UAE, UAE, ABU DHABI - Tourism
General Manager, W Abu Dhabi — Yas Island
As a long-standing valued employee of Marriott International, Faiek El Saadani previously worked across multiple luxury hotels including St. Regis Bangkok and Dubai, as well as JW Marriott, Mumbai. The launch of the W Abu Dhabi — Yas Island was the pinnacle of El Saadani’s hospitality career, as he is the driving force behind the team that makes the hotel such a success.
How would you place the W Abu Dhabi — Yas Island within the UAE’s hospitality sector?
W Abu Dhabi-Yas Island was built in 2009 and has since been an iconic landmark, not just on the island but for Abu Dhabi. In the last 18 months, it underwent an extensive design overhaul and was rebranded as W Abu Dhabi-Yas Island, marking the debut of Marriott International’s iconic W brand to the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Just a 15-minute drive from Abu Dhabi International Airport and a mere 30-minute drive into the city, W Abu Dhabi-Yas Island is surrounded by iconic landmarks and a wide range of attractions including theme parks, shopping malls, a golf course, beach, and a marina. The arrival of the W in Abu Dhabi marks a new chapter for both the brand and the city. Being a part of Marriott International, the hotel is accessible to over 140 million global Marriott Bonvoy members, who can earn points, enjoy benefits as well as redeem their points at this iconic location or enjoy experiences that provide access like no other. We are a large hotel with 499 rooms, which allows us to be an attractive destination for MICE or group business. The Formula One race weekend is a highly anticipated event on hotels’ calendars. While this is perhaps one of the busiest weekends for us from a business perspective, there is always an exciting calendar of events that allow us to engage with the local community on an ongoing basis.
How did the F1 race weekend in 2019 serve as a launch platform for the new brand, and in what ways do you feel you captured audience attention?
F1 was a great opportunity for us to introduce the brand and showcase our refreshed design. We were also able to introduce the DNA of the brand and its energy through activities around the hotel and set ourselves apart from anything else Abu Dhabi has seen before. The vibe and energy we created by bringing the brand to life across guest experiences, and touch points were indeed helpful to attract and engage the glitz and glamour of F1. From music, dance, entertainment, F&B, and the programming, we were able to build a momentum that will only help us going forward.
What type of training, development, skills, or attitudes do you try to impart on the staff?
The W brand service philosophy is built around the Whatever, Whenever mindset—whatever guests want, whenever they want it—as long as it is legal, we will make it happen. That is the mindset we want to instill in our associates, and we do this while respecting the local culture. We have six service foundations that define us, and they have just been recently launched globally throughout the W brand. Our staff must be able to practice and execute these foundations. They need to be engaged in the service and in tune with our guests. This is what brings the W brand culture alive.
In what way do you see the tourism and hospitality sector collaboratively working towards attracting more tourists?
I see the hospitality sector and the tourism boards working together with a collaborative approach to be the success of any destination. We are fortunate that both Abu Dhabi and Dubai tourism boards are extremely active and keep positioning the destinations globally. I see the two Emirates as complementary to each other, and this gives us the opportunity to do more. Expansion is never enough. It brings opportunities, and it brings people to the destination. Bringing the right entertainment to the destination is crucial. By combining what Dubai and Abu Dhabi have to offer for groups who travel to the UAE, we will be able to attract more tourists into the region. It can only be a win-win, and we look forward to playing a more active role in making this happen.