DEBRAH DHUGGA, MANAGING DIRECTOR AT DUKES HOTELS
As Dukes Hotels extends its portfolio overseas, its Dubai incarnation promises to offer a quintessentially British experience. Can Faik finds out from Managing Director Debrah Dhugga how, in this centre of opulence, she plans to meet such a tall order…
DUKES LONDON, winner of World’s Leading Classic Hotel at the World Travel awards, will add quintessential British charm to Dubai. Located on the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai’s prestigious island community, the 500-key British-styled hotel DUKES DUBAI will join sister property and flagship hotel, DUKES LONDON as part of Luxury hospitality developer Seven Tides’ growth strategy for the DUKES brand. The award winning services and attention to detail the DUKES brand has become synonymous with, will be prevalent throughout DUKES Dubai which will be opening later this year.
What was your background in hospitality prior to working for DUKES HOTELS?
Before joining DUKES I was Director of Retail and Spa Hair brand ghd. Before this I was CEO of Tom’s Companies, the five-star Deluxe Boutique Hotel, spa and restaurant group based in Durham, with luxurious properties such as The Samling and Seaham Hall hotels. Prior to this I enjoyed working as Sales and Marketing Director for Malmaison.
What exactly does your role involve?
I am solely responsible for all operations at DUKES, reporting to the hotel’s owners directly and driving the business forward to achieve results. My role as Managing Director is very diverse and can range from finance to operational matters, recently I have been leading the development of the new DUKES DUBAI.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
For me the most important aspect of the hotel is the team and the service we provide, we put a lot of effort into training our team and I love watching individuals grow and thrive in their careers. I personally really enjoy growing a brand and launching new openings.
What are the personality traits that define a successful and happy hotel proprietor, in your opinion?
I remember being told over and over again I would never make money in the hospitality industry because it is a job, not a career. My message, is be strong, live your dream, do what you believe is right, work hard, share success, and don’t be afraid to ask questions along the way.
What are the complexities of meeting the demands of shareholders, fulfilling the growth of your management team and delivering the brand’s values to the guests?
Working very closely with our owners is a key aspect of my role, making sure that we achieve the best results for the business whilst upholding the DUKES values is very important. Our management team enjoy excellent training and working alongside myself in a challenging yet rewarding environment, and are all committed to maintaining the impeccable five star service DUKES is famous for.
What are DUKES HOTELS Unique Selling Points?
DUKES LONDON is a boutique five-star hotel, hidden in quiet St James’ Place in Mayfair. Steeped in history and tradition, it is an oasis of calm in the centre of London, providing each guest with personalised service and luxury with a distinctive British personality. DUKES DUBAI will recreate this quintessential British charm on Dubai’s Palm Jumeriah, with a timeless and hospitable atmosphere that will make you feel as if you never left home.
The past year Dubai has seen more hotel openings, with a number of new hotels due to open in the next two years. So why did DUKES HOTELS still decide to open in Dubai and what will DUKES HOTELS have to do to stay one step ahead of its competition?
Dubai is fast becoming one of the world’s most popular tourist hotspots and transport hubs. DUKES will be bringing its quintessentially British flair to Dubai for guests to enjoy, with delicious British cuisine, signature Martinis and excellent service. It’s a first for Dubai!
Is the development of DUKES new Dubai property, still on course for opening this year and what will then be next for the DUKES brand?
DUKES DUBAI is scheduled to open September 2016, we are very excited for what the future may bring for the brand in the years to come, but at the moment DUKES DUBAI and DUKES LONDON will be the main focus. However we keep working!
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotels in Dubai compared to Europe and the US?
Trends don’t last long in Dubai as there’s always something new. DUKES DUBAI will bring a distinctly British flavour for guests looking for something different and refined, but who are still looking for luxury and five star facilities.
How important do you feel hotel design has become when launching a new hotel?
Hotel design is one of the most important aspects in any new launch, and a defining feature of DUKES DUBAI. DUKES DUBAI is a contemporary building from the outside but once through the door it will have a classic British charm and elegant furnishings. Guests will recognise the DUKES atmosphere from the moment they arrive. Attention to detail is key.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel interior design?
Hotels are now at the forefront of interior design, showcasing the best designs whether contemporary, classic or retro. DUKES has a traditional style that features high quality materials, designer furnishings and great pieces of art, which has a timeless feel out lasting the newest design fads. It’s very British.
Who are the architects and designers behind your DUKES Dubai project?
The interior design of the hotel is being handled by international company AHK.
What would you say are the three best places you’ve ever stayed?
The Viceroy Hotel, Ubud, Bali, The Greenwich Hotel, NYC and The Samling Hotel, the Lake District, UK
Where currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?
Sometimes I’d say my home Northumberland! I have travelled to many places around the world. One place I have not been to is The Golden Temple in India. So that’s up there!
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far with Dukes?
I am proud every day. My career had been a great journey. It’s not easy. There are long hours. It’s a lifestyle. But I feel proud to have chosen to work in a fantastic industry. When DUKES won London Hotel of the Year 2015 I was very proud of the team.
Let’s finish with the issue of personal and work life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
A good work life balance relies on organisation, you can’t have it all so prioritising what is most important to you is key. I did miss some of my children’s school plays and activities when they were growing up because I was career focussed, but always made sure we enjoyed quality time together as a family, which is something that we still make time for now they are all grown up. Both my children are now young professionals one a Doctor and one a Banker. They understand hard work but also know the importance of keeping a little time in your diary for family.