Big is Beautiful

by Liz O’Reilly

Tue, 01 May 2018

Big is Beautiful

As Juffair’s newest hotel held its official opening, BTM spoke to the men responsible for bringing the world’s biggest Wyndham Garden to the Kingdom.

The 441-room property is operated by the Wyndham Group under licence from owning company Mannai properties. Asked the reasoning behind creating such a large development on our small island, Salim Ahmed Mannai, Chairman of Mannai Holding SPC, explains: “It’s a business decision. We could see that the time was right with the developments going on in Juffair. My company has been involved in this area since the 1980s; we built the first inclusive apartments here, which had things such as swimming pools, squash courts, parking and security.

“I had been in Europe and seen these things, so I took the best of what I had seen and brought it here to Bahrain, and that’s what we’re doing still.”

CEO of Mannai Holding SPC, Anil Nair, adds: “We believe we have the right product. If it was box-like rooms, there could be a problem, but this property is family-oriented – our smallest accommodation is 54sq/m and we also have a selection of suites and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. This will give us a segment of long-stay guests, which will be the base to build on.

“Two or three years ago, Juffair would not have been the ideal place for a property of this size. There were no shopping centres or other facilities. But now we have new malls, a cinema, a theatre. These are the things that make Juffair attractive as a family destination and we have already seen that we had 300 rooms occupied last weekend, before the property is even officially open!”

Ignace Bauwens, Regional Vice President Middle East, Eurasia and Africa, for Wyndham Hotel Group, adds: “The Wyndham Garden is our upper mid-scale brand and we believe Juffair can support a property on this scale both from a family guests’ point of view and also through business travellers.

“We worked strategically with Mr Mannai and Mr Anil on both this and the first hotel [the Ramada Hotel & Suites, Amwaj Islands] to deliberately focus on this mid-market segment, offering quality, affordable and efficient  accommodation.”

Salim Mannai continues: “To be honest, we have to look at understanding what’s going to happen in the future. I think, for Bahrain, hospitality, education and also the retirement sector are where we will be looking for business.

“The government is working to support the hospitality sector and, of course, we now have the announcement of the major new oil find, which is great news.”

“There is major investment going on,” says Ignace. “The airport’s capacity is to be increased from nine million to 14 million, which means there will be more people using Bahrain as a hub. There is also the agreement to build the new exhibition centre. There is a recognition that Bahrain, aside from tourism, can also expand into the MICE [meetings, incentives, conferences and events] market, which this property is ideally placed to accommodate.”

Salim Mannai adds that size and variety of rooms, suites and apartments means there is an accommodation option to suit every traveller, from those staying just one night to long-term guests.

And cluster GM, Mukul Mehta, adds that another unique selling point for Wyndham Garden is its premium food and beverage offering, which takes up the whole of the 28th floor and includes Via Brazil, Jashan, for Indian cuisine, and Italian eatery Trattoria. There’s also a trendy roof garden where guests can enjoy stunning views while enjoying a relaxing drink