Comfortably spaced gardens fringed with palms and frangipani trees encourage a pervasive sense of tranquillity throughout the hotel, giving guests a serene break away from the all the energetic city offers a mere 15-minute drive away.
Guests are welcomed to the peaceful outer crescent of the palm with a luxurious level of service reflected in every surface of the Hotel. Food options at the six onsite restaurants are extravagant. They cater to all tastes and comforts, from the intimate to the social, with contemporary cuisine that includes Italian, Asian, Californian-inspired, buffet, or unforgettable themed events.
With exceptional entertainment facilities that include a tennis court, water sports centre, two gyms including a women-only facility, three swimming pools with an adults-only venue, and a rejuvenating spa, the Waldorf Astoria offers guests everything they could hope for from a desert city getaway.
We spoke with newly appointed General Manager, Cora De Conceicao-Stuart about her experiences in the industry and the future of luxury travel.
What is the history of the hotel, and what inspired it in Dubai?
Waldorf Astoria Hotel & Resorts is a portfolio of 24 landmark destinations, each being a true reflection of their surroundings in the world’s most sought-after locations. Unified by their inspirational environments and unparalleled guest service, the group creates unique, authentic moments through the delivery of True Waldorf Service, from signature culinary excellence, 12 world-class golf courses and 23 rejuvenating spas, and unforgettable experiences.
Waldorf Astoria’s celebrated lineage, combined with the brand’s definition of luxury, is enjoyed by discerning global luxury travellers worldwide. The increasing number of international arrivals into Dubai and the growing aspiration of visitors to explore the Emirate’s iconic island has meant that having a Waldorf Astoria on Palm Jumeirah is a perfect fit.
What is the hotel’s design aesthetic?
Designed by KCA International, who are also responsible for Burj Al Arab and Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah, the overall design of the hotel is classic contemporary with a grandeur effect while still maintaining the Waldorf Astoria aesthetic and brand.
For instance, the resort’s Peacock Alley, located on the upper lobby, is named after the famous tea lounge in New York City, offering a stylish lounge to indulge in delectable pastries and coffee/tea yet offers views of the Arabian Gulf from the spacious terrace.
From the moment you walk in, the hotel offers a grand yet calm atmosphere with the feel-good factor of a resort.
What attracted you to hospitality management?
My career in hospitality kick-started in Singapore, where I successfully secured a hotel management scholarship. I completed the six-year course and started my career as a food and beverage supervisor. I was captivated by the commercial aspects of the business and was fortunate enough to forge close relations with key mentors and opinion leaders within the industry who supported my growth with accumulated experiences; I transitioned into commercial roles within luxury hotel brands, such as Shangri-La, various Ritz-Carlton Hotels, and Bulgari.
Within each move and professional role from Singapore across the US, the Middle East, and various Asian destinations, through hotel openings, brand execution, conversions, and performance development, I was able to hone my strategic thinking, leadership, and operational skills within the hospitality industry, which are imperative foundational attributes for General Managers.
What does your GM role entail?
In short, it’s my job to successfully balance the needs and expectations of all stakeholders, which means ensuring team members are motivated and inspired to curate and deliver memorable experiences for guests and thereby build brand loyalty and maximize returns for investors. It may sound easy, but hospitality is never uncomplicated. Every aspect of our daily interaction requires agile and creative thinking, nimbleness in reactions and lots of patience, as the foundation of our business is people-oriented, so every day poses varied opportunities.
What do you believe makes the hotel special?
The hotel’s location – it occupies a magnificent spot in Dubai’s iconic Palm Jumeirah, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It allows residents and travellers to enjoy the luxury experience, adventure and relaxation, whilst the distinctive, elegant service of our team is what our guests tell us is truly special.
What is your favourite highlight of the hotel, including accommodation, facilities, and amenities?
The hotel’s blended opulence and exceptional amenities offer a distinct luxury experience to our guests, in addition to a wealth of recreational activities that are tailored for all age groups and unique culinary destinations, including Southeast Asian restaurant LAO and authentic Italian at Social. Soul-soothing experiences can also be found at our world-class spa.
The hotel’s rooms and suites are a key highlight, as they are designed to blend into our natural and calm surroundings. Guests will enjoy panoramic views of the sea, the Palm Jumeirah and the city Skyline while also indulging in the tranquil surroundings from the spacious balconies.
WHAT ARE THE CURRENT OFFERINGS AT THE HOTEL SINCE YOU JOINED IN JANUARY 2023
The team continues to do an amazing job in delivering delightful memories for our guests. I like to offer the freedom to express individual creative talents whilst also developing their strengths and emboldening their aspirations. The attributes that I encourage as General Manager are fearlessness, curiosity, an innovative mindset, and tenacity, all of which I believe successfully guided me in my journey.
In today’s fast-paced industry, we need to continuously question the status quo, look for more effective methods and execute ideas with the continuous determination to make the impossible, possible.
We are currently planning a few new concepts and refresh ideas which we should be able to share details about in the 3rd quarter of 2023.
For you, what is most important for guests when they book accommodation, and how do you factor this into the Waldorf Astoria Palm Jumeirah experience?
For a renowned brand like Waldorf Astoria, we try our best to deliver on our brand’s promise and expectations, which are rooted in effortless luxury and elegant service. We endeavour every day to ensure we select and nurture our talents to ensure we deliver this expectation and experience.
Our prime location, the Palm Jumeirah, is also one of the major factors that our guests look into when booking a stay with us. Our iconic destination and views are what differentiates us, and we offer convenient access to shopping destinations, the energizing city nightlife, and iconic attractions.
Have you seen a difference in what guests are looking for from their travel/hospitality experience over the years? And if so, what?
Over the last few years, hotels have evolved to become a one-stop destination for a full body, mind, and soul recharge. When a guest stays at a hotel, they entrust us to astonish them, not just through our amenities and quality of rooms/services, but through the experiences we create. Our profession as Hoteliers is challenging yet rewarding when we look at it through this lens.
What do you think will leave the biggest impression on guests who visit Waldorf Astoria Palm Jumeirah?
Without a doubt, the team members are the greatest assets that help bring everything to life. It is through genuine care and collective effort that we deliver long-lasting experiences that keep the guests coming back.
Any upcoming developments that visitors can look forward to?
As a destination, we continuously strive to deliver refreshed and memorable experiences that leave long-lasting impressions on guests. There are a few exciting developments that our guests can look forward to, including an intimate dining experience in Social’s kitchen and suite offerings that come with bespoke cultural experiences such as perfume-making workshops and desert camping.
In terms of a new direction, the hotel is looking forward to activating new culinary experiences such as a Southeast Asian evening ‘brunch’ at LAO, total wellness, and detox experiences. Recreation additions of yoga and boxing classes as well as family Movie Night on the beach, Padel tennis, and a kids’ floating waterpark.