1 on 1: Alex Willats, General Manager – Shangri-La Doha

 

1) What is your favorite Shangri-La moment?

There are many stories and globally we share such “Shangri-La Moments “on a daily basis and it’s wonderful to see so many of these moments taking place with our colleagues very much at the Centre.

For me personally, being an integral part of the opening of Shangri-La at The Fort in Manila was a personal milestone and memorable time in my career. 

Having been involved in turning the hotel from construction site to opening the doors to a beautiful butterfly is an experience shared by few and one I shall not forget.

A unique property of mixed use we recruited almost 600 staff and developed the concepts and service over a two year period. A tremendous challenge and one shared with a unique group of people to achieve this feat.

 

2) Describe your brand in 3 words 

Affordable, memorable, family

 

3) What made you decide to be a hotelier?

As a child I grew up overseas as my parents were expats from the early 70’s choosing to live in Nigeria, Qatar and Indonesia and spent much of my youth in and around quality hotels. 

As such, it was an environment I always felt comfortable in and was amazed at the way hotels brought people together from all walks of life and offered no boundaries, the hospitality side came naturally to me and at 15 I undertook work experience in London hotels which further fueled my interest in the hotel industry.

Over 20 years in the industry I have had the chance to work in some iconic properties globally and enjoy helping to develop young hoteliers for the future.

 

4) Why join Shangri-La? 

I had wanted to join Shangri-La for many years, it is a company that had proliferated the quality of Asian Hospitality and created a name associated with affordable luxury in many exotic and far flung destinations. 

Many world class hoteliers had spent time within the company and shaped their careers and I wanted a chance to do the same.

The current changes within the company are now driving a rapid growth plan for the organization and will I am sure offer excellent career opportunities for those looking to join the group in the coming years ahead. It offers exciting global opportunities as the company now enters a new phase on its already established legacy.

5) What’s your favorite Shangri-La property aside from Doha? 

I have just been fortunate to enjoy a short break to our Maldives property and have been astounded by the warmth of the island people and the beauty of the remote destination, a definite must for those looking to get away from the city and experience Robinson Crusoe with a luxury edge.

I am however looking forward to the opening of Shangri-La Colombo in Sri Lanka in November as this will offer a link from the capital in the north with our already operating beach resort in the south of the island, hambantota golf resort & Spa.

6) What’s your favorite part of the hotel? 

I actually have two locations- the helipad of SLDH offers 360 degree views over Doha and the Arabian Gulf. I particularly like visiting it at sunset as you see the transition of the city from traditional during the day to a vibrant modern destination by night and, it’s also a great place for a unique dining experience we offer to watch this happen.

My second is our CHI the Spa and unique Hydrotonic Pool experience. Spending time here both revitalizes and relaxes the mind and allows for some much needed escape from the city allowing you to refocus.

7) What makes a Shangri-La experience so special?  

For Our properties it’s always about the people, I truly believe it’s the staff that curate a great experience making it memorable for the guests and visitors and this is what keeps people coming back. Their attention to detail, warmth and ability to make people feel a part of our hotels is the Shangri-La experience.

 

8) What’s the best CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiative Shangri-La has been a part of and why?

Globally every hotel in its locality adopts a local charity whom they work with and there are many notable partnerships of which some have been in existence for 40+ years.

For us in Doha, partnering with Hospitals and supporting children in need whilst under medical care has been just one such initiative we have developed since opening the hotel last year. We want to continue to develop this where staff from the hotel can visit and spend time with those children who are debilitated due to injury or illness and bring some much needed light relief making their time in such care a little more comfortable.

We have also partnered with a local honey producer and in fact have several apiaries installed on the hotel in an effort to encourage the repopulation of bees which continues to be under global threat. In fact, several of the team including myself havebeen trained to manage the bees and tend to them daily ensuring they have a kind existence at Shangri-La Doha.