Mirza Mansoor Ahmed, a seasoned veteran with 26 years of experience in the hotel industry of Pakistan talks about the recent challenge Mövenpick Hotels have taken up in the country.
Synergyzer: You’ve been in the hotel industry for more than 26 years, what have been some of the most memorable moments of your career? What made you choose this industry as a profession?
Mirza Mansoor Ahmed: I used to visit a lot of hotels in my childhood; the places, the people, the ambience and the décor would always fascinate me. When the time came for me to choose my career, I had two options, either the hotel industry or finance. I chose the hotel industry and have been here since.
The profession is very interesting; every day is a new day. Many jobs turn monotonous after a certain amount of time but a hotelier meets different kinds of people and comes across different sets of challenges.
We meet dignitaries, bureaucrats, government officials, national and international celebrities and the list continues.
Under the challenging times, there have been some bad memories also but I like to remember the good ones such as receiving the president of Turkey, meeting dignitaries from the Army, Admirals, Chief of General Staff etc. It’s all about cherishing the old memories.
Synergyzer: How would you define the Mövenpick Hotels chain and resorts?
Mansoor: Mövenpick Hotels and Resorts is a Swiss chain of upscale 5 star hotels. It was founded in the year 1974. To date we operate 80 hotels in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Africa.
Mövenpick has a strong hold in the Middle East where we have 6 hotels in Dubai alone. We also stand strong in Saudi Arabia, Mecca and Medina where we have hotels with 1200 to 1400 rooms.
The chain is growing steadily and by 2015; we plan to have 100 hotels under our brand.
Synergyzer: Why did Mövenpick take so long to enter Pakistan?
Mansoor: Mövenpick Hotels and Resorts is a collection of hotels. We are present in almost all the major cities of the world and it was just a matter of the right time and opportunity.
Perhaps the timings clicked in June 2013 and the contract between Mövenpick Hotels and Resorts was signed with the Arabian Sea Enterprises. Since then we are working on processes, planning for rebranding and converting and taking over the Sheraton Hotel thereby establishing Mövenpick Hotel Karachi.
Synergyzer: What competition would Mövenpick face with established names like PC and Marriott in Pakistan?
Mansoor: PC and Marriott have co-existed for 32 years now. They’ve been together in the same boat during good and bad times.
Mövenpick, although new, can be a very powerful hotel in the country, so competition is always healthy.
Since we have co-existed for 32 years, they have their share of business and we have our share of business. More importantly, Mövenpick is now the largest hotel of the city with 407 rooms, so we have to go a couple of miles extra to fill our business appetite.
Synergyzer: What is your target market?
Mansoor: As a 5 star hotels chain, our targeted customers are corporate travellers. Included in these, we have a segment of businessmen, traders and corporate executives and we also cater to conferences, meetings, exhibitions and seminars. This forms the main majority as Karachi is a business hub. Whether it is dining, banquets or room accommodation, we don’t distinguish ourselves to only cater to the elite class.
Synergyzer: What new attractions has this chain brought to the hotel industry in Pakistan?
Mansoor: Since our takeover from 1st of January 2014, our first priority has been to address the standard of quality and service. We are continuously working on this aspect with the entire team of the hotel to give a better experience to our guests who are coming to avail our hotel services.
As for the changes, we are training our resources and have major renovation plans, initially starting with the first two floors.
We are also in the process of meeting interior designers and project management companies to finalize the arrangement. We hope to start the renovation of the lobby, Al-Bustan and Lamama restaurant, the public toilets and the elevators from the second half of May 2014.
Synergyzer: What price changes are expected to be seen at Mövenpick? Have there been any changes in the management and employees, including the Hotel’s Chef?
Mansoor: The prices are determined by the market. We plan to continue with the same pricing strategy and will adjust it according to market dynamics.
The management has changed from 1st January, 2014 but we have taken on the earlier team as they have been a valuable asset of the hotel and have been working for years within the premises.
We do have an opening for a chef and are also sourcing out an expat chef. We plan to finalize this position within the month.
Synergyzer: How do you plan to deal with the volatile law and order situation in Karachi?
Mansoor: If you look at it in terms of the global scenario, unfortunately, there are many countries that are under similar turmoil. We also have our share of issues and challenges in the city but life goes on.
This city has a population of 20 million people and there are intermittent disturbances but it looks as though it is thriving and robust and from the business point of view everything is as usual.
From the security point of view, we have e-vigilance, security personnel and technical equipment to safeguard our hotel.
6 months ago the owners built an anti-blast wall around the hotel which has further strengthened up the security.
When we took over, our first task was to get ourselves audited from the experts at United Nations Department of Safety and Security. All their inspections were clear so we are a preferred hotel of UNDSS.
Synergyzer: Most corporate meetings have also changed their venues to Dubai, Singapore or Malaysia. What would be your comments on that?
Mansoor: This is not a recent scenario – this has been there since the last 15 years. Generally, when companies plan their annual conferences and management meetings they look for different venues.
In this part of the world, the new hotels or resorts are not coming as frequently as they are coming to other major cities of the world, so the existing companies look for different options every time.
Synergyzer: Do you think your complete renovation plans are going to affect business?
Mansoor: We are reconciling our renovation plans and business development with due precision. On one hand, we’ll deal with one operation, while on the other we will be dealing with the renovation, thus business will be running smoothly.
Synergyzer: Are you planning to take out any promotional campaign for Mövenpick’s marketing in Pakistan?
Mansoor: The process of enforcing the brand of Mövenpick is on-going. We did a pre-takeover and post-takeover marketing campaign. For now, we are planning to promote the family weekend package and the recently launched Sunday Brunch. We also launched our High Tea in March.
Synergyzer: Which promotional methods do you usually prefer?
Mansoor: Primarily, the digital medium because its time efficient and cost efficient. We also use e-mail marketing using the database of more than 10,000 customers. Print Media is very selective.
In the long term we will focus on corporate alliance with multinational and national companies so that they can cater to our clients while we cater to theirs’.
We have a Facebook page that started on 1st January 2014 and within a matter of two months we have received 18,000 fans. This makes us feel awed and warmly welcomed.
Synergyzer: Tell us about your future plans? How many chains are you planning to open in Pakistan and in which cities?
Mansoor: We are here to stay. In a very short span of time we have received many proposals from hotel developers in Lahore and Islamabad and we are currently in dialogue with them. Initially, our target is to begin our expansion from major cities like Lahore and Islamabad.