He’s been associated with Kerzner International, the parent company of the One&Only resorts, for the past 15 years, overseeing the development of the group’s first property in Dubai, and a few years later, its second. Join us as we discover the incredible story of Olivier Louis, and perhaps, the evolution of Dubai itself into one of the world’s most dynamic destinations!
Meet Olivier Louis
GLH: Mr. Olivier Louis. It’s an absolute pleasure to be talking to you and have you answer a few of our questions. As we understand, when you got here in 1997, there wasn’t much to Dubai but wide expanses of sand?
Olivier Louis: Only sand yes, the largest square in the world that takes us to Riad.
GLH: So how did Kerzner International come up with the idea of building a hotel here, in the middle of nowhere?
Olivier Louis: Dubai, at the time, was 12 km from here. The Al Maktoum family wanted to go into international tourism, saying to themselves: This part of Dubai has an extraordinary bay and sunshine at least nine months a year. And it’s what? Only some 6-7 hours from Europe. So we became the pioneers to build here
A fair amount of credit should also be given to the fact that, at the time we were opening, the royal family also launched the Emirates airline company, which, at the time, had 10 or 15 planes and today has more than 240 I believe.
GLH: At the time you opened, the One&Only Royal Mirage was one of the first five-star resorts in Dubai?
Olivier Louis: There were the traditional brands like Meridien, Sheraton and Hilton, but in terms of leisure there was practically nothing. To build a real resort here, on a 1 km stretch of private beach, was quite exceptional.
Today, you have more than 125,000 rooms available in Dubai, and perhaps 25,000 or 30,000 rooms in the upper end of the market. That’s 20% more than Paris, London or New York, which is quite impressive.
GLH: The Royal Mirage, as we understand, is made up of three properties. How are they different?
Olivier Louis: Yes. You have The Palace, which opened in August 1999, very noble and structured with very beautiful gardens and an extraordinary 1500 m2 pool. That’s what gave us our reference. Afterwards, we managed to have 500 m of additional beach and we created The Residence: A little jewel that’s perhaps the best secret of Dubai with 48 rooms. It’s the smallest boutique hotel in Dubai. The Residence is very private, which allows you to be seen without being seen. Finally, we also reintroduced the Arabian Court, which is more family oriented with communicating rooms. The French market loves this space.
And, of course, there is the little jewel I opened 10 years ago, One&Only The Palm, across the bay…a very jet set and fine place. As we say in the business, “Space is Luxury”. People are looking for space, for completely private villas, a two-storey building at most, far away from the Dubai skyscrapers, and we give people that choice, strong in identity and character.
GLH: What sets the One&Only resorts apart from the competition in Dubai?
Olivier Louis: First of all, I believe the Moorish and arabesque character that we have is very strong. People who come to visit Dubai still want to find a hotel that is different from what they would see in other parts of the world… a real “sense of place” if you will.
Then a very human service, close to the heart. We are here to really take care of each client. Our teams are not taught what to say or not to say; We just want to pamper our customers and help them disconnect.
GLH: And the restaurants are a big part of that too?
Olivier Louis: There are 8 restaurants within the Royal Mirage and three within The Palm. We have our own jetty with our own boat that can take you from one marina to another so guests are spoiled for choice.
We also opened Dubai’s first beach restaurant 20 years ago, offering grilled fish, which was taken over by Mauro Colagreco 6 months ago. Each of his dishes is a discovery, his Argentinean side best expressed in the grills. We also have much trendier restaurants like Drift, and at The Palm, 101 and Stay, which are Yannick Alléno’s restaurants.
GLH: A little word on the spa?
Olivier Louis: At the Royal Mirage, we work with ESPA, which is a very established brand, and at The Palm, we’ve been working with Guerlain for 3 years.
20 years ago, we were also the first hotel to bring the Oriental Hammam to Dubai and it was a great success. In fact, 80% of our clientele is local since the hammam is almost a tradition in the country. You find this our spa…this traditional side, as well as discovery, relaxation and ultra luxury.
GLH: And finally, if you had to describe One&Only as a brand, what would you say?
Olivier Louis: It’s interesting because One&Only is truly unique. Each hotel is different, in style, character and architecture…there is no structured formula as there is in some companies. The central idea of the group is the heart, service and attention to detail. The detail is you! What can we do for you, to create a bit of joie de vivre in a world that is increasingly stressed.
We don’t just talk about our wine list, our menus and our rooms, we talk about you and mostly you. You are the centre of our attention…we want you to be happy!
For more exclusive interviews, stay tuned! On Sunday, we talk to Alejandro Ortiz, Director of Wellness and Guest Experience at the One&Only Mandarina.