Dubai Hotel with Hollywood Flair: Michelle Purnell, Marketing & Comms Manager Talks About Studio One's Focus on Community & Sustainability

Dubai Hotel with Hollywood Flair: Michelle Purnell, Marketing & Comms Manager Talks About Studio One's Focus on Community & Sustainability

Imagine a hotel that feels like a film set, pulsates with a vibrant community vibe, and fuels your taste buds with Dubai's homegrown flavors. That's Studio One Hotel for you! In this interview, Michelle Purnell, Marketing & Communications Manager at Studio One, lifts the curtain on what makes this hotel unique and how it's redefining the Dubai hospitality experience.

Dive in to discover how Studio One blends Hollywood glamour with local flair, cultivates a thriving social scene, and champions sustainability – all while offering exceptional service for today's travelers.

Studio One Hotel emphasizes creativity and a unique experience in Dubai's hospitality scene. Can you explain the inspiration behind this vision and how it differentiates your hotel from others in the region?

Studio One was born in 2019 out of a need for a unique lifestyle concept. We wanted something in the community that brought people together, a place where they could gather, relax, and enjoy time with friends and family while sharing the same values and a relaxed style of hospitality. The idea behind the concept was to focus on entertainment, food, and beverage destinations, featuring really good food and excellent chefs.

We aimed to create a hotel with a relaxed vibe, offering a small boutique-style atmosphere while delivering outstanding food and beverage options to foster a family-friendly environment. We wanted a concept that tied into the local community.

Since Studio City is full of production houses, we decided to build a hotel based around the movies. We picked Stormtrooper as our ultimate character, and from there, the concept was born.

With the introduction of homegrown Dubai brands into your dining options, how do you select these partnerships, and what impact do they have on the guest experience?

The first and most important part is that the brand is developed here in the UAE. When we started, we specifically aimed to champion brands that were born in Dubai and really developed here.

For example, Joey, the incredible guy behind The MAINE Street Eatery, has developed a fantastic concept that started in Dubai and now has restaurants in Ibiza and Mayfair in London, with plans to open one in Abu Dhabi soon. These brands are developing quickly. We have Mr. Miyagi’s here, and the main Miyagi’s in the Media One Hotel, another homegrown concept. El Chapo’s Tacos is a perfect example of a small Mexican eatery where food and a fun atmosphere are key. We also have a beautiful Italian restaurant developed in the UAE, offering authentic Italian food created by a fantastic chef, fostering a real community vibe. The Irish Village, a staple of the UAE, has a smaller version here that is still home to many people. Additionally, we have a brand-new concept, Rags to Riches, developed by a guy who used to work in the Arabian Ranches, providing a place for people to gather, play pool, relax, and enjoy a good steak. These concepts and brands entice customers and encourage them to return, driving loyalty. With a variety of good restaurants and a great atmosphere, people will keep coming back to Studio One because there’s always something new to experience.

The hotel is described as a true social, dining, and entertainment destination. How do you maintain this vibrant community atmosphere, and what are the challenges involved?

Driving the community element involves how you activate and engage with the community. We work closely with businesses in Studio City. For example, Boxica, a local gym across the road, is involved in our events, like our birthday weekend, where they provide free classes. Maintaining and developing these relationships with local businesses is crucial. We also have Gemma, who runs baby swimming classes here, a community project for local parents that brings them together for coffee and conversation. Team Angel Wolf uses this space for inclusive cinema nights, bringing together children of determination and other children for movies, popcorn, and pizza as part of our community engagement program. Original Mix DJs offer DJ classes for children and adults and were heavily involved in our birthday weekend.

Engaging the community and involving those who use our business in our activities drive the social and entertaining aspect, fostering significant community development.

Sustainability is a significant focus for Studio One, as evidenced by your Green Key Certification and initiatives to reduce plastic and paper waste. What inspired this commitment to eco-friendliness, and what future sustainability goals does the hotel have?

We built the hotel with sustainability in mind, a crucial discussion from the very beginning. When we first opened our doors, we decided to be plastic-free, using glass water bottles and fitting LED lighting with sensors to reduce electricity. Recently, we invested in the Waste Lab to compost leftover food and use it in our sustainable garden, developed last year.

Sustainability is a massive driving force behind what we do because we want this building to have longevity and go on into the future.

The way we approach sustainability focuses on regeneration, reusing, upcycling, and recycling to future-proof our business. We don’t want things to stay the same; we aim for continuous improvement and growth.

The private cinema and unique meeting spaces are highlighted features of your hotel. Can you share how these facilities have been received by your guests and any memorable events that have taken place there?

The cinema seats 25. Once, we had 40 young rugby boys in here after they won a tournament at the sevens. They watched the footage, had pizza and drinks, and enjoyed the versatile space. It can be used for ladies’ nights, kids’ parties, and karaoke. The offices nearby sometimes find the noise distracting, but it’s always fun. We’ve held large banquets for local cricket clubs and used the small meeting rooms for various activities. We aim to activate the community by offering these spaces complimentary to groups like Team Angel Wolf and Original Mix DJs as part of our community engagement. The space is versatile and interchangeable, making it perfect for community and business events.

In terms of your One World Policy and community engagement, can you detail some of the community-based projects and events Studio One has been involved with?

One of our proudest moments was developing the One World Policy in 2021. While sustainability was important, we also focused on the community and our staff. Our "stars," as we call them, needed looking after. We developed policies that included well-being, community involvement, and sustainability. S1 Cares supports local organizations and community projects. S1 Wellbeing focuses on staff development, introducing projects that allow supervisor-level stars to learn from senior leaders and develop programs to save money, make money, or save the environment, with rewards based on their success. S1 Sustainable focuses on growing our sustainability efforts. We also introduced the S1 Brand initiative, activating local influencers and small business owners, giving them a platform to develop. Our recent three-day birthday event showcased these local talents and businesses, reinforcing our commitment to the community and our staff.

While social media, digital platforms, and our website are essential for generating revenue and awareness, word-of-mouth is the best marketing.

What people say about your business to each other is invaluable.

Community engagement programs and positive guest experiences lead to organic promotion. Conversations about their great experiences at Studio One spread through the community, generating free marketing. People have approached me after hearing about our work with Team Angel Wolf, wanting to develop positive initiatives together. These community conversations and our ambassadors are incredible marketing tools, championing our business effectively.

Your hotel offers a range of room types, including options for extended stays and rooms designed for people of determination. What drove the decision to include such diverse accommodations?

When we started to think about Studio One as a concept, we wanted to ensure that we were fully inclusive. We wanted to make sure that people of determination could come and stay in a very relaxed environment and enjoy all the same facilities as other guests. One of the things we do very well here is activating the community, and we work with Team Angel Wolf, who use our space for their inclusive activities. So, inclusive rooms and accommodations were important to us.

In terms of the long-stay apartments, they are amazing. They have one bedroom and kitchen facilities, catering to nomadic and remote workers. We see Dubai as a very transient city, with a lot of people coming in and out. Many people need quick accommodation, but they also want to book places for a month or two at a time. We wanted to ensure that we provide relaxed access to hospitality for everyone. The long-stay apartments are fully functional with one bedroom, bathrooms, and kitchen facilities, offering all the amenities of a hotel environment but for longer stays than usual.

Feedback from guests often leads to changes or improvements in hotel operations. Can you share an instance where guest feedback directly influenced a new policy or amenity at Studio One?

We do a lot with feedback. We take TripAdvisor and very seriously, but they seem to be very separate. So, we've recently taken on board TrustYou. We are now looking at and listening to feedback across all mediums—not just TripAdvisor and, but also Google and social media. We’re starting to listen to exactly what our customers are saying and what their needs are. Some policies have changed based on this feedback. While some feedback is subjective, much of it is valid and we sit down to review what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we can do it differently, particularly regarding the restaurants. Feedback on food, service, and timing is essential because the guest experience must be valued.

We use a mystery shopper once a month, and we’re very proud that we've had 100% back-to-back for the last three or four shoppers. When feedback isn’t as positive, we take it seriously and look into it.

For instance, we received feedback about the breakfast buffet, leading us to expand the range and deliver a full buffet breakfast along with a hot option. This feedback has been taken positively and implemented well.

Another example is the courtyard, a huge project we recently completed. We completely ripped up all the tiles and installed brand-new ones, making the space look twice as big. We also invested in new covers for the pool and branded them with unique little signs. We take feedback very seriously and implement changes based on it.

Looking forward, how does Studio One Hotel plan to evolve its services and offerings to keep up with the changing demands of travelers and the dynamic Dubai hospitality market?

I think one of the main things we’ve seen over the last five years is how many different hotels have opened within Dubai. In the last two years, there’s been a huge increase in hospitality offerings, both in hotels and restaurants. What we’re noticing is that people are trying to adapt quickly to market changes, making rapid decisions based on current trends. Our plan focuses on longevity. We want to stay true to who we are.

We’re Studio One, a four-star, beautiful entertainment destination that’s very family-friendly, open, and community-oriented. We love movies, cinema, and community, and that’s part of our plan to stay true to who we are.

We aim to develop excellent service, excite people about coming here, and deliver customer service like never before—offering a five-star experience at four-star prices. We’ll roll out the red carpet for anyone who comes through the door. That’s a unique part of who we are, and we’re not going to change. We won’t worry too much about local changes or react quickly to things. Instead, we’ll look, develop, consider, and stick to our plan of being Studio One.

Regarding the restaurant, we’re looking to develop it, particularly Larte. We want to elevate that brand slightly and make some tweaks, so there may be some surprises coming over the summer. In terms of the community, that’s where the real development will happen.

Over the next five years, we aim to grow as a community-based hotel, becoming the communal hub of Studio One. How do we grow that? How do we develop that? How do we engage more communities? These communities are open to us, and we’re open to them.

For example, the Ranches Ladies come in on Tuesday mornings—a group of amazing women who live across the road come in for coffee and talks. We want more communities like that here, enjoying our facilities, engaging with us, talking to us, and allowing us to give them a platform to develop and grow their businesses. For me, that’s where the development really is—in those communities, in those ambassadors, and driving that from within.

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