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John Pellings, the general manager of the St Regis. Lee hoagland / The National
John Pellings, the general manager of the St Regis. Lee hoagland / The National

St Regis's long and winding road to finally opening

The general manager of the St Regis resort on Saadiyat Island talks about the preparations involved in opening a luxury hotel.

John Pelling, the general manager of the St Regis resort on Saadiyat Island, talks about the processes involved in opening a luxury hotel.



I joined in September last year, when it was really just me. Then the team was grown. Now all of the senior executives are on board. The first thing to do was deep diving into the projects. I was inducted into everything that was going on before my arrival. It's many meetings with the owners, the development team, finalising the pre-opening budget, all the expenses we expect to occur before the hotel opens, be it payroll, marketing expenses or office supplies.


We start marketing the resort. My first trip was to World Travel Market in London. Ahead of the opening, we've also attended travel trade shows in Germany, China, Italy.



Recruitment has been a very lengthy process. In January, my sales and marketing director joined me. That was one of the key positions to get on board as quickly as possible. We receive numerous applications internally and interview about 12 people for each executive position. The selection of your key team is really a critical decision to make sure that the dynamics of that team all work nicely together.


Most of them joined in April, May, including the director of food and beverage, the executive chef, the director of engineering, the executive housekeeper, director of leisure and spa. We have to decide do we like this latte glass or that latte glass, this spoon or that spoon. Every department has to go through that. It's the same in the bedrooms: the shoe horns, the hangers, all the loose equipment you see in a hotel room. Thereafter we work with a procurement company the owner of the hotel appoints.


All the key department heads are already on board. We start the process of recruiting the rest of the 780 staff. We had an open day in the UAE, held at one of our sister hotels in Dubai. We interviewed about 600 locally available potential associates, of which we hired just over 100. We're in the process of doing limousine selection. St Regis's preferred car is Bentley, but we're going to supplement that with another car as well. I was privileged to be given a Bentley for the weekend.


Our overseas recruitment starts on July 1. We've identified where we're going and how many staff ideally we would have from each location. The first location in Ukraine. We're also going to places including Indonesia, Thailand, India, Morocco, Sri Lanka, India, China. That runs for about five weeks. Then we'll have one more open day in Abu Dhabi.


The main arrivals of the staff start from the beginning of September. In preparation for that, we have to house everybody. The Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) has arranged some very high-quality housing for the associates in Musaffah. We have to contract transportation companies to have shuttle services to and from work every day, to the mosque, to downtown Abu Dhabi.


There's full-on training until the opening. Sales and marketing continues. Some more PR activities will take place. We'll be engaging with the press in a big way to come and look at the hotel properly. We'll be engaging with all of our tour operators from around the world. We'll be working closely with Etihad [Airways] and the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority. We'll invite people to actually come in to the hotel and be our invited guinea pigs. That's potential business partners, ambassadors, all the people we're interested in engaging with as we get closer to the opening date.

November 1

I'm very confident we'll be ready.


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