An interview with Aurelio Giraudo, Cluster General Manager of Banyan Tree Doha at La Cigale Mushaireb & La Cigale hotel managed by Accor

Conferred by Hotelier Middle East as Power 100 GM in the Middle East 2021

1.Is it possible to say that the Qatari hospitality sector has entered the stage of recovery from the repercussions of Covid-19?

Yes, we do foresee a strong recovery in the coming months leading to the World Cup. All the postponed city events are now getting rescheduled and creating demand for the city. Qatar has signed up with Formula One for the next 10 years supporting the Qatar 2030 vision.

With FIFA Arab Cup round the corner we do anticipate high demand from the GCC markets especially Saudi and UAE market.

We now see a change in the GEO mix for our hotels with ease of travel restrictions and people now starting to travel. Food & Beverage market has picked up strong with artist performances, DJs and Club’s now being allowed to operate till the early mornings. Buffets are back and we do see a surge on weekend business with our outlets getting sold out.

We are seeing the pent up demand for Events business with Weddings being allowed with higher attendance, Outside catering segment is picking up very strongly and there is also a surge in the corporate business. Good times ahead!

2. What are the mechanisms that will be adopted by the Banyan Tree Doha At La Cigale Mushaireb and La Cigale Hotel managed by Accor to acquire a large share of domestic tourism?

There are lots of opportunities available to get our fair share from the domestic market. For Banyan Tree Doha, we have come up with exciting new packages which are custom made to suit the needs of different customer segments.

33 Hours Stay wherein a guest can enjoy a luxurious stay in our hotel for 33 Hours at one-night room rate.

Romantic Retreat targeting honeymooners and anniversaries guests. This package has been a great success.

Stay Play Save! package with free access to Doha Quest and Reward back credit of QAR 200 with kids club access has been launched to target families for weekdays and weekends.

Stay 3 Pay 2 wherein you stay longer in our hotel and enjoy a whole lot of activities and 3rd night is on us.

We have included the access to Doha Quest Theme Park for our Short Term Residences, which is driving the domestic and GCC family business to our Hotel and Residences.

For Food & Beverage, we are doing theme nights in all our outlets with special performances and creating a vibrant and a lively atmosphere.

Vertigo, our Rooftop lounge wherein we have introduced daily activities along with live performance and DJ’s which has helped us in attracting different customer segment for our lounge and this place is now the talk of the town!

In La Cigale Hotel Managed by Accor, we have launched different packages which are attracting staycation and domestic guests.

School vacation package targeting families to enjoy our hotel luxurious facilities with swimming lessons, massage and dinner with us have been launched.

Staycation, Stay Pay and Suite celebration packages have been launched targeting different customer segments for weekdays and weekends.

In Food & Beverage, theme nights with live performances have been implemented to target more and more domestic guests. New menus with competitive pricing has been launched to attract new customers and shift business from other hotels. Buffets have been re-introduced with ease of government restrictions.

3. What is the role of domestic tourism in enhancing the operational business of the two hotels? What are the new services that the two hotels brought to the ground?

Domestic tourism has remained the strongest pillars for both the hotels during the covid-19 times. Staycation and Weekend business has grown phenomenally over the last year and will continue to do so over the next 2 quarters. Operationally both our hotels have invested a lot in hygiene, sanitization and digital experiences over the last 2 years. New concepts have been introduced to cater to this segment. We have launched kids club in Banyan Tree Doha to attract more and more families. Kids activities and swimming lessons have been introduced in La Cigale Hotel Managed by Accor. Kids menu have been launched in both our hotels. Special packages have been introduced targeting this market and to generate incremental revenues. Delivery Sales have been introduced and the package catering concept has been launched to further tap into the domestic market.

4. What is the nature of your relationship and cooperation with Qatar Tourism Authority and Qatar Airways in marketing your hotel and tourism in general?

We have a strong relationship with Qatar Tourism Authority and Qatar Airways. For Banyan Tree Doha, we did a joint venture activity with Qatar Tourism Authority and Qatar Airways wherein we launched our Vertigo lounge and invited the celebrity Mexican Chef for a 5 day event. The event was a great success and it was sold out for all 5 days.

For La Cigale Hotel Managed by Accor, we participated in Chefs of Qatar Virtual Food Festival, which showcased the creative mixture of Arabic and multinational cuisine, delivered to the guest doorstep.  

Both our hotels are listed in Visit Qatar website and we are participating in the road shows and fairs which will be promoted by the Qatar Tourism Authority.

5. What is the nature of your interaction with the Clean Qatar program launched by the Ministry of Public Health in coordination and cooperation with Qatar Tourism? Did you get a certificate in this regard?

Yes, both our hotels Qatar Clean certified and we are following all the protocols for hygiene and cleanliness and following strict sterilization and disinfection practices.

6. What is your assessment of the Qatar tourism and hotel market? Do you participate in external exhibitions to market Doha as a distinct tourist destination, in addition to marketing your hotel’s product?

Qatar as a market in the last 10 months over the last year has shown a growth in OCC by 10.5%, 3.9% growth in ADR & 23.6% growth in RevPAR. Business for the first 3 quarters was primarily driven by the strong local staycation demand, Sports groups, Quarantine and project base business. Last quarter of 2021, will be driven by Convention and Exhibition business due to easing of government regulations, MICE events, Weddings, Formula One and FIFA Arab Cup. The market has shown tremendous resilience during the covid-19 times with strong support from the Qatar government. Next year, we anticipate business to grow with project base business near its completion period leading to the World Cup. Sports events will continue to happen and MICE and Corporate business will return to its old levels. Food & Beverage segment will continue to remain strong with hotels coming up with exciting new concepts and Michelin Star restaurants. 105 new hotels are expected to open before the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Overall very promising signs of the market!

We will be participating in ILTM to be held in Cannes this December however, our prime focus is to drive our hotels visibility in these events. We are also participating in GCC Roadshows, ATM and other events. Destination marketing activities are done in conjunction with Qatar Tourism wherein we actively participate in all the recommended events.

7. There are many hotel brands in the local market. What role do these brands play in enriching the local hospitality experience?

I agree there are lots of brands in the market, however each brand is offering a different customer experience to sustain and attract new guests.

Brands are following local Arabic culture and values and improvising in order to provide a unique customer experience. Personalization, User generated content, Virtual Reality tours and Social media are the tools commonly used to reach out to a large local audience. We do have hotels in the market which are dry hotels and are catering only to the family segment and sports groups. We have pet friendly hotels targeting guests who are emotionally connected to the pets.

We do have big families in Qatar and hotels have residences with maid room facilities which covers all the requirements for these families. Hotels have now come up with a theme park concept, wellness and water park facilities within the complex enriching the local experiences.

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