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Interview: Alila’s Juan Paolo Alfonso on getting guests back to Oman

There’s no single formula for success, says Alila Hinu Bay, Salalah’s GM

As tourists are finally able to move again, mobile source markets such as the GCC and UK are prime targets for Oman’s travel sellers. Juan Paolo Alfonso, general manager of Alila Hinu Bay, Salalah is one of the hoteliers in Oman’s luxury landscape trying to hook holidaymakers. Connecting Travel caught up with him to discuss tactics.

Alfonso started out pursuing a career as a chef and then found himself in a programme in Australia that combined culinary and hotel management. During the programme, he had an opportunity to take part in a front office internship position at the Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove and that experience made him want to become a hotelier. He joined  Aman Resorts shortly after graduating and has been in hospitality ever since.

Connecting Travel: What makes you a good hotelier?
Juan Paolo Alfonso: Being fortunate to have been posted in different parts of the world and working with different people gave me the opportunity to gain so much perspective. This has given me the ability to quickly adapt to a new environment. As there’s no single formula for success, we always have to find the best ways to move forward.

My previous experience gives me a bank of learning to draw upon to find the perfect combination for this property

Terrace RoomAlila Hinu Bay, Salalah Terrace Room

CT: What are the USPs of Alila Hinu Bay, Salalah?
JPA: Our location is a definite USP. Situated amid a stunning desert landscape that rests between the mountains and the sea, we get the best of both worlds. We are in a unique position to discover hidden gems that surround us and share those discoveries with our guests. The resort integrates so well with the surroundings, and the team cares for guests like they’re family. 

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CT: How do you attract and maintain good staff?
JPA: Attracting good colleagues is never easy, especially in remote locations. The most important aspect is to recruit likeminded people who believe in what we are doing and are aligned with our values.

The colleague journey is much more fulfilling when what we do aligns with them on a personal level

CT: What is your strategy to increase occupancy and revenue? 
JPA: The key is to share our discoveries with those who have a passion for exploration and a penchant for the extraordinary. We are confident that we have a compelling offering here at Alila Hinu Bay. One that can take you on a journey of adventure and rejuvenation.

Pool VillaAlila Hinu Bay, Salalah Pool Villa

CT: What are your key source markets?
JPA:We receive guests from all over the world. The majority hail from Germany, France and the UK. The domestic market has come here as well, curious about discovering the new resort in their own backyard. In addition, the GCC market is key for us especially during the summer monsoons known as the ‘Khareef Season’, which is when everything transforms into a lush tropical paradise. 

CT: How do you attract those guests from the GCC with so much on their doorstep, from adventures in Ras A Khaimah to glamour in Dubai?
JPA: In the same vein that we attract long-haul guests, we offer the GCC market something different: an opportunity to explore an undiscovered gem. In addition,we’re very fortunate to be in a region that’s popular with the GCC market. People from all over the GCC descend upon the area to marvel at the greenery during the summer.

Our property acts as a launchpad for exploring the mountains and the wadis

CT: How is the regional hospitality sector currently performing?
JPA: The region is definitely on the rebound right now. The year started slowly with Omicron raging through many parts of the world, but that has since settled down, and we now see a steepening recovery slope compared to the months prior. Credit has to be given to Oman as the country has done an excellent job in making it easier for people to come. Most recently they’ve done away with PCR test requirements for inbound travellers who are fully vaccinated, making the country an even more compelling option.

For more information, visit www.hyatt.com/en-us/hotel/oman/alila-hinu-bay

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