Oman tourism: Ritz Carlton to open Reserve in the Sultanate

Oman Sunday 01/May/2016 23:01 PM
By: Times News Service
Oman tourism: Ritz Carlton to open Reserve in the Sultanate

Muscat: After Thailand, Indonesia, and the Caribbean, Oman will be a fourth home to the Ritz Carlton Reserve, which the giant hotel company is planning for, according to Bob Kharazmi, Global Officer, Worldwide Operations of the company (pictured).
In an exclusive interview with the Times of Oman, Kharazmi revealed plans about building up of this Reserve, plans for which are in the discussion phase with the ministry of tourism.
“In terms of growth, we have a brand extension, and we call that a ‘Reserve’- it’s a very exclusive but small property, with about 100 rooms, and the service goes around the guest who want to have privacy and connect themselves to rich culture of the place. Reserves don’t have high towers, but villas with their own private pools, in a remote environment,” he said.
Currently there are only three other Ritz Carlton Reserves in the world which are located in exclusive locations in Bali, Indonesia, Phulay Bay in Thailand and on Dorado beach in the Caribbean. If the Reserve in Oman opens, it will be the fourth in the world.
“I strongly believe that we can have a Reserve in one of the mountains in Muscat, it’s beautiful, where you have the sea and the beautiful mountains, if we can come up with a plan where we can build a fort, so the reserve will look like a fort on the top of a mountain, that will be absolutely something unique, not only for Muscat, but speaking globally, people will really enjoy seeing the forts, which is what this place is all about.”
“I don’t know how many thousands of forts are in Oman, and of different kinds and then you build one which is a hotel, and it is in a mountains, basically when you have the sea and the city, all in your view from the top of the hotel which is in the mountains, I think that will be fantastic, it is my wish and that is something I discussed with the ministry a while ago, and I think gradually we will get there.”
The reserve in Mandapa in Bali is the Company’s last reserve, which is in a Jungle of Bali with a river nearby. About when the Reserve is expected to get ready, Kharazmi said, “It’s a vision that we have as a company and I do hope with the support of the ministry, we can bring this vision to reality- I would say in the hotel business it takes time to build, so we are looking at least 2 years. Of course this will be in the mountains and won’t be so easy.”
Speaking of the hotel’s performance, Kharazmi highlighted the achievements of the company globally, saying that their growth in 2016 was better when compared with 2015. “Globally, Ritz Carlton is performing better than last year, 2016 was the finest year actually, and there are spots in the market, which are soft due to geo-political reasons. For example what happened in Paris and Brussels impacted the business slightly in Europe, but people tend to forget these unfortunate incidents which take place, and they go back to their travels. Leisure travel might be impacted, but business and government meet-ups won’t stop happening.”
About the Omani market, he said that summers tend to get a bit slow, but during the season from December to the first quarter, the hotel is almost full and it’s hard to find a room. “December to the first quarter is great, as this market is seasonal and in summers it’s a bit slow so that sort of reduces leisure travel, governments and business travelers will come despite it being warm or cool.”
Kharazmi also added that together with the ministry of tourism, Ritz Carlton will undergo renovation this year, which will continue till next year. “We will renovate the guest rooms in this hotel, yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with the minister of tourism, the idea between ministry of tourism and Ritz Carlton is to renovate this hotel and it will start from this year and go on to next year, as it takes time. If the GCC conference takes place in 2018, then they will have beautiful rooms, incredible service ready by them.” The renovation will take place without closing the hotel, “It’s challenging but we will do it without disturbing the guests- we will go section by section, guestrooms first and then different parts of the hotel including meeting spaces and so on will be looked at.”
He also highlighted the Omanization rate in the hotel which is over 50 per cent at the hotel now, “one of the major priorities for us as a hotel company is to make sure that we increase the number of Omani, and today we have a huge percentage.”
Ritz Carlton is opening more hotels in the GCC- where a hotel is under construction in Dubai in the Jumeirah Bay and another hotwl is coming up in Jeddah and Rtiz Carlton also has plans to open a hotel in Mecca.
“We are looking at a hotel in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, and Mecca will be a place to go because religious vacation is becoming very strong in that part of the world. We are also overseeing Bugari hotels, we have one in Milan, one is in London and we are under construction with one in Dubai, which is an island by itself, and is called Jumeirah Bay.” Kharazmi added.