Bahrain Confidential sat down with the Gulf Hotel’s General Manager, Fares Yactine.
Mr. Fares Yactine, is not new to the Gulf Hotel as he previously served the Hotel as Executive Assistant Manager, in charge of the Food & Beverage Department, as well as Health & Recreation. Just recently he has been appointed as General Manager for the legendary 5-star property.
How are you finding Bahrain?
So far, so good (smiling).
What’s happening at the Gulf Hotel?
Right now the Bahrain market for hotels is quite challenging. But I’m optimistic overall, and anyway the Gulf Hotel is in a very strong market position. We have new rooms and suites and an array of internationally acclaimed restaurants serving some of the best cuisine in the Kingdom, right in the center of Bahrain’s restaurant district of Adliya.
Some of our outlets are undergoing major improvements or renovations. Our British styled pub Sherlock Homes is in the process of such a major renovation. There will be a new stage, private booths with individual screens for watching sports, and an air curtain for the benefit of those who don’t smoke. When it re-opens it will be greatly improved while still maintaining its distinctive character.
Our popular and classic Italian restaurant La Pergola is also undoing renovation and on re-opening will be graced with the talents of multi-Michelin starred Italian chef, Giancarlo Perbellini.
Fusions restaurant will take on a completely new look after a BD250, 000 refurbishment, will reopen with an outdoor terrace, and will be under the guidance of the Hotel’s young, talented Bahraini chef, Tala Bashmi.
What is your opinion about the current state of the market?
The market is changing aggressively. If we talk about four and five star hotels in Bahrain, we have seen the doubling of supply within just five years. We have also seen a lot of new restaurants opening. Yet the number of people currently visiting the island unfortunately is not growing accordingly.
Then of course there’s what is happening across the causeway. Visitors from Saudi Arabia come to Bahrain to enjoy, among other things, our openness, malls, cinemas etc. But thanks to the recent and ongoing historic cultural changes now underway there is less need for many to come to Bahrain for these things as their needs are increasingly being catered for at home.
What about tourism and MICE (Meetings – Incentives – Conferences – Exhibitions)?
I believe the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Authority is working hard to bring new MICE business to Bahrain and there will likely be a couple of major announcements on this in the near future that I can’t currently comment on.
We are spending BD5 Million renovating our Gulf Convention Centre, creating an iconic state-of-the-art convention centre in Bahrain. It will be a unique selling point for both the hotel and for Bahrain as a leading and attractive MICE location.
I believe that there will be big changes in tourism including long-requested public beaches. There are some opening in the Bahrain Bay area, some of which will be managed by hotels.
What is it you most love about Bahrain?
It’s uniqueness. Bahrain is a country that almost seems like a village – it is a place where you can build strong, close friendships. I have lived and loved living in Bahrain, and at the Gulf Hotel, so taking up my position here was like coming back home.