Tatiana Tsierkezou catches up with vice president – development, Shaza Hotels, Chris Nader, who speaks about the hospitality expert’s very latest news and upcoming projects.
TTG: How has 2019 been so far?
We have had a very busy first half of the year. Shaza Hotels is going through a very important period since its inception as we are opening many hotels within a short period of time.
We started off the year with the opening of our first property in Riyadh, followed in March by the opening of our first Mysk hotels in the UAE, as well as the Kingfisher Lodge in Kalba and the Al Faya Lodge in Mleiha, both stunning locations in Sharjah. These two lodges are part of the Sharjah Collection, which also includes the Al Badayer Oasis desert camp that we expect to open in August.
In the last quarter of the year, we get ready to open our first Shaza hotel outside of Saudi Arabia, Shaza Doha, as well as our first Mysk in Dubai which will be located on Palm Jumeirah. It is a very exciting year for the company.
TTG: What is Shaza Hotels doing as a business to keep its products fresh and enticing?
I am really proud when I say that Shaza is one of the rare hotel brands that has a clear identity and positioning, and a unique proposition. However, this is not enough. We must ensure that our hotels remain innovative and provide experiences that guests will remember.
We must always understand who our target markets are at our hotels and design a product that meets their needs, not the other way around, as the era of ‘build it and they will come’ is over.
In Kuwait for instance, we have studied in great detail the socio-demographic patterns of residents who make up the staycationer segment that our soon-to-open Mysk hotel (set to open in 2021) will surely depend on. We identified specific trends, behaviours and lifestyle habits, and have designed the hotel accordingly so that Mysk becomes the reference address for our target market.
TTG: Speak to me about Shaza Hotels’ markets. Have you picked up on any noteworthy travel trends?
Sharjah has definitely been a key focus for us since we started working on the Sharjah Collection last year. The emirate has so much potential for tourism and the efforts of the government, particularly through Shurooq’s activities, are commendable.
We are seeing a growing trend in travellers wanting to experience unique authentic experiences, to be immersed in the local culture, be in touch with nature and be in a sustainable environment. Sharjah is a perfect choice for these travellers and the emirate is being positioned as a destination where guests can experience the Emirati culture, history, nature and hospitality in its pure authentic form.
Our hotels that form the Sharjah Collection allow travellers to experience each one of these facets and I am sure that similar a hospitality offering will start to flourish in the GCC, be it eco-retreats, adventure lodges or agro-farming resorts.
Whilst hotels in Kuwait are predominantly business oriented, the changes that the government is undertaking will eventually encourage owners to develop more leisure-oriented hotels, including lodges and resorts, similar to what is now happening in neighbouring Saudi Arabia. Shaza wants to play a role in this change, and our Mysk hotel currently under construction in the Messilah Beach district is a fine example of what we can bring to the market.
TTG: With the tourism industry becoming ever-more eco conscious, what is Shaza Hotels doing to become ‘greener’ and reduce its carbon footprint?
In our hotel industry, there are various initiatives that can be implemented to ensure that the business runs on a set of green principles. Some initiatives are within the owner’s control, such as ensuring that the construction of the hotel follows green standards, while others are within the control of the operator. In our Kingfisher Lodge in Sharjah, which is built on a natural reserve, we are implementing various eco-initiatives that naturally fit within the ecosystem in which we operate, such as the hotel being a plastic-free environment. This is valued by our guests, especially those coming from Europe.