A touch of retail

Hotels in the GCC are adding another layer of retail to make the overall experience for the customer unique and more engaging.




Gone are the days when exciting gift and souvenir shops were a predictable lobby fixture in upscale hotels all over the world. For a great majority of travellers and businessmen, the word “hotel” sparks a number of thoughts like comfortable beds, exceptional service, fancy restaurants and relaxing spas.

The hospitality sector however, has turned things around quite a bit. The retail storm that has been hovering around has managed to make its way into hotel offerings and is now become a distinguishing feature of the hospitality sector.

As hotels compete with each other for corporate clients and leisure travellers, the retail offering within the hotel is a vital part of the marketing and branding strategies of any hotel brand, as it serves to delight customers. The dynamic hospitality sector in the GCC is vying for international recognition and partnering with unique and luxury brands, while upgrading and expanding their set-ups to accommodate and add retail brands to their families.

Hotels are well aware that retailing and hospitality require different levels and types of expertise. For a large number of luxury retailers, presence at hotels presents unique opportunities for them, especially with the existence of a more specific and defined target market.

Cross exposure

According to figures released by the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), total visitor arrivals to Qatar grew by 8 percent in the first half of 2014 reaching 1.42 million. More than half a million GCC nationals (536,264) visited Qatar, representing 38 percent of tourists. With the increasing influx of tourists into the GCC countries and a rise in the overall occupancy rates, industry experts predict a substantial growth in luxury and concept stores and boutiques within hotels.Comments 2

In an interview with bq, the Ritz Carlton group of hotels expresses the importance of such collaborations. “Partnering with retail brands external to the hotel is key for us,” says a hotel official. “It gives cross exposure for the hotel as well as the retail brand and that ultimately means cross profitability. The benefits can either be in the branding and marketing department, or purely financial.” The Ritz-Carlton partners with several brands across different hotels.

The Sharq Village and Spa by the Ritz Carlton has a dynamic Souq area, with a variety of brands featured there from designers, jewellery stores, a bank, hair dresser and fragrance stores like Arabian Oud.  A visually appealing store or well-known brand entices guests and gives them the opportunity to spend more time and money at the hotel.

Madeleine Olsson
Madeleine Olsson, senior spa director MEA, Four Seasons Hotel Doha

Relax and rejuvenate

To keep pace with the new era of luxury and corporate travel, hotels have to constantly evolve and luxury spa collaborations are almost essential. And if that wasn’t enough, the products retailed within the spa are not just luxurious, but environmentally friendly without compromise in quality.

“In the Spa, we prioritize 100 percent organic, chemical-free skincare brands that are luxurious, well known, high quality and perfectly suitable for our clients and target groups. We also source products that focus on planet and peace missions as charity work, as we donate 5 percent of our proceeds to charity foundations,” reveals Madeleine Olsson, senior spa director MEA at the Four Seasons Hotel Doha, to bq.

Six Senses Spa, at the Sharq Village & Spa, offers an exclusive and highly personalised experience with elements of Qatari culture embedded in the design and architecture of the property. The 23 treatment rooms are fashioned in a traditional Qatari environment where typical village houses have heated stone massage beds, mud baths and private majlis (meeting) areas.

Olsson also reveals they generate around 20 percent of the hotel revenues from the Spa. “There is huge potential for growth, and training is something that’s essential in this field,” she comments.

The criterion for partnering with retail brands differs from hotel to hotel. The Ritz Carlton reveals they are open to partnering with new brands if it is going to give a better value proposition to their customers. “We always conduct a profile study of the brand,” explains the official and goes on to add: “We find out why we want to partner with the brand and vice-versa and if we consider this as an added value to our guests. Brands like Arabian Oud have partnered with us since the beginning and one of the reasons for that is their authenticity and their focus on using natural sources to create their fragrances.”

The official further explains the brand they partner with needs to have a consistent message that the hotel can relate to. “When we collaborate with a brand, their vision, mission and standards are key for us,” she says. Ritz Carlton has partnered with Asprey London for in-room amenities while hotels like the Four Seasons have exclusive brands like Sodashi (100 percent chemical-free skincare).

“This industry is larger than we can imagine and it forms an important part of our yearly revenue. We conduct market analyses and surveys to look into the local and international markets to ensure our retail and lifestyle areas are in same league as the rest of the world,” explains Olsson and also reveals: “We plan to expand our existing retail area and get lifestyle boutiques which our guests really deserve.”

Currently the Four Seasons Hotel Doha houses brands like Agoy (yoga mats made of recycled pet bottles), Lisa Tang, Bjork & Berris, Mama Mio, Star Blu, Marbella, Child Farm, Tea Fort, Dream Time, Wrap up, Swarovski and many more. Olsson adds: “We have almost 15 brands and are still expanding. We are always welcome to good ideas.”

The industry in general is booming. The retail sector in the GCC has been setting new benchmarks, and what better way to engage customers at a hotel than offering exciting brands and an assortment of shopping possibilities.



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