Thailand is home to several international hotel brands; from Dusit to Anantara and Avani, to Banyan Tree. Each of these brands and their parent companies are reputed global players in the industry. Centara is probably one of the only other big Thai-based hotel operators that was yet to make its presence felt in the regional market. While slightly late, the operator is set to launch with a bang in the Middle East.
Centara Grand West Bay Doha general manager James Wilson tells Hotelier Qatar: “This is not the only Centara opening in the Middle East, we also have a property opening in Muscat. We are both in the pre-opening stage. But we are delighted to have the Centara Grand debut in the region, hopefully there will be more.”
But the Qatar property will be Centara’s flagship offering in the Middle East. And Wilson gives a few details of what it will offer to its guests. “We have unique Thai elements such as our Thai restaurant in the hotel. We also have an entire floor dedicated to our spa operations, of which there are 17 treatment rooms. The Thai elements extend in the service and design of the hotel, but at the same time, the Centara Grand in Doha is quite contemporary. We realise that we are not located in Bangkok, we are in Doha. So, we will be celebrating our Thai heritage but embracing the location at the same time.”
The Centara Grand West Bay is located just across the road from the popular W Doha and the recently opened Adagio Hotel Apartments. There are several other five-star hotels in the vicinity with the likes of Meliá Doha and the Kempisnki Hotel and Residences to name a few.
Positioning the hotel correctly will be key to its success and Wilson feels the five F&B outlets and 17 treatment room Cenvaree spa will play a big role in doing just that.
“It is a traditional city hotel when you compare it to Bangkok, a lot of the five-star hotels there have several F&B outlets with expansive spa facilities. As a company we are strong in food and beverage and we are very strong in our spa concept. We see the hotel as a multi-facility property; we want to attract the local Qataris and the residents within the area. Realistically, we want to position the hotel as work, home and Centara Grand [in people’s lives]. We want the hotel to be part of people’s lifestyle.”
Wilson says the Centara Grand West Bay Doha is a corporate hotel, which also focuses on leisure tourists. “As a company Centara always thinks about families, which is why we have a huge swimming pool and a separate kid’s pool. Our spa will surely be enjoyed by corporate guests but [it also appeals to residents and leisure seekers]. We also have a kid’s room which can be used when the parents are dining. So, there are elements that suit families as well corporate,” he says.
Wilson joined the property in July 2016, and has had his hands full with different facets surrounding the pre-opening. He was considered an obvious choice for the role as he combined a bit of everything that Centara were looking for. “I already had experience with a previous Thai hotel company and I also had experience in the Middle East. I had also worked in Thailand before.”
Wilson is referring to his stint with Dusit International where he headed the Dusit Thani Dubai as general manager. He also worked in the Dusit Thani Hotel Bangkok. Wilson’s last project was the Millennium Corniche Hotel Abu Dhabi, where he held the position of general manager.
Another member of the ExCom team with a similar mix of experience is resident manager Jari Nielsen. “I was the first to arrive during the pre-opening phase, and have been involved with everything from construction to setting up our makeshift offices. There have been a few delays and ideally I would have liked we would already be open but we have come a long way,” he smiles.
Nielsen was with Centara in one of its Phuket properties for two-and-a-half-years prior to which he was involved in hospitality in his native Denmark. He also worked at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai for eight years and the St Regis in London. It is one of the reasons Nielsen was transferred to this project by Centara’s headquarters. “At Centara we have a certain way of doing things and that’s what we want to infuse here,” he says.