Julian Ayers, Regional Vice President – India and Middle East and Guy Heywood, Chief Operating Officer – Asia, Commune Hotels and Resorts share Alila Jabal Akhdar’s offerings for corporate clients. Mayank Singh reports
Why should corporate clients consider Alila Jabal Akhdar for meetings and conferences?
Julian Ayers: You get a fantastic location on the mountain; it’s very secluded, and so if a company wants to get its people away without distraction, then Alila is an ideal opportunity. During summers, it is 15 degrees cooler so it is a great opportunity to get away from the heat of Muscat. Corporates can do a quality meeting and some unusual activities like mountain climbing. So there is plenty for people to do.
Guy Heywood: Doing outdoor activities shows how a management team would work in a challenging situation or how would things work out if someone who is not a senior member were to lead a team and the mountains are a perfect place to conduct such exercises. We work with a few organisations who can come up with different team building activities for a small MICE group. We can also extend exclusive attention to your group. In bigger hotels, your group is one of probably 15 meetings. We have a beautiful boardroom, and since Alila is an 86-room property, we have usually one group at a time. We give dedicated service and attention to your needs.
You mentioned about a number of extra-curricular activities that can be arranged in and around the hotel. Do you facilitate such activities?
Ayers: It depends on how specialised the activity is. If they want a teambuilding exercise, then it is better to call in a specialist and we could recommend those people as we have them on board. If it is something simpler like a group trek, then we have our own staff who can take care of the group.
Give me a few examples of the kind of exercises and activities that a corporate group can enjoy at Alila?
Ayers: A lot of these revolve around the venue itself. We can organise a morning Yoga session and meditation programmes. Alila offers multiple options when it comes to dinner venues. We can organise picnics in one of the locales around the resort. So it is all about what can be done at a destination that will take you out of the meeting room and give you an experience to go along with that.
Heywood: The obvious draw for the MICE segment is the meeting room itself. It’s a beautifully appointed meeting room with natural light, with a beautiful boardroom table that can sit 24 people. We have a state-of-the art audio visual and power points on the table. The room has a big screen and a large television. The audio visual and the set-up is what most high-level meetings would expect. On top of that, since we are not designed as a MICE hotel per se, the facilities are more luxurious, keeping with the design and intent of the building. The meeting room is next to the library, so you could break into the library, where there are lounges. Overall, Alila feels a lot more residential and homely, unlike other hotels. The lobby has got a big open fireplace. The places where you can break out to include the Rose Lounge, Majlis and the outdoor decks. We can convert one of our premium Omani villas into a meeting space. As Julian was saying we have a number of options; and whether it is meeting space options or outside of the meeting space, we like to mix it up. When an exclusive corporate group is breaking up for lunch, we just don’t want them to break up. While in other hotels, during a break you will have coffee standing; we can do a coffee break on the Yoga deck or one of the private residences overlooking the pool. Everywhere you go in Alila Jabal Akhdar, you have these incredible views; so we like to use the outdoors as much as possible and since it is cooler there, we can use the outdoors extensively. Even during winters, it is lovely and we can put a bonfire and people can sit around it. Thus, there are a number of places around the property that we can use and which take you away from the humdrum of other properties which have meeting rooms after meeting rooms.
Alila Jabal Akhdar is a boutique hotel. Is a MICE offering kind of a force-fit?
Ayers: It is not a force-fit; there are certain events and meetings that fit into our hotel and others that don’t. If you are looking for a meeting for 150 people then probably we are not the right hotel. But we are perfect for that team building exercise, a product launch or a boardroom retreat.
Cuisine plays a big part in offsite meetings. What can be expected at the resort?
Ayers: We don’t have multiple restaurants, but we have multiple venues. For instance, if someone wants a theme-based dinner, we can do that. We can arrange for dinners on the Yoga deck, around the pool or a barbecue in one of the villas. So there are a number of options to choose from. We pride ourselves on doing local Omani cuisine, as we get a lot of the produce off the mountains and we want to showcase those things to people visiting the mountains. Overall, Alila offers multiple venues and cuisines.
Most companies are looking for a good deal. What kind of a pricing does Alila offer?
Ayers: We offer good value, but not the cheapest in the market. At the end of the day, with the level of service, quality of venue and everything else, it is going to be good value. Money can’t buy you experience. Moreover, we have meeting rates and 24-hour rates for companies.
Heywood: When it comes to the MICE segment, there are so many variations that the pricing is on an a la carte and case by case basis. It is also based on the size of the group, duration of the stay and specific requirements. We do have base packages, meeting packages, but we like to tailor-make the experience for the client.