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Interview: Alila Hinu Bay GM Martin Persson on filling rooms in Oman

Despite opening in the midst of a pandemic, Oman’s second Alila property is already recording enviable figures. We speak to general manager Martin Persson to find out more

Having just opened in June 2021, Oman’s Alila Hinu Bay in Salalah marked the brand’s second property in the sultanate after mountain-top Alila Jabal Akhdar. Though still in its infancy and having opened during a tumultuous time for hospitality, the Salalah property performed well in its first month. Helmed by seasoned hotelier Martin Persson, he has leaned on the brand’s values and reached out to local, travel-starved communities. It’s a strategy that seems to be working.

Connecting Travel: What are the USPs of Alila Hinu Bay in Salalah?
Martin Persson: We’re an eco-friendly resort that boasts a nature-lovers paradise. Alila means ‘surprise’ in Sanskrit, which describes the character of our brand – we work on crafting bespoke journeys for each traveller; from bespoke packages to the flavours of the local cuisine, no detail is left untouched. Oman has incredible untouched nature, from the marine life to the incredible mountains and that’s something that’s one-of-a-kind. Our Leisure Concierge Team of local experts guide guests on their discovery of the hidden treasures that abound in this fascinating location.

CT: How will you continue to fill rooms and grow revenue?
MP: We recently launched summer promotions for local guests, given the current situation in Oman. Oman residents travelling to Salalah have to have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. We’re working on attracting those local residents who may be wary of travelling too far for their summer holidays and offering them a safe and enjoyable experience that’s right on their doorstep. As restrictions loosen over the coming months, we’re looking forward to welcoming international guests. 

Terrace RoomTerrace Room

CT: What are your key source markets?
MP: We have the perfect product for 365 days a year. Local and GCC guests can enjoy the freshness of summers during the Khareef season in the Dhofar region. We know that the Sultanate of Oman has a very unique standpoint in the GCC, as it’s one of the few countries that have both untouched marine and mountain reserves and, of course, the only presence of the Alila brand. We offer guests an unprecedented private space – a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere that invigorates the elements of its surroundings. International travellers can simply disconnect from their busy lives any time of the year. 

Oasis Swimming PoolOasis Swimming Pool

CT: How do you attract and maintain good staff?
MP: Alila Hotels, a Hyatt Hotels brand, believes guests select Alila Hotels because of caring and attentive colleagues who are focused on providing efficient service and meaningful experiences. We carefully select characters that understand our brand and how to represent it: those who are passionate about what they do and believe in attention to detail. Our team has a respect and understanding of the local environment, the community and culture, and can connect with guests on all levels. We also love to engage the heart, mind and senses of our team members and guests as we believe that the most memorable service is delivered genuinely from the heart.

It’s not just about knowing how to do it well, it’s about striving to do it better every day and delighting those around you

Internally, we organise training to develop our team members. There are also various developmental programmes and we hire within the company to motivate team members to see a future in the industry. There are also regular gatherings and open-table discussions to build internal communication. 

Pool VillaPool Villa

CT: More than a year into the pandemic, how is the hospitality sector performing?
MP: We faced several challenges throughout the last year, especially with planning a hotel opening during the most difficult time, but we’re proud to have overcome them, and we’re honoured to see such a positive response from our local guests, partners and the media. We’re currently operating at full capacity, following the rules and regulations of the local authorities, especially during weekends, which is remarkable given that we are still in our soft launch. It’s a very promising element for what’s to come.

CT: What steps should hoteliers take to drive industry recovery?
MP: We must ensure that our property offers a safe and sanitised space for our guests, that all the necessary steps are carried out and that we thoroughly practice safe hygiene to ensure peace of mind for all of our visitors.

Private diningPrivate dining

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CT: How did you get your start in hospitality?
MP: I started out in Sweden, where I launched my own F&B venues, which later led me to joining the Anantara brand in the UAE in 2010. Before that, I served as GM during the pre-opening of luxury beachfront villas and hilltop residences on a private island in Fiji. Prior to that, I worked as COO for another notable hotel group in the UAE.

CT: What makes a good hotelier?
MP: Ensuring guest satisfaction –I believe that’s essential for every good hotelier. There are so many hotels out there but the ones that guests will always remember are the ones where they had the best experiences, and we always strive to make that happen. 

CT: Do you have any expansion or development plans?
MP: The resort just recently opened, and our current focus is on guest experience, but that’s not to say we aren’t looking to grow in the near future. It’s important for us to be innovative and we strive to create unique experiences and facilities for our guests. We’re also committed to respecting and preserving the local nature, communities and lifestyle traditions, so we like to minimise our impact on the environment and adhere to Alila’s eco-sustainability policy. 

For more information, visit www.alilahotels.com 

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