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Breaking Travel News interview: Pep Lozano, general manager, Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal

Breaking Travel News interview: Pep Lozano, general manager, Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal

After much anticipation, the 532-room Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal is on track to open its doors in September, marking the luxury lifestyle hotel group’s first foray into the UAE’s capital city. Breaking Travel News sits down with general manager Pep Lozano to discuss plans for the new property.

Breaking Travel News: Is the Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal still on target to open at the end of September?

Pep Lozano: Yes, with tremendous support from our owners Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH), we are committed to opening the hotel early in the fourth quarter.

BTN: What will the opening this new hotel bring to the destination?

PL: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is world-renowned for delivery exceptional experiences for our guests.  Having the Ritz-Carlton flag flying in Abu Dhabi will certainly be an asset to the community and we are working with government entities such as Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TAC) and partners like Etihad Airways, and their global offices, to leverage every opportunity for international exposure of our destination.

BTN: What will differentiate the Ritz Carlton from other properties in Abu Dhabi, where competition is becoming increasingly steep?

PL: Delivery is key and we have a service legacy we are proud of. Our priority is to always maintain the integrity of The Ritz-Carlton brand, ensure we deliver exceptional service for our guests and communicate as much as we can with our Ladies & Gentlemen.

BTN: How do you create a ‘wow’ experience for well-travelled guests?

PL: Disrupting convention in the hotel category, The Ritz-Carlton poses an alternative style of question to guests, asking ‘Let Us Stay With You’, thereby reversing the age-old approach of hotels asking guests to stay with them.  Guests are requested to allow The Ritz-Carlton to be much more than just a hotel; indeed to be that indelible memory that lasts a lifetime. 

Showcasing the core service philosophy that makes Ritz-Carlton a successful luxury lodging company, we recently introduced an entirely new communications approach through the use of artwork, film, messaging, and digital experience platforms, called ‘Let Us Stay With You’.  It delivers the message in an intriguing fashion, drawing explicitly on a guests’ power of memory, by creating serendipitous moments that recall the beautiful facilities, one-of-a-kind on-site experiences, and services provided by the ladies and gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton.

BTN: What dining experiences will be available?

PL: The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal offers 10 restaurants, including 3 signature restaurants (Lebanese, Asian and Steak house) designed by award-winning Super Potato.  This is Super Potato’s Middle East debut and first time 3 concepts have been developed for a single property.  Other outlets include an all-day dining restaurant, a Lobby Lounge, a Lobby Bar, a gelato and coffee café, a pool restaurant and two pool bars.

BTN: What will be your main priorities for the first few months of operation?

PL: Our main priorities will be to establish The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal within the community and as a part of Abu Dhabi residents’ day to day life; the hotel will not only be a place to eat and sleep but where society meets.

BTN: How are forward bookings at the property?

PL: We’re very happy with the response from our clients and guests, and are on target for our group pace.

BTN: What types of travellers will you mainly target?

PL: With a hotel inventory of 532 rooms and a 1,550 square meter ballroom, group business will be very important to the success of this hotel.  The vast array of options within our facilities cater to M.IC.E, Government and Corporate segments, and the leisure amenities such as our 1,600 meter pool, Kids Club and 15-treatment room spa will lure leisure travellers from within the GCC. 

BTN: Which emerging markets will you look to tap into in coming months?

PL: China and India are important emerging markets for The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal.  Having representation of Ritz-Carlton global sales offices in both locations will allow us to further tap into these markets for leisure travellers, groups, as well as wedding, all of which we have already seen very positive response from.

Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi Club Lounge

BTN: To what extent are the internet, social media and mobile technologies a priority for the Abu Dhabi Ritz Carlton? Do you have any new technological innovations to announce soon?

PL: We ensure our brand remains relevant to the consumer – and that we reach them in the ways they have told us they would like to be reached. The sophisticated customer of today turns to the internet for travel information and inspiration. As a brand we are focused on developing our social media assets and online engagement channels to incorporate more video and additional user generated content channels for our guests who wish to share their Ritz-Carlton experiences in the digital space. Current channels include Facebook / Twitter, YouTube, FourSquare (we launched our Foursquare World Concierge program bringing the very best travel advice and expertise from our Concierge around the world, and the most recently channel launched in May 2012 was Pinterest.

BTN: Can you comment on how Abu Dhabi has evolved over the past few years and emerged as a leading tourism hotspot?

PL: The city of Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is undertaking great work and is very much in-line with the Abu Dhabi 2030 vision.  They include establishing solid foundations such as exceptional hotel inventory, key attractions like Ferrari World, National Theatre, the Abu Dhabi Classical Music Society, the upcoming Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum, and the Louvre, as well as long-term, viable projects such as the Cleveland Clinic.  We are working very closely with Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and other key governmental stakeholders to ensure the success of this vision and our property. Already we have received tremendous support from the government entities, for which I would like to thank.

BTN: What do you consider to be the main challenges for Abu Dhabi this year

PL: In my opinion, the main challenge is still the global economic situation.  However, Etihad Airways, considered one of the best airlines in the world, continue to expand and drive awareness for our destination as well as traffic into Abu Dhabi, which has grown since last year.

BTN: What travel patterns / trends are emerging in the Middle East?

PL: The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority has opened offices in London, New York and Moscow, which are indicative of emerging markets and trends that we are seeing.  The leisure segment from these markets continues to grow.  We’re seeing an increase in 4-night stay travel patterns in this region and of course, family travel from the GCC market continues to thrive with more shopping and entertainment options available in Abu Dhabi.