Interview: Robbie Nasser, General Manager, Ramada Encore by Wyndham – Muscat

Ramada Encore by Wyndham opened its doors to Muscat recently. Nestled in the heart of the city, the Ramada Encore Muscat is ideally positioned to cater to both business and leisure travellers alike. Business Live Middle East interviewed Robbie Nasser, General Manager of Ramada Encore by Wyndham – Muscat, about the newly opened property, the current situation of the hospitality industry, and more.

Here are excerpts of the interview:

Interview: Robbie Nasser, General Manager, Ramada Encore by Wyndham – Muscat
Robbie Nasser, General Manager of Ramada Encore by Wyndham

Tell us more about the newly opened property.

The Ramada Encore Muscat Hotel is a 163 rooms property with an Italian cuisine specialty restaurant and a craft coffee shop. The rooms are spacious and come with king or twin beds, feature hardwood floors, flatscreen TVs, and a high tech control panel for the lighting system and air-conditioning. 23 premiere and executive suites are also available for those guests who are looking for a private living room area and more space. We also have a fully equipped fitness center with Precor equipment and a rooftop pool for the enjoyment of our patrons.

The hotel’s excellent location in the middle of the city, in addition to its ease of access to the airport and various government offices and companies, makes it ideal for both business and leisure travelers. 

How does it fit within the Muscat hospitality market?

When it comes to international hotel chains, the local market is very heavy on upscale and upper upscale properties that constitute more than 70% of the available rooms inventory. The Ramada Encore Muscat is rightly positioned in the upper-midscale category at a very attractive price point to travelers. The Muscat market needs more hotels of this caliber to make travel easier for everyone.

How will the Ramada Encore Muscat serve the current market demand?

With the economic effects the pandemic has had on businesses, companies are now looking at significant savings across the board. We realize this need for organizations and have lined up our selling strategy accordingly, giving companies that choose the Ramada Encore Muscat a very big value for their money. We have included breakfast for all companies that sign a corporate rate with us and we are providing them with additional benefits such as drop offs to their local offices in the area and others.

Given your extensive experience in the hospitality industry and with the current backdrop of the ongoing pandemic, how are you planning to do things differently?

Our operational model has now changed to include as a main objective, guest safety and security. We have not cut any corners with regard to safety measures in order to provide a safe hotel environment, protecting both our valued guests and team members. Our teams are now fully equipped with PPEs and hand sanitizing stations are spread around different public areas of the hotel. We are also abiding by the Ministry of Health and Ministry Of Tourism’s guidelines of safely opening a hotel when it comes to social distancing in various areas along with the occupancy rotation of a room- allowing a 24 hour gap between two guests checking in into the same one.

The travel and hospitality industry has undoubtedly been hit hard, how are you rising to the challenge? Tell us about your strategy for the Oman market.

With the airport still being closed for international and regional travel, we are turning to the local market introducing our property and lovely product to fulfill their hospitality needs. The Muscat market has been energized as of late with many government lead projects taking place, in addition to the oil & gas sector that has remained fully functional. As for the leisure sector, people are now tired of being locked at home for a while, they are looking for short weekend staycations and getaways which we intend to cater to with success.

There’s been a lot of talk about the “new normal” as hoteliers prepare for the post-pandemic landscape. How can hoteliers adjust to these changes and set their properties up for success?

Hotel managers and owners are now looking at their properties and products from a hygiene perspective, identifying the need for equipment to provide a safe environment. For instance, we have installed a sanitization tunnel at the hotel’s main entrance in addition to a temperature checking device as our guests arrive into our lobby. We have also partnered with Ecolab, a world leader in industrial chemical distribution, to provide our teams with the best available chemicals for sanitization and cleaning. We have also deployed fogging machines to sanitize rooms entirely after every check out. These are some of the actions that we have taken to safeguard our guest experience. Other establishments have been thinking along the same lines. 

During the current global health crisis, what role do you think technology plays in helping hotels in their recovery?

Technology has been assisting the hospitality sector in communicating to arriving guests about the measures in place for their protection. Technology is also participating in reducing the number of items guests have to come in contact with while on the property. In particular, printed menus, directories or information collaterals are now being digitized. Our room service menu for example, has been uploaded on the in-room televisions for the guest to scroll through without having to touch a physical menu. Our arrival experience has been converted to a paperless Interaction with the registration happening over an iPad. Other outlet menus are also available by scanning a QR code on your mobile.

What, in your view, does the next 12-24 months look like for the hospitality industry? 

People will still want to travel, there is no way around it, and being locked at home for a while has given them an additional incentive to want to break away. Safety and security measures should continue being in the heart of the guest experience so that they feel confident returning to the same property over and over again. Many establishments have reduced their staffing levels to adapt to the current conditions, they have to keep in mind that the Guest is still wanting to experience hospitality when arriving at a hotel. There’s nothing like a warm smile after a long day of travel, even if the person greeting you is wearing a mask. The hospitality industry is a resilient one and hoteliers will know how to gear back up their teams and properties for full on operations once the situation has significantly improved.

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