In a session hosted by the BBC World News anchor and HardTalk presenter Zeinab Badawi, the chairman of Rocco Forte Hotels said he believed people, places and personalisation remained the holy grail for sustained commercial success.
Forte’s hotel chain comprises 10 European properties, with a new Middle Eastern location set to launch later this year with the 210-room hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“At the end of the day, luxury hotels have always been about delivering personalised service. It’s about making the guest feel special, welcome and wanted. We are doing a lot of work in developing and training our staff so that they are more responsive to customers,” Forte said.
“Our guests tell me how friendly and welcoming the people in our hotels are, and as long as we maintain that, we will always be able to compete and be successful. If I get a customer complaint, it hurts me personally. The reality, certainly in the luxury sector, is that it’s about people, service and details. Finding new and better ways to develop excellent service for our customers.”
When quizzed about opportunities elsewhere in the region, and the supply-demand imbalance, Forte said Oman was an interesting destination, but one that he said was “slow to get going”.
“Here, in Dubai, there’s been huge growth in visitors since the financial crash. All the hotel companies say that supply is running ahead of demand, which has brought the average daily rate down. If [Rocco Forte Hotels] was to come here, I’m not sure where I’d go or what I’d do,” he added.
Commenting in response to a question on market consolidation and the rise of mega brands, with the impending Starwood-Marriott merger, he said: “I am always going to be a niche player; I don’t have to play the numbers game. Every hotel I do has to be special, individual and attractive in its own right.”