The director of PR, Melanie Dorange talks to QMIN magazine about the Al Bustan Palace and the beauty of Oman, one of the most elegant resorts in Muscat, Oman, where you can reflect the local culture and experience the way of life of Oman. It starts with the coffee man when you enter the hotel who welcomes the guest and delivering a message of friendship by offering a coffee as a sign of the cultural host. It is a story that unfolds throughout every guest’s stay, the blending of the old and the new, the local and the worldly, the opportunity to engage in a new experience, or simply give in to complete relaxation. The elegant ambiance and the majestic 38-metre-high domed lobby makes an impression who enters the resort for the first time.
Q: What does Omanization in the hospitality sector mean to you and the hotel?
MD: Al Bustan Palace has always been dedicated to giving equal chances to Omanis and international talents, and this philosophy has only strengthened when the Ritz-Carlton took over as a management company. The brand is renowned for being an equal opportunity employer hiring a diverse workforce in all of its properties. Omanis represent 55% of the employee’s pool at Al Bustan Palace nowadays, and they contribute to enlivening the hotel’s scenography: “Proudly Omani”.
Going one step further in this idea, Chef Joergen Sodemann started 2 years ago a project to recruit new Omani talents in the kitchen. In collaboration with the National Hospitality Institute in Muscat, the Executive Chef developed a 2-year academic programme to give some of these young Omanis a chance to become a chef. The young recruits were selected during a region-wide casting, based on their motivation and interest before all. The cast of 12 students is undergoing a programme combining academic training in university and work in the kitchens of Al Bustan Palace, in the form of a technical mentoring. The Al Bustan Academy is a huge success and the students are showing a passion and developing skills that set them on the right track for becoming some of the country’s future talented chefs.
Q: With a constant growth of travel and tourism GDP in Oman how does Al Bustan Palace keep up with its positive development?
DM: Our hotel has the privilege of being the only luxury hospitality palace in Muscat, and this unique selling point is definitely a driver in today’s travel and tourism landscape. Al Bustan Palace keeps up with the growth by offering new luxury services to guests and travelers, such as the recently opened world-class Six Senses Spa, and one of the finest dining experience in Muscat.
As we celebrate 30 years as a pillar in luxury hospitality in Oman, we will be renovating some of the public areas, rooms and suites of the hotel in a phased out project in 2016.
Q: What is the philosophy of the hotel and how do you deliver this message towards the guests?
DM: This is done through several touch points, from the Omani warm welcome to our guests when we offer Omani coffee and dates, to the daily scene and performance we showcase in our Atrium lobby, every afternoon.
Our restaurant Al Khiran Terrace also features an Omani night once a week where our guests enjoy a delectable offering of Omani favorites, in a lively ambience overlooking the magical fire torches around our Infinity pool.
In season, kids are also invited to a storytelling activity around a fire on the beachfront at night, and can listen to tales from thousands and one nights, while the older ones are invited to experience the sea of Oman in a snorkeling safari where they discover local fish species. It is critical for us that our guests do not travel only to “a resort in Oman”, but a get away with unique memories we craft in these key moments sharing authentic experiences and stories.
Q: The hotel is called “The Jewel of the Sultanate” that has played home to the heads of state and royalty ever since it was built and refurbished years after, how do you manage the relationship with “family” guests who have been coming to the hotel for a long time?
DM: I think leisure guests come to Al Bustan Palace for many years exactly for what it is. They know what they will find. We are a palace, we are the sultan’s palace, but we are also a luxury hotel committed to providing our guests with a warm and genuine service in an elegant, breathtaking setting. This is what our ladies & gentlemen strive to offer every single day of the year, consistently.
Al Bustan Palace has so much to offer families. Our creative Ritz Kids programme, tennis facilities and PBI Tennis Coach, the water sport complex offering watersports such as kayak, paddle, sailing or snorkeling excursions, and of course our Six Senses Spa and lifestyle memberships with access to recreation facilities. The hotel’s many new F&B offerings have also played an important role in bringing Al Bustan Palace to the front stage of the city’s food & beverage scene. Our BLU Bar and Beach Pavilion restaurant are open to visitors who would like to have lunch on the beachfront in a relaxed and elegant atmosphere. Our Friday Brunch at Beach Pavilion has been a tremendous success among locals, with flowing Veuve Clicquot champagne and a tantalizing buffet to enjoy on Fridays. We are now launching a new Saturday Brunch at China Mood restaurant for an added offering on weekends.
Q: From your point of view, how does Oman differentiate from the rest of Middle East?
DM: There is a reason why Oman is called the jewel of the Middle East, or the pearl of the Middle East. Oman is a hidden gem, the only country in the region that combines such natural beauty. Oman offers a perfect blend of turquoise wadis (natural pools of water), green mountain landscapes, endless desert dunes and infinite white beaches, making it a favorite spot for adventure fanatics. But what makes Oman really unique, and this is confirmed by all who visit, are the people of Oman and their true sense of hospitality. Omanis can welcome any traveler with open arms. The people of Oman make this destination a pure gem.
Q: Can you share with us one piece of advice to future leaders of the hospitality industry?
DM: I would advise to enter the hospitality industry only if you have a passion for it, it’s more than just a job ! I would advise to travel and work in different hotels around the region or globe, this is the best way to learn! Be genuine in everything you do, we are in the service industry and a big smile goes a long way! Take care of your ladies and gentlemen, they are your most important asset!