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11 August 2008 10:32 am

W Hotel to set the standard

Khalifa Al Haroon
Khalifa Al Haroon
Your friendly neighborhood Qatari
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spice.jpg The upcoming W Doha marks the Starwood brand’s first foray into the region. General manager Safak Guvenc explains they whys, whens and wows of Qatar’s first boutique property. It is no secret that Qatar’s plan for developing it travel and tourism sector is to focus on top-end products. The country has been meticulous in its selection of developments, self-styling itself as a must-visit destination for a top-end clientele. As Daniela Grendene, former director of marketing and communications for Qatar Tourism and Exhibitions Authority, remarked in an interview with Hotelier Middle East this month: “In general Qatar does not target the mass market, the package holiday tours, but rather the upper end of the sector, with a focus on business tourism, conferences and meetings, exhibitions, culture and sport”. As a result, visitors to Qatar should expect a mushrooming of high quality hotels over the next few years, particularly in the capital city of Doha. But one property in particular is determined to set the standard: the W Doha Hotel and Residences, scheduled to open in November this year. “Being the first boutique hotel in the city, the W Doha will set a new standard in Qatar for what a hotel experience can be,” promises the hotel’s general manager Safak Guvenc. The highly-anticipated Starwood property will comprise 291 rooms, including 30 W and Wow suites, as well as the premier E-Wow suite. There will also be 154 one- and two-bedroom apartments and four levels of public amenities, including a state-of-the art swimming pool, a Bliss Spa and a Sweat workout facility. Other facilities will include the events spaces, fully-connected meeting rooms and business centre facilities and a 24-hour concierge service. Guvenc explains that in line with W’s positioning as being a hotel ‘for the young and the young at heart’, the primary target audience will be “modern, tech-savvy travellers who appreciate the sophistication that the W offers in terms of facilities and service as well as attitude”. “The business mix will be driven by the high-end corporate segment as well as the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions sector, owing to Qatar’s strong push to develop this sector further,” he continues. “Frequent up-market individual travelers are also our target, while the apartments will be occupied by both short and long term residents with a taste for the W lifestyle.” W is a relatively young brand; in fact the W Doha marks its first foray into the Middle East. So what was the appeal of developing into the region at this time — and why in Qatar? Guvenc explains: “There is no denying that Qatar is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and it is only going to get bigger and better in the near future. “Business is thriving and investments, both local and foreign, are pouring in towards the development of the country and its resources. And with the country’s growing focus on the MICE sector and niche tourism, Qatar’s occupancy rates are among the highest in the world’. For these reasons, explains Guvenc, while other Starwood brands have been present in Doha for many years, this was the right time and place to introduce W. Qatar’s discerning approach to development has resulted in favourable comparisons being drawn between its measured strategy and the speedier expansion of some Middle Eastern destinations. “The steady growth of Qatar’s tourism industry is definitely a positive development,” says Guvenc. “In encouraging only high-end niche tourism, Qatar is consciously differentiating itself from the ‘me too’ attitude. “The thing that makes Doha stand out as a tourism destination is the government’s clear focus on positioning the city as a niche tourism destination rather that a commoditised mass destination,” he adds. “It has a clear focus on high-value sectors such as MICE, sports and culture tourism. “And this method is working out wonderfully; the existing infrastructure is not uncomfortably stretched to its limit and the premium nature of industry services ensures a healthy and steady revenue stream.” According to Guvenc the W Doha, an product ideally suited to the judicious Qatari capital, is set to “revolutionise” the face of modern luxury accommodation in the city. “We are confident that residents as well as tourists will ‘wuv’ the brand and appreciate not only the fantastic services and facilities but the unique attitude we take on life and those around us,” he adds. Whether visitors to Qatar will feel the W “wuv” remains to be seen, but this stunning boutique property is certainly Wone to watch. Arabian Business