An Interview with Aurelio Giraudo –One of the Powerful 100 General Managers of the Region

Aurelio Giraudo, Cluster General Manager of Banyan Tree Doha at La Cigale Mushaireb and La Cigale Hotel Managed by Accor

Where did it all start?

We asked Aurelio about his journey to becoming an accomplished leader and extremely knowledgeable General Manager of the region. He replied briefly about his successful career path.

“I started working very early during my college days. Every evening I used to go to our family Restaurant and take care of entire operations. It was during this time that I fell in love with the hospitality industry.

My inspiration was seeing what my parents did. I have continent-hopped between Europe, South East Asia, Africa, and the Middle East and have worked for various luxury hotel brands, including the Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts, Kempinski, Shangri-La Hotel & Resorts, Dusit Hotels & Resorts, Marriott, and Preferred Hotels & Resorts. And of course, most recently, with Banyan Tree Hotel & Resorts.

I do invest a lot of time in training, doing market research to learn, understand, and keep myself updated with what is happening in the market. My daily routine starts at 6 AM in the office with a cup of coffee and a newspaper. On my off days, I do visit competition hotels as well to get a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Any opportunity that can generate revenue for my company excites and motivates me!”

Pandemic Strategies

Since hospitality industry has suffered more than any other market during pandemic. What are the techniques you’ve implemented in the two hotels to grab a fair share in the tourism market? Especially after the pandemic.

Mr. Aurelio Giraudo replied with zeal in his eyes.

“For Banyan Tree Doha, our main focus has been to target the local Qatari and GCC markets. All our marketing activities and digital campaigns are based on targeting and reaching the end customer from these markets.

Different customized packages with value adds have been created and marketed through regular newspaper ads, lifestyle magazines, influencers, bloggers, and social media campaigns to increase our visibility and sustain our market share.

We have increased our marketing spent in both the hotels. Our restaurant menus and pricing is very competitive and gives value for money to the customer with a lively atmosphere and exemplary service.

La Cigale Hotel is a five-star luxury hotel in the heart of the dynamic center of Doha City. The main business driver for this hotel is a Corporate and MICE segment.

The hotel is very popular among the Ministries and offers an ideal venue for weddings with two state-of-the-art ballrooms. Constant engagement with bookers, embassies, and sports federations have helped us in sustaining the business for this hotel and shifting the business from the competition hotels.

This hotel is very popular among the local Qatari market and is known as a food destination with a wide variety of culinary offerings. In the next 6-9 months, we will do soft refurbishment of all our food & beverage outlets and will come up with exciting new concepts to drive incremental revenues.”

The Idea behind the Attractive Offers

You’ve launched several new packages that are designed to cater almost everyone. What was the idea behind launching these exciting packages? We asked.

“In our hotels, the strategies are devised to target different mix of customer segments and not be dependent on one segment only. We have learned from Covid-19 that to be successful, we need to adapt ourselves and be ahead of the game in this ever changing dynamic environment.” Aurelio continued.

Every customer segment has a different set of needs and expectations. By having different packages, we can target these segments. Be it Leisure, Staycation, Honeymooners, Wellness, or Sport seekers.

For our restaurants in both the hotels, we have different theme nights and concepts every month and for our rooftop lounges – Vertigo & Sky View, we have given an identity to each day of the week by having a different theme, concept and music.”

The Post-Covid Regrowth

The local tourism in the Qatar hospitality industry is reviving post-Covid, How do you see the regrowth after travel restrictions?

Aurelio has proper plans to conquer the tourism market. He replied,

“2022 is set to be a remarkable year in Qatar history with FIFA World Cup scheduled for the months of November – December.

Once the travel restrictions are over, we anticipate a surge in business from the GCC markets. We will see the return of corporate travel, international leisure, and MICE events. Project-based business will be at its peak leading up to the FIFA World Cup with Exhibitions and Sporting events happening throughout the year.

Qatar Tourism will continue doing the destination marketing activities and representing Qatar in the International fairs.”

Domestic Tourism Services by Banyan Tree Doha

Domestic tourism has been enhanced. We’d like to know the new services offered by the hotel. Aurelio gave us complete details.

“With Covid-19 restrictions continuing around the world, we have seen a growth of the domestic market business across the market. Qatar as a marketplace is one of the top-performing market for our hotels, be it Rooms or Food & Beverage. At Banyan Tree Doha, we have come up with an exciting new package, Stay Play Save! Wherein we are offering access to Doha Quest Theme Park, complimentary breakfast, QAR 500 reward back credit and non-alcoholic minibar included in our room rates.

It’s our hottest selling package. We have customized our Food & Beverage offerings to tap into the ever growing domestic market with food promotions in all our fine dining restaurants. We have introduced “ladies afternoon tea” with signature gold leaf cappuccino, ladies breakfast. On a quarterly basis, we are doing food promotions with Michelin star chefs (four-hands, six-hand events) in conjunction with Qatar Tourism.

We will be introducing Padel courts and Banyan Tree signature SPA in our complex by Quarter 1 which will help us to become the preferred choice for our guests.

In La Cigale Hotel, we have introduced Staycations offer with QAR 125 in-room dining credit, 30-minute massage for 2 persons, breakfast with early check-in, and late check out facility.

Stay 2 Pay 1 offer wherein you can stay for 2 nights and the second night is on us. Dine and Stay offer for weekends targeting families and the brunch market. We have reworked our food menus across all the outlets and doing special promotions in our health club facilities.”

Our guests can look forward to new, refurbished rooms and impressive new Food & Beverage concepts in the coming months. Exciting times ahead!

Some Insights about Clean Qatar Program

What changes Qatar tourism has brought to qualify for the famous Clean Qatar Program by the Ministry of Public Health? Does it affect the sales of the hospitality industry?

“With the highest standards of hygiene and cleanliness in place, a Clean Qatar certified hotel has entrusted trust in guests wherein they feel more confident in hotels than in their homes.

We have also implemented All Safe Accor programs which provide more assurance to our guests. It has in fact helped us in driving the sales for both our hotels and our guests are coming back again and again and using our facilities.”

Aurelio’s Exclusive Skill-Building Tips

You are well known as a leader for your ability to roll up sleeves and work alongside every department with a strong working knowledge of operations and exceptional talent management skills. How did you build those skills?

I started my career in Food & Beverage department from being a Restaurant Manager to now being a General Manager for two luxury hotels and residences in Doha. From a very young age, I was managing a very big team and the time I spent in my parent’s restaurant taught me a lot of lessons and helped me in connecting with the team. This has helped me throughout my career and made me what I am today.

I did learn a lot during my tenure in London and at a very young age, I understand the importance of being with the team, be it the kitchen, housekeeping, or any other department.

Over the period, I did a lot of Executive courses in people’s management, revenue management, finance, and asset management. I completed my masters in Hospitality Management from the Cornell University. I encourage my team to think out of the box, come up with ideas and take decisions. I follow an open door policy which makes me even more connected with the team.

Aurelio’s take as an Agile Thinker

How important agile strategic thinking is for revenue generation?

“Agile strategic thinking is key to revenue generation. Developing and adjusting strategies, services, and operations as needed based on data (historical and future) and new insights helps in improving the overall performance and generating incremental revenues. If we are not able to adjust the strategies and realign our targets, imagine what the outcome would have been in this challenging covid-19 environment.”

The Secret to making Loyal Customers

What are your guest-driven strategies to ensure repeat visits?

“The first impression is the last wherein the first and the last impression matters a lot during the guest stay. We have a guest relations manager who takes care of all the guests’ needs and meets their preferences. Solving guest issues instantly makes it a memorable experience for them. It helps in building rapport and trust in the eyes of our guests.

Helping is the new selling, educating guests with additional facilities that we provide at the hotel depending on their needs with any offers makes them feel more welcomed.

Providing a personalized touch to all the guests who have visited our hotel even while they are away from us by offering exclusive offers and reward back offers helps in increasing the repeat guest ratio.

Never miss an opportunity to take feedback from all our guests during their stay or when they checkout. Stay committed to our guests when they visit us every time and stay connected with them through multiple routes such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, text messages is essential. As with the ever evolving technology and smartphones, we can keep our guests updated with our recent offers and services. Last but not least enroll them in loyalty program and advise them about exclusive member offers and loyalty points on the amount spent.”

Photography: Pradeep


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