While visiting Dubai, a tourist is spoilt for choice – be it for shopping, dining or selecting a hotel depending on the length and purpose of stay. Strategically located within a five-minute walking distance from the World Trade Centre, Dubai International Financial Centre, Downtown Dubai, and Burj Khalifa – stands the Shangri-La Hotel.
n a recent trip to Dubai, I had the opportunity to stay at one of the busiest and greenest properties in the downtown area – Shangri-La, Dubai. We reached the hotel from the airport within 15 minutes despite a slow-moving traffic in the morning office hours.
One of the first things that one wonders about during the check-in is the view from the room. This is not so much a challenge in the Shangri-La. Interestingly, most of the rooms in this hotel have a breathtaking view of Burj Dubai. The Level 42 balcony is extremely popular among guests as well as visitors as it gives a gallery type view of Dubai skyline with Burj from very up, close and front.
Other than the typical single or double-bedded rooms, the hotel also has 126 spacious apartments. Shangri-La is well-known among Indian families for its one, two and three bedroom apartments. A lot of Indian families prefer that. The apartments are very comfortable for typical Indian families travelling in small groups, especially with kids. They provide extra bed while the facilities remain the same including the kitchen with all modern amenities.
I had heard of Shangri-La’s famous culinary experiences before. Though I am not a great foodie, but was curious about its reputation! The food here is predominantly Asian flavoured, and I found it surprising that a lot of European and American guests are opting for the Indian platter.
Other than its strong Indian clientele, Shangri-La Dubai also has a steady European guest flow. With a strong push to promote itself in India, it is eyeing to get more Indian luxury tourists, rich business travellers and is at the same time targeting the booming Indian destination wedding market.
India Outbound speaks with Gerhard Hecker
How has Shangri-La Dubai developed itself in catering to the needs of travellers coming to Dubai for various purposes like business, leisure, and MICE?
This hotel was one of the first 5-star hotels when it was built. Dubai has seen the development of hundreds of 5-star hotels. Obviously, we needed to invest in the property to bring it up to the standards evolving over the years. We are just about to conclude an AED 70 million renovation programme and planning for adding further funds to continue to invest in the modernisation of the hotel. The expectations of today’s guests are very high. They get spoilt for choices with the opulence in offer. And the expectations from the people grow over the years and they continue to grow from a renowned brand like Shangri-La, so we need to continue to improve in order to provide services to meet their expectations.
Where does Shangri-La Dubai stand as a class apart hotel in comparison to its competition?
Shangri-La has a particular unique feature – our Asian services. Within the hotel, a distinct difference is visible as to how we approach our guests, how we deliver the Asian services from the heart and I think that is one particular feature that sets us apart from the competition. Europeans love to go to Asia, and a good part of the credit is owed to the luxury and service. When they come here they find luxury and service, what in particular is a bit more Asian now, for example, our food in offer. We have the Chinese restaurant, the Vietnamese restaurant, Indian restaurants; we even have our Dunes Café, and Tandoori presentations. So we are able to cater to the Europeans for whom it is quite interesting because they like to venture and try different kinds of cuisines that are out of the box and are used to it.
With this Asian flavour, what about the Indian focus? Indians are travelling much more than they used to travel earlier.
We see a good mix of leisure and business travellers from India coming to Dubai; obviously the proximity to Dubai Mall and the City Walk is ideal for those who come in for the big shopping experience. There is a big Indian business community here in Dubai and some very wealthy families here who are from India. We do see the MICE market is starting to pick up from India. And of course, Indian weddings are so mobile that they are found all around the world. You see them everywhere. Dubai is a big wedding shopping destination also.
What are the major sustainability practices that Shangri-La follows towards responsible tourism and community development?
Shangri-La has a system in place that calculates the carbon footprint of each property and we have targets to reduce which we have done over the last four years. Surrounding the property we’ve reduced about 10–12 pc on environmental spaces. Our commodity saving utilities, electricity and water savings are about 6–7 pc per annum without hampering the guest experience. We have another programme in place at the moment to food wastes and it has been quite successful. So we are very, very alert and participative as far as environmental sustainability is concerned. The guests actually appreciate it quite a bit, when we are able to involve them.
With too much of information at everyone’s disposal, how do you strategise to meet the additional expectations?
Applying digital strategy is something that’s growing within our company. We are developing interactive tools that can offer help to our guests. Today, whether the guests are overly informed or misinformed, to a degree we can control that. And all the online advertising and the online exposures are something we frequently review, not only ours but also of the partnering sites to make sure that the information stated therein is appropriate and correct. So when the guests arrive at the hotel we want them to find what we’ve been advertising over, what they’ve been promised to, so I do see the need of a very functional Wi-Fi service in the hotel, because today, on an average every guest comes with two or three mobile devices. They all want their gadgets to be charged, want them to be usable and want a very high download speed – that is what we are working on.