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Interview: Laura Eggleton on the importance of strategic collaborations

Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown’s GM says confidence has returned to the sector

Laura Eggleton discovered her passion for hospitality and love for the industry in her early teens. At the age of 13, while sheltering from the rain inside a small family hotel in my home village, she found her calling and never turned back. With 14 years of hands-on hospitality experience under her belt, Eggleton has occupied several pioneering positions including her role as the first female general manager for InterContinental Hotels Group in Oman. At the helm of Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown since 2018, she is responsible for shaping, transforming and driving innovative guest experiences. We caught up with her to talk about diversity, driving revenue and an exciting new project in the pipeline.

Connecting Travel: What makes you a good hotelier?
Laura Eggleton:I believe my experience in different countries, working with a variety of nationalities, has really shaped my leadership style today. As a result of a vast range of experiences across different regions, I believe I am well poised to make decisions that best suit the business I manage today. Of course, many things have evolved within the hospitality space since I started my career; however, the one thing that underpins hospitality remains the same: it’s all about people.  

CT: What would you say are the USPs of your property?
LE: Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown is the first certified boutique hotel in the United Arab Emirates. An amalgamation of old and new, the hotel is a perfect fusion of modern comfort alongside a celebration of the rich traditional culture of the UAE. With the story of our neighbourhood in every thoughtfully designed detail, and local influence in every taste and every twist, we’ll help you to see the city through a different lens. Unique and mesmerising, Hotel Indigo Dubai is the ultimate destination for the art lover. A truly unique element is the in-house art curator, who can offer expert tours and workshops for discerning visitors.

You can also stay with your furry friends at our pet-friendly property

Hotel entranceHotel entrance

CT: How do you attract and maintain good staff? What are the challenges?
LE: Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown is very attractive for the younger generations, especially generation Z, who prefer to work for brands that allow them to be authentic and bring their real selves to work, as well as value growth opportunities. We make sure to highlight real examples of promotions as we do not follow the usual industry-prescribed guideline of 12 or 18 months: colleagues have been promoted as quickly as four months post-joining, and some have even been promoted twice in a year.

We have an extremely inclusive management culture, encouraging colleagues to feel comfortable coming to work and having fun while they’re at it

We also offer competitive benefits, including various performance-related incentives. We hire potential over pedigree and our interview process is designed to dedicate most of the interview to unearth the story behind each candidate. We have also consciously created an extremely diverse team consisting of 42 nationalities because, as they say, diversity is the art of thinking independently together!

As the market is extremely dynamic, with many hotels opening every year, we do find that challenges arise as colleagues could change jobs for very minor monetary increases, which makes creating long-term career vision, especially for Gen Zs, even more difficult due to their focus on short-term gains and ease of job hopping. We also face challenges in finding quality front-liners and management, as many leave the industry due to an overall lack of competitive salaries and work environments focused on wellbeing.

Superior king roomSuperior King Room

CT: Are you implementing any strategies to drive occupancy and revenue?
LE: Now that travel is making a comeback we are actively targeting international markets through various visits and partnerships. We of course maintain focus on the local market as well by always coming up with new and attractive offers, especially in collaboration with top-notch brands such as our most recent partnership with Galeries Lafayette to provide an incredible Eid staycation package, as well as our partnerships with The Theatre of Digital Art, Careem and many more.

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CT: What are your key source markets?
LE: The GCC is our key source market, in addition to the UK and Germany. However, we are constantly looking at penetrating new markets and recently visited trade shows in both the US and Israel in order to do just that.

CT: How do you attract and cater to guests from the GCC?
LE: We find that Snapchat is an excellent tool in reaching guests from the GCC, in addition to exceptionally attractive packages and offers, such as our most recently launched room offer in collaboration with Galeries Lafayette, wherein guests booking suites will get a $50 gift voucher to spend at the biggest, multi-brand, upscale department store in Dubai. To take the celebrations to the next level, we’re also giving guests a unique complimentary personal shopping and makeup experience.

Hotel Indigo Downtown swimming poolSwimming pool

CT: How is the regional hospitality sector currently performing in terms of recovery?
LE: The regional hospitality sector is performing stronger than ever, with Dubai’s hotel industry reporting its highest monthly room rates since 2015, according to preliminary December 2021 data from STR. The market’s absolute ADR and RevPAR levels were its highest for any month since January 2015 and March 2015 respectively. Reports from Dubai Tourism indicate that the final quarter of 2021 provided a major boost to Dubai hotel results, with properties surpassing even 2019 figures across all major KPIs. Occupied room nights in the quarter hit 10.1 million, up 12% from 2019’s nine million. A new report from global consulting firm Deloitte also found that at a global level, Dubai’s hotels were among the leading performers across key metrics assessed.

CT: Would you say that confidence has returned to the sector?
LE: Confidence has most definitely returned to the sector, thanks to Dubai’s carefully calibrated strategy and decisive measures that were put in place from the very beginning to counter and manage the pandemic.

By meticulously following the highest standards of hygiene and safety, Dubai has been able to reinforce the trust that UAE residents and global travellers place in the city

CT: Do you have any new developments in the pipeline that you can share?
LE: Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown is continuously working to identify concepts and projects to enhance and contribute to the unique feel and reputation of the hotel. That being said, we have a few very exciting projects launching very soon, most notably our upcoming urban/unconventional Korean BBQ concept in collaboration with chef Reif Othman on the 20th floor called How-Lee-Kow.

For more information, visit www.ihg.com/hotelindigo

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