Dan Benzaquen, General Manager of Mövenpick Tala Bay and Mövenpick Aqaba, was appointed to the head position for both properties in 2016. He explains his vision for the Mövenpick brand in Jordan’s southern tourism hotspot.
What is your vision for this hotel as a premiere destination hotel of choice for the next five years?
Today, we are one of the market leaders, whether we’re talking here in Aqaba or within the country. Our two hotels are very strategically located, and you can see that Mövenpick Aqaba City is right at the centre of the city. Mövenpick Tala Bay represents the true resort and the resort experience that any guest wants. We basically tap into two markets, one being the leisure market, and the other being the corporate market. The good thing of having a big city is that we have a good balance of the corporate, government and leisure markets. We offer different pools. We have a private beach. We have residences and apartments from studios to 3-bedroom duplexes. We also have a standard room that any guest would want. Tala Bay, on the other hand, offers more of the family-friendly option. There are 145 family rooms that cater for a family of four, normal suites and regular rooms. There’s also a private beach and 3,000 square meters of pools.
How do we see the next five years? We want to keep being the leader in the market. Mövenpick Aqaba City will be undergoing small renovation projects. Being 18 years old, it’s an old lady but it’s still a very upscale product, and we want to keep the maintenance going and stay within the top three hotels of the destination. For Mövenpick Tala Bay, we want to keep being a leader for the family market and remain as Jordan’s leading resort. We received the World Travel Award for the past five years as the leading resort in Jordan.
We realize that your types of clients are corporate, government, leisure and residences. In the future, what types of clients would you like to attract more of?
This year is actually quite strategic for all of us, because 2018 brought a lot more tourists than we would expect. From the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) market and Scandinavian market, to the Western Europe market and the Eastern markets, we really want to make sure that we create a base. At the moment, the base is the CIS market. So, Russia, Ukraine and all the Eastern European countries are there. We want to make sure that Aqaba is sold as a mid-range to high-end destination. Our two products fit that model. I personally see that the strength of Mövenpick Aqaba City is its residences. The residences cater to a very different type of clientele. If you look at the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries, they prefer residences. It is something that in Aqaba we don’t have. There is only us at the moment that has residences, the branded residences option.
We do have Tala Bay that provides a rental pool of certain apartments available on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. But all in all, if you look at the current inventory available in Aqaba, we are the only ones that have this. Our focus is to make sure that we promote the right product to fit the market. The Scandinavian customers that come to Aqaba are mainly families. In this property, we actually transformed the junior suites into family rooms. So, we are also targeting and manoeuvring our inventories to target the current flow of guests that are coming into the hotels.
How important is the European market in all of the different categories that you’ve mentioned?
The European market is key for us. And to see it come back this year has been a huge relief. For me, I’ve been here for 2.5 years. I’ve learned that the key to understanding the tourism industry in Jordan and to see where we’re standing in terms of the scale of volume is really Petra. If Petra is doing well, we’ll all do well. Our hotels in Petra are running over 96% on a daily basis, both hotels. Business is booming. It’s booming in certain periods, but if you look at the whole year, the hotels are doing extremely well. And the majority of clientele that goes to those places are the European market and North American market, which has started to come back.
The European market is key because Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts is a European brand. Being a Swiss brand, we’re recognised in Europe. In pretty much all of the markets that do come to the destination, they know it. And usually, people go to places they know. It’s a huge thing. If you talk about the Jordanian or the regional market, it’s still the main market. Nonetheless, since 2017, especially during the peak period, you will see a slight decline of that, but the European market compensates it. So, we see a good segmentation of markets.
You mentioned the occupancy at the Petra hotels. What’s the occupancy in Aqaba?
In the first quarter, we’re talking 65% to 70% occupancy. This month of April, this hotel would close around 80%, which is the highest in a very long time. In Tala Bay, we’re talking about 87% occupancy. All in all, you can see that the market is back. We see that the coming of Ryanair will help the destination a lot. Maybe not at the beginning, but in terms of marketing, they’re going to market the destination big time.
How are you preparing to support a business clientele so that the investor class knows they have a place to come for their office away from home?
This hotel was built for corporates. If you look at its inventory, in terms of superior, deluxe room suites, we have 23 suites that present almost 10% of our inventory. So, in terms of catering towards a business person, we’re centrally located. It’s easy to reach any office. We have fast internet and good breakfast. This is what business people want. Ultimately, it’s easy in, easy out. You’re close to the airport. You’re close to all the facilities of the city, and we provide good bed, good breakfast and fast internet. If they want meetings, we have small and big meeting rooms.