Kempinski General Manager, Sébastien Mariette

Good Bookings

Despite the tough times facing Jordan’s tourist industry, the manager of the Kempinski Ishtar Dead Sea explains how his hotel has managed to maintain an enviable occupancy rate.

By Rebecca Irvine

A significant dip in visitor numbers to Jordan has taken its toll on the Kingdom’s hospitality sector, with several middle-ranking hotels being forced to shut down over recent years.

But at the luxury end of the market, five-star hotels like the Kempinski Ishtar Dead Sea appear to be coping much better—recently winning awards from Condé Nast, Travel & Leisure Magazine, and internally from the Kempinski. Here, the hotel’s General Manager, Sébastien Mariette, explains why.

How are you coping in the current tourism context?

I arrived in July 2014, at the time when the instability in the region was happening. During this period, the business environment was very challenging and the number of visitors from the international market decreased as a result. So we had to challenge ourselves and think of alternative business to compensate for this decrease. We implemented new strategies and shifted our focus to the local and regional markets. On the regional level, we conducted sales trips to Lebanon and GCC countries to attract people and companies here. We also promoted Jordan as unique destination that offers exciting adventures and memorable experiences to the visitors, may it be cultural, religious, historical, water adventures, or nightlife. We are also working closely with Jordan Tourism Board and travel agencies and supporting them in hosting various international familiarization and press trips, which aim to promote Jordan as well as our property. All in all, I would say business decreased 15 percent in terms of revenue, which is not that much. This year looks much better than last year already.

What are your occupancy rates like?

At the weekend, we are always quite busy. Tonight we will be very close to 85 percent occupancy, and tomorrow we will be almost full house, for example. So this month I think we will end at 65 to 70 percent occupancy. We still implement our policy, which is because being limited to in-house guests only  our focus is on quality and this is what our guests expect from us. We don’t want people to queue for sun beds or at breakfast; we always keep in mind that the priority has to be the quality of the service in this hotel. As we now focus much more on regional and local tourism, we’ve had to come up with new initiatives. In the past, we hosted four or five weddings per year, so we decided to build a strong wedding department and communicate on the new offers and the unique indoor and outdoor wedding venues we have. To be honest, I was expecting to do a few weddings considering that we are not located in Amman, but so far, we already have 28 weddings for this year, which have already been signed. Word of mouth is very powerful in Jordan.

What are your plans for the future?

This year, we are in the process of building additional spacious meeting facilities that enjoy panoramic views of the Dead Sea, offering additional unique venues for events of various kinds. We are also developing innovative products and ideas. We recently developed a special package called “From Home to Heaven” at the Ishtar Spa. So when people call us, we provide them with a service to pick them up from home, bring them to the spa, and then return them to Amman.  There are always things to improve, but in terms of the hardware, we have everything. We have to maximize the potential of the hardware with new ideas.