Christian Hirt, managing director for Raffles and Fairmont hotels at the Katara Towers in Doha, elaborates on the steps that the two properties are taking to remain at the forefront of the city’s hospitality sector.
What are some of the recent activations within the two hotels?
Post the World Cup, we started all our food and beverage activations in our restaurants and also our entertainment concepts. We started conducting events on the rooftop Acoustic Music Penthouse [in the Raffles]. This year, we took our Ramadan tent seaside, and we had a beautiful Iftar and Suhoor offering in our garden, spanning between the Raffles pool all the way to the Fairmont pool. As for our spas, we always make sure that whatever we do between the two hotels complements each other. In Fairmont, we focus on active well-being, nutrition and recovery, and in Raffles, we’re focusing on advanced beauty and well-being. We’re working with leading experts such as Dr Burgener and Bastien Gonzalez.
Which are some of the standout culinary offerings at the Fairmont and Raffles?
Provok Asian Project in Fairmont has eclectic cuisine that’s pushing boundaries. We have an amazing beverage concept there. We have a beverage lab that is common to the two hotels, and our beverage director has come up with exceptional creations including zero-alcohol beverages. Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, our contemporary Indian concept, is also an exceptional restaurant. The food, the attention to detail and the presentation are second to none.
Of course, we have Alba by Enrico Crippa in Raffles which is doing very well. We have a chef’s table in the kitchen which is great fun. And then there is the Blue Cigar lounge in the Raffles where we have 6,500 books and the largest cigar selection in the country. As part of its programming, we link the food and beverages concept there to the literature available in the library.
How have you collaborated with Qatar’s government entities to promote your hotels?
We are receiving wonderful support from Qatar Tourism and Qatar Airways. We had an activation with Paris Saint-Germain, and that came through our partnership with Qatar Tourism. We’re working right now on a very big piece with Qatar Tourism that will be in our hotel and which will promote the entire country. With Qatar Airways, we work very closely in particular with their Discover Qatar programme. We work with them on events such as Formula One. We also have activations together at the ATM and other trade shows.
What’s been the steepest personal learning curve about the Qatar hospitality market?
The biggest learning was that the lead times with which we receive requests for large groups and important bookings are short. This is something that I have experienced more in Qatar than in other destinations. A lot of the business that we’re picking up for a specific month, is secured within that month itself – it can sometimes be over 50 per cent of our business. That, of course, has an implication on planning and so we have to plan ahead and be more flexible.
Is attracting and retaining human talent a challenge?
Across the two properties, we have just under 1,000 employees. With the World Cup held in Qatar, we had less of an issue attracting talent, but the challenge now is to retain them. A lot of that has to do with motivation and long-term career planning. That’s where our brands come into the game, because if we want to develop our talents, we need to make use of all our brands. Surely, the right mix of benefits have to be in place too.
What is planned for the hotels over the next few months?
We have a floating island on the water, the Privée Island Club, which is built as a reflection of the towers on the water, and will open in the middle of September. We will have a mini spa, private cabanas, a restaurant, bar and boutique, and all of this will be available exclusively for the residents of the hotel. We are also working on bringing artists and conducting concerts in the Katara Hall over the summer. We’re working on culinary enhancements with guest chefs and travelling mixologists and will also have a culinary festival which will kick off after the summer. Towards the end of the year, we will start the sale of our residences.
(All images: Supplied by Fairmont and Raffles Doha)