- By: Deepali Nandwani
There was no way that Fairmont Ajman, a leading luxury hotel in the UAE, was missing the pre-Eid deadline.
Eid-Al-Fitr is among the big festivals in the country and a time when domestic tourists travel with their extended family to one of the several sprawling resort properties. In early April, when UAE’s travel authorities indicated that hotels should think about reopening, Fairmont Ajman began putting in place a long list of rigid protocols and safety standards as per the guidelines laid out by their hotel group, as well as the local government.
UAE, with its 32,532 confirmed COVID cases, as of today, had announced a slow reopening of its economy after a month of lockdown. Fairmont Ajman reopened on April 30. The hotel, besides a host of other hotels, worked with the Fujairah Tourism & Antiquities Authority, the Ministry of Health and Prevention, and the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA), to put in place the health and safety guidelines.
The staycation packages offered by the hotel—an enviable deal of Dh300 per night, far lower than their weekday price of Dh350 and weekend price of Dh760 per night—sold out within 12 hours of the bookings being thrown open.
Fairmont Ajman’s general manager, Kosta Kourotsidis indicates that domestic tourism will shore up the luxury hotel, which in normal times welcomes both affluent locals and Europeans.
Fairmont Ajman is a 252-key luxury beachfront property with suites and rooms opening to expansive views of the Arabian Gulf—a shallow marginal sea of the Indian Ocean that lies between the Arabian Peninsula and southwestern Iran. The hotel is located on a 200-metre stretch of beach along the Corniche in the smallest emirate of UAE.
It is designed, in parts, to pay homage to the emirate’s seafaring heritage. It references its coastal destination liberally: from its colour palette of blue, teal and turquoise; the Lasvit chandelier that resembles fishing net cast over a shoal of fish in its lobby; and the lush jewel-coloured upholstery in the Kiyi Turkish restaurant.
It has a large pool with a swim-up bar and a sheltered beach, as well as all the other luxury accoutrements: a spa, gym and several restaurants.
The destination itself is considered a getaway into nature. Guests can kayak down a creek lined with thick mangrove forests and watch hawks and other birds circle in the sky. Ajman has a vibrant collection of hotels, restaurants and shops spread across the coastline that can be explored.
Kourotsidis says, surprisingly, that they have received an “overwhelming amount of reservation requests from overseas guests who were keen to book their stay as soon as inbound passenger flights are back on track. But we are encouraging the domestic market to vacation and staycation in the UAE this year, to support the industry.”
What’s opening up?
The hotel worked with the Ajman Tourism Development Department to make its 200-metre private beach, three F&B venues and its swimming pools accessible to guests. “No walk-in pool and beach day-use passes are offered during this time, as the facilities are solely for the enjoyment of our in-house guests,” Kourotsidis informs. “We also re-opened three F&B venues for limited hours, with a la carte menus only.” The hotel has abolished its lavish breakfast buffet service, instead opting for individual plates.
The safety protocols put in place
In March itself, AccorHotels, which owns the Fairmont brand, began implementing an ALLSAFE programme developed by the group with Bureau Veritas—a provider in testing, inspection and certification—across its worldwide properties. The programme or ‘label’, as they call it, lays down appropriate safety standards and cleaning protocols to be achieved for businesses to reopen.
The label is a large swathe of policies and protocols that not just covers accommodation and catering, but also sets sanitary standards for the group’s hotels, in consultation with doctors and epidemiologists. The protocol includes:
- A reinforced cleaning program with frequent disinfection of all high-touch areas, such as elevators and public restrooms.
- An enhanced in-room cleaning programme using hospital-grade cleaning materials.
- Regular deep cleaning of upholstery and carpets.
- Hotel teams trained in the skills and education necessary to protect themselves and guests.
- Guests are provided with everything needed to keep safe: sanitisers, masks and wipes.
- Guests are monitored and temperature-checked every day of their stay in the hotels.
- The hotels have implemented a contactless payment system, by which guests check-in before they arrive at the hotel.
Besides these protocols, at Fairmont Ajman, sunbeds have been separated on the poolside and the beach. Across all public areas, guests are required to wear masks, and that includes at the beach and the pool. The hotel is conducting temperature checks upon check-in, and then again when arriving by the poolside. Guests have to bring their towels from home and cannot use hotel towels. They are also not allowed to use outdoor showers and changing room showers and have to head back to the room for a shower after the swim.
For Fairmont Ajman, one of the first hotels to open anywhere in the world post a lockdown, addressing all safety issues for guests and the staff is of utmost importance. UAE, and neighbouring Dubai, is watching the hotels cautious opening with a lot of interest for any learning, as the country opens up slowly.