Breaking Travel News

Breaking Travel News interview: Kai Schukowski, general manager, Kempinski Hotel Ajman

Having being recognised as Ajman’s Leading Hotel by the World Travel Awards in 2015, Breaking Travel News editor Chris O’Toole here chats with Kempinski Hotel Ajman general manager Kai Schukowski about all the latest developments at the property.

Breaking Travel News: Could we begin with an overview of Kempinski Hotel Ajman? What is on offer there to luxury travellers?

Kai Schukowski: Being the oldest European luxury hotels operator and having been in the Ajman market for the past 17 years – already renowned and well established – we believe in capitalising on our distinct advantages and unique features, being a luxurious resort getaway.

We are well known as purely a leisure-driven destination, where people seek relaxation and tranquillity.

It is far from the buzz of the city, yet only a short drive away from Dubai.

The main focus is still on leisure and enjoying the resort facilities, as well as the 500 m white-sand beach.

In terms of facilities, we have excellent recreation and relaxation facilities, including two spas; a state-of-the-art fitness centre with sauna, steam bath and whirlpool bath; a tennis court; plenty of water sports options; and a 500 m white sandy beach, as well as a six-lane bowling alley and 12 food and beverage outlets.

The newest addition to the experiences is definitely Al Zorah Golf Club, with a spectacular 18-hole golf course by Nicklaus Design and only a short ten-minute drive away from the hotel.

Therefore, focusing on corporate traveller needs, we cater to the increasing trend for pleasure.

We feel that people want to come for a retreat and for meetings, but at the same time to have team outings on the beach, a BBQ at the seaside and infuse the corporate meetings with a touch of relaxation and serenity, to stimulate the mind, particularly for the MICE segment.

I believe that the trend is moving towards combining business with pleasure: business travellers are choosing a hotel where they can come with their spouse, being able to have a lovely holiday at the same time as working – convergences of corporate and leisure activities.

Luxury depends on people and their needs: luxury is interactive and personalised; limited yet timeless.

BTN: How would you describe the hospitality sector in Ajman and the United Arab Emirates more generally at present? Has it been hit by the unrest across the region?

KS: Since 1998, Kempinski Hotel Ajman had been the only five-star hotel, a situation that continued until 2012.

Within a couple of years, three new five-star hotels opened up and two others are in the pipeline to open up at the beginning of next year.

Ajman is looking to expand and there are many new hotels coming up.

The Ajman Tourism Development Department also offers great support in terms of putting Ajman on the map.

They host a yearly date festival over three days and there is also a plan to extend Sharjah sightseeing bus routes all the way to Ajman in order to show tourists the beautiful Corniche area and the five-star properties.

The Emirate of Ajman is widely growing and we are currently pulling our weight regarding internationally renewed luxury operators in order to be more visible.

Views over Kempinski Hotel Ajman

BTN: Can you tell us a little about what is on the agenda for 2016? Are there any improvements or major events scheduled you are keen to share with our audience?

KS: Kempinski Hotel Ajman has just recently opened up a new rooftop outlet, Majlis, offering panoramic views over the Arabian Gulf and, on a clear day, even of the world’s tallest tower, Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

We are very proud to announce that the food and beverage department is successfully enhancing our guests’ experience, adding to its 12 currently successful outlets.

In addition to the developments on January 1st, we have also entered into a partnership with Al Zorah Golf Club.

Through this partnership, Kempinski Ajman guests will receive special rates and can make bookings at the hotel reception desk.

The newly opened club is ranked in the top ten golf courses of the Middle East and is only a short 15-minute drive from Kempinski Hotel Ajman.

Apart from the 18-hole Nicklaus-designed golf course, the project includes world-class hotels and resorts, residences, commercial space and leisure facilities.

We are also enhancing our guests’ experience with the new set-up of the Cosmic Bowling bar, aiming to become the preferred one-and-only bowling place-to-be in the Northern Emirates.

Food and beverage-wise, I believe that people want more diversity, and our focus is on speciality restaurants, as the trend is moving away from the regular all-day diners.

Instead of the seamless concepts, people prefer more of an open space, the combining of a restaurant and a bar, fitting more into the hotel’s casual feel.

As we can also see, there are a number of successful stand-alone restaurants taking a lot of market share from the hotels.

Therefore, I believe that there has to be careful thought behind the question of how to run successful hotel-managed restaurants.

While 2015 was about yielding, 2016 will be all about achieving the critical mass of volume in order to fill the hotels and restaurants.

Once that is achieved, we can start “building” and “driving” the rate.

With the increasingly short booking window, forecasting becomes more complex and last-minute, thus securing the strong base early on helps hoteliers to avoid falling into the last-minute “alert mode”, where rates have to be drastically dropped.

BTN: Who do you tend to welcome to the hotel? Is it largely GCC guests, or a more international affair?

KS: As Kempinski is the oldest European luxury hospitality group, the majority of the guests are certainly from our international key-feeder markets, such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as well as CIS countries.

Depending on the season, we have increased the number of our visitors from the GCC countries, especially during the holiday season in August.

BTN: Kempinski Hotel Ajman was recognised as Ajman’s Leading Hotel by the World Travel Awards in 2015. How did it feel to take this title?

KS: Kempinski Hotel Ajman is honoured to have been recognised as Ajman’s Leading Hotel by the World Travel Awards in 2015, as it is a prestigious, globally trusted awards initiative, involving outstanding luxury properties around the world, and we highly appreciate the opportunity to be part of it.

BTN: Do you feel accolades of this kind help develop the brand of the property?

KS: Association with the prestigious World Travel Awards is powerful, as it boosts direct marketing and promises to have a great impact on guests’ perceptions and the hotel’s overall revenue.

The award winners set the benchmark for luxury hotels and on the global front in achieving recognition for exceptional service.

More Information

Find out more about the Kempinski Hotel Ajman on the official website.