INTERVIEW

In focus: Fairmont Ajman

4 weeks ago by

In an exclusive interview with CustomerService.ae, Kosta Kourotsidis the General Manager at Fairmont Ajman speaks about various steps being taken to offer a valuable guest experience. He also highlights how Fairmont is known for immaculate service standards and how their team is trained to offer personalized experiences to everyone.

In focus: Fairmont Ajman

Q: Tell us a bit about your hotel and what sets you apart from your competitors in the hospitality sector?

Kosta: Fairmont Ajman is a 252-key luxury beachfront property with all rooms overlooking the Arabian Gulf and the first Fairmont property in the UAE, which is located in the Northern Emirates. One of the unique aspects of our resort is certainly the extensive portfolio of suites, which we are very proud of, and which covers 30% of our entire room inventory. All these suites are strategically located, featuring private balconies overlooking the Gulf and aimed at catering to larger families.

Fairmont Ajman is renowned for its immaculate service standards and our colleagues are indeed our greatest pride – providing warm and personalized service, and striving towards turning moments into unforgettable memories for every guest.

Additionally, since the opening in 2015, we were very fortunate to have quickly become one of the most sought-after venues for destination- and local weddings alike. Our Topaz ballroom is the only pillar-less ballroom in Ajman, with an overall seating capacity of 1,200 people, overlooking the Gulf from its floor-to-ceiling windows.

Q: Please highlight some of the facilities provided at Fairmont Ajman?

Kosta: Fairmont Ajman is an all-encompassing luxury resort and boasts a range of facilities, aimed at providing fun, entertainment and relaxation for different types of travelers.

Owing to its seven distinct food and beverage venues, Fairmont Ajman is widely regarded as one of the most diverse culinary destinations in the Northern Emirates. Two of my personal favorites are Gioia, the classic Italian restaurant with a subtle modern twist, featuring a traditional pizza oven and an interactive open kitchen experience, and Kiyi. The latter is our signature restaurant which offers an interactive family-style dining experience in a traditional Turkish setting, with a backdrop of live oud music.

For cooler evenings between October and April, I would also highly recommend our open-air Badr Lounge which offers panoramic views and breathtaking sunsets across the Gulf. Salt & Sea is the swim-up pool bar with light refreshments and snacks that boasts a laid-back atmosphere.

For those, seeking for relaxation and some ‘me-time’, our award-winning Willow Stream spa features an array of pampering treatments, whilst the kids club and outdoor playground provide fun-filled activities for our younger guests.

Q: Please share with us the customer journey at your hotel from the moment a guest enters till they check-out?

Kosta: Your dreamlike staycation kicks off the moment you step into our bright and spacious lobby, warmly greeted by our guest services team, assisting you with luggage and ushering towards the reception for an efficient and speedy check-in process. When arriving in the guest room, step on to the balcony for some great panoramic vistas and to hear the sound of the waves hitting the shore on our private 200-metre white sandy beach.

Your afternoon becomes a bliss at our rooftop lounge Badr, offering magical sunset views overlooking the Arabian Gulf, followed by an authentic Turkish dining experience at our signature restaurant Kiyi, with a backdrop of live Oud music.

After a relaxing treatment the next morning at the Willow Stream Spa, prepare to indulge in a lavish breakfast buffet, spread across our all-day dining restaurant Spectrum.

There’s no better place to capture some Instagrammable memories than during a leisurely stroll along the pristine beach, followed by a relaxing swim in our infinity pool. Before heading downstairs for a check-out, our guest services team will be once again delighted to assist our guests with their luggage, and to ensure that the car you’ve arrived with, is already waiting in the driveway.

Q: What is your philosophy when it comes to ensuring customer happiness?

Kosta: We do our utmost to enchant all our guests during their journey with us, part of which are several service touch points, such as personalized bathroom amenities or a birthday message written on the beach. Therefore, upon opening the hotel, Fairmont Ajman was one of the first worldwide Fairmont Hotels & Resorts property to introduce the RSM system, which was consequently the pilot project for Accor in the region.

Managers in operational departments carry devices, which enable telephone operators to send guest requests and communicate maintenance issues directly to the leaders ‘on the floor’. This solution helps tackle guest requests immediately and gives managers an overview of the pending and completed requests. There are also daily reports sent out to the entire leadership team, which are showcasing the number of resolved requests.

For example, when a guest calls from the room informing our Royal Service team (telephone operators) that the TV is not working, our team can immediately record the guest complaint via RSM online platform, and simultaneously send the RSM ticket to the relevant member of the technology team’s device, who is presently at the property and within the next few minutes able to resolve the issue.

Q: What feedback mechanisms do you have in place and how do you deal with negative feedback from your guests?

Kosta: Our guests’ feedback is of imperial importance to us and I along with my leadership team take it very seriously – be it in a form of an online review; posted on one of our many social media channels or received via email; via post-stay TrustYou survey, or verbally from guests.

When attending to online reviews, timing is essential – living in a social age means that guests are more connected via social media and review platforms than ever before and responding to guest feedback in a timely manner is not only crucial but expected by default from a five-star luxury property.

The only way we can ensure that we are on the right track, is by receiving feedback. While feedback can be challenging, it helps us to determine priority areas for improvement, in order to ensure the highest possible service standards and customer experience are delivered at all times. And as the impact of online bookings and digital feedback continues to rise, the importance of reputation management rises with it.

Q: Do you offer any loyalty programs or discount packages for your customers?

Kosta: ALL (Accor Live Limitless) is our new and very powerful lifestyle loyalty programme that goes beyond hotels and offers, allowing its members to access everything from chef masterclasses to concert tickets and more. Members are benefitting from exclusive offers, discounted stays in more than 3900 hotels, and even earn Rewards points when dining at Accor hotels around the world.

Q: In light of the ongoing pandemic, what are some of the changes and safety measures in place at your hotel?

Kosta: The COVID-19 pandemic has required us to raise our cleanliness, health and safety, and overall service standards to an even higher level with new guidelines received from the Ajman Tourism Development Department (ATDD) and in line with the directives from the Ministry of Health and Prevention and the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA). Since reopening, Fairmont Ajman has implemented all measures dictated by the authority – some of these include, but are not limited to: all individuals entering the hotel are temperature checked before allowed to enter the premises – that applies to all stakeholders: guests, employees and suppliers alike. The hotel premises will be sanitized regularly following the Government standards of sanitization and schedules are sent to ATDD weekly. We are also applying social distancing across all public areas.

The steps we’re taking on cleanliness and new hospitality norms are as much about the health and safety of our employees as they are about our guests. Our guests’ and colleagues’ wellbeing continues to be our top priority and it is crucial that our guests – international and local travelers alike, know that we are fully prepared to welcome them back to a safe and clean hotel environment.

Q: Do you have any staff training programs in place and what key soft skills do you focus on?

Kosta: Prior to joining the property, all employees will undergo an in-depth orientation session, which introduces them to the property and familiarizes with Fairmont and Accor brand history, standards and values. Following the orientation, we have implemented a number of on-job trainings, in addition to the hotel-and departmental-specific trainings, which are being conducted for all colleagues.

When hiring, we prefer to have candidates who are genuinely interested in the industry, as we are not only looking at candidates who can fill available positions, but also those who can grow with the company to become our future leaders.

Ultimately, it is important to have a combination of practical skills and education. A key to success is having a strong foundation of education, combined with the practical experience that one can only get through actually working in the hospitality industry.

Becoming a great hotelier isn’t solely dependent on the fact of having a hotel management degree, therefore often when hiring entry-level employees, we recruit for attitude and train for skills.

Q: How do you plan on making customer experience better in the future?

Kosta: In today’s fast-paced world, it is essential that we understand tomorrow’s customers, today. Tomorrow’s customers are looking for higher quality and customized experiences delivered with greater ease across all stages of the trip. More often than not, a personal touch, attention to detail and a welcoming atmosphere are what defines a hotel’s USP.

Personalization and digitalization will be the key moving forward. Digital customer experiences are not limited to booking hotel rooms but they are about the entire journey: from discovering a place, to considering various hotels and learning about local experiences through recommendations and reviews.

Personalization obtained with the help of digital technology will be the key for the future, as knowing guests’ personal preferences will help create unique experiences for future stays, and customer experience is what truly differentiates a hotel from its competitors.

The ACDC (Accor Customer Digital Card) program is a great illustration of the power technology can have. In a nutshell, ACDC is a global shared database of all the regular guests that have stayed across Accor hotels around the world. Before ACDC, each hotel had its own database of regular guests, but with ACDC, hoteliers can now share knowledge of those customers worldwide. So no matter whether you’re traveling for business or leisure, alone or with your family, we can personalize your stay and recognize you.

About Kosta Kourotsidis

Kosta Kourotsidis brings along a wealth of more than 23 years of global experience in leadership positions across Germany, Ireland, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Lebanon, Bahrain and the UAE.

Kourotsidis is responsible for the overall operations, performance, and strategic direction in conjunction with the brand strategy in delivering exceptional results, at the company’s beachfront resort located in the emirate of Ajman, featuring 252 guest rooms and suites, as well as seven food and beverage outlets.

Prior to joining Fairmont Ajman, Kosta was the General Manager at The Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel, Residence & Spa Bahrain – a 5-star landmark property with 246 rooms and 121 serviced apartments, where during this time he successfully managed an extensive 12-month refurbishment.

Kosta holds a certificate in Hotel Revenue Management from Cornell University, USA.