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Dr. Essa Faqeeh — taking hospitality to greater heights
August 2, 2018, 5:34 pm
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Having spent 30 years of his life working in hotels, spas and resorts in the region and beyond, Dr. Essa Faqeeh, the CEO of Al Areen Palace & Spa, is definitely an authority on the hospitality industry in the region. In a recent interview with The Times Kuwait, the energetic CEO with his infectious smile spoke at length about his experiences in the travel and leisure industry, and about his plans for Al Areen Palace & Spa.

Starting his career in 1988 as a management trainee at the Gulf Hotel Bahrain, the legendary 5-star property established in 1969, Dr. Faqeeh worked his way up the corporate ladder and eventually was elevated to the post of Deputy General Manager in 2008.

While working he also furthered his education and specialized in the hospitality industry. In 2008, with an MBA in Hotel Management from Cornell University in the UK and a Doctorate in Hospitality Business he left Gulf Hotel Bahrain to join the franchise developer ‘The Living Concepts’ as its new Managing Director. Two years later he became a partner in Exceed Hospitality, a leading hospitality consultancy firm that offered its specialized expertise to clients in the hospitality, leisure, tourism, franchising and real estate industries, as well as to government’s in the region keen on developing their travel and tourism industries.

In February 2013, he joined Al Areen Palace & SPA and the Lost Paradise of Dilmun water park, first as an advisor to the owner and then as the CEO. Within a short period of taking charge he was able to revamp and turnaround both projects, which had been loss-making entities since 2007, and achieve over BD2.5 million in net profit.

Over the past three decades, Dr. Faqeeh has been the force behind many successful hospitality ventures in the region and has worked with national authorities to support regional tourism and hospitality in all its aspects. Recently he founded E-Hospitality & Tourism to focus on software solutions to enhance and better regulate the hospitality and tourism industry in the Middle East and to support the market.

“I love this line of business and I want to actually help shape the future of tourism and hospitality industry in the region,” Dr. Faqeeh was quoted as saying when asked about his enthusiasm and drive for his work.

Speaking about what differentiates Al Areen Palace & Spa from other properties that offer similar facilities, Dr. Faqeeh said: “When the business began, we were very similar to any other hotel or resort that offered leisure and spa treatments; we provided the regular body massages, oil baths and other treatments. Three years back we decided to change our approach and differentiate our services.

“We introduced a new concept called ‘Live your Life’ that offered unparalleled holistic care through relaxing and rejuvenating regimen that rehabilitated the whole body and mind. Today, 70 percent of the treatments we offer at our wellness center are unique and is currently unavailable at any other spa in the country; some of the treatments are also not available anywhere else in the region.

“For instance, the detox program not only helps to effectively cleanse the body from the pollutions, processed foods and chemicals that it is exposed to, it also assists in ridding the mind of toxic relationships that we may have built up mentally. It could last from half-a-day to an entire week or more depending on your detoxification aims.

“Our Re-energizing Program offers a range of holistic spa treatments, including massages, yoga, meditation and more, all designed to relax and re-energize you. We even have massages for moms before and after their pregnancy, and we are looking to introduce a tender massage for new-born babies.

“Our signature massages incorporate exotic therapeutic oils that are precisely blended to provide relief and to rejuvenate specific parts or the entire body. We source these oils from Thailand and the Far-East and we have specialist massage therapist fly in to train our staff on the right blends of oils and proper massage techniques.

“We also have a weight optimizing program designed to reduce your weight while also providing the skills and knowledge to maintain the weight lost. Nutritionists at the wellness center are on hand to advise guests on an optimum diet and to provide them with a planned menu that realizes the best outcome from the weight optimizing program.

“Another unique aspect of Al Areem Palace & Spa is that it is a locally developed concept and specifically tailored for people from this region. We did not consider opening an international franchise because those franchisors would not be conversant with the local market and its needs, or to provide the kind of services that local clientele expect. We are able to concentrate on the needs of people from the region, as we know them, and we know what they look for during a vacation.

“As such, we tend to place our focus on families and on what Khaleeji families need, which is to have a lot of privacy along with all the modern amenities and conveniences. This is the reason behind the individualized villas with their own courtyard, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, barbecue facilities and latest entertainment equipment. In addition, since most families have six or more members we have to cater to each person’s different needs. To keep everyone in the family entertained we also offer easy access to a wide range of sports and leisure activities that are located nearby.

“Additionally, our dining options are aimed at pleasing the palates of different members of a large family and the dishes at the restaurants are also affordably priced so that individual family members can pick and choose dishes to their taste. At the Saffron restaurant we offer a fusion cuisine of Khaleeji and Indian dishes set against a Middle-eastern ambiance and furnishing. The Rimal Al Areen restaurant provides an extensive selection from an international a la carte menu, while the Keizo restaurant delivers Japanese, Thai and Chinese fine-dining options in a grandiose setting on a man-made island. You could also opt for a romantic island dining experience in one of the private gazebos at the lakeside of Keizo.”

Highlighting the crucial role that human resources play in the success of the resort, Dr. Faqeeh pointed out, “We are proud to state that over 20 percent of our staff are Bahrainis and they work in different hospitality roles from front office to stevedoring. This percentage of national manpower is higher than in many other enterprises. The rest of the staff are from different nationalities and are hired based on their skills and expertise in different hospitality and culinary fields.

“Our international mix of staff and how they work together is key to the satisfaction we provide our clients who are a mix of nationalities but predominantly from the region. Around 58 percent of our guests are from Saudi Arabia, 33 percent are from Kuwait and the rest are from Bahrain; we also have a strong corporate client base. Regarding occupancy, summer is our peak season and currently we have a 100 percent occupancy, this drops by about five percent the rest of the time.”

Elaborating on future plans for the area in general, Dr. Faqeeh said: “The whole area including the resort is over two million square meters and it was initially planned as large mixed-use development project, with residential, commercial, hospitality, retail and entertainment spaces. But due to various exigencies, construction activity in the area was low key for the last couple of years. However, now things have once again begun to revive, and we are in talks with sub developers on moving ahead with various projects. We have already redone the entire landscaping and now we are providing the lighting and other infrastructure for the area. Once all that is done, activity in the area will likely pick up and that means even more business for us.”

 

Dr. Essa Faqeeh

 

 

 

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