The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah’s general manager Antonino Cardillo, discusses the resort’s unique qualities, the restaurant’s highly regarded food and beverages, the use of technology to enhance the guest experience, and the hospitality industry’s ongoing evolution.

Tell us about your professional career and how your global experience has helped you in your current role in the Middle East.
My journey began, heading the successful operations of various dining experiences in luxury hotels across the UK, consistently aiming for the highest level of guest satisfaction, by providing unforgettable experiences. Having started one of my first managerial positions as Villa Food & Beverage Manager in The Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai over two decades ago, it has been a great experience to resume my career here with The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah which defines luxury and is a refined coastal destination and any nature lover’s paradise.

From my first role as the general manager of La Plage Resort, Taormina in Sicily, in my native country, where my strategic approach and contribution to the resort from its nascent stage of pre-opening was valued, to several years later when it was recognised as one of the leading luxury hotels in the region, My passion for providing warm, seamless hospitality has spearheaded every role. Over the years, in various roles in Scotland, Republic of Maldives, Philippines, Italy and Saudi Arabia, I have focused on leading various hotel teams to achieve success in areas of strategic development, revenue generation and above all else the highest standard of guest satisfaction.

How important are leadership skills in your role, and how do you motivate your employees on a regular basis?
I strive to instill a culture that consistently offers guests and clients from all over the world the legendary Oberoi, heartfelt service. Additionally, I try to uplift and encourage 250 coworkers from 36 different nations. Providing leadership, displaying compassion, and promoting the company’s values that prioritise the needs of its clients.

Can you tell us what are distinct features of The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah?
The Oberoi Beach Resort Al Zorah, while situated just 40 minutes from downtown Dubai, is a refined coastal destination and any nature lover’s paradise; surrounded by 247 acres (one million square meters) of rich ecological wetland. Designed by the famous Italian architect Piero Lissoni, the hotel boasts a modern, sophisticated design set within natural mangroves and caressed by the gentle sea breeze, where life can be lived in harmony with nature amongst white sandy beaches and two million square meters of lush, green mangroves.

The rooms, suites, and villas at The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah are spacious, and bathe in natural light, and offer spectacular ocean views with a contemporary design. Guests can explore some of the world’s most beloved cuisines combined with the legendary hospitality and exceptional service synonymous with Oberoi Hotels & Resorts.

In your opinion, what is the most impressive part of the hotel?
The Oberoi Beach Resort Al Zorah is set in serene natural surroundings with the lush green mangroves on one side of the resort and the azure blue Arabian Gulf on the other, it is an idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life. The spectacular architecture is designed to showcase the resort’s panoramic ocean vistas and long white sand beaches. The spacious rooms, suites and villas are complemented by global gastronomy, outdoor adventures, spa indulgences and the bespoke experiences the resort has to discover. The biodiversity at the resort is also huge attraction, The resort opened with a staggering 300 trees on the scenic grounds, today it features over 900 as well as over 100 species of birds, and boasts of 1 million square metres of natural mangroves, where guests can spot pink flamingos in the winter and a 500 metre natural white sand beach. The flora and fauna displayed on the property is magnificent as well, from Desert Rose to Wild Jasmine and Acacia to highlight a few.

What is the unique value proposition that you offer to your customers?
From culinary delights to kayaking in the mangroves, spa indulgences to personalised experiences, a championship golf course next door, paired with intuitive service, The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah is a natural wonder waiting to be discovered.

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?
The restaurants and bar at The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah, offer the finest modern dining experiences combined with striking design in harmony with the surrounding natural landscape.

Located in a faux glass island, surrounded by water, seemingly floating, Vinesse, the elegant all day dining restaurant, serves refined international cuisine throughout the day. The attached bar serves hand-crafted cocktails and a wide range of spirits and single malts.

Resting on natural wooden decks, the Mediterranean beachfront restaurant, Aquario, recently underwent a renovation and serves responsibly sourced seafood from local and international waters, which is cooked using traditional techniques. At the attached bar, guests can sip on an aperitif or a nightcap and enjoy toe-tapping music.

The resort offers eclectic healthy snacks at its poolside restaurant and in house guests can also enjoy round the clock in room dining.A few delicacies are extremely popular among our patrons and represent the ethos of our culinary offering, Aquario’s menu boasts of exquisite seafood preparations from the Scallops flavoured with tomato and langoustine bisque, braised sweet anise, lemon zest & trout caviar to the Seafood Cataplana, brimming with Mussels, clams, prawns, Fine de Claire oysters, Gillardeau oysters, tuna tartar and king crab salad. Another highly recommended dish is the Bouillabaisse with red mullet, prawns, scallops, clams, mussels, saffron lobster bouillon and rouille baguette. Indulge in the simplistic finesse of the Seabass fillet baked in salt dough, citrus herbs de Provence, baby legumes, sage mash finished with sauce vierge. To end your meal on a sweet note, the signature Tiramisu will leave you absolutely satiated.

How is technology enhancing the consumer experience?
In the last decade, the hospitality industry has harnessed technology to provide a seamless experience to guests perfectly combined with the human touch that patrons seek. The post pandemic world has seen an influx of various technological advancements that not only enhance the guest experience but also contribute to sustainable initiatives, paperless registration and checkout, digital newspapers, menus and more, these are just a few examples of how technology has improved the guest experience.

How, according to you, is the hospitality industry evolving? What is your vision for the hospitality segment in the Middle East?
The hospitality industry is growing at an exponential rate and travellers are seeking experiential getaways to destinations less travelled with offerings that are unique. The goal is to position the Middle East as a luxury global destination that has niche experiences like that of The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah. To lead the efforts which ensure the resort contributes to Al Zorah City’s vision by providing an exclusive luxury destination, attracting global travelers and discerning guests. Focus on the sustainable practices carried out by the resort which contribute to reducing the area’s carbon footprint. To drive the recognition of the destination detailed by Oberoi Hotels & Resorts and The Al Zorah Development Private Company which are synonymous with providing unforgettable experiences, thereby boosting the overall reputation of the region.

How does a hotel remain a part of the local community while also attracting guests from further afield?
Through a culture that seamlessly delivers legendary, Oberoi Hotels & Resorts, heart felt service to guests and patrons from around the world every day. As well as by providing a scenic getaway for UAE residents just a short drive from Dubai, a perfect short escape from the hustle and bustle of city life as well as a global destination for nature lovers set within the most beautiful backdrop paired with personalised experiences.

What difficulties come with maintaining a luxury hotel?
At The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah, our guests are everything and we want them to feel the genuine service we offer through intuitive experiences, provided in the luxurious oasis of natural wonder built in contemporary style featuring spectacular surroundings.

Is sustainability important for the resort? If so, how do you work it into your designs?
Since The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah opened its doors in 2017, aligned with Oberoi Hotels & Resorts and Al Zorah Development Private Company’s sustainable vision, one of the major aims has been to provide a luxury retreat for travellers while maintaining the natural glory of the setting at Al Zorah. We have implemented planned initiatives towards sustainable practices focused on operational and non-operational areas of the hotel in order to deliver our promise to present and future generations. Oberoi Hotels & Resorts is committed to employing the best environmental and ecological practices in technology, equipment and operational processes. Oberoi Hotels & Resorts also supports philanthropic activities and is a keen contributor to the conservation of nature and cultural heritage.

The hotel has implemented a number of initiatives, starting with the execution of various digital alternatives like the use of PressReader to replace newspapers in the form of the Ipads placed in our guest rooms as well as a downloadable application which guests are briefed about, and a QR code enabled directory of hotel information.

The Oberoi Spa uses 100% natural products from ALQVIMIA that are created using sustainably sourced ingredients which are organically farmed. As part of the resort’s commitment to helping preserve and protect the environment an option to leave their room linen unchanged is offered to all guests staying over an extended period of time. The rooms, suites and villas as well as the resort restrooms and staff facilities feature water and energy saving low-flush water closets with a mechanism to reduce water wastage. Another effort to save water can be showcased in the water sewage treatment plant present on the hotel premises.

In 2021, the resort adopted an electronic registration system for guests which is a 100% paper free alternative. The successful installation of two electric car charger points by Tesla to encourage the use of electric and hybrid vehicles is an additional measure taken by the resort. As recycling initiatives the resort has adopted waste segregation management in association with AIMS Group Ajman as well as a partnership with Take My Junk, UAE’s recycling campaign to recycle the hotel’s linen.

The resort is clad with energy saving lighting, tinted windows and insulation, an environmentally conscious building management system and guest room management system with an overarching emphasis on preservation of heat, light and power. The resort prides itself on ecological practices to respect the natural habitat of the native ecosystem. Our quest to plant trees is very dear to all of us at The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah, planting over 1000 trees at the resort, overall improving the quality of air in the region.

Various environmentally friendly enterprises have been executed by employees as well; clean up and water bottle recycling drives, an employee accommodation energy saving tracker which is incentivised and can collection campaigns to name a few, paired with a number of external and internal trainings on sustainable practices.

Tourism has had a massive comeback in the region – how do you see this translating to bigger growth in the hospitality sector in 2023?
I am hopeful that the return of travel will greatly impact the region in 2023, with an increased focus on specialised experiences and activities.