INTERVIEW: Director of sales and marketing, Fairmont Amman, Hasan Barakat

Fairmont Amman

Jordan’s hospitality icon, Fairmont Amman, has directed all its efforts towards implementing infallible business practices, in anticipation for the return of tourism to the country. Director of sales and marketing, Hasan Barakat reveals to TTG the property’s most pivotal developments.

TTG: What are some challenges you have had to endure during this unprecedented period?
As with all the industries, the pandemic has confronted the hospitality industry with an unprecedented challenge. Strategies to flatten the COVID-19 curve, such as lockdowns, social distancing, stay-at-home orders, travel and mobility restrictions, have resulted in major changes to keep businesses surviving. However, the reopening process has slowly started, and the government has eased restrictions, whereby dine-in restaurants can open at a reduced capacity with strict social distancing guidelines and a curfew in the evening. Restrictions on international travel are being gradually reduced, yet with Jordan still considered at the red zone risk, hotels are still suffering from a decline in bookings and hence lower occupancy. The exclusion of events has been a huge challenge as well, as a good portion of the revenue was generated from conferences, weddings and other events.

At Fairmont Amman hotel, given the quarantine period that took place a few months ago, people were increasingly eager for local leisure. Therefore, we have launched several promotions, including the staycation offer, which is the perfect getaway during the weekends’ lockdowns, whereby guests can enjoy a luxury getaway and pamper themselves and their families with high-end facilities and services. We also have special promotional packages on dine-in and takeaway orders. Moreover, our team has been enriched with Chef Sudqi Naddaf, [who joined us] as the executive chef.  He has [been named] ‘Chef of the Year Middle East’ four times, thus leveraging our food experience with state-of-the-art menus and dining experience.

Vienna Tourism 2

Finally, with the world remaining travel-limited at present, our expectation for Q1 of 2021 is that we will be welcoming a good percentage of local guests, and we have recently launched a new rate for Jordanians only.

TTG: How have you adapted company norms and practices to the current situation?
At Fairmont Amman, our first and foremost step was to substantially change our operations in the COVID-19 business environment, in order to ensure employees’ and customers’ health and safety. There are visible efforts, starting with taking every person’s temperature at the entrance; sanitising practices such as hand sanitizers, staff wearing masks, implementing social distancing, limiting the number of customers served and more rigorous and frequent cleaning; and employee training of health and safety protocols. These are the most important safety precautions guests expect from the hotel and restaurants.

It is no surprise that the pandemic created a sense of urgency to transform to everything digital. Hence, we have firstly directed our marketing strategy to mostly a digital plan, investing on digital marketing. We have also partnered with banks who use cashless and card-less payments, whereby guests who pay through them would get a special discount.

TTG: Are there any developments or projects in the pipeline?
As everyone in the hospitality industry knows, and as the pandemic has proven, this industry has an ever-evolving nature, and in our continuous endeavor to make it endlessly interesting and never ever boring, we always have new, innovative projects in our pipeline. We have recently completed a full renovation of our pool terrace and Nasim restaurant, turning it into a beautifully transformable outlet where guests can enjoy a charming outdoor experience in the summer and a warm indoors one in the winter. Moreover, a full reimagined menu was worked on for Nur restaurant, with Chef Ali Kahlil promising guests an unforgettable gastronomic experience. The restaurant reopened its doors to guests December 2020.

TTG: What role does technology play in your current business practices?
The use of technology mainly helps to speed up operations and our guests’ first experience starts with visiting our website and getting all their required information, pictures and reviews, as well as online booking. We also utilise online advertising and social media effectively in our promotions and marketing activities.

Furthermore, we have a smart guest dining experience where our menus are all digital in our outlets and in-room dining.