Talking Hospitality

by Kristian Harrison

Tue, 04 June 2024

de Vries Talking Hospitality

Nestled along the pristine coastline of south-west Bahrain, the Jumeirah Gulf of Bahrain is rapidly becoming a beacon of luxury and innovation in the region’s hospitality sector. At the helm of this opulent establishment is Thibault de Vries, a seasoned professional whose extensive international experience and passion for hospitality has positioned him to lead this remarkable property. In an interview with Kristian Harrison, Mr. de Vries shares insights into his illustrious career, the exciting developments at the hotel, and his vision for the future of the resort. 

Could you give our readers a brief history on your illustrious career and professional experience to date? 
I began my career in Switzerland after graduating from EHL Hospitality Business School in Lausanne in 2005. Joining the Hyatt Hotels, I travelled extensively; working in Singapore, Bangkok, Paris and Johannesburg. I spent almost a decade in Russia, with assignments in Moscow and Sochi, the latter during its hosting of the 2014 Olympic Games. More recently, I moved to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup and, as of last December, I’m privileged to be the General Manager of the Jumeirah Gulf of Bahrain. 

How has your international experience contributed to shaping your career and expertise? 
Adaptability is key. Working in diverse countries has taught me to quickly adapt to new cultures and ways of doing things. Each region has imparted valuable lessons that I bring to my role in Bahrain. This global perspective helps me understand and meet the varied expectations of our international guests. 

What do you consider to be your greatest achievements in the field of hospitality to date? 
I wouldn’t say there’s one single achievement that stands out. Across the various hotels and properties I’ve worked at, we’ve consistently enhanced the guest experience and improved the financial health of the establishments. A significant personal achievement is maintaining lasting relationships with colleagues and guests from my previous roles. This network of connections has enriched my career immensely. 

As the General Manager of Jumeirah Gulf of Bahrain, what do you consider to be your primary goals? 
Initially, our focus is on building a dedicated and motivated team. It’s through our colleagues that we can deliver exceptional guest experiences. We’re also working on creating unique guest experiences, or what I like to call ‘wow moments,’ that go beyond expectations. Another goal is to activate more activities within the hotel to ensure guests have a comprehensive and engaging resort experience, given our distance from Manama. 

How important is having a diverse and dynamic team in your operations? 
Diversity is crucial. We purposefully seek a mix of backgrounds, genders, nationalities and experiences. For me, hiring is about attitude, motivation and passion. Skills can be trained, but a positive attitude and a sense of humour are essential. Being aware of global events is also important, as it helps our staff connect with international and knowledgeable guests. 

The property recently unveiled its new brand identity. What are the key elements of growth that the property will undergo as it takes on this new venture?    
The Jumeirah brand has always been about warmth, which is reflected in our updated logo featuring three flames symbolising generosity, joy and warmth. We aim to bring these elements to life in all guest interactions. Over the next few months and years, we’ll be focusing on how we can infuse these values into every aspect of our guest experience, from check-in procedures to dining experiences. 

What are your thoughts on the hospitality sector in Bahrain? How does this property diversify in a competitive environment? 
Jumeirah Gulf of Bahrain is uniquely positioned as a true resort destination on the island. Unlike any other property here, we offer a complete disconnection from the hustle of Manama, creating a bubble of relaxation and luxury. Our extensive facilities, including multiple swimming pools, a private beach, an award-winning 2.5km2 spa, and diverse dining options, set us apart. We’re also the latest five-star luxury hotel in Bahrain, offering unparalleled experiences. 

The property recently launched the Mar Y Mas concept. What makes the experience so special and what can visitors expect in terms of entertainment and dining? 
Mar Y Mas is an adult-only experience at our infinity pool, available every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It features a live DJ from 2pm, a mix of Peruvian and Mexican cuisine bringing together vibrant flavours from both cultures, and evening fire shows. This concept is designed to provide a unique and vibrant atmosphere for our adult guests, offering a distinct and engaging experience. 

Jumeirah Gulf of Bahrain has a stunning beach and sprawling pools. What can the people of Bahrain and visitors expect at the property over summer as temperatures rise? 
All our swimming pools are temperature-controlled, ensuring a refreshing dip even in the hottest weather. Additionally, our location on the south-west coast means we benefit from a cool sea breeze, making the temperatures feel more pleasant. Our 800m beach also provides a great escape, and we continuously offer a variety of activities to keep guests entertained and comfortable during the summer. 

After achieving great success in the hospitality sector, what do you consider to be essential personality traits for being successful in the field and what advice would you offer to prospective professionals? 
Flexibility, open-mindedness and the ability to adapt quickly are essential traits. Empathy is crucial as we constantly interact with people. Passion for hospitality is also key; without it, the long hours and demanding nature of the job can be challenging. 

For young professionals, I recommend gaining a thorough understanding of hotel operations, starting from the ground up, and learning how different departments work together to create a seamless guest experience. Resilience and the ability to stay motivated are also important, some guests can be quite demanding.

When your tenure here eventually ends, what do you want your legacy at the property to have been?
I’m focused on creating an iconic resort experience here in Bahrain along with my amazing team. Our goal is to establish Jumeirah Gulf of Bahrain as a premier destination in the GCC, known for its exceptional facilities and guest experiences. We’re continuously working on improving and innovating to achieve this vision.