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Creating a Vibrant Hospitality Experience: General Manager Mark Lee’s Approach at Media One Hotel in Dubai

Creating a Vibrant Hospitality Experience: General Manager Mark Lee’s Approach at Media One Hotel in Dubai
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Mark Lee's journey from a kitchen porter to the General Manager of Media One Hotel in Dubai exemplifies determination and excellence in the hospitality industry. Overcoming numerous challenges, he earned a BTEC HND in Hotel, Catering & Institutional Management, and embarked on a career that took him from London to Madrid, where he managed establishments like the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory and opened Planet Hollywood Madrid.

In Dubai, he transformed an intended staff accommodation into the renowned Arabian Park Hotel before leading Media One Hotel to become an independent business, lifestyle, and entertainment destination. Under his leadership, the hotel has garnered numerous accolades, and Mark remains dedicated to fostering team growth and maintaining the hotel's reputation for excellence. His passions include sports and culinary adventures across Europe, and his life mantra, "Givers gain," reflects his commitment to positively impacting others.

In this interview, Mark shares his insights on cultivating a unique brand identity, overcoming operational challenges, leveraging Dubai's stunning views in marketing, and the importance of sustainability and community engagement.

Media One Hotel brands itself as a premium business, lifestyle, and entertainment destination in Media City. What unique strategies have you employed to cultivate this brand identity amidst the competitive landscape of Dubai's hospitality sector?

At Media One Hotel, we offer a unique proposition as an all-in-one, all-encompassing destination. Our strategy is divided into three key areas: business, rooms, and F&B (Food & Beverage).

From a business perspective, we provide 230,000 ft² of office space, housing over 20 local, regional, and international companies. Our goal is to offer a seamless, turnkey experience rather than a typical landlord-tenant relationship. We provide 24/7 security, hassle-free parking, comprehensive engineering services, and housekeeping, including additional services like laundry. We also offer meeting rooms and F&B options, creating a comprehensive corporate experience. By ensuring that companies and their employees feel at home, we achieve high engagement levels and low turnover rates.

For our rooms, we focus on attracting business travelers by offering a lifestyle experience. Our sales team maintains strong relationships with local corporate clients, ensuring their overseas guests have a pleasant stay.

The third aspect of our strategy is F&B. Our hotel offers numerous restaurants and bars, providing a variety of after-work distractions for our corporate guests. This three-pronged strategy—business services, comfortable rooms, and diverse F&B options—ensures a cohesive and attractive brand identity.

With the hotel hosting over 10,000 guests weekly, what operational challenges do you face, and how do you ensure a consistently high-quality experience for every guest?

Managing peak times and foot traffic is crucial for us, especially with 800 people coming to work in the office tower daily. We see pressure points in the mornings from around 7:30 to 9:00 and in the evenings between 5:00 and 7:00. Our security team ensures smooth arrival and departure experiences during these times.

Recently, we've partnered with Ipsoteck, a software company specializing in AI technology. We've been trialing their software, which interfaces with our CCTV cameras, allowing us to manage foot traffic more effectively. The system can alert our security team if more than 30 people gather in one area, ensuring smooth movement, particularly around elevators. Additionally, we can monitor foot traffic by the hour, demographic, and age group. This advanced technology helps us identify VIP guests upon arrival and blacklist unruly ones. So, enjoy yourself at Media One, but remember that our AI technology is always watching.

Your hotel boasts a diverse range of rooms with stunning views of Dubai’s landmarks. How do you leverage this feature in your marketing efforts, and what impact has it had on bookings?

Our rooms offer three principal views, each uniquely appealing. The most popular is the Palm view, followed by the Sheikh Zayed view, which overlooks Abu Dhabi and parts of Dubai Marina. Lastly, we have the view down Sheikh Zayed Road towards Dubai, including glimpses of the Emirates Golf Course and the Burj Khalifa on clear days.

These views are integral to our yielding strategy, allowing us to categorize and price rooms based on their vistas. Additionally, our 42nd-floor meeting rooms, Instagram and Webinar, are extremely popular due to their panoramic views of Dubai and natural daylight, enhancing the meeting experience. We even provide a telescope for guests to enjoy a closer look at Dubai’s landmarks.

From an F&B perspective, our partners on the 42nd and 43rd floors also benefit from these stunning 360-degree views, making their venues highly attractive. The importance of views and location cannot be overstated, as they significantly contribute to the appeal and efficiency of our rooms, meeting spaces, and dining establishments.

Given the variety of dining options available at the hotel, including venues like Ciao Bella and Coco Lounge, how do you maintain the quality and authenticity of each cuisine offered?

Dubai is unrivaled in global hospitality, making it a sought-after destination for both leisure and work. The Dubai authorities have excelled in positioning the city as a top choice for various reasons. The hospitality competition here is immense, with an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 restaurants, bars, and cafes, and over 150,000 hotel room nights available. This competition keeps us sharp and focused.

We constantly monitor trends and gather guest feedback to evaluate and improve our food offerings. Quality is non-negotiable for us. Chef Omar, who leads our culinary team, ensures that we use top-quality produce, despite recent logistical challenges. We refuse to let these challenges affect the quality of our dishes.

Change is essential, and we proactively update our menus to keep them fresh and exciting. Additionally, we host guest chef visits to diversify our offerings. For instance, this week, we have guest chef Daniella from Italy hosting two supper clubs at Ciao Bella. This not only enhances our culinary diversity but also provides our guests with unique dining experiences.

The hotel's office tower is fully occupied by a mix of media and tech companies. What makes Media One Hotel an attractive location for these businesses, and how do you plan to expand your offerings to accommodate future tenants?

Office Tower

Our principal aim is to make everyone, both the companies and their employees, feel at home and recognized at all levels. We identify their favorite spots for lunch, coffee, or afternoon tea, ensuring our team is trained to recognize them as office tower guests.

Our tenants benefit from the M1 Rewards program, which offers a 15% discount on food and beverage at all our venues.

We ensure quick and efficient handling of any challenges through our security, housekeeping, and engineering teams. Additionally, we organize regular networking sessions, such as introductory breakfasts or early evening drinks, to foster business relationships among our tenants. These sessions have led to successful collaborations and business opportunities.

Currently, we have a waitlist for office space, which we view positively as it indicates demand. Our top priority is the satisfaction of our existing tenants, even if it means limited opportunities for expansion due to the tower's capacity. It's a great problem to have, as it reflects the high demand for our office spaces.

Sustainability is an increasingly important issue for the hospitality industry. Can you elaborate on the initiatives Media One Hotel has undertaken since receiving the Dubai green-key certification, and what future plans you have for environmental stewardship?

We recently renewed our Green Key Certification, highlighting our commitment to sustainability. Our journey began in 2018/2019, with a temporary pause during the pandemic, but we resumed our efforts in 2021. We have a sustainability committee that meets monthly and collaborates with partners like Grohe, Avani, Neutral Fuels, and The Waste Lab to implement eco-friendly initiatives.

Key efforts include eliminating single-use plastics, switching to LED lights, using biodegradable straws, and bottling our own water. We also compost food waste through The Waste Lab, which significantly reduced our carbon footprint by 68,000 kilos of CO2 last year.

Book Your Sustainable COP28 Hotel in Dubai | Media One
The Waste Lab - Rescuing food scraps. Building soil.

We continually seek ways to enhance our sustainability practices. For instance, our Media One app consolidates services, reducing paper use, and we are exploring key cardless check-ins and sensor-based systems for energy efficiency. Sustainability is now integral to our company's DNA, reflected in regular updates and initiatives like beach cleanups. Our progress is ongoing, and we are dedicated to further reducing our environmental impact.

Your hotel provides a wide array of facilities, including a well-equipped gym and sauna. How do these amenities contribute to the overall guest experience, and are there plans to expand these offerings?

As a business property, it's crucial to offer wellness and gym facilities, which are highly utilized, especially in the early mornings and evenings. Alongside our pool at Cocoa Lounge, these amenities provide enjoyable experiences for our guests. However, the primary challenge we face is a shortage of space, limiting our ability to expand these offerings directly on-site.

To address this, we've partnered with various external providers to enhance our wellness options. A notable collaboration is with a beach club, including Peaches & Cream on the Palm, which excels in delivering exceptional services. By teaming up with such partners, we extend our range of facilities and continue to offer more to our guests, ensuring their needs are met even beyond what we can provide directly at Media One.

Community engagement and employee welfare are highlighted as part of your sustainability efforts. Could you provide examples of how you've made a tangible impact in these areas?

No photo description available.
M1 Run

Community engagement is a cornerstone of our business strategy at Media One. We actively participate in various community activities and foster strong relationships with our corporate clients and their employees. A notable example is the M1 Run, Dubai's most exciting vertical race, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. The event attracts both local and international participants, with proceeds donated to the Al Jalila Foundation.

We prioritize employee welfare by conducting regular temperature checks, engagement surveys, and applying for recognition as a great place to work, which we achieved last year. To maintain work-life balance, we organize monthly sporting and cultural events and offer discounts through partnerships with local businesses.

We are also heavily involved with the Dubai community, collaborating with over a dozen business councils and hosting numerous events, such as catering for the British Chamber of Commerce Dubai's yacht party and events for the Swedish, Swiss, and Turkish Business Councils. These initiatives highlight our commitment to community engagement and support our overall business strategy.

Media One Hotel seems to focus heavily on creating a vibrant social atmosphere with entertainment options and events. How do you balance this with the needs of business travelers seeking a quieter stay?

So, everybody out there, we don't do quiet. Many places do quiet much better than we do. We don't do it. What we do is deliver a vibrant lifestyle experience. So, if you want to come and do your knitting in the lobby, don't come to Media One. That's not us. We look at the young at heart, I think I say to many, I have to say the young at heart because I'm not young anymore. But we look at catering to the young and heart-savvy business and leisure, leisure travelers. So that's what we are. We're not going to change. And yeah, if you want quiet, they probably need to go somewhere else.

Lobby

Looking ahead, how does Media One Hotel plan to evolve its services, facilities, and community engagement initiatives to continue standing out in Dubai’s dynamic hospitality industry?

As I mentioned earlier, we need to stay attuned to what today's business and leisure travelers want and expect, especially from a technological perspective. Our goal is to provide a personalized, hassle-free stay at Media One. Whether it's staying in one of our rooms, using our meeting facilities, or visiting our restaurants and bars, technology plays a crucial role in enhancing the guest experience.

One positive outcome of the pandemic was the accelerated adoption of certain technological advances we were aiming to implement. We quickly transitioned to offering a touchless environment for our guests, and this has served as a foundation to further enhance our digital offerings. Embracing and integrating technology into every aspect of the guest experience remains a key focus for us.

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Maryam Pervez

Written by Maryam Pervez

Maryam is the Managing Editor at HiDubai, bringing 8+ years of expertise in marketing, social media, and content development. She holds a Master's degree in Marketing Comms from Middlesex University.
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