IT’S out with the old and in with the new as Bahrain’s Elite Hospitality group retires a number of its older properties and prepares to launch others in replacement.
The company is showing its confidence in the Bahrain travel and tourism market, despite the recent unrest which has had a significant effect on business, with chief operating officer Sarosh Aibara declaring ‘We’re bullish about Bahrain’s future’.
The group opened the Elite Crystal, in the island’s busy Juffair district, for the GCC Olympics in October with the all-suite property launching at almost 100 per cent occupancy.
Aibara explained: “There is usually a period of soft opening but with these kind of figures we do not have that luxury so, once the games are over, we will take a brief time to regroup and make sure we have got everything right before the official opening which will be in November – needless to say we are very happy to be in this position!”
The 120-suite property also includes restaurants and a ballroom as well as the Bora Bora pool bar and Club 360 which is expected to draw visitors with specially laid-on international DJ events.
The official opening is expected to be announced at the World Travel Market in London this month.
The hospitality group is also looking at two further properties in Bahrain, one of which is already confirmed for land in Juffair and the other still in negotiation.
“What’s happened is that we had already decided to get rid of three of our older properties which were no longer up to the standards we want to maintain.
“One was in Sanabis, which has been one of the areas worst affected by the difficulties here, and also the Elite 1, 2 and 4 as we want to take care that we are able to offer the level of both service and accommodation that our guests are used to.
“In the meantime, we are opening the Elite Crystal and there are certainly others in the pipeline.
“If you look at the long-term future we are very confident – if we weren’t we would not be investing this kind of money.
“For the immediate future we are doing a lot with our food and beverage, in this situation it is the first area to bounce back and, in fact, we are doing better in food and beverage than last year.
“And we are very gung ho that we will have at least two more properties and possibly three in the not too far distant future – they are on the drawing board and I think in two or three years you will see that the situation here will have recovered.
“Weekend business is already coming back and what we need to work on is the weekday occupancy.”
On the food and beverage side Elite has recently launched a new service Le Cuistot, which provides outside catering for functions such as wedding receptions, cocktail parties and corporate events.
And at the group’s flagship Elite Resort property a new permanent outdoor banqueting facility has been constructed which can seat 600 in a columnless event space.
Initially aimed at the local and regional market, the new facility is already hosting conferences and weddings with plans to introduce both Arabic and international entertainment performances in the future.
Speaking of the prospects for long-term recovery, Aibara paid tribute to the Bahraini government’s incentive, through its Tamkeen arm, to provide incentive funding for hospitality businesses to promote both themselves and the island and said the next step is to pull in additional events and conferences and encourage more young Bahrainis to enter the industry.
“We need to have more events like MEOS (the Middle East Oil and Gas Show) and the GCC Olympics, the government needs to push that side.
“There need to be incentives for events to move here and there needs to be work with the hotels and industry to make this happen.
“The Ministry of Culture has started on this with the events it has staged, it’s a good start but we also need to be spending on promoting Bahrain as a business destination, which is where the Tamkeen initiative is good news.
“Another big challenge is Bahrainisation, we need to be engaging the young Bahraini population to show them that hospitality can be a good and rewarding career on which to build for the future.”
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