This falls more under the guise of constructive criticism, so whomever comes out feeling offended, take note that this is because I want to see you do well and I want you to have my business, rather than ignore you and write you off. The dated philosophy of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” still floats freely around in Bahrain and that just does not sit well with me. Establishments that we once held as beacons of development and tourism around the island are now decrepit cesspits of rancor and filth. The 80s were filled with various enterprises with hotels, restaurants and social clubs where you could spend your money and enjoy yourself.. Today, those same enterprises still exist, however they have remained in the exact same condition and level of service as when they were christened.
Bahrain is a natural regional tourism hub. We have a bridge connecting us with Saudi Arabia, and every weekend we get visitors from Kuwait, Saudi, and other GCC neighbors that come and spend their money. We also get visitors from all over the world that decide to come over for a quick stop en route to another destination out east. So all in all, we’re not doing too badly with the amount of tourists we can draw to our sunny archipelago of islands. Now unfortunately, some of these tourists are alcohol and women obsessed fiends that I do not care to comment on because it will just enrage you. You see, people come to visit Bahrain and say it attracts all the scum that look to have fun and run amuck, a statement that is not entire untrue because we have establishments that actually promote this kind of clientele. To the establishment, this clientele brings money in on a weekly basis so why should they care? It’s not a big deal that a guest might end up inebriated beyond any point of cohesion and walk around the hotel completely naked. Nor does it bother the hotel management that the guests get so drunk that they could very well end up assaulting a member of the staff, maybe even another guest.
We have our 5 star hotels and they have their own rules and management practices handed down to them by their corporate office, so they end up doing a decent job of running an acceptable establishment. But the way I see it, we have enough families, expats, and regular folk living outside that would love to come to Bahrain and spend their weekends someplace else. In fact, if we offered them something other than the traditional 5 star hotels (that already have their dedicated clientele), more people will come. So I started thinking (a problem I know), what can we do to make Bahrain a better tourist destination? And the first step was quite simple, better establishments.
Not to say we missed the gravy train, but boutique hotels came en vogue and have now become a standard in many cities all over the world. A facelift, some renovations, improved training for your staff, some real involvement and there you have it – charge more money, get some decent exposure and watch your occupancy rates swell up. I cannot begin to explain how some hotels quickly turned around their image and their star rating with a little fixing up. A quality establishment worth frequenting, a place with a committed management, an innovative perspective – that will draw the crowds in. I know this sounds a lot easier than it actually is, but just read on and hear me out.
Driving by the Mansoori Mansions, a 4 star hotel located in Adliya that hasn’t done much to improve their image since the heyday of the 80s – I started thinking more about what can be done. The location is perfectly situated in Adlilya, a busy neighborhood in Bahrain, lots of restaurants in the vicinity, and central in terms of location in the capital. The problem the hotel is currently facing, although I don’t know if the management and owners know is: Their atmosphere is weighing on the stale than fresh (I will not comment on the rooms since I’ve never seen), their restaurant sizzlers that hasn’t changed their menu since it opened with a price tag that doesn’t justify their quality which has plummeted over the years (you’ll pay the same price at other restaurants with a better ambience and menu), a ridiculously discriminatory door policy at their ancient glory days English bar henrys (two friends in suits were fed the members and couples only excuse when they swung by for a quick lunch - even the English have switched to gastropubs while henrys is still serving club sandwiches on regular white bread), a fenced plot of bare land near the hotel that is just there serving no purpose, and another irish bar across the street with what I’m told hasn’t much to offer. . I called the hotel and found their prices to be: BD20, BD45, and BD55 for their studio, 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom suites. That’s pretty bargain basement priced if you ask me for a 4 star hotel, but given the outside appearance of the hotel and the more than possible inside appearance of the rooms, maybe that’s all you can get.
Fret not Mr. Mansoori, who probably thinks the worst of me right now, here’s where the constructive criticism comes in: you have a perfect location, remember who your neighbors are (or aren’t), you can really turn your hotel around and make it something fantastic. First off, the name of the hotel is dated and does not give off anything but a less than 21st century image (“mansions” more like hovel). Off the top of my head, I can give you a couple of names. You’re a hotel in Adliya, you can operate a nightclub, you can operate a very good lounge and you can operate a restaurant all with liquor licenses with the utmost ease.. I don’t see why you can’t team up with some people, bring a nice restaurant to the hotel (it could be a luxury chain or your own concept, look at how well the other restaurants are doing in that area), you can have a nice bar/lounge and I guarantee you it will make people looking to visit Bahrain think twice about where they will book their rooms. If you’re stuck for options, then team up with an excellent spa and turn your boutique hotel into a full stop locale and see how well you do. You have a swimming pool? Well fix up that pool up and make it the hotel swimming pool to hang out at, an infinity pool, nice wood, and couple of objects d’art and you’re on a roll. Get yourself a good interior designer, keep it simple, have them redesign the rooms, or even spend a hefty amount of money, we’re not short on very cool hotels.. A young positive look on the place is much better than keeping it stagnant.. please innovate. I guarantee you, that if you pull this off, you will get more publicity from foreign publications and the press than you could have imagined, a spread in wallpaper magazine is just around the corner. I would even hit up the various megacompounds on the eastern province in Saudi Arabia and submit your hotel as an option for their residents when they come to Bahrain for the weekend. I’ve focused a lot of Mansoori Mansions because I really believe in the potential of their establishment with their location and everything they have going for them. Don’t misunderstand me as picking a fight, in fact this is more of a please be aware that you’ve lost a lot of customers, including my two friends that were turned down at lunchtime (and they used to be regulars). They can really pull off a coup and attract a returning clientele that will enjoy staying and dining there. Plus, you cannot deny the certain cool factor of a family hotel business that has existed for over 20 years and is now repositioning themselves as a viable alternative to the other 5 star hotels, they would definitely get my money. I think hotelier sounds pretty cool, don’t you? Adliya is a goldmine; don’t forget that, the more you delay the longer it will take for you to catch up.
I could talk about the Marina club (maybe another post), but I’m running out of steam. Or how about the delmon hotel and the city centre hotel in Manama, two of my favorite establishments in the souk with serious amounts of potential but also lacking in care. With the upcoming upgrades to the souk, do your research and create a specialized souk shopping expertise on what to find and where to find it in the alleys of central Manama. You hook up with a couple of the traders in the souk and you’re giving back to the community and providing your customers with a service. Think about the potential, I would definitely use their service when I had visitors from out of town and they wanted to wander around the souk looking for gifts. Enough with these bland brochures and the excuse that there’s not really much to show you.. There’s plenty to show you in Bahrain, you just need to dig it out, wrap it up nicely and the people will come, in droves.
Maybe I’m wrong, maybe there's a bigger story that we don't know about, but it’s on my mind and I thought I’d share.. Speak up if you’ve got something constructive to say… or if you’re looking for a LBO in Bahrain, then here it is…