Building a destination from scratch

Location may be everything for a hotel, but when your resort is sited in an area virtually unknown to potential regional and overseas visitors, there is much more that needs to be added to the equation. This has to occur before success is guaranteed, says Manoj Kanwal, general manager of the Danat Resort Jebel Dhanna.

We all know that, in terms of appeal for European tourists, the Gulf has the huge advantage of winter sunshine.  Add in sandy beaches and good hotel accommodation, combined with convenient airline access, and the result is a package that needs little more than pretty wrapping and a decorative bow to woo the pallid northern audience.

And, given the rocketing attractions of other Gulf destinations and the attendant pressure on room supply in that emirate, it is no secret that all neighbouring destinations have a unique opportunity to capitalise on the demand fermented by that city.

But, equally apparent to all those involved in the hospitality industry, is the fact that the new is not always the best marketing criteria - untested resorts, unknown names and postcards from the edge of civilisation are hurdles we had to overcome to position Jebel Dhanna as a destination of choice.

In this respect, the help of official tourism promotion authorities is invaluable. The launch of the Abu Dhabi Tourist Authority in September 2004 has given us a springboard at international exhibitions, establishing the emirate as a valid player in the Middle East arena.

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All the associate activities - press and trade familiarisations, advertising, marketing campaigns, a host of professional staff with international contacts, overseas representations, trade education and more - add to the impression of Abu Dhabi as more than just a federal capital and city of government.

MICE and leisure operators already familiar with the product are actively pushing Abu Dhabi as an alternative to neighbouring emirates, citing its less fully publicised attractions of desert, islands, beaches, oases, heritage and space to grow.

And, with a new agenda of development throughout the emirate of Abu Dhabi, the timing for the opening of the Danat Resort Jebel Dhanna was excellent, allowing us to position as a key destination for future growth - and one with unique natural attractions as well as leisure facilities.

Our location - that word again - opposite the Bani Yas Island Nature Reserve gives us one unique selling point, perhaps of more appeal to a regional audience, but one that will distinguish the resort from other beachfront hotels.

Add in the convenient distance to the deep dunes at Liwa, plus the opportunity for sea safaris as well as conventional desert barbecues and we can tap in to the market for activity holidays as well as team building and corporate retreats.

But, with a transfer distance from Abu Dhabi International Airport of two hours plus, this location has its obvious downside - all visitors are virtually reliant on the Danat Resort Jebel Dhanna for their every need, from bed and breakfast through to evening entertainment, daytime activities, child care and more.

Those looking for an alternative holiday experience to that of shopping and nightlife will find it here: we’re more low key here, but the destination is one of pure leisure. Simple family holidays, getaway weekends, spa and relaxation breaks, surf and turf for those who want to fish or try out our golf course, or simple de-stress packages are the priorities for our leisure marketing.

Whatever the market sector, the other essential ingredient in the mix is delivery of the goods. Here, we are fortunate in the strategy of the management company, Danat Hotels & Resorts, a division of the National Corporation of Tourism & Hotels

With a name that translates as ‘pearls’, the policy of treating each hotel as a jewel in its own right enables the management team here to hone the product to suit the appropriate market mix.

As the first new build property for the Abu Dhabi-based group, we are fortunate that the Danat Resort Jebel Dhanna is its flagship for expansion and a prime example of the policy of expansion beyond the traditional hotel oases in the capital city. As such, the hotel was designed to function as an integrated resort but one without the frills and fancies that are often designated as essential in more competitive locations.

Every care has been taken to ensure all guests feel comfortable, but pampered by personal attention. For many overseas visitors, the superior standards of accommodation, furnishings and restaurant facilities are a welcome surprise, contrasting well with the resorts they are familiar with in the Mediterranean, for example. But, this element of luxury has to be tempered by a genuine atmosphere of hospitality to create that memorable vacation experience - from the first welcome drink to the last farewell wave.

We are confident that the resort facilities will not fail to impress given the range of leisure and dining options, including a private 800-metre sand beach, two floodlit tennis courts, two squash courts, swimming pool, spa, golf and five superb restaurants and lounges offering international and pan-Arab cuisine as well as outdoor options.

However, this alone will not ensure the name Danat Resort Jebel Dhanna a position on the global travel stage. Every detail of the guest hotel experience has to be exceptional, because the resort has to stand alone.  Our visitors go away with a positive experience of a destination that offers something different, something that is worth talking about around the coffee machine at work.

We are not reinventing the wheel - we are working with tour operators to offer Danat Resort Jebel Dhanna as an alternative for winter sunshine and this season promises to be highly successful. For their customers to continue this word-of-mouth promotion, the team at the Danat Resort Jebel Dhanna is delivering a seamless holiday experience where ‘silence, sun and sand’ become lasting memories in their minds.

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