x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

My UAE: the brand new ideas of the Emirati hotel entrepreneur Ali Al Hosani

A profile of the UAE businessman Ali Al Hosani, who is on a mission to launch the world's first Emirati hotel chain.

Ali Al Hosani, who is planning the world’s first Emirati hotel brand, starting in Abu Dhabi. Silvia Razgova / The National
Ali Al Hosani, who is planning the world’s first Emirati hotel brand, starting in Abu Dhabi. Silvia Razgova / The National

‘I think we should stop buying brands and start creating our own, especially in hospitality.” So says Ali Al Hosani, a veteran of the UAE’s hotel and hospitality industry. “When you come here you see hospitality through different eyes, whether that’s with international or local operators, but they don’t have an Emirati feel to them. When it comes to hospitality, nobody sees us.”

The “us” in question are Emiratis and Al Hosani has a plan to create the world’s first Emirati hotel brand. “Why don’t we start promoting our culture through hospitality?” he says. “We are proud of our culture, of the fact that we welcome people and that our doors are open, so we want to create a brand that reflects us.”

Al Hosani wants to develop a chain that will be Emirati “from the ground up”. The hotels will be operated, managed and designed by Emiratis and will serve Emirati cuisine cooked by Emirati chefs using organic food grown on local farms. “Hospitality is about more than just serving,” he insists. “People can work in the back office, in finance, in admin, in HR. The capability is there, it just needs to be utilised in the right way. Nobody can say they cannot work.”

Al Hosani started in the industry 22 years ago as a trainee with Abu Dhabi National Hotels. “There were 16 of us originally, but I was the only trainee who stayed. That was in 1992.”

After stints with Hilton, Sheraton and InterContinental, Al Hosani became the director of marketing for Abu Dhabi National Hotels and, in 2004, he was appointed director of marketing and promotion for the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority.

Al Hosani predicts that his first property will be open in Abu Dhabi before the end of the year. “Our properties will become Emirati ambassadors in London and in New York. People will get to see us and that will encourage them to visit Abu Dhabi.”

Favourite airline

Etihad Airways. [It’s a] young, energetic airline and they provide good service and connectivity [that] always tries to innovate its products and services [to] stay ahead of their competition.

Advice for travellers

Always try to explore the culture and traditions of the country you are travelling to. One can learn so much from other cultures – it opens the mind and teaches you to understand and respect other cultures.

Favourite business hotel

The Lanesborough Hotel is a good experience for me. It offers great service and you go there and feel welcomed. The check-in process is very smooth and seamless, and if you have a coffee or tea, nobody races after you with the cheque. The rooms are also big and, in London, that’s not easy to find.

Favourite restaurant

Hakkasan at the Emirates Palace. The service is great, the food is excellent and I love the atmosphere.

The best way to experience Abu Dhabi

I think visitors to Abu Dhabi should experience the desert and then they should go to the islands. You need to experience that combination of the sun and the sea in one place.

Best piece of advice

There is one piece of advice that always come to mind. When you are young, you see things differently than when you are older. When I first started in the hospitality industry I said: “But the salary you are giving me is too low.” But I was told: “Today, you chase the salary, but tomorrow the salary will chase you.”

Favourite destination

In London, you see visitors coming from everywhere. You see the number of hotels and the number of restaurants and the infrastructure – I think it’s a very positive city.

Favourite resort

The Four Seasons resort in the Seychelles is the best resort. The way it is near the sea, it is beautiful.

A mantra to live by

You have to do something that you love. If you do that, then you can be the most innovative person.

My inspiration

My father. Most definitely.

Favourite dish

We have so many dishes here – from the sea and the desert – but I think people should experience jasheed. It’s baby shark boiled, mixed with spices and onions and garlic and served with rice.

nleech@thenational.ae

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