Is this your first time at Imex?
Yes, I flew out to speak at the Politicians Forum at Imex yesterday and then hosted dinner for 60 agencies at the Villa Kennedy.
How important is C&I business for the collection?
It is immensely important, representing about half of our business now. Meetings remain the dominant part of corporate business, and this was the most significant rise last year.
Which properties do particularly well for events?
Our collection in Germany is particularly well-suited to the market and our Abu Dhabi property also has some exciting spaces including a ballroom for 500. Verdura has also had some high-profile events including a car launch for BMW recently.
Does perception continue to affect bookings?
2009 was an incredibly difficult year for all of us I think, and in the immediate wake of the Lehmans collapse, so there were cancellations from banks and financial companies. But the bottom line is that if an event is incentive-based, you need a good backdrop. And often, if the service, surrounds and food is better in a five-star, then it results in increased productivity from the meeting too.
Which properties are set to open next?
We have a beautiful property under development in Jeddah, and we envisage a launch in 2013. We are also working on a development in Beirut and I constantly look at all the major cities such as New York, Milan and Paris.
Where do you hold your annual conference?
We’ve held it at our Verdura property for the past three years. It is a two day meeting, including a review of the year and workshops to focus on strategic planning for the year ahead.