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Interview: Waldorf Astoria Kuwait’s GM on the hotel’s upcoming launch

Sirtikirmizi says location, service and a Roka restaurant will be key to attracting guests

Set to open this summer, the 200-key Waldorf Astoria Kuwait is just a short drive from some of the city’s historical and cultural sites, including the Grand Mosque of Kuwait. Expectations are high, in part due to a renowned restaurant that will be in residence: Rainer Becker’s modern Japanese concept Roka, sister restaurant to Zuma. We caught up with general manager Kemal Sirtikirmizi, the man tasked with overseeing the launch of what could become one of Kuwait’s most iconic properties.

Waldorf Astoria Kuwait exterior

Connecting Travel: What are the USPs of Waldorf Astoria Kuwait?
Kemal Sirtikirmizi: The brand name guarantees the highest standards of luxury and service. Just 11km and a 15-minute drive from Kuwait International Airport and located in the heart of Kuwait’s retail and entertainment district, the location gives our guests convenient access to local attractions such as the Kuwait Opera House and the Grand Mosque.

In addition, the property is connected to The Avenues, Kuwait’s largest shopping mall, featuring over 1,100 shops and 28 cinemas

In the heart of what’s considered an F&B hub, Waldorf Astoria Kuwait is set to offer Mediterranean restaurant Ava; Peacock Alley, an NYC-style café with Parisian influences; signature salads, pittas and sandwiches served until sunset at OXIO Poolside Lounge and Bar, later transforming into Kubbar Poolside Restaurant, serving Levantine cuisine; and most notably, the highly-anticipated award-winning Japanese robatayaki restaurant, Roka.

The property also offers the largest entry level guest rooms among other luxury hotels in the city.

Waldorf Astoria Kuwait Lobby

CT: What past experience has prepared you for the role of launching this hotel?
KS: Working in the luxury hospitality industry across the Middle East for over 20 years has taught me that the ultimate goal of a good hotelier is to provide guests with memorable experiences and impeccable service standards. I’ve always envisioned a holistic approach to hospitality, which perfectly communicates and delivers unforgettable guest experiences.

CT: How do you plan to attract and maintain good staff?
KS: We have gone through a rigorous selection process to appoint a stellar senior leadership team, who have gone through extensive training. While travel restrictions were in place, we took the time to double-down on our training and ensure that our team is prepared to offer the highest standard of services to our guests. Furthermore, Waldorf Astoria is part of Hilton, which has been recognised globally as a ‘Great Place to Work’ because of its commitment to creating a workplace environment that embraces diversity, promotes inclusivity and enables growth.

Together, we’re gearing up for the grand opening of what will be one of Kuwait’s most prestigious landmarks

CT: What’s your strategy to secure key source markets?
KS: Kuwait has set ambitious national targets for itself in line with the Kuwait Vision 2035, implementing a number of plans to boost tourism, including the expansion of Kuwait International Airport, reaching a 25 million passenger capacity annually by 2025.

Entrusted by our owners, Mabanee, myself along with my management team aim to offer a transformative journey of the senses at this ultra-luxurious property, from exquisite dining venues to world renowned facilities and services, ensuring that the property lives up to expectations.

This highly anticipated property brings a trusted luxury brand name to a community of affluent individuals who demand the highest levels of service locally and regionally. This will also successfully aid in attracting international tourism as part of the vision.

Guest room

CT: What steps should hoteliers take to keep driving Covid-19 recovery?
KS: As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, we’re starting to see clear, pent-up demand from travellers to venture back out into the world. However, hoteliers will need to continue re-assessing guests’ needs and priorities, placing an even greater focus on cleanliness and hygiene while creating a  meaningful experience for guests.

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Through Hilton Cleanstay, Hilton’s global programme offering an industry-leading standard of cleanliness and disinfection, we’re well prepared to offer guests peace-of-mind through every stage of their stay with us. This, coupled with our True Waldorf service will allow us to create a comfortable environment for our guests, all the while offering them access to tailored, one-of-a-kind experiences on property and around the city.

CT: How is Kuwait’s hospitality sector currently performing?
KS: As we emerge from the impact that the pandemic has had on travel, we have seen that Kuwait’s hospitality sector is witnessing a significant uptick, in line with Kuwait Vision 2035. The hospitality industry is putting an increased focus on quality and consistency during this period of recovery and growth, and we’re confident in our chosen timing to launch our iconic property, remaining optimistic for the future.

For more information, visit www.hilton.com/en/waldorf-astoria 

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