Deborah Lecci, Hotel Manager – Rove Hotels, discusses her leadership role, the brand’s distinctive design features, and how technology and sustainability are changing the face of the industry.

By Roma Arora

Tell us about your journey. How did it all start?

My career journey began when I studied Economy and Sustainable Tourism, which sparked my interest in the hospitality industry. I gained valuable experience during an internship in a hostel on Northern Island, which confirmed my passion for this field. After completing my studies, I moved to London to build my career in hospitality.

I worked hard throughout the years to gather experience and enhance my talents, which eventually brought me to the UAE. I had the amazing pleasure to meet the Rove team there, and I knew it was the ideal fit for me. Today, I am pleased to be a member of the Rove family and look forward to furthering my career in this fascinating and dynamic sector.

How important are leadership skills in your role, and how do you motivate your employees regularly?

Leadership skills are critical in the hospitality industry. In a people-centred industry, effective leaders need to be skilled at managing a diverse workforce and creating a positive work environment that encourages teamwork, motivation, and productivity.

To motivate employees regularly, I rely on several strategies:

  • Setting clear goals: Everyone on the team needs to know what they’re working towards, and how their contributions contribute to the success of the team as a whole.
  • Empowerment: By empowering employees to make decisions and take ownership of their work, we’re able to create a sense of ownership and pride in their work.
  • Recognitions and rewards: Celebrating the successes and achievements of our team members is critical to keeping morale high and motivating employees to continue performing at their best.
  • Development: Providing opportunities for employees to learn new skills, take on new responsibilities, and advance in their careers is key to keeping them engaged and motivated.
  • Encouraging feedback: By creating an environment where employees feel comfortable providing feedback and suggestions for improvement, we’re able to continually improve our operations and show our team members that their opinions are valued.

Can you tell us what are distinct features of this property?

At Rove, connectivity and a fuss-free environment where people can be themselves with all the amenities at their disposal, is what defines the whole Rover experience. Whether you are travelling for business, looking for a beach staycation with your family, or in town to explore the city, Rove Dubai Marina puts right at the heart of Dubai Marina, one of the city’s most bustling neighbourhoods. The hotel is steps away from the promenade and within easy reach of the beach and Dubai Marina Mall, using our complimentary shuttle bus.

Furthermore, we provide plenty of convenient facilities for our Rovers (guests), such as a 24-hour gym, a laundromat, self-parking, a photo and video studio in conjunction with Nikon, and a variety of games in our public spaces, such as foosball or tennis tables!

In the business hospitality segment, many new hotels are opening. What distinguishes your brand from the competition?

Rove properties are much more than a bed for the night, they are a basecamp for global travellers and local residents to explore and meet. We regularly hold art exhibitions with locally based artists, engage in community events happening in town, organise photography tours and many other events.

Furthermore, we find that Rovers (guests) appreciate that the experience we provide across all our hotels is quite consistent. No matter which property you go to, you’ll always enjoy the same service style and facilities across all locations, except a few unique features present only in specific properties such as the aforementioned Photo and Video Studio in Rove Dubai Marina or the Gamer Caves (dedicated gaming rooms) at Rove Downtown and Rove At The Park.

What are some of the trends you see impacting the hospitality industry?

Sustainability is going to remain a front-runner, and we’re keen to get this right for our Rovers and the planet. We’re already Green Key Certified, which puts us among a selected group of only 3,700 hotels around the world, but we consider sustainability is always a work in progress and we have big plans to continue making our operations eco-friendlier in 2023.

Inclusivity is another key area of focus for Dubai as well as the hospitality industry. At Rove, all our hotels offer accessible facilities for Rovers with reduced mobility.

Additionally, we consider that Web3 and digitalisation are important trends for the hospitality industry, and we believe that we’ll see more technological innovation in hotels.

Tell us about the hotel’s restaurants and bars, and how they provide a unique experience. What are some dishes and drinks that you recommend everyone try?

At Rove Dubai Marina we have The Daily, Rove’s own food and beverage concept. The Daily offers a casual and contemporary dining experience, serving a variety of international cuisines with a focus on fresh, healthy ingredients.

We regularly update our menu with neighbourhood specials and have also worked on enhancing our vegan offering, adding many vegan dishes to our menu.

It’s also a great spot for co-working, with great coffee, an inspiring design and high-speed Wi-Fi.

My personal favourite is the potato gnocchi with beef chorizo, it’s great. Also, we have some nice healthy booster drinks like the ‘Green Machine’, which has spinach, celery, broccoli, mango, banana, and pineapple.

Great hospitality is now made possible by technology. Can you tell us about some of the technologies that go into creating your guest experience?

Our team has worked hard over the last year to advance areas that are important to us, such as our digitalisation and sustainability plans, and we’ve accomplished a lot.

We understand that technology is increasingly important in the hospitality space, not just from a guest perspective, but also to help hotel operations and gain insights into our Rovers. Some of the most recent initiatives we’ve implemented throughout our hotels include installing a digital check-in system, introducing a digital solution for the housekeeping department, and utilising automation tools to help our finance team’s operations.

What difficulties come with maintaining a business hotel?

Because business visitors prefer efficiency and comfort, the primary problems associated with a business hotel include ensuring that the personnel is highly trained and that operations such as check-in and check-out work smoothly.

Convenient facilities like our self-service laundromat, self-parking, co-working spaces or our 24-hour gym are greatly appreciated by those coming for business. It allows them to do things at their own pace, and manage their own time more effectively.

Is sustainability important for the hotel? If so, how do you work it into your designs?

At Rove, sustainability is an important area of focus. All our hotels have been built following strict sustainability guidelines, and we keep applying new learnings to our operations across our hotels. Some of our initiatives include 100% sustainable amenities, the usage of LED lights for reduced energy consumption, in-property waste segregation, recycling and much more. Additionally, we conduct regular training sessions to increase the environmental awareness of our team.

We’ve also been very active in cutting down on paper consumption and single-use plastic consumption. Some of the initiatives implanted over the last 12 months include:

  • Installing filtered water taps in hotel public areas and meeting spaces to reduce the use of single-use plastic bottles, in line with the Dubai Can initiative
  • Introducing new brand uniforms made of recycled plastic across all hotels
  • Removing single-use plastic bin bags in bedrooms
  • Trialing the implementation of re-fillable glass bottles in hotel rooms to replace plastic bottles

What opportunities and challenges lie ahead for hoteliers in the coming years?

Looking ahead, hoteliers face both opportunities and challenges in the coming years.

On the opportunity side, there are two major areas where hoteliers can make strides: sustainability and new technologies. Similarly, new technologies are transforming the hospitality industry, from mobile check-ins to keyless room entry. Hoteliers who stay up-to-date with the latest tech trends and invest in new technologies will be better positioned to provide an exceptional guest experience.

Regarding challenges, there are a few things that hoteliers must navigate. Firstly, competition is increasing with new players entering the market, particularly in the shared accommodation space. This means that hoteliers must find ways to differentiate themselves and offer unique value propositions to attract guests.

Tourism has had a massive comeback in the region – how do you see this translating to bigger growth in the hospitality sector in 2023 and beyond?

are very positive about 2023, demand for Dubai has remained very strong during the first quarter. Furthermore, we are expecting that with some of the restrictions in China being relaxed, we’ll start seeing another key source market coming back to UAE.

Also, we see many Rovers living and working from our hotels and we believe that Dubai will continue consolidating its position as a leisure destination, with more and more people relocating into the city to work remotely or have working holidays.

Events will be another important area to tap into. The regular calendar of city events including some new additions will continue to bring many visitors from around the world. With several hotels in and around Expo City Dubai, where the event will be hosted, we expect that COP 28 will provide an important uplift in business levels during Q4 for the Rove brand as well as for the rest of the hospitality sector.