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INTERVIEW - GILLES SOHIER: "WORKING IN THIS INDUSTRY IS NOT A SPRINT, IT'S A MARATHON (United Arab Emirates)

Recently inducted as General Manager of Bab Al Shams Desert Resorts, the Frenchman is taking on a new challenge with this Kerzner Group resort located in the middle of the desert

INTERVIEW - GILLES SOHIER: "WORKING IN THIS INDUSTRY IS NOT A SPRINT, IT'S A MARATHON (United Arab Emirates)

Recently inducted as General Manager of Bab Al Shams Desert Resorts, the Frenchman is taking on a new challenge with this Kerzner Group resort located in the middle of the desert

Category: Middle East - United Arab Emirates - Industry economy - Interviews - Renovation / Addition - Interviews
Interview made by Guillaume Chollier on 2022-06-23




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Kerzner International Holdings Limited is a leading developer and operator of luxury resorts, hotels and residences, known for its One & Only and Atlantis brands, of which the property at the top of The Palm in Dubai is the flagship.

The group recently took over the management of Bab Al Shams Desert Resorts, a beach resort in the heart of the desert, a true oasis of calm and luxury some 60 kilometres from the frenzy of Dubai.

The resort closed its doors last May to undergo a major facelift. It will reopen in early 2023 under the Rare Finds Hotels & Resorts banner.

To carry out this change, the group has appointed Gilles Sohier as general manager of this resort. After training from a hotel school to a BTH and then a BTS, this Frenchman worked with renowned chefs, such as Pierre Gagnaire, who was awarded three Michelin stars for his restaurant in Saint-…tienne. He went to London, where he worked in catering and events, before opening a restaurant with Michel Rostang.

In 1999, he flew to the United Arab Emirates and joined the pre-opening team of Le Mťridien in Dubai, before joining the Royal Mirage, a One & Only Resorts establishment, where he progressed from manager to restaurant manager, then resident manager before slipping into the hotel manager's chair, a position he held for five years.

For the Journal des Palaces, Gilles Sohier agreed to talk about the new challenge that awaits him at the head of Bab Al Shams, the new flagship of Rare Find Hotels & Resorts, one of the many entities of the Kerzner group.

Journal des Palaces: What does this position of General Manager in the Kezner Group mean to you?
Gilles Sohier: I am very happy and would like to thank Kerzner for the trust placed in me to carry out this new project, with the support of all our teams.

What are the objectives you were given when you were appointed?
Bab Al Shams Desert resort has been established in Dubai for 17 years. Our mission is to reposition the resort, reinventing Bab Al Shams as a chic, sophisticated and extravagant leisure and entertainment destination.

What do you think luxury is today?
Luxury is subjective. It is the pursuit of unique experiences, both authentic and innovative. It combines emotion, exclusivity and personalised services. The quality of products, services, attention to detail and the human touch also contribute to my idea of luxury.

In your opinion, what are the main challenges and opportunities facing the luxury hotel industry?
The luxury hotel industry is an ever-expanding market, both locally in Dubai and globally, with new destinations, new unique experiences. This motivates us and pushes us to constantly review our offerings, our experiences, innovate and reinvent ourselves.

Why working in the luxury hotel industry today?
The luxury hotel industry is growing on a daily basis and offers many opportunities. It is above all a passion, I enjoy working in exceptional environments, constantly seeking the highest level of quality. It's a world open to innovation and the search for new experiences. It's a job of contact and sharing, in which the term respect takes on its full meaning, in which teamwork, the human factor and emotion are essential.

The resort will undergo works for 6 months. What type of renovation will be undertaken?
Our mission is to reinvent Bab Al Shams as a chic, leisure and entertainment destination, through rooms and suites, restaurants, bars and lounges, public spaces, spa and fitness. We aim to develop and deliver unique experiences for our guests.

What makes Bab Al Shams Desert Resort different from other hotels in the group?
Bab Al Shams Desert Resort stands out for its uniqueness in the middle of a nature reserve, "Al Marmoom Conservation Reserve", a place to escape from everyday life, unique experiences in the dunes, where oryx, gazelles, camels and horses, where lakes are home to multiple species of migratory birds.

How is this hotel different from the One & Only Royal Mirage in Dubai, where you were previously working as assistant manager?
Although both hotels are similar in their Arabesque architecture, which makes them unique, the experience is different because of their location and positioning. A beach resort and a desert resort that offer both different but complementary experiences. That's why I encourage our guests to visit both hotels.

What is the profile of clients who come to stay at a desert resort?
We welcome an international clientele, European, American, Asian, but also from the Middle East. And of course, the local market of Emiratis and expatriates.

Isn't it more complicated to hire staff in Dubai, in the desert, than for hotels in the city, in the Marina or on Palm Jumeirah?
Bab Al Shams is only 45 minutes from Dubai International Airport and 35 minutes from the city centre. It is therefore very accessible. The hotel is very popular at weekends with the local market. This establishment is also a unique experience for our teams. So we have no particular difficulty in recruiting.

How would you define your management style?
We apply the values of the Kerzner Group: above all respect, empathy, learning and development. It's a team effort, I see myself as a coach.

What is the best piece of advice you were given when you entered the industry and that you pass on to the next generation?
Working in this industry is not a sprint, it's a marathon!



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About the author

A journalist for 20 years, Guillaume is a fan of exclusive places where comfort, quality of service and gastronomy are combined. All this, tinged with a simplicity and a smile that are the prerogative of the ultimate luxury.


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