Taking Charge: Meet Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown General Manager Laura Eggleton
Appointed as the first female general manager for InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) in the region in 2015, Laura Eggleton will now lead its first Hotel Indigo property in the GCC.
Tell us a bit more about your journey as a hotelier.
My hospitality journey accidentally started when I was still at school (we started young back then…or at least I did!). I was waiting for a bus in the village where I lived with a couple of friends. It was raining, so we went into a small family hotel for shelter. It happened that we spoke to the owner and found out that they were looking for waitresses, and so we started that week.
I worked a Saturday shift every week, and gradually built up my part-time experience all throughout my education. I graduated from the University of Brighton with a BA (Hons) in International Tourism Management and have worked in hotel management ever since.
Having worked across a few hotels within the IHG portfolio in the UK, I moved in Muscat, Oman in 2015 to lead the team at the Holiday Inn Muscat Al Seeb.
My current tenure is my most exciting yet; I’m currently leading my incredible team on the pre-opening of Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown, the first Hotel Indigo property for IHG in the region, opening next month.
What’s your management style and how will you be aligning it with this new property?
My team tell me it’s fun and energising, I quite like that! I love what I do, and I want those around me to enjoy their work as much as I do mine – I think satisfaction and success at work go hand in hand. I like to create an environment that encourages colleagues to be themselves, be free to make suggestions that they think will benefit the business, or the environment in which we work in.
I like to empower others. I’ve hired great people for the contributions that they’re able to make to the business – I haven’t hired them so I can tell them what to do. I’m inspired by people who are really driven, and I want to encourage colleagues to aim higher, be better and ultimately achieve great things. It’s so much easier to achieve goals in a fun, energetic and supportive environment, so that’s definitely something I like to cultivate.
Finally, our recruitment strategy has always been “potential over pedigree” – this isn’t a team made up of hospitality veterans with years and years of experience. This is a team of high-potential, extremely talented young hoteliers and I believe one of the most important responsibilities in my role is to create an environment in which these colleagues can absolutely flourish.
How do you evaluate employee performance, and keep your team motivated?
Despite being a boutique hotel, we’re fortunate enough to benefit from all of the great tools associated with a global brand (our parent company, IHG) thus we work within the IHG Performance Management system to evaluate employee performance. This global framework allows us the opportunity to offer colleagues consistent feedback on their performance within the business, both for a pre-opening hotel and, of course, once we’re operating.
That said, however, I do believe motivation comes from personal recognition. I always go out of my way to ensure colleagues are recognised for their great work, and I’m incredibly focused on ensuring team members get the professional opportunities to learn and grow in their careers, both at Hotel Indigo Dubai and of course the wider IHG network.
I’m very fortunate that I have always been incredibly well-supported to grow in my career by both hotel owners and my internal stakeholders alike, and I believe this has always had a distinct correlation to my continued motivation within the hospitality industry. I feel it’s my duty to keep the motivation within my own team by ensuring they’re also given the opportunities to learn and grow beyond their current job title.
I believe in offering honest feedback to colleagues to let them know in real-time just what they’re doing right, so that they can continue in that direction and stay motivated, feel valued and continue to go the extra mile to really deliver the unique Hotel Indigo experience that your guests expect.
What can you tell future guests about Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown?
Just as no places are alike, no two Hotel Indigo properties are alike. Each Hotel Indigo draws inspiration from the local neighbourhood, culture and popular trends in food, drink and design, to create a warm and vibrant atmosphere. Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown is no exception, taking inspiration from the story of its neighbourhood to help guests feel part of the destination.
Historically, the city of Dubai has grown in tandem with the development and extension along the Dubai Creek into new areas of the city, such as Dubai Design District, Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, and Downtown. The Creek’s journey is a story of the transformation of Dubai from a trading post to the city of the future that it is today, and this has influenced the hotel’s overall architectural and interior design approach.
The design of Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown brings neighbourhood stories to life. Showcasing the vibrancy of traditional culture with a contemporary twist, every detail has been thoughtfully designed, from mother-of-pearl inlaid bathrooms paying homage to the country’s proud heritage of pearl diving, to the wardrobes with carved wooden doors, hand-crafted in Mashrabiya style with a modern twist.
Throughout the hotel, you’ll find over 200 pieces of art commissioned from Emirati and resident artists through our close ties with the Alserkal Cultural Foundation, Tashkeel
and XVA gallery. It’s not just here for show – all of these artworks are available for guests to purchase through our ‘Bakala Jooos’ concept store.
How are you planning on utilising online hotel reviews and social media feedback?
Hotel Indigo properties around the world are renowned for guest experience scores, whether it be from our IHG Rewards Club members who provide feedback on IHG.com or social media reviews.
Due to the recent drop in travel over the last few months, trends indicate that social reviews will become even more critical – although our key focus and plan is to ensure that that the team is focused on delivering personalised levels of service, while taking guests on a journey of the neighbourhood. Having this approach and focusing on ensuring that the service that is delivered, will naturally drive guests to share the experience with their network.
Social reviews are, without a doubt, a key focus and KPI for the hotel. With the highly talented team that we have scouted, our approach to this is primarily getting the basics of personalised service right, which will in turn have a positive halo effect on social review channels.
Let’s talk F&B: what are the venues and experiences guests can expect?
For a social dining experience, Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown is home to Open Sesame, a relaxed community eatery offering a vast selection of healthy and wholesome dishes, as well as brewing Dubai’s finest locally roasted specialty coffee with partner Café Rider Custom Roastery. This social hotspot is inspired by the region’s history and infused flavours of the local spice bazaars that tell a story.
Inspired by the culture clash of nearby neighbourhood Satwa, Off The Wall bar is the perfect spot for uniquely crafted beverages, and small bites representing the culture clashes within the Satwa community to accompany. Its design takes on a journey through the eclectic neighbourhood of Satwa, with saturated graffiti art from Dubai-based Paul Bruwer and Syrian artist Baseem Rayyes.
Designer furniture is aplenty and a lightbox installation by Dubai-based artist Max Cramatte from Satwa 3000 complements the tongue-in-cheek design style throughout.
Located on the third floor over-looking Downtown, the aptly named “Orange Feels” offers a vast selection of drinks derived from the hugely popular orange beverage. The lively pool deck bar offers something for everyone: those looking to unwind poolside can relax in the sun by day or enjoy hubbly bubbly and the chilled beats on a raised DJ platform by night. The vibey social spot boasts hanging woven water pods that brush the surface of the water for the ultimate Instagrammable moment, making it one of the must-visit venues.
Bakala Jooos is part juice bar and part concept store, offering guests hand-crafted juice recipes with the highest quality ingredients, sourced from Emirates Bio Farm. Inside Bakala Jooos, you’ll find unique pieces from the Alserkal Cultural Foundation – many of which are on show in different corners of the hotel.
Tell us briefly about the new measures in place for COVID-19.
IHG has built its reputation on a long-standing commitment to guests’ and colleagues’ health and safety and now more than ever has this been a key focus in the opening of Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown. IHG have launched the initiative, IHG Clean Promise, using new science-led protocols and service measures that go above and beyond to ensure it exceeds government guidelines.
IHG Clean Promise has partnered with industry leading experts and specialists including Dr Jim Merlino, chief clinical transformation officer at The Cleveland Clinic, to define solutions and implement safety and hygiene processes including deep cleaning procedures using hospital-grade disinfectants. Guests can expect to see evolved cleaning procedures in every area of the hotel including contactless payments, social distancing protocols, clear visual guidelines and expectations, staff protective equipment and visible sanitiser stations.
IHG have removed all high-touch collaterals from guestrooms and heightened the cleanliness auditing process as well as laundry protocols.
Regarding F&B outlets, social distancing is implemented through placement of tables and queues, alongside the removal of self-serve stations and buffets. Surfaces and furniture at Hotel Indigo will undergo a disinfection process after every use with Clean Champions on site to ensure that all guests feel welcomed and safe within the IHG community.