By Dellvin Roshon Williams
If there is one hotel that consistently redefines what fashion-branded boutique hoteling means, it’s Armani Hotel Dubai. Mark Kirby, General Manager of Armani Hotel Dubai, located in Dubai’s über-luxury hotel located in the iconic Burj Khalifah, is a veteran of the hospitality industry with more than two decades of experience.
With Kirby at the helm, Armani Hotel Dubai continues to receive global recognition, winning prestigious awards such as the World’s Leading Design Hotel”, “Middle East’s Leading Lifestyle Hotel and “Dubai’s Leading Hotel” at the 24th World Travel Awards, and the “Luxury Design Hotel – Global Winner” at the World Luxury Hotel Awards in 2017.
An avid supporter of charity work and marathon running, the Rugby enthusiast worked his way up through the ranks of the prestigious London hotel before going global. Tasked with driving commercial strategy and overall operations for the hotel, Kirby talks to Luxury Hoteliers Magazine about what strengthening the Armani brand is all about.
You’ve got a long history in luxury hospitality. How did your collaboration with Armani come about
To give some background, Armani Hotel Dubai is the first hotel under the collaboration of Emaar Properties and Giorgio Armani, the fashion legend. Armani Hotel Dubai is also the flagship property as part of this collaboration and has an iconic location within Burj Khalifa. I joined Armani Hotel Dubai in 2014, and it was a great opportunity to be part of one of the world’s most admired hotels – set apart by its brand identity and location
What would you say are the key drivers of Armani’s success?
There are two defining factors that drive Armani Hotel Dubai’s success. First is its location in Burj Khalifa, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations and a vertical city in its own right; there is significant interest among the discerning visitors to be at Armani Hotel Dubai – especially from high net worth travellers; and our guests stay in the vibrant heart of Dubai – right next to The Dubai Mall and a number of leisure attractions.
Secondly, the brand association with Giorgio Armani – in a first of its kind collaboration – gives the property a unique and singular identity. Every aspect of the hotel – from its design to accessories to the service standards set – is the brainchild of Giorgio Armani. Every guest at the hotel is considered as his personal guest – which underpins our ‘Stay with Armani’ philosophy. We have consistently set benchmarks in luxury hospitality winning recognition that has been voted by peers and guests. We also have ‘Lifestyle Managers,’ who take care of every aspect of the guest’s stay – from planning, during and post – assuring a level of personalized service that is unmatched.
What is the core value that you reinforce every day as General Manager?
Team work. Every individual contributes to making this hotel and brand one of the most respected and admired in the world. That means, delegating responsibility and trusting individuals to meet and exceed expectations. We have a fantastic team at Armani Hotel Dubai, who are at the heart of everything we do, and drive our success consistently.
With the rise of boutique hotelling, the affluent are becoming more selective in choosing their lifestyle experiences. As such, many would say that luxury is being redefined. Would you agree? Why or why not?
Of course, luxury has become redefined and given that it is a purely intangible experience, the challenge for us is to anticipate, meet and exceed the expectations of our guests. Luxury does not mean offering luxurious amenities – it is part of the culture, where guest preferences and expectations are our priority.
While the fundamentals of the luxury hospitality experience are similar – in terms of hotel infrastructure, amenities and the services provided – where it really matters is the service standards we set.
How have changes in technology impacted Armani Hotel’s engagement with new markets?
For us, the opening of new markets is really important; we already see that happening with an increase in number of guests from China, the Indian Subcontinent and Africa. In fact, most recently, Armani Hotel Dubai won the ‘Chinese Preferred Hotel’ certification from Ctrip, China’s number one travel website and Online Travel Aggregator catering to businesses and consumers. The certification recognises the Chinese-friendly services offered by Armani Hotel Dubai.
Secondly, millennial travellers are exploring the world and seeking new and innovative experiences. That’s important because the hospitality industry will see a significant shift in how we leverage technology so that we can serve our guests better. From planning their stay to chalking out the itinerary to after-stay service, technology is going to be the game changer. We are among the first to embrace digital transformation and we will continue to invest in technology to appeal to the new generation of smart travellers.
Lifestyle management is a concept that Armani Hotel Dubai has become quite known for. Tell us about it.
Sure. While our location and brand identity enable us to form an instant connection with our guests, we focus further on enhancing the service standards we offer. We achieve this through our ‘Lifestyle Managers,’ who meet every need of our guests. This focus on personalized service sets us apart and enables us to form long-lasting relationships with our guests. This is reflected in the number of repeat guests we have – from across the world.
If you could summarize the Armani brand in three words what would they be?
Location. Luxury. Personalized Service