01 Nov 2016

Gerhard Hecker, general manager, Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai

Bringing menaluxury up to speed with the upscale hotel’s latest news, Gerhard Hecker, general manager, Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai also shed light on some of this year’s most prominent trends and the evolution of the luxury scene.

TTG: What is your latest news and what are your plans and expectations for rest of the year?

The past few months have been some of the most exciting for us, with the complete renovation of the ground level of the hotel and the start of the refurbishment of our 302 guest rooms. In this $19.05 million project for our lobby, the Lobby Lounge and Dunes Café restaurant, we have embarked on a journey of transformation to reveal an elegant new look. The space has been redesigned by the globally-renowned interior design consultants, Hirsch Bedner Associates, featuring fresh new colours, sumptuous fabrics, sophisticated detailing and a complete redesign of the layout of this huge, atrium-style space, resulting in an uplifting welcome experience for our guests. 

Check-in will now be easier for guests with the repositioning of the reception area, and those that wish to dine with us can expect unique social experiences. From our new Asian-inspired Afternoon Tea at the Lobby Lounge, to an extensive, interactive dinner with friends in the new urban-style Dunes Café, we’re looking forward to building on the reputation of these venues.
Our focus moving into 2017 will be firmly on the refurbishment of our rooms. The repositioning of the hotel will ensure we remain at the forefront of people’s minds when planning a trip to Dubai.

TTG: What current trends are you noticing within the luxury tourism industry in the GCC?

As travel has become more accessible to people, we are finding that guests are becoming more and more savvy and know exactly what they want. Unique experiences are high on the agenda for most people travelling to the city and hotels are expected to be able to quickly facilitate those experiences, either by making expert recommendations or handling the entire booking for them. The standard expectations of a luxury hotel are now part of the stay – people are valuing life experiences over tangible items that may be given to them during their stay. We pride ourselves at Shangri-La for providing a seamless stay experience, so we ensure that our concierge team is well–versed on all the upcoming attractions in the city and have expert knowledge of things to do. Dubai is a fantastic destination that never stops pushing the boundaries of what is possible in life. We are doing anything we can do to make those experiences come to life for our guests.

As new destinations have become increasingly popular, and as Dubai is such a hub for further travel around the world, we have also seen more travellers coming to Dubai as a stopover city destination before they travel to more exotic places such as the Maldives or Mauritius. Due to this trend, we have joined forces with our sister properties to create unique packages for couples, friends and families that wish to combine several destinations in one trip, whilst getting maximum value and the expected high standards of five-star service that they can rely on.  

TTG: How have you seen the luxury tourism industry in the GCC evolve over recent years?

Dubai has always been a leader in luxury tourism, known for its lavish hotels and high quality leisure experiences. It continues to do what it does best better each year, however, we have witnessed more four-star hotel brands emerging, which offer a level of comfort that is more than adequate for travellers and is in fact of a much higher standard than some four-star properties on other continents. This has provided more choice for the consumer, not to mention the addition of platforms such as Airbnb onto the market. 

People are looking to 'switch it up' during their travel plans, for example, some guests like to indulge in true five-star luxury for a few days to completely relax, and then move onto a different property or style of hospitality to experience a different side of the city or destination. What this has meant for luxury hotels is that we have to be flexible for our guests. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all product, so it’s important to have the capacity to bend your offering to suit each individual guest and to tailor your services to meet their varied needs. It’s about treating guests as the individuals that they are.