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Five-star thinking

Five-star thinking

In this age of affordability, how can luxury survive without selling out? Gaurav Sinha, managing director of Insignia branding agency, discusses how five-star hotels can maintain both occupancy and credibility.

June 10, 2010 5:32 by

Driving desire at a social level is paramount to protecting luxury. As frequent independent travelers become more sophisticated and start researching their choices online (on websites such as, and voicing their need for knowledge on closed network platforms (such as, it is important for hotels to ensure they bring something tangible to the table.

Luxury brands need to mean something more, whether it’s attracting the ethical traveler through their responsible posture towards the environment (Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa recognized a decade ago that a conservation-led philosophy can be very profitable), or ensuring the hotel offers something truly unique so that guests walk away feeling renewed by their stay (sanctuary resorts are growing in popularity across Asia, the Indian Ocean islands, Australia, and even the Middle East).

To remain within the consideration set of customer choices, hotels also need to ensure their visibility in key feeder markets; this means being prominently present in relevant media in that specific location. Ubiquity is easily confused with presence, and its not always beneficial to simply have your brand visible on what is statistically proven to be a high-viewership Web site. It’s about connecting with individuals as part of their community – tell meaningful stories that people can relate to.

The good news is that hotels in Dubai are still enjoying high occupancy and organizations such as ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agents) rate the emirate as one of the top bargain destinations in 2010. A correction in the average room rates is actually a positive step towards Dubai’s maturity on the international landscape of holiday destinations, and brands need to embrace this phenomenon.

The gradual increase in pricing will occur when hotels focus on offering culturally relevant and unique experiences that elevate them from the rest. Luxury hotels don’t need USPs – they need to create a unique and compelling competitive advantage by being culturally attuned to their location’s heritage.

For example, Dubai’s Jumeirah Bab Al Shams resort is little different from other desert resorts, but its Al Hadheerah restaurant gives you a glimpse of Arabia – from culture and cuisine to entertainment and heritage – without removing you from the comfort of the five-star experience.

– Gaurav Sinha is the founder and managing director of Insignia. His branding agency’s clients include Jumeirah Group, Emirates Hotels and Resorts, Emaar and Dnata.

- Communicate magazine

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  1. J Pop on June 11, 2010 5:57 pm

    Dubai & Abu Dhabi are infactuated with the word “Brand”, as if it’s a new word just included in their vocabulary and they can’t wait to use it.

    Customer experience defines the lame brands for the good brands, not some detached over-paid “marketing guru” sitting in an glass office who’s usually more interested in “brand perception”.

    Do a good job and your customers will come back, if you don’t…say goodbye!

  2. Andrew on June 13, 2010 4:25 am

    Consumer experience is a core part of branding, that seems to have been missed.

    When both cities also understand that pleasing visitors isn’t quite as important as pleasing residents, who actually have to make the place work – we might see some real progress in the quality of live vs cost.

    Simply put, the Emirates isn’t value for money like it was 10 years ago.


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