This month's case study previews the five star Danat Resort in Jebal Dhanna. General manager, Manoj Kanwal, tells Becca Wilson of the problems he faces with the hotels remote location and how he overcomes them.
Danat Resort is situated 240 kilometres west of Abu Dhabi city, making it one of the most remote hotels in the United Arab Emirates. Handover took place in 2005 and for the last two years, Manoj Kanwal and his team of 195 in-house staff have worked hard to attract an increased clientele and compete with international hotel brands.
"We are very much focused on the standard and the quality. As we are only a small, independent hotel company we don't carry a big brand image, so that that is why our focus is very much on the service," explains Kanwal.
The drive from Abu Dhabi takes around two hours (three and a half from Dubai) with a sparse selection of villages on route. However, the hotels five star customer service and efficient staff, along with its peaceful and tranquil surroundings makes it one of the Emirates hidden treasures.
But being situated in a remote area has its negative points in terms of operation, as Kanwal explains. "Because we are away from the city, we have to be very much self sufficient. We take care of the day-to-day maintenance in-house and when we outsource services, we also make sure one of our technicians is trained to deal with the service in case the contracted company can not reach us for some time."
By doing this, Kanwal manages to keep disruption to a minimum and can often afford to wait the two to four hours it can take for an engineer to arrive. "When we outsource a service I always make sure we have at least one trained technician on site so at least we can do something interim until the contracted company can reach us," he says.
Outsourced services at Danat Resort include: lift maintenance, landscaping, pest control and sewage disposal. Technicians were trained during the one year handover period between developer and owner. This period of time has given Kanwal and his team the time needed to ensure they can respond to faults efficiently to stop any disturbance to the guests.
"The transition period was great because that's the time we got all the technicians trained. We signed most of the critical service contracts with the companies who installed the systems. For example, the elevators, the fire safety, telephone systems and BMS," he confirms.
Being so far out of the city has meant that the hotel has experienced some difficulties in securing reliable companies to look after their outsourced services, for example, landscaping and pest control.
While discussing the in-house vs outsourcing scenario, always a favourite with hotel groups as most of them prefer to keep customer facing roles in-house, Kanwal admitts that both landscaping and pest control have suffered from broken service level agreements (SLAs) resulting in cancelled contracts.
"We are now on our third pest control company and our second one for the landscaping. We were not happy with their services. We have a cancellation clause in the service level agreement that states if they don't meet our requirements we can cancel the contract," he states.
Kanwal says that the main reason he had to cancel the contract was not because the company is performing badly, but because the hotels location causes problems. "For us, the reason we have difficulties is because we are away from the city. When we look for companies, we see which hotels they are servicing in the city and then short list them.
"The companies whose contracts have been cancelled had them cancelled because the hotels in the city were taking preference, not because they did a bad job. "The reason they may not be able to perform is the location, they sometimes have difficulty getting here."
But to a hotel guest, these problems would never be apparent. The landscaping looks immaculate and there are no tell tale signs of any kind of pest control problems. In fact, the overall appearance of the hotel is crisp and fresh without a spot of dust or dirt anywhere.
The demand of the power grids is noticeable in most of the Middle East, with power cuts occurring when demand outweighs the supply. The problem of location is, again, the reason Kanwal believes they suffer from cuts every quarter."The reason is because we are a remote location and the high humidity, especially in the summer, causes trips. We have a UPS (uninterrupted power supply) connected to give us back-up power. This will last around eight hours which is all we need as the power cuts only last around 30 minutes to an hour."
It is advised that a company should invest in a reputable UPS system, especially in a customer facing environment. Not only do they supply an immediate power source to lighting and air conditioning, but they will also allow systems to be backed up and the building to be operational in order to implement the disaster recovery plan should the power cut be long lasting.
At present the hotel's fire, lighting, air conditioning and heating systems are run on the BMS. "This is working well for us. Earlier we had planned to go for separate packages but since we are a small hotel, we wanted to have something compact," explains Kanwal.
Having two systems to run everything means training costs are cut. "Having one system to look after everything has made our life a lot easier. We didn't want to complicate things, we wanted to keep them simple as we have a large number of staff. If we had more complicated systems in place, we would need more people to handle these systems and training."
Complaints, concerns and requests are logged through the hotel's property management system, Prologic. Kanwal admits that in a couple of years time, he may look into splitting the operations into more systems with one of the key areas being complaints, concerns and requests.
However, more and more hotels are now investing in a computer aided facilities management (CAFM) software package. Why? Because it allows them to manage all their facilities more efficiently by scheduled maintenance and planning.
"As time goes on and the systems become older, we might look to invest in different systems to help us run the hotel more effectively," states Kanwal.
In the classroom
Every month each member of staff spends around six to 10 hours training. They are constantly training on the job but Kanwal believes that going back to basics in the classroom is essential.
"Training ranges from guest handling to fire safety," he states.
The hotel has its very own dedicated training manager and training department, this helps to keep staff up to date with changes in company policy and regional and international laws and regulations.
All the challenges Kanwal and his team face have carefully thought-out and well-planned solutions, mainly due to Kanwal's vast experience and him being involved with the hotel's design right from the start. He was able to instruct and advise on what the developer and architect should be designing to ensure he could then run a tight operation.
This is something every person/company who is operating the building post handover should be involved in.