Mohamed Soussan talks about carving a niche in the hospitality industry in Al Ain and expansion plans….
How has the first half of 2013 panned out for Ayla Hotels in terms of occupancies, guests’ numbers?
Ayla had really successful year – we closed 2012 with 75% occupancy on yearly basis and in 2013, till today, we are maintaining the occupancy above 80%. Our guest numbers till date is around 40,000 guests, which is an achievement for a hotel in Al Ain with only 153 rooms.
What was your initial target in terms of occupancies and guests numbers for 2013?
Our budgeted occupancy for this year was slightly above 70%, however we managed to secure business above the targeted budget. Our owners, Nael & Bin Harmal Investments impressed with the performance of the hotel, are encouraged to open another two properties in Al Ain.
Could you elaborate on your occupancy forecast for 2013?
Based on our results, forecast is going to stay and maintain a leading position in the market. We would also look at an additional 10% as Al Ain will host FIFA (under 17 World Cup) games in October, various conferences and competitions, exhibitions and events.
Are you looking at new target markets?
Yes, we are constantly searching for improvements in all segments. We have tied up with various tour operators, whole sellers and leisure segment in general in order to increase the presence of the brand. We are acquiring new business for Al Ain as a destination, and Ayla Hotel as a part of it.
Which markets currently form your strong guests’ base?
Traditionally, majority of our guests are from GCC market, and thanks to increased number of various projects in the city, we are hosting wide diversity of guests: French leisure groups, sports groups from around the world, UAE based families and so on. Still, being dry property, we are preferred option for our guests from neighbouring GCC countries.
What is the unique selling proposition of your properties?
Ayla Hotel is the newest property in the city, centrally located next to ministries and easily accessible from both Abu Dhabi and Dubai roads. In the hotel’s extension, there is supermarket, pharmacy and various shops, which is convenient for our long term staying guests. Besides that the hotel doesn’t serve alcohol; hence we are preferred options for GCC families.
There is growing competition in Al Ain with regards to new hotels, how do you manage to stay ahead of the game?
We do not want only our guests to feel as a part of Ayla family, the same approach is applied to all our staff too. We appreciate and reward achievers and memory-makers. Creating and keeping the ‘wow’ effect makes us different. Our strategy is to maintain the consistency in quality of products and services.
Could you elaborate on the key segmentation?
Majority of our guests are from corporate market, about 60%, followed by FITs (about 30%). The rest are leisure guests, families, honeymooners etc.
Any innovative strategies that being adopted to target the business segment or growing MICE guests?
Ayla Hotel has joined actions with Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, we are participating on various trade and road shows in the country and abroad, we are constantly exploring online booking engines. Due to location of the hotel and capacity to host up to 700 guests, Ayla accommodated good number of various conferences organized by Al Ain based universities and various UAE companies.
Do we see any refurbishment of current properties or new developments happening this year or next?
Ayla Hotels and Resort Company will open two more properties in Al Ain city: an additional four-star property adjusted to Bawadi Mall and a luxurious five-star Grand Ayla. Both properties are in pipeline for the first quarter 2014 with additional 320 rooms in the city. Ayla Hotel and Management Company is slowly growing and all future plans will be even more optimistic including UAE and international expansion.