INTERVIEW: General manager of DoubleTree by Hilton Aqaba, Sherif Darwish

Sherif Darwish

Sherif Darwish, the general manager of DoubleTree by Hilton Aqaba in Jordan, exclusively speaks to Tatiana Tsierkezou about the property’s latest news, while shedding light on his aspirations for the property, plus much more.

TTG: What’s new in DoubleTree by Hilton Aqaba’s world?
We have finished our most recent renovation project, during which most of our public areas’ furniture was replaced and the kitchen was also revamped. The hotel entrance has also been restructured to ensure a smooth arrival experience.

A long-term plan is put in place targeting continuous improvement of the physical specification of the property and technology alike.

IBTM China 2019

TTG: How has the year 2018 been so far and what have you been focusing on?
2018 has been very promising so far; business is flourishing and tourism figures have increased, thus positively impacting the industry in Jordan.

Internally, and as far as our team members are concerned, we are focusing on our team’s development plans this year, starting with emerging the second line of talented team members and increasing the percentage of women in leadership positions.

TTG: How does the property stand out among its competitors in the city?
Situated on the southern tip of Jordan and overlooking the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba, DoubleTree by Hilton Aqaba is centrally located in the heart of the city’s business district, only 15 minutes away from the King Hussein International Airport (AQJ).

Featuring contemporary Italian design, our spacious 173 guest rooms and suites provide a peaceful retreat with views of the city or the Red Sea.

Guests can discover several dining outlets offering a range of culinary options. They can start their day with our breakfast buffet at Gusto, visit Tree Café for coffee and light snacks or lounge by the pool and enjoy views of the Red Sea at Infinity bar, while sipping cocktails or eating a snack. Whether hungry for football, billiards, darts or just a beer, King’s Sports Bar is the go to place in Aqaba. We also have Diwan The View, our modern rooftop lounge where guests can enjoy the spectacular views of Aqaba bay and our daily live entertainment.

TTG: Are there any exciting tourism-related developments happening in Aqaba that have stimulated footfall at the property?
Aqaba is a very alive destination and several activities are planned throughout the year. All hotels meet on a regular basis with industry leaders in town to plan a calendar of events that is attractive for both locals and tourists to attend. An example of this would be the Aqaba Carnival for Tourism and Shopping, in addition to many sports activities that take place annually, such as the Marathon and the Rally, to mention a few.

TTG: Who opts to stay at DoubleTree by Hilton Aqaba? Which are your key markets?
Our key markets are Jordan, Russia and the Scandinavian countries. Locally, we also cater for business travellers who visit Aqaba from different areas in Jordan. With our unique location in the city centre and our meeting rooms’ offerings, DoubleTree by Hilton Aqaba makes an ideal meeting venue as well.

TTG: As general manager, what are your aspirations for the property? Where do you wish to take the hotel in the next five years?
My focus has always been, and will continue to be, our team members’ growth and talent development. I strongly believe that our team members are our most valuable asset. Hence, I have been encouraging the team to make the best use of Hilton’s learning tools and training courses.

As for the financial part of the business, and based on Aqaba’s promising business future as a touristic destination, we focus on maximising revenue and profitability while maintaining the same excellent quality.

TTG: Finally, has DoubleTree by Hilton Aqaba picked up on any travel trends this year?
In my opinion, there are two major travel trends that we – in Aqaba – have picked up on. The first is the fact that the Middle East is becoming the fastest-growing travel region in the world. Travellers are curious to see what this part of the world has to offer and believe me, we have a lot!

Also, adventure travels are hot. Our location in the heart of the city, is a great plus for all travellers who want to try diving. Aqaba has 25 diving sites known to be among the best worldwide. With warm water temperatures all year around, good visibility and the vast biodiversity of the sea life, Aqaba is your go to place.

We are also in proximity to Wadi Rum. It offers some of the finest rock climbing in the world and is a spectacular place for desert trekking and safaris – a once in a lifetime experience.