruitment, people kept saying they wanted to come to Dubai.” He’s keen to give every single member of the team their due, often calling them ‘co-creators’.
Sattanathan says he focused on creating a positive environment for the staff accommodation which is located just 1km away from the hotel, and ensuring there are health and recreational facilities for them to take advantage of, along with finding a caterer that served healthy, and delicious food.
With the hotel soon to open, as a city centre offering, Sattanathan says the property will target both government and corporate business, especially considering its proximity to places such as the Hamriya Free Trade Zone, the Sharjah Port, and so on. He adds: “We’ve tied up with Al Zorah Golf Club as their preferred hotel partner. We’re working closely with them over partnership marketing.”
And certainly, Rijhwani’s sales strategy is aggressive, yet sensible. The excitement pours through his voice, as he quickly says: “We have reached out to the various segments of our business. So government accounts have been approached, we have reached out to various corporates, a low-yielding segment but long stays and high-yielding, with short stays.