Destination KSA - Your Guide to Saudi

Destination KSA - Your Guide to Saudi

Elevating Luxury in Riyadh: An Exclusive Interview with Anna-Marie Dowling, General Manager of Nofa Riyadh, a Radisson Collection Resort

Elevating Luxury in Riyadh: An Exclusive Interview with Anna-Marie Dowling, General Manager of Nofa Riyadh, a Radisson Collection Resort

In the world of hospitality, few individuals possess the wealth of experience and dedication that Anna-Marie Dowling, General Manager of Nofa Riyadh, a Radisson Collection Resort, brings to the table. With an inspiring journey that started as a room attendant cleaning 16 rooms a day at a Holiday Inn, Anna-Marie’s passion for the industry, coupled with her relentless pursuit of excellence, has propelled her to the forefront of the hospitality sector. In this exclusive interview, we delve into Anna-Marie’s remarkable career, her vision for Nofa Riyadh, and the distinctive experiences that set this luxurious resort apart in the heart of Riyadh.


Can you share a bit about your background and previous experiences in the hospitality industry that led you to your current role as General Manager at Nofa Riyadh?

I was not an academically gifted child so I did not do brilliantly at school but I always enjoyed being around people so hospitality was an instinctive choice of career for me. I started my career on the ground floor of the business as a room attendant cleaning 16 rooms a day at Holiday Inn Slough Windsor! I then progressed to an in-house trainee program which in today’s terms would be a modern-day apprenticeship program. I spent two years working in every department in the hotel, learning the business from the bottom up.

Once I had completed my in-house trainee program, my career progressed through Food & Beverage, but I set my goal very early on in my career I wanted to be a General Manager, and I was very focused on achieving that goal – I worked in any department I could to get additional experience and learn as much as I could about all the operational aspects of a hotel. This is an experience I still draw on today as a General Manager as I have great empathy for the staff that operate at the coal face of the business as they are the ones that mostly can determine the reputation of your hotel – so it is very important to me that they feel appreciated, recognized and valued for what they do, day in day out.

I progressed through supervisory levels, became a Head of Department, then a Director of Operations, and after 3 years, I realized my goal of becoming a General Manager in 1998.

I spent the next 12 years predominantly in General Manager roles in London before deciding in 2016 that I wanted to get some international experience – so I have spent the last 7 years running hotels in the Middle East. Firstly, I worked in Bahrain as Complex General Manager of Le Meridien & the Westin City Center Bahrain; in 2019 I moved as General Manager of InterContinental Muscat and area General Manager of six hotels for IHG in Oman. However, I had always had a strong desire to run a resort so when I was offered the opportunity to run Nofa Resort Riyadh, A Radisson Collection Hotel I jumped at the chance and it really is my dream job come true!

 

 

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Nofa Riyadh is a unique and luxurious resort. What attracted you to this particular property, and what is most exciting about managing it?

Nofa is certainly a very exclusive resort – it is like a small paradise just outside Riyadh. The resort has so many unique facilities that most hotels could not offer. It has 57 villas, all with private pools, a lake with pedal and BBQ boats, mini golf, a cinema, a bowling alley, a male and female spa, a safari, an equestrian center, an aquarium, and six restaurants, to name some of the facilities available for guests.

I was excited to take this job as I just saw so many opportunities to create some phenomenal guest experiences – both on an individual and a corporate basis – we have two very large ballrooms and a lot of space in the gardens that give us a lot of flexibility on being able to host events ranging from 20 to 5,000.

The resort is right next door to a safari and a golf course, and although these are under the Nofa umbrella, they are run separately from the resort. Still, there are so many opportunities for us to work closer and ensure our strategies are aligned in creating lifetime memories for guests and visitors.


Riyadh is a city that’s rich in culture and history. How does Nofa Riyadh incorporate local elements and traditions into the guest experience?

Riyadh is rich in culture and history and represents “city life,” buildings and roads, modernity and development. Nofa offers an escape to the Bedouins’ roots, desert and animals, farms, and long walks. What Nofa brings to Riyadh is the fresh air of the luxury of living outside; Nofa is Riyadh’s oasis, and there are over 60,000 date trees around the property. Dates are a staple of the Saudi diet, so we use Nofa as a key ingredient in our culinary offerings around the resort.

 

 

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What are your goals and vision for Nofa Riyadh in the coming years? Are there any exciting developments or initiatives that guests can look forward to?

My main goal and vision for Nofa Resort is to raise the profile of the resort in KSA and beyond into other GCC and international markets and make the resort more commercially viable. Nofa Resort was the exception to the rule during the pandemic as it had a very strong performance during lockdowns, and it was one of the few places in Riyadh that attracted visitors. However, it is fair to say that once the country opened up and people could travel again, they had many more choices on where to spend their leisure time and spend.  We must continue to reinvent ourselves and create new experience packages and memorable moments that will make the domestic and international tourist market choose Nofa resort over other destinations.


Nofa Riyadh is known for its exceptional dining options. Can you tell us about some culinary experiences guests can enjoy at the resort?

Nofa Resort has many dining options, from casual to fine dining. Many of our guests enjoy being in the privacy of their villa and enjoy bespoke BBQ menus and in-villa dining that allows them to relax in the gardens and by the pool in the villa.

On Friday evening, our all-day dining restaurant, Tswalu, offers either a Seafood Night or a BBQ Night on a Friday evening where the cooler weather of our location outside of Riyadh still allows guests to sit outside and enjoy food prepared on live cooking stations whilst accompanied by music from our resident musicians.

Our Butcher’s Den is a grill kitchen with the most amazing steaks; the service experience can be enhanced by gueridon service and some fabulous mocktails whilst also enjoying sitting on an outside terrace with atmospheric views of our lake!

If guests enjoy being on the water, they can have the option to book one of our BBQ boats where the chef prepares a BBQ, and the guests can cook that at their leisure while they sail around the lake.

Also, at the same location as Butchers Den, we have Aji Sushi Lounge, where we have just launched a new promotion – All You Can Sushi, which entails various sizes of Sushi platters served family style to the table.

If the guests prefer a more casual dining experience, then we have two choices – firstly, a café in our Entertainment Center – where guests can enjoy light bites, sandwiches, and burgers, and then secondly, Al Fresco, an Italian that offers homemade pizzas and pasta dishes.

 

 

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Finally, what advice would you give to individuals aspiring to a career in the hospitality industry, especially in roles like General Manager?

The hospitality industry has provided me with an awesome career so far. There are many strands to hospitality and, therefore, a variety of career options open to you in many functions: HR, operations, engineering, sales & marketing, and countless more. No two days are ever the same, and it is never boring!

My advice is always to try and get experience with a global hotel brand, as the training and personal development opportunities will be more advanced and varied. 

I believe as a female General Manager; there has never been a better time to join our industry and create a career path to General Manager; Radisson Hotels is very committed to increasing the number of females in senior leadership positions and, as such, developing and investing in programs to help potential female leaders of the future be able to navigate a career path as well as maintain a good work-life balance.  


Book Your Unforgettable Stay at Nofa Riyadh Today!

Nofa Riyadh, a Radisson Collection Resort, awaits to offer you a unique, luxurious experience like no other. Whether you’re seeking a tranquil oasis just outside Riyadh, a plethora of activities, or a culinary adventure, Nofa has it all.

Book Now Click on this link 

 


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