City Insider: Slim Zaiane, General Manager at Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates
A hospitality veteran of more than 20 years, Slim Zaiane’s career path has taken him from Geneva to London to Dubai in senior management roles with several luxury hotel brands. Fact caught up with the GM of Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates to talk about managerial responsibilities and the effect of the global pandemic on Dubai’s hospitality scene.
What can guests expect from a stay at Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates?
As soon as guests walk into the hotel, they are welcomed by the brand’s rich heritage, stellar service, warm hospitality and a number of unique experiences that are not common to find – such as the Aspen Ski Chalets. Located in the heart of the city, the hotel allows for guests to be part of a much larger community with direct access to Mall of the Emirates, but at the same time it retains its exclusiveness. Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates is also home to a tasteful mix of gastronomy concepts, offering an excelling variety for food lovers from around the world – from Levantine-inspired experiences to a Spanish inspired bodega, the options are limitless.
Please tell us about your hotel’s snow and sand theming and what inspired it?
Our snow and sand themed bespoke customer experiences are inspired by our European heritage and Middle Eastern touch – offering the best of summer and winter. The Aspen Ski and Pool Chalets are truly magical and unique to Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates. Inspired by a luxury lodge, guests can escape to a winter retreat overlooking the snowy Alpes of Ski Dubai, while those looking for a coastal living experience can opt for a luxurious summer-inspired Chalet with direct access to the hotel’s two outdoor infinity pools.
What sets Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates apart from its competitors in the city?
Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates definitely sets itself apart from other hotels with its distinctive offerings, unique experiences and strong brand heritage. Being one of the oldest five-star/luxury hotels in Dubai for over 16 years, based in the heart of the city with the direct access to Mall of the Emirates, the hotel offers 388 luxury rooms including its unique Aspen Chalets, and Aspen Pool Chalets both inclusive of a special private butler and lady in red service, in addition to an exquisite selection of culinary options.
Can you please talk us through the various F&B concepts that the hotel offers and what diners can expect from them?
Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates boasts a dreamy culinary journey where guests are guaranteed an array of international cuisines to suit every palate. The all-day dining Olea is a Levantine inspired restaurant offering a new take on Arabic cuisine from six nations; Salero Tapas & Bodega is a true authentic Spanish abode serving distinctive tapas and platters with a modern twist, and the lobby lounge Aspen by Kempinski is a European tradition of a grand café with a variety of sweet and savoury treats available round the clock.
Please tell us about your day-to-day role and what keeps it challenging and exciting?
My day-to-day role involves being around guests, overseeing the hotel’s operations, logistics, management, and my team. I thrive in achieving excellence in both guest and employee satisfaction, and I personally enjoy being extremely hands on in all areas of the hotel to achieve the highest level of service. The most challenging yet exciting part of my role is to make sure all my colleagues are appreciated in the same manner and to constantly improve and provide a healthy work environment, while maintaining a work life balance.
As a general manager, how do you encourage trust and loyalty in your guests?
Trust and loyalty are built over the years between the hotel and its guests; this has been achieved by creating personalised experiences for each and every one of our guests. At Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, we emphasise giving equal importance and consistent five-star service to all our guests from check-in to check-out. Our guest’s loyalty and trust in us is extremely important to us and we as a team work extremely hard to build our relations with new and existing guests from all over the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the hospitality scene in the UAE. Do you think the industry is now bouncing back?
Although the hospitality sector was heavily affected by the pandemic, we are extremely optimistic about the ease in travel restrictions and overall regulations. We are focusing on leading the way in seeking new travel and leisure experience by offering a number of offers and promotions. The overall hospitality industry is set to revert to 2019 occupancy levels this year, and the UAE’s buoyant hospitality is also tracking the same path and is now on course to lead the economic recovery on the back of staycations and the return of foreign tourists.
What do you believe hotels have to do to stay relevant and ensure success during these unprecedented times for the industry?
It is extremely important to be competitive, especially in the hospitality industry during these unprecedented times. With an influx of hotel openings and launches in the UAE, it is crucial to be innovative and creative, launch bespoke offerings and craftsmanship ideas, and remain consistent whilst exceeding guests’ expectations.
Do you believe people’s attitudes to hotel stays changed in light of the pandemic?
Yes, the pandemic has definitely changed a lot of people’s perspectives on hotels and spending habits. We definitely saw an increase in staycations as people were not able to travel and resorted to opting for a staycation in the city to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or any such occasion. We also saw more and more guests looking for unique and different experiences involving family and friends.
What is your vision for the hotel in the coming months?
As we embrace more innovation and tech-savvy offerings at the property, our goal is to ensure customer demands are answered and make their stays as easy and comfortable as possible. The two key trends in the market currently are – guests are increasingly looking to be entertained in the hotel itself, and secondly more and more guests are becoming sustainably conscious. Hence, our focus will be to incorporate more in-hotel experiences and look for more ways to reduce carbon footprint and pollution.
Could you please share with us some of your professional goals for 2022?
My professional goals are always centred around the hotel’s success and my amazing team that play a vital role in the hotel’s smooth sailing customer service. I will be focusing more on day to day running of the hotel and ensure my employees are always satisfied and striving to work harder and perform better.