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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Travel Newsy Interviews – Aurelio Giraudo Cluster GM for Banyan Tree Doha & La Cigale Hotel


Aurelio Giraudo holds a bachelor’s degree in Hotel Administration from Italian Hospitality and has completed a number of senior leadership programs at Cornell & Bocconi University.

Prior to his appointment at Accor as Cluster General Manager for Banyan Tree Doha & La Cigale Hotel Managed by Accor, he was the Cluster General Manager for Kempinski Group in Kenya.

Aurelio has 4 decades of experience with leading luxury hospitality companies including Four Seasons, Shangri-La, Preferred Hotels & Resorts, Dusit Hotels & Resorts, Marriott & Accor group. Aurelio is no stranger to the Banyan Tree group, during his early years in the hospitality industry, he was working for them in Banyan Tree Bintan Indonesia.

In his current role, he is in charge of repositioning La Cigale Hotel under the Accor umbrella and ensuring the successful operations of Banyan Tree Doha, which is the first property managed by Accor under the Banyan Tree – Accor strategic partnership. With his extensive expertise in Sales & Marketing, Food & Beverage, Revenue Management and Finance departments, he will be responsible to achieve the commercial objectives of both hotels and position them as a preferred destination for local and international travellers.

Aurelio is no stranger to the Middle East market wherein he has held a senior leadership role with The Regency Hotel in Kuwait in the capacity of General Manager and Director of Business Development.

The Hospitality Industry Has Worked Together And Build Strong Protocols And The Most Of The Guests Know They Are More Protected Here Even More Than Their Homes

Please tell us about the Banyan Tree Doha, what makes it stand out from other hotels serving the same market segment?

In our hotel, the stay experience is more about personalisation with touchpoints following Arabic culture and traditions and going the extra mile to make our guests’ stay memorable. We are offering our guests a world of imagination where everything is possible, and we strive to remain bold in our approach to guests’ experiences.

Banyan Tree Doha at La Cigale Mushaireb is located within the Doha Oasis Project, a one-stop destination comprising a luxury hotel, lavish residences, fine dining restaurants, prestigious French fashion department store – Printemps, cutting edge Vox cinemas and a state-of-the-art, indoor, first-ever theme park in Qatar – Quest. It features the signature Banyan Tree Spa, with a Rainforest hydrotherapy facility, Saffron -Banyan Tree’s signature restaurant, and Vertigo – a panoramic rooftop lounge overlooking the entire city.

For Italian food lovers, we have IL Galante, a fine Italian dining restaurant; Qalamkarri, an Indian restaurant inspired by traditional Kalamkari art; and Panya Lounge, a patisserie with a combination of Asian and European flair. Exquisitely designed by renowned interior designer Jacques Garcia, Banyan Tree Doha features 126 luxurious guest rooms including 66 suites and 215 serviced residences.

People these days consider space as a luxury, so all our rooms and residences are spacious with our base room category size starting from 60 sqm. Well-trained staff with luxury backgrounds have been hired to make our guests’ journey more memorable. There’s some real magic behind these doors and we are excited to share them with the world.

The hotel industry has suffered immensely post COVID, how are your forecasting business in the coming days, and what are your plans for FIFA 2022?

 With the easing of restrictions and tourist visa now being available, we do foresee a strong demand from the GCC countries in the coming months. At this stage, demand is primarily driven by the local Qatari market, however, the international business is expected to grow late Q4 and we do anticipate demand for project-related business, leisure, stopover, government and the corporate business. With the FIFA Arab Cup round the corner in the month of December, we do anticipate very high demand from the GCC countries during this period, especially Saudi and UAE markets.

Prior to the FIFA World Cup – 2022, there are lots of work to do for both our hotels and residences. There are lots of requests which we are receiving for our properties and the city is expected to be sold out during the FIFA World Cup. We have aligned our strategies to ensure our pricing is on par with the other competitive luxury hotels.

We will be having special theme nights in all our restaurants during this period to cater to locals and tourists who will be in Qatar. Exclusive events have been planned for our Rooftop lounge in the hotel. We look forward to opening the doors of the world’s greatest sporting event and hosting the nation and visitors at our hotels. Exciting times ahead!

With your experience Spanning over four decades across the world, how different is your current role and what are some of the key challenges and opportunities you face?

I had an opportunity to work across different continents from Europe to South East Asia to Africa and the Middle East. In my past experiences, the world was normal and the strategies were based on driving revenues and customer excellence, however, the last 2 years have been completely different.

One of the hotels I am currently managing Banyan Tree Doha at La Cigale Mushaireb opened its doors on May 12, 2021, during covid-19 times. The approach has now changed towards enhanced safety and security of guests and employees and the focus is more on the domestic market for driving the business as travel restrictions continue to exist.

The restaurant business is restricted by capacity and MICE & Weddings segments are now catering to a smaller number of people in comparison to the normal times. Food delivery sales and takeaways have become a new norm that is there to stay and will remain once life comes back to normal. We have launched packaged catering concept which is also doing well.

I would say that our Ownership has been supportive and has supported our vision of associates wellbeing being the topmost priority and investing in a contactless and touchless experience for the guest.

Qatar government has also taken lots of initiatives in organizing sports tournaments and we are targeting them to get our fair share from these tournaments for both our hotels. City events are now happening in the city with Ministry of Public Health approvals and we are targeting them based on their calendar to drive business from this segment. Project-based business is growing due to FIFA World Cup in 2022 and this is the segment, which will continue to grow, leading up to the World Cup.

What will be the key international markets that you are looking to work with? Where do you see the Indian market among these?

At this stage, in regards to international markets, the prime focus is on GCC, especially Saudi, UAE and Kuwait markets. Sales trips & roadshows have been planned for the coming months in order to get our fair share from these markets. Russian market also has a great potential for Doha and we are in the early stages of discussion for charter business in order to tap into this high paying segment.

We have strong airline connectivity with India with a short travelling time. Accor has a big presence in the Indian market and with the support of GSO, we will be targeting the Indian market for the leisure and corporate segment. Sales trips and roadshows in key metropolitan cities have been planned to further tap into this market. The wedding segment has a big potential for the Qatar market hence we will be signing up with wedding planners to further tap into this segment.

What are the changes you see that the Hospitality Industry has adapted to, in the new normal, and what are the challenges that still lie ahead?

The safety of associates and guest’s well-being was my top priority during this pandemic. I ensured all my associates were well taken care of and we implemented work from home culture for the administrative team. For key roles, shared services were introduced which helped us with saving costs.

Brands and hotels have worked hard to upgrade their hygiene and safety in this pandemic. And the loyal customer has more trust on the brands that they use and are confident about their hygiene. We saw most of our staycation and daycation are our loyal and repeat guests. They are coming and staying because of the confidence they have in us.

I would very proudly like to say that the hospitality industry has worked together and built strong protocols and most of the guests know they are more protected here even more than in their homes.

The challenge would be how we come out of Covid-19 and recover our lost business and reach our Optimum GOP and EBITA levels.

Health and Safety, Wellbeing, Sustainability, and Tech Innovation have been some of the most talked-about subjects lately within the hospitality industry, what are your thoughts on this, and how do you incorporate them in your hotels?

The government launched the ‘Qatar Clean’ program which was a key factor that helped the hospitality sector overcome the repercussions of the Covid-19 crisis and played an active role in pushing the country’s economy forward at a time of great uncertainty.

The level of commitment shown by the Qatari government in engaging all stakeholders and ensuring the reopening of the service sector in a safe and secure manner has been inspiring. Looking to the future, I am certain that this set of rules will benefit the global economy the most if they are adopted at the global level. Our hotel has adhered to the guidelines of the ‘Qatar Clean’ program, which imposed strict standards regarding sterilization and disinfection to ensure the provision of a safe experience for guests.

In addition to the ‘Qatar Clean’, we also follow the ‘ALLSAFE’ program which was implemented by May 2020. It was developed and examined by the Bureau Veritas company for hygiene and prevention standards, which provides assurance that these standards have been adhered to in Accor hotels as the health and safety of our guests is our absolute priority.

It includes the enhanced cleaning program in public places with frequent sterilization of all high touch areas, enhanced room cleaning protocols, including additional disinfection of high-touch areas in the room and bathroom areas, enhanced food safety standards and new buffet protocols, and training of staff teams on safety and public health.

We will be enrolling our properties for the Green Key award, which is the leading standard for excellence in the field of environmental responsibility and sustainable operation within the tourism industry. We are focused on energy conservation, water conservation, recycling, waste reduction, cleaning products made with bio-based oils, enhancing food preparation by offering healthier cuisine options to the guests and focusing on spas by offering natural and organic products and treatments.

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