"I would call it a meeting of minds that’s redefining hospitality!” says Amruda Nair, Joint Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Aiana Hotels & Resorts, on her new enterprise, which is a joint venture with H.E. Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani, one of Qatar’s leading entrepreneurs. An independently-owned “new brand of hospitality,” Aiana Hotels & Resorts aims to embody the best of Indian service ethos with Nair looking at the bigger picture. The CEO is aspiring to become a global hospitality brand with a presence across the Middle East, India, and South East Asian markets.
According to Nair, Sheikh Faisal has steered his business to become a major corporation with more than 40 diverse commercial and industrial companies, operating under the Al Faisal Holding Group. “I am confident that the combination of H.E. Sheikh Faisal’s knowledge of the Middle East region, resources, visionary entrepreneurial skills, and my experience and passion for the industry will prove to be a game-changer in the hospitality realm,” she says. “The joint venture to form Aiana Hotels & Resorts is the result of a focused and proactive strategy to create a niche in the hospitality market.”
Nair underlines how by blending Sheikh Faisal’s vision and history of nurturing talent along with her legacy and experience, Aiana Hotels & Resorts will define what she refers to as “Hospitality 2.0,” adding that “the Aiana Suites and Residences was created to appeal to its customers’ comfort and satisfaction. The project consists of 180-keys with sea-facing and city views and is located in the prestigious central business district of West Bay. Its prime location amidst various prominent attractions, governmental offices and easy accessibility makes it appealing to both tourists and long-stay residents.”
In addition, she describes the room categories available, which include innovative studio rooms as well as two and three bedroom apartments that will be one of the largest in the competitive market of West Bay. Set across 35 floors, the property offers views of the Corniche from the 33rd floor lounge as well as the pool on the 34th floor. Adding to a modern Indian restaurant on the first floor with a lounge and private dining rooms, it offers two distinct dining experiences and authentic cuisine.
The Aiana service culture, in tune with the needs of the next generation of travelers, is underpinned by our intuitive and unobtrusive Indian service ethic. It meets all the requirements for contemporary living and offers a variety of India-inspired facilities such as a specialty Indian restaurant and a modern Indian spa concept in addition to other hotel amenities.”
“The accessible, understated experiences we offer resonate with our guests’ values, and cater to their diverse interests. Our guests have travelled the world- they are smart users of technology. Environmentally and socially conscious, they expect exceptional value. We aim to cater to the evolving demands of this segment for value added offerings in the upper upscale hospitality segment,” Nair says.
“We will achieve our vision by innovating fresh service, design, and operating concepts, creating smart, stimulating places in tune with our environmental and social values as well as delivering an intuitive hotel management model that resonates with the next generation of travelers– this is what we call Hospitality 2.0.”
The expected completion date of the project is in the third quarter of 2016, and the mission of Aiana Hotels & Resorts is to embody a hospitality brand of upper upscale hotels and leading operator of hotels, resorts and serviced apartments in the Middle East, Indian sub-continent, and South East Asia.
“Having a sophisticated joint venture partner with a well-matched vision for hospitality will pave the path for Aiana Hotels & Resorts to achieve a positioning into the niche market as we offer service consistency across multiple locations. With this joint venture, we have created a hotel management company that will operate hotels owned by independent owners,” adds Nair.
Aiana Hotels & Resorts has also recently signed an agreement with India’s Ferns Estates & Developers to manage and operate five new resorts in southern India. “With this announcement, Aiana Hotels & Resorts now has seven properties to its fast-growing portfolio. We will be building green field projects that will be designed and constructed to the Aiana brand specifications but will also look at a few select conversions in key destinations that comply with our brand standards.”
The company is also committed to collaborate with Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) for any forthcoming initiatives that the entity might introduce for promoting business tourism in Qatar. “Qatar is already a leading high-end destination for MICE, situated centrally between Europe and Asia and we are committed to support the QTA vision to position Qatar as a prominent destination for MICE industry. Aiana Residences Doha has been designed specifically to meet the needs of tomorrow’s traveler and this niche service offering will contribute to Qatar’s appeal as a thriving business destination,” says Nair.
She maintains that Qatar is fast emerging as a preferred destination for organizing key industry events across diverse industry sectors. “In fact Qatar’s tourism strategy seeks to triple the number of business events tourists by 2030, thereby contributing at least half of the country’s revenue from tourism spending.” As a hotel management company based in Qatar, Aiana is able to adjust its strategy to the changing economic environment and to the market’s needs, claims Nair.
As cost-saving initiatives by oil and gas majors begin to have an impact on business travel, the performance of the hotel market is going to be tested. As a result, the business model of serviced apartments gives management the flexibility to change the profile between long and short stay to meet the demand.
“We believe that there will be a market for both value-added products in the upper upscale space and that many expatriates will view serviced apartments as an alternative to residential accommodation where rental rates are much higher. Thus, we believe that the launch of our flagship project, a 180-key serviced apartment offering under the Aiana flag in the financial district of the West Bay, is the right fit for the present market conditions.”
And her main challenge? She says that as a hotel management company in Qatar, it will be primarily ensuring that the company enters the market with a diverse product offering. Aiana strongly believes Qatar’s hospitality market caters to multiple segments, specifically the corporate MICE traveler, the regional leisure market, and the country’s expatriate population.
“We are scheduled to launch our flagship project Aiana Suites & Residences at the end of 2016 which is well-suited to the market demand for value-added products and services in the upper upscale space. We would like to continue to expand our presence in the country with a leisure offering as well a full service hotel development,” continues Nair, “The strategic goal by the national tourism authority [QTA] -to be a world-class hub with deep cultural roots– is well on its way to being achieved and Aiana is well-poised to be a part of that growth story.”
Qatar is estimated to see more than 23,000 keys enter its hospitality market this year, registering a growth of 27%, according to a report by Colliers International, a real estate advisory. Currently there are close to 18,100 hotel and service apartment keys in Qatar, including the addition of 1,460 keys in 2015. Nair says the growth can be attributed to the limited presence of midscale hotels and serviced apartments in Doha, presenting new development opportunities and offering owners and investors a potential opportunity to target this market gap.
“From a demand perspective, the market is expected to close at 71% occupancy this year which is a marginal drop from 72% last year. However, a change in market segmentation will help stem the drop... and though the World Cup will attract an estimated 400,000 tourists, currently 60% of Qatar’s hospitality sector is driven by business travel. I am confident that the Aiana concept of Hospitality 2.0 will be well-suited to meet the requirements of the global savvy traveller.”
While the total increase in supply has been significant, as a result, there is diversity in the nature of the product, service concepts, and management styles. “Doha will continue to be a priority for global hotel management companies to have a presence and there will continue to be additions even in the luxury segment despite the present supply. We are proud to be the first Indian-inspired hotel brand to enter the Qatar market and believe our authentic dining experiences, Indian service ethos and modern Indian spa concept will help set us apart in a crowded market,” concludes Nair.