Breaking Travel News interview: Simon Coombs, president and chief executive, Shaza Hotels
Rapidly developing Shaza Hotels seeks to mix the cultural influences of the Middle East with the latest in contemporary design.
Following the brand’s recognition as the World’s Leading Emerging Luxury Hotel Brand at the World Travel Awards Grand Final in Doha, Breaking Travel News here sits down with chief executive Simon Coombs to discuss how this vision is being realised.
Breaking Travel News: Shaza Hotels is still a relatively new brand in the market place. Can you tell us a little about the motivations behind its launch and the philosophy it hopes to employ?
Simon Coombs: Shaza Hotels was founded with the specific vision of our shareholders to create an international luxury hotel brand that celebrates the cultures of the Silk Route, and that belongs to the people of the Middle East.
We want to create hotels that are both contemporary, but also able to reflect through their architecture and interior design, subtle signatures and whispers of the region expressed in a manner that creates a sense of belonging and identity.
These combined with a service experience that brings genuine warmth delivered with sincerity and pride.
We know for instance how important family values are in our culture and what our guests need when travelling with their relatives.
These requirements are emphasised by the thoughtful configuration of the rooms and our innovative Kids’ Club concept, which focuses on education, entertainment and exploration as a positive and enriching experience for our younger guests.
Our values reflect the values of the region and its people, its art, and its food, and are reinforced by the fact that we do not and will not serve alcohol in any of our hotels.
BTN: Where does the brand stand in its development at present? How many properties do you offer, where are they located and from where do you tend to attract guests?
SC: We currently operate a leading hotel in Al Madinah.
We have also secured hotels in Doha, Salalah, Jeddah, and Amman, and intend to further build upon our growing portfolio with properties in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Al Khobar, Istanbul, Muscat, Makkah, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Cairo.
Our ultimate objective is to have 25 carefully selected and thoughtfully delivered hotels in our portfolio.
It is important that each one of our hotels is designed around the guest experience, and how best this can be consistently delivered, in terms of both the physical product and the creation of a positive emotional experience for our guests.
Of course, our hotels will attract guests from different sources throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and South East Asia, depending on the location and the market demographics, but we do hope to establish a strong sense of identity with our brand with all of our future guests.
BTN: How about looking to the future? I believe you have a series of openings planned for the coming years. Can you tell us a little about these?
SC: Next year will be an exciting year for us with the opening of a unique hotel in Amman.
We believe that this hotel will create a refreshing buzz in the Jordanian capital and provide a destination for the community to enjoy exciting new concepts in dining and entertainment.
For instance, we have created a suspended fashionable theatre on top of the hotel, where local and foreign artists will perform whilst guests enjoy various grill specialities.
This opening will be followed by others in Doha and Jeddah, and our first resort which will open in Salalah, the Arabian Peninsula’s only tropical destination.
Our resort will offer honeymooners the opportunity to enjoy the magic of Oman’s South Coast in the privacy of their luxurious villas.
Children will have their own Kids’ Club and swimming pool, as well as a private movie theatre.
Some of our suites have even their own private plunge pool on the balcony!
BTN: Shaza has recently been recognised by the World Travel Awards as the World’s Leading Emerging Luxury Hotel Brand and won among some leading hotel brands in the world. Can you tell us how it felt to win there and how the award came about?
SC: The recognition gained through this prestigious award obviously generates a lot of pride and we are very honoured to have received this.
It is now clear that our audience also believes that we have a compelling brand proposition; a unique offering having the personality of a small, evolving and distinct brand, and yet supported by the infrastructure of the leading European hotelier in Kempinski.
This is a totally unique situation, and we intend to make the most of this opportunity and be the first luxury hotel brand to occupy this space.
We hope that in coming years we will no longer be seen as an “emerging” brand, and with more new openings and through securing additional properties in our target locations.
We will be seen as having established Shaza Hotels as the preferred operator to guests, employees and hotel investors who share our cultural vision.
BTN: Do you feel the trophy and title will help in the development of Shaza Hotels?
SC: We hope that this award will provide further encouragement and comfort to owners and developers of luxury hotels who desire the reliability, systems and distribution of the major international brands, but who wish to partner with an operator who genuinely understands and respects their values and the sensitivities of their culture.
We would like to reach out and to encourage such owners and developers who are yet undecided as to whom to entrust with their valuable asset, to come and speak to us - we are sure that very quickly they will feel a strong sense of identity both with the Shaza brand and in the manner in which we do business.