Kelly Lewis recently joined Amari Dhaka as the new General Manager. He is a US citizen and has more than 16 years of experience in the hospitality industry. He’s worked at renowned organisations all over the world. With his strategic mindset and leadership skills, Amari Dhaka hopes to attain greater heights of sustainable business growth.
What is your opinion about the current hospitality industry in Bangladesh?
Although the industry is successful, there are things that are holding it back. These negative infractions hurt on the industry a global scale. Dhaka is a location that is going to be an extremely profitable destination in the future. Currently, there is a setback because of the political situation. However, the construction works of new hotels have not stopped.
Do you think the market is saturated with too many hotels in Dhaka?
I do not look into the negative side of things, rather the positive ones. Therefore, I don’t think the market is saturated. There is more opportunity in this business now. We have over 300 clients, ranging from Coca Cola, JC Penney, Emirates, Kuwait Airways, Ericsson, Marks & Spencer, Western Union, etc. The garment industry provides us with even more clients. Other hotels have been more fortunate than us due to the political situation, given their proximity to the airport. They arrive at the airport, go to the hotel, conduct meetings in those hotels and go right back. Once the political turmoil subsides, you will see a different Dhaka.
There are already quite a few established luxury hotels in the capital. How does Amari plan to carve a niche for its name in the market?
All you have to do is go to other prominent hotels to observe the difference. Our staffs are very well-trained, recruited from the Middle East and other surrounding areas. The chef is from Indonesia and is very qualified. Another chef is being flown in from Jeddah; his skill sets cover Chinese, Indian, Thai cuisines.
We will be launching our signature restaurant, Amaya, on 15 May. It will be market themed, where it will have an Indian kitchen, a Thai kitchen, a Japanese kitchen, Chinese kitchen, etc. You can get up and go to a kitchen of your choice, it is all A la Minute, where the chef cooks everything fresh in front of you. It is going to be housed on the 13th floor, overlooking the entire city. Patios on the outside will also be set up for a breathtaking view. We already have Deck 41 which outsiders can join with a monthly silver/gold membership. The silver membership will allow you to drink and party at Deck 41, the gold will give you access to Deck 41, the steam/sauna, the fitness center with a view of the city and the spa on the 18th floor.
Do you think five star hotels in Bangladesh follow a global standard that attracts foreign tourists? If there is a gap, what needs to be done to achieve the standard?
There are certain things that make a 5 star hotel what it is; size of rooms, the bedding, the product – therefore what we concentrate on is the service. We have 231 employees for 136 rooms. According to its ratio, you get two people for one room.
As far as the technology is concerned, each room has ONET, which controls the fastest possible WIFI signal you can get, the television, etc. We have computerized telephones with one touch dials, our suites have kitchenettes where our chef can come and cook for you – we can do anything, all you have to do is just ask.
Who is your target market?
There is no wholesale in Bangladesh till date, so I will have to say it is the corporate market. A lot of businessmen travel these days with their families. They can go for meetings during the day and we can have activities for the family, whether it is the pool, fitness training, yoga/zumba training, etc. We have 9 concierges and 7 drivers if they want to go out. Since I arrived here I have tried to add a family element to it, with the packaging that we have put together. We have seen great success in April regarding both local and international clients.
Do you think consumer behavior in the hospitality industry has changed recently?
The whole way by which people shop now is dictated by price. When you have political turmoil and occupancy struggles, what else is there to attract people? If you control this one, you do not need to control the others. At the end of the day it is the money that goes in the owner’s bank. We still have a few travel agencies who make bookings for their customers, but it is primarily off our brand website, through ONYX or through an online travel agency (OTA) like Expedia. These OTAs can make even dinner reservations for you.
How is Amari planning to harness mobile technology for customers?
We are in the middle of developing our mobile application at ONYX, it should be released within the next 3-4 months. You will then be able to go to any ONYX property, not only book your room but can also make spa appointment, transportation, etc. It is good for hotels like ours, but for smaller hotels, it hurts. Unless people are going on Trip Advisor and opting for bed and breakfasts/cheaper brands, it is all about embracing technology.
Nowadays, luxury hotels tend to rely more on promotions like festivals and parties than on their room occupancy for revenue. To what extent do you agree?
Personally, I feel that room occupancy is the key source of revenue. We run on 86% room occupancy. But since food festivals and other events are coming into prominence, all these promotions are bringing in substantial profits. It also exposes you to a whole different client base.