We speak to Luis Cobo, hotel manager of Park Hyatt Dubai, one of the emirate’s heritage properties
Having closed its doors for six months last year as a result of the pandemic, Park Hyatt Dubai reopened in September 2020. As the property prepares to welcome increasing numbers of international visitors, hotel manager Luis Cobo reveals what ignited his passion for hospitality, the USPs that make his property stand out from its competitors, plus some exciting developments regarding the hotel’s dining options.
Connecting Travel: How did you get your start in hospitality?
Luis Cobo: I always had a passion for connecting people and ensuring they always had a good time. At a young age in Marbella I helped my older friends sell tickets for summer parties and I did a lot of public relations in the city. That helped trigger my hospitality DNA. I was lucky to grow up in Marbella where every summer I would see the glamour that came to the city, from movie stars to royal families, and I always said to myself my goal was to manage a luxury hotel that I would be proud of being part of.
CT: Which aspects of your previous experience make you a good hotelier?
LC: Making people feel at home outside their country and hosting when they were coming to Spain was an important factor for me and helped me to organically grow my passion for hospitality. I’ve worked my entire career abroad, hence I ensured I participated in the local culture and traditions of the country I’m in. Being flexible, persistent, curious and goal-oriented helped me grow my hotelier career. I still have so much to learn. I feel this is just the beginning considering upcoming technology, architectural and design trends.
Just a 10-minute ride from Dubai International airport, The Park Hyatt and Dubai Creek Resort is surrounded by an 18-hole championship golf course on one side and a beautiful marina on the other. We consider our resort to be a green oasis with a low-rise, tranquil and serene ambience. Guests can choose from 11 culinary experiences as well as relax in our award-winning Amara spa by Sammy Gharieni’s (known as the guru of worldwide wellness). If you want to keep yourself fit while on vacation or a business trip, we have the ultimate fitness experience with the latest technology and qualified professionals. Recreation plays a very important role in our resort and we’ve partnered with the best padel and tennis trainers in Dubai.
CT: How do you attract and maintain good staff? What are the challenges?
LC: We have a strong development plan for our staff with a clear succession planning which gives confidence and clarity to the team towards their future careers. It is very rewarding to see our entire team is hungry for growth, they want to learn, be cross-trained in different divisions and strive to be the best in the market. For us leaders, it is very important to stay informed about our competition and to always have awareness of benefits offered in the region; naturally we want to stay competitive to attract and retain top talents. We are currently doing a survey/study with young hotelier students coming out of school. We’ve noticed their needs and behaviour are very different to students who were coming out of school 20 years ago. We must adapt to the new generations, they are tech-savvy with a completely different mindset.
CT: How do you attract and cater to guests from the GCC?
LC: GCC clients are very important to us and we ensure we cater to their needs at all times. Catering to the finest, our landscaping throughout the resort and having a wide range of different settings for social events makes the Park Hyatt a very popular destination among GCC clients. Before the pandemic we had 100+ local weddings and also many destination weddings. We are aware of the power of social media today and we are fortunate to have a resort that is very Instagrammable. We are overwhelmed by the demand for photoshoots. We have 24 villas with private pools that we sell as Holiday Homes and these are very popular among GCC clients due to their privacy and services offered by Park Hyatt. Our resort is a great destination for families too. We’ve introduced the Cave Kids Club, which is a superb facility for kids of all ages, as well as mini golf, padel and tennis classes for kids. Our chefs are very involved in showing kids the basics of a kitchen and we have the “Le Petit Chef” activation which is ongoing.
CT: What percentage of your guests are from the GCC?
LC: Guests from the GCC make up 20% of our business.
CT: What steps must hoteliers take to drive Covid-19 recovery?
LC: First of all to ensure we have the right people in place to run the business as if it was their own. Guests are concerned about safety, hence providing them the confidence already before they travel is key for them to have the right mindset. Our Sales and Guest Experience team have put together a great video that they send to all partners and incoming guests explaining all the measures we take against Covid-19. Lastly, to maintain the relationship with partners and return guests, we haven’t seen some of our loyal customers for more than two years but we ensure we stay in touch with them to ensure their wellbeing and we give them an update of the happenings in the resort. We remind them the Park Hyatt still remains their home away from home.
CT: More than a year into the pandemic, how is the hospitality sector currently performing?
LC: We closed the hotel for six months and reopened in September 2020. We had a phenomenal opening and we outperformed all targets. In general all our returning guests were and are very impressed with how Dubai has bounced back for tourism. The arrival experience at the airport is sensational and they feel super-safe throughout the city. We trust that the UAE will continue to take the necessary measures to ensure all visitors continue to feel safe and welcomed and we hope that vaccination campaigns throughout the world speed up so international travel resumes as soon as possible.
Brasserie du Park terrace
CT: Do you have any expansion or development plans you can share?
LC: On the rooms side we are in the process of finalising our Mock Up Suite as we plan to renovate half of the hotel next year. It looks breathtaking. We are adding a culinary experience in September with the opening of Cinnamon Club, an institution of fine dining Indian Cuisine in London. Twiggy by La Cantine is doing some great noise in the city and we’ve decided to extend the restaurant by adding an additional 100 seats so we can cater to the high demand we have.