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Video: Why this UAE hospitality company is expanding in the current situation

Video: Why this UAE hospitality company is expanding in the current situation

Dubai-based Sunset Hospitality’s CEO and COO on how they are handling the Covid crisis

Antonio Gonzalez, CEO and Nazih Hafez, COO, of Sunset Hospitality Group

The GCC’s hospitality industry has been among the worst affected by the pandemic, with travel seeing a huge slump and operators facing numerous restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

While the rollout of the vaccine presents scope for optimism, hospitality operators are continuing to grapple with sudden and immediate regulatory changes.

Understandably, in such a climate, many have either curtailed expansion plans or suspended them indefinitely. But there is also an alternative approach, according to the executives at Dubai-based Sunset Hospitality Group.

The hospitality investment and management company – founded in Dubai in 2011 – now operates in 10 countries across 23 brands. Last month, the company also expanded into the wellness segment with the launch of Raise.

The new boutique lifestyle gym and wellness brand will open its first venue in Dubai Jumeirah Islands in April, with two other venues opening in Bodrum and Doha later this year.

Despite the challenges, the current situation also offers opportunities for expansion, says Antonio Gonzalez, CEO and co-founder of Sunset Hospitality Group.

“I think if your fundamentals are right – as a company, as a business, and the concept you operate – then while you have to manage the short–term, you have to also strategically plan for the long-term,” he says in the latest GB Talks session.

“We have developed our plan over many years – to expand internationally and expand into different areas of hospitality. So we are sticking to that plan. Now we see an opportunity to be able to expand even faster because we are able to capture better locations or acquire certain businesses. So if your fundamentals are good – if you have the right team, you have the right approach to business, you have the right financial resources, when you put everything together, this situation of uncertainty might be a good time to actually expand,” he adds.

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Gonzalez also stresses that companies must weigh out decisions taken during a crisis.

“The secret is not to take any rash decision but to look at long-term planning, to look at moving your cost structure and to be as variable as possible so that you can fluctuate as the market changes.”

According to the company’s COO Nazih Hafez, the current market situation is also a good time to scout for good talent.

“Talents are very important for us, and when we see that some talent is out there and available in the market we go grab him because we see the future and what we can do with this talent. For us the team is very important; it’s about who we are today but also what we can be in the future.”

Gonzalez is also optimistic about the impact of the vaccine-rollout on the economy.

“Personally, I think things are going to get better very quickly. We are at a crossroads between managing the uptake in the number of cases and managing the vaccination. I think things will improve dramatically over the next few weeks and definitely over the next 2-3 months. But it’s impossible to forecast,” he says.

Adds Hafez: “We need to be positive and believe in the future.”

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