“Thanks to the government’s efforts to attract tourism, the country’s appeal continues to grow, and there is so much on offer beyond the capital too”, says Samer Gerges – Director of Sales & Marketing, JW Marriott Muscat
With Oman emerging as a much sought-after tourism and business travel destination having a large impetus for growth in the hospitality sector, several global hotel brands are entering or expanding their presence in this gulf haven. The newly opened JW Marriott in Muscat is a testament to the same and reemphasizes the fact that Oman caters to the luxury consumer in a big way.
In this interview, we caught up with Samer Gerges – Director of Sales & Marketing, JW Marriott Muscat, to know more about the new hotel and some unique trends emerging in Oman’s hospitality sector. Read on to know more.
Tell us the key highlights of the new JW Marriott in Muscat. Why did you choose this location?
Location has been proven to be one of the most important factors of choosing a hotel for travelers, and it was certainly a pivotal factor in planning the JW Marriott Muscat. The hotel is the first JW Marriott in Oman and the first five-star hotel in Muscat’s new Madinat Al Irfan district, the country’s largest sustainable urban development project and an integrated community for residents, business and visitors. It is strategically located within short distance from Muscat International Airport and various places of touristic interest, and has become one of the capital’s most prominent urban communities. Set right at the development’s heart, it is the only hotel directly connected to the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre, and as such, we are perfectly positioned to be “the” business events destination.
Our style embodies our ‘Mindful and Present’ concept, combining approachable luxury with intuitive service for an experience that helps guests maintain balance whatever the purpose of their stay.
With 304 spacious rooms and suites in seven different categories, we are one of the biggest hotels in Muscat. We also offer 6 different restaurants and lounges with unique and new food and beverage concepts. Inspired by a sailor who discovered dishes from multiple lands and traded for unique spices during his travels and adventures, Kitchen 7 is an open concept restaurant, which reflects a culinary journey through the various live cooking stations. The number 7 plays a significant role and represents the seven different cuisines that guests can try and share among themselves and the signature mix of seven spices.
Meanwhile, Tonika is all set to be the ‘in’ place to gather, where guests can enjoy fresh ingredients and house-made infusions inspired by nature and the craft of botanists. We also have the largest Executive Lounge in town and we are the only hotel that offers a specialized Air Crew Lounge.
In terms of Health and Wellness facilities, the hotel has a spa and a state-of-the-art fitness center flooded with lots of natural daylight and overlooking the pool, sauna, steam rooms, jacuzzi, tennis court and multi-purpose court. We have 3 outdoor pools including a lap pool, a family pool and a kid’s pool.
For events big and small, we have more than 2,500sqm of flexible function space including 2 ballrooms with a separate entrance, state-of-the-art equipment, 6 meeting rooms with natural daylight, 2 terraces and beautifully-landscaped outdoor gardens.
From business travelers to tourists, to local families who want to spend a day at leisure, we focus on creating a sense of togetherness with a personable and memorable stay.
How do you see Oman as a market for luxury hospitality? Which other cities have potential in this regard apart from Muscat?
Oman has always been positioned as a luxury destination, and the stunning landscape and warm hospitality of the Omani people makes for the perfect set-up. Thanks to the government’s efforts to attract tourism, the country’s appeal continues to grow, and there is so much on offer beyond the capital too. Salalah, Musandam, Sur – they already have a presence in the market, and they have all the potential to keep growing.
Muscat itself has plenty of luxury hospitality offerings, but JW Marriott offers something different. Our brand embodies what we call “JW Luxury”, and it’s all about intentional service that anticipates our guests’ needs, programing that feeds the soul and nourishes the body, and natural, light-filled locations that engage the mind. Our approach is simple and natural – we foster an environment of togetherness and embrace each guest as one of our own. With a line-up of enriching events, we’re catering to a growing appreciation for the value of mindful experiences and the focus on all-round wellbeing. We are delighted to be bringing our signature approach to Muscat and we think it’s more than ready for it.
Who is going to be your key target – the business or the luxury consumer?
Both. We are a luxury five-star hotel and cater to a whole range of luxury travelers. Our strategic location makes us a convenient choice for delegates attending conventions and exhibitions at the nearby Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre, but what we offer is so much more than convenience.
Our bright, airy spaces and tranquil, understated design enables an inspiring and productive environment, while an array of uplifting experiences, thoughtfully crafted events and nourishing culinary journeys support a healthy life balance. Whether our guests come here on business or with family and friends, we have created experiences that foster togetherness and leave them feeling nurtured and with a deep sense that “all is well”.
Is MICE going to be a key focus area? What are you offering in the MICE space?
Because of its central location between Europe and East Asia, its stability, and an ever-growing range of world-class facilities, Oman is an ideal meeting point for the MICE sector. It’s also an undiscovered gem and is becoming more and more popular among business event organizers who want something different and new.
The opening of both Muscat International Airport and the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre has increased the capacity for tourism of all kinds. This is where the JW Marriott comes in. Built by the OMRAN, we play an integral role in attracting both business and leisure travelers to Oman. We offer a variety of carefully thought-out spaces to come together, to work, and most importantly, to switch off and unwind. Yet we do not merely serve as a business hotel – we are here to transform the whole classic luxury standard, providing guests with a warm, inclusive experience, set in an approachable sense of luxury.
Have you adopted responsible luxury as part of the new hotel property? Do you see a change in the way people consume luxury today – are there any peculiar trends?
Responsible luxury is a central part of Marriott International’s business strategy, and this impacts everything from design to guest experience. The company has pledged to reduce its environmental footprint by 50% across the portfolio by 2025.
The JW Marriott Muscat itself is LEED gold certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, which means it has been constructed with a high level of environmentally friendly and sustainable building practices. This environmental consciousness can also be seen in our day-to-day operations. For example, we do not display fresh cut flowers but choose plants instead as a sustainable alternative. There are no plastic straws in the hotel. We are also completely smoke-free.
These small actions are not only important to our own environmental conscience, but they’re important to our guests too. People are much more aware of the environmental and social impact of their choices these days and when they choose a hotel, they prefer companies that have embedded eco- friendly practices into their operations. In fact, Booking.com’s 2019 Sustainable Travel Report found that 70% of global travelers say they would be more likely to choose accommodation knowing it was eco-friendly.
This mindful thinking goes for the self as well, which we can see in the wellness movement. As well as thinking about the wider world, people also travel for their own wellness. That is also why our whole objective is to promote the ‘mindful and present’ experience. We’re finding more ways to enrich the mind, body and spirit, so that when our guests leave us, they feel a greater sense of wellbeing than when they arrived. We look forward to introducing our ‘Mindful Moments’ soon, including short breathing rituals and guided meditations to promote balance and restoration.
How do you plan to market the hotel in Oman?
We’re working closely with OMRAN, the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre and the Oman Convention Bureau, who are fully committed to promoting the hotel as a vital player in boosting the business events sector in the Sultanate attracting business travelers and tourists. We will also be actively participating in key global trade and travel markets.