In focus: The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel

3 years ago by

In an exclusive interview with, Samir Arora the General Manager at The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel speaks about how they believe in providing personalized service to their guests according to their desired wishes. He also discusses their customer loyalty program and how they have altered their services according to changing customer demands. Moreover, he also highlights the efforts being made to ensure safety for guests during this pandemic and how they plan on making their customer experience better in the future.

In focus: The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel

Q: Tell us a bit about your resort and highlight some of the services that you provide?

Samir: Having established ourselves as the region’s first wellbeing resort, we believe in a 360-degree holistic approach in all our services and facilities offered at the property. At the heart of the resort is the Rayya Wellness Centre, offering seven tailor-made wellness retreats exclusive to the property, ranging from weight management and anti-ageing to detox treatments and emotional wellbeing.

Q: Tell us about the customer journey at your resort.  

Samir: The customer journey with The Retreat starts way before a guest arrives at the resort, especially when we deal with retreat guests. Before they arrive, we send them a very detailed wellness questionnaire that allows us to select, adapt and tailor the best possible retreat programme for them. It is an individual’s choice, which elements of the retreat they choose to do or not. Upon reaching the resort, we handhold them throughout their entire retreat experience. Once they leave the hotel premises, our wellness team stays in touch with them in order to ensure they follow the recommendations given by our specialists.

Q: How do you ensure brand loyalty and customer satisfaction?

Samir: With so many established hotel brands in the market, customers are constantly tempted by promotions and offers, which could make customer loyalty elusive. Customer expectations have changed a lot: they want simpler, more liquid and more bespoke experiences and they’re asking us for a wider choice of services. Understanding this fact, last year Accor announced the launch of its new Lifestyle loyalty program, ALL (Accor Live Limitless). The digital platform provides a gateway to all the advantages, services and experiences Accor can provide to jazz up customers’ daily lives with more opportunities to Live, Work and Play.

Q: What processes do you have in place to gather customer feedback?

Samir: Guest feedback today influences 95% of booking decisions. These systems allow guests to have their voice heard. The level of focus guests put on reviews and the importance of hotels to manage them is becoming critical to manage our rankings on guest feedback systems. This also allows hotels to create guest loyalty. We use this feedback to better understand our guest and improve on our services. It helps us provide credibility. Our belief is that guests today are a resort’s ambassadors and they do indirect marketing for you when they publish their experiences online.

Q: Do you offer 24/7 customer support on your digital platforms?

Samir: We are there for our guests 24/7. In this new digital era, customers use multiple devices to browse, research, read reviews and recommendations, compare options, before finally moving on to actually making a decision. Throughout this process, queries related to hotel facilities and rates might come up, and we offer 24-hour support to them.

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

Samir: Our resort has all the relevant technology and digital media channels such as WhatsApp Business, CRM, Business and Social Media intelligence tools for our guests to engage and voice their concerns prior to their arrival, during their stay and post departure. Proactively we have internal systems whereby we foresee and identify any potential pitfalls, which our guest might face and rectify them systematically. We also scrutinize all our guests’ feedback and ensure that we rectify and correct our system, procedures, people and product in order to not repeat the same mistake again.

Q: How do you ensure that you meet your customers’ expectations?

Samir: The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel is part of Accor Hotels’ distinctive MGallery collection of contemporary boutique hotels worldwide. We stay true to what we set out to achieve, working with the best in class, achieving outstanding results, staying ahead of the trends and leading the market towards the global wellness movement.

Q: How has this global pandemic COVID-19 impacted your business?

Samir: Following the global COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that consumer priorities have drastically shifted. To ensure wellbeing of our guests and employees, we implemented tailor-made operating protocols, cleaning products technology and developed team members’ trainings. We provide seamless and contactless services, such as use of WhatsApp communication tool and virtual restaurant and in-room menus.

While people are not travelling, the hotel has continued to stay connected with our past and potential guests via social, emails and blogs to maintain the resort’s relationship. We have just ramped up our marketing efforts along with appropriate revenue management strategy to fuel new bookings via CPCs and CPMs to reach people who have begun to daydream about rebooking and have started to plan their vacations.

Offering flexibility in bookings and clear messaging relevant to the situation will be key to start receiving bookings. We have also adapted to ensure guest’s safety and security by ensuring minimal touch points such as online check-in with virtual payments, E-Menus via QR codes, keyless entry to rooms, electronic display messaging etc.

Q: In your opinion, how do you see this pandemic changing the future of tourism?

Samir: COVID-19 has changed the way we use the internet and technology. We had to adapt and keep up with the latest technology and new trends post COVID-19. Finding and keeping valued customers will be another challenge. Customers going forward will need to have extremely flexible booking options, which also changed trends in our booking and business, pick up patterns.

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

Samir: We always focus on soft skills that are basic to any personalized service. We train our team to use technology to get closer and offer personalized approach. It is important for our Hearthists to truly know and understand the guest and pre-empting their needs; to be flexible in your approach, work together with the constantly evolving hospitality market, the ever-increasing high expectations to provide a trusted service and memorable moments that resonate on a personal level with each individual.

Q: How do you plan to improve customer experience in the future?

Samir: We will continue to get more personalized while delivering excellent service and provide memorable moments to our guests, while complementing them with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and latest technology.  At the same time we ensure that technology will not invade our personalized approach.

About Samir Aror

Arora brings more than 20 years of international industry experience spanning Asia and the GCC. Prior to joining R Hotels he held the title of General Manager at Ramada Downtown Dubai, overseeing all hotel operations and supervision of all departments. He served as Resident Manager at Vida Downtown and preceding this, Executive Assistant Manager and Front Office Manager at Al Manzil Downtown where he spearheaded the rebranding of the property.

His journey through the hospitality ranks also included various positions at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina, including Assistant Front Office Manager, Training Manager, Assistant F&B Manager, and Restaurant and Bar Manager.