With a vast portfolio of luxurious hotels, Hilton’s long-lasting legacy in the hospitality industry is one to applaud even after so many years since it was first established.

From opening the world’s first Warner Bros-themed hotel to introducing their signature cookies upon check at the DoubleTree properties globally, this hospitality group has established a name for itself with its extraordinary stays and getaways at the world’s most sought-after destinations.

With over 7,000 locations worldwide, the brand has established itself in the region especially in the UAE with its one-of-a-kind resorts for a memorable stay and F&B offerings.

Nader Halim, the Cluster General Manager for Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island, The WB™ Abu Dhabi, Curio Collection by Hilton, and DoubleTree by Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island Residences has been a part of the Hilton group for over 20 years.

To delve further, Emirates Man spoke to Halim, to understand the brand’s development over the years.

Talk us through your career.

I have over 24 years of experience in the hospitality industry, of which 20 have been with Hilton. Prior to joining Hilton’s Abu Dhabi cluster, I was the Cluster General Manager for DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island, Hampton by Hilton Marjan Island, DoubleTree by Hilton Ras Al Khaimah, and DoubleTree by Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Corniche Residences, I led the team there for 6 years. Being from Egypt, I graduated from the Faculty of Tourism & Hotels at Helwan University in Cairo. I started my career as a Sales Executive and have worked for a number of renowned hospitality brands before joining Hilton Worldwide in 2002 as Sales Manager at Hilton, Al Ain, and then moved to Dubai. Among other senior appointments, I was the Cluster Director of Sales for Hilton Worldwide, before being promoted to Director of Business Development. In addition, I’ve also had a successful stint as General Manager of Hilton Salalah Resort in Oman.

Nader Halim

Nader Halim, the Cluster General Manager for Hilton Abu Dhabi

The WB™ Abu Dhabi, Curio Collection by Hilton is the world’s first Warner Bros-themed hotel – tell us more.

It is a privilege to head up the team at The WB™ Abu Dhabi, Curio Collection by Hilton, the world’s first Warner Bros-themed hotel. The property is located a stone’s throw from Warner Bros World and is near Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. The hotel brings together the reach legacy of Hilton and the WB™ brand, which is celebrating its centenary this year. From the time guests set foot on the property, they will be immersed within the Warner Bros. world of film and television. Hotel guests are treated to a journey of discovery through film and television at every touchpoint from arrival to check-out, including a recreation of the iconic FRIENDS fountain in the courtyard and Batmobile from ‘The Batman’ movie at the entrance. The hotel features 257 keys. Each guest room is furnished with uniquely curated pieces of art, based on three themes – Script to Screen, Artist Confidential and The Vault. Some of WB’s world-renowned characters such as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck greet guests upon arrival, and sometimes even join for dining experiences at our vibrant family-friendly restaurant, Sidekicks. Our F&B outlets include a sophisticated steakhouse, The Director’s Club; a family-friendly poolside restaurant, The Matinee and a fabulous rooftop lounge, The Overlook. While Craft Services is the ideal spot for a relaxing coffee break. The hotel features over 400 curated images and film and TV props, including The Living Archive Staircase houses an evolving collection of items dedicated to the vast depth and history of WB’s role in entertainment. Props include Batman’s Cowl and the original drawing from The Great Gatsby. WB™ fans can stop by The Prop Shop to buy merchandise.

You’ve opened the largest Hampton asset in the world, Hampton by Hilton Marjan Island amid the pandemic. What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?

The pandemic has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging times for the hospitality industry. Hampton by Hilton Marjan Island opened its doors to guests in July 2021, when the pandemic was still at its peak. However, owing to the UAE’s vaccination drives, lifting of travel and Ras Al Khaimah’s unique location, we were able to open the property adhering to the guidelines laid out by the UAE Government. Our skilled team members came together to ensure operations ran smoothly at the hotel, for guests to enjoy their stay, in a safe environment In 2020, Hilton launched ‘Hilton CleanStay’, a new programme to deliver an industry-defining standard of cleanliness and disinfection in Hilton properties around the world. This programme was also rolled out at Hampton by Hilton Marjan Island.

DoubleTree is known for its signature cookies upon check-in. What was the inspiration behind this?

DoubleTree by Hilton is famous for its proud tradition of greeting guests with its signature, warm DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie at check-in, symbolising a warm welcome and a comfortable stay. For more than 30 years, the warm DoubleTree Cookie has played a starring role in differentiating our brand’s hospitality from the competition. In 1986, DoubleTree by Hilton introduced the signature cookie amenity to guests as a way to build brand loyalty through a nightly turn-down service. In 1995, the warm DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie was transferred to front desks, illustrating and reiterating the brand’s warm welcome. In January 2020, the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie became the first food baked in space.

Do you have any mentors or guides and how did they help you navigate on the right path?

Hilton ensures that every team member feels empowered so that they can achieve their very best. The hotel chain has a number of mentor programmes, aimed at supporting and developing team members at every level of their careers, this includes a Virtual Mentoring programme that pairs mentees with suitable mentors, allowing the former to strengthen their self-confidence, find their voice, exercise authority and articulate and pursue leadership goals. I was fortunate to have had fantastic mentors throughout my career, both within the hospitality industry and outside. I’ve learned a lot by listening to their experiences, and having access to a wealth of knowledge and insight across varied functions and skill sets, that I could ‘dip into’, this truly supported my career development. There are certainly times when one needs to be able to take a step back and ‘sense check’ a situation, talk through challenges, be supported through the lows, as well as celebrate the highs. A great mentor can help you better navigate the challenges, to come back stronger and ready to take the next step.

Warner Bros Abu Dhabi

The WB™ Abu Dhabi, Curio Collection by Hilton

How has the hospitality scene in the Middle East transformed over the years?

Over the past decade, the hospitality landscape in the Middle East has experienced dramatic growth. Tourism is a major source of revenue and economic growth and also drives large-scale investments and development throughout the UAE. There have been several measures introduced in the UAE to transform tourism. These include the multiple entry five-year tourist visa. Abu Dhabi has transformed into an incredible destination for both business and leisure travellers. The emirate features a unique blend of rich history and culture with modern architecture, catering to every type of tourist. Yas Island is home to world-class theme parks such as Warner Bros. World, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld and SeaWorld Abu Dhabi (set to open in May 2023). Abu Dhabi has also gained a global reputation through hosting prestigious events such as the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, UFC 280, NBA Abu Dhabi Games and the IIFA Awards. Apart from this, Etihad Arena brings the best entertainers and celebrities to the capital. Alongside these, Abu Dhabi is also emerging as a fine dining destination. The second annual Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants was hosted in Abu Dhabi earlier this year. Alongside, in 2022, the coveted MICHELIN Guide unveiled its inaugural MICHELIN Guide Abu Dhabi 2023 edition. Based on a study published by Numbeo, Abu Dhabi has been listed among the top 10 safest cities in the world, while the UAE came in second place for the safest country overall. Such statistics are quite promising for solo travellers. Hotels and resorts are now working towards minimising their environmental impact at ground level.

What sets Hilton apart from other hotel chains in the industry?

Hilton has a collection of over 19 distinct hotel brands, comprising more than 7,100 properties in 123 countries and territories, with each designed to offer exceptional stays. The WB™ Abu Dhabi is under the umbrella of the Curio Collection by Hilton, handpicked for its distinct character, offering travellers authentic, curated experiences through distinctly local touches and unexpected amenities. Guests choosing to stay at two of our Yas Island properties, receive access to world-class theme parks, included in their stay. Across all our hotels, we are constantly assessing how we can embrace sustainability and live up to Hilton’s Travel with Purpose commitments and Community Promise in everything we do. Some of the initiatives being, an automated light control system for all public areas that adjusts lighting according to the time of day, controlling brightness, with different light mode scenes coupled with the installation of LED bulbs for all lighting fixtures, thus reducing energy consumption and Installation of water restrictors on all our water taps and showers as well as specialised showerheads, limit water flow, without affecting water pressure performance, and reduce water usage, to name a few. Whilst all of these are extremely important in ensuring the longevity of the hospitality industry, none of these goals would be achievable without our diverse and dynamic hotel teams who are excited to deliver great guest experiences and memories.

Warner Bros interiors

The WB™ Abu Dhabi, Curio Collection by Hilton – The Overlook

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

Never stop learning. Always work on your development. Take advantage of learning opportunities and new experiences when offered. Hilton University programmes are a rich resource to broaden your knowledge and build your career in hospitality. Surround yourself with the best talent and always give them an opportunity to learn, grow and develop in their career. Ensure you always have mentors throughout your career. Networking is important, especially in hospitality. Take the time to meet people, and make connections across industries, nationalities, cultures and backgrounds. Be sure to step outside and broaden your horizons. Stay optimistic at all times even while facing challenging times such as the pandemic and economic downturns. Your positive attitude will lift your team’s spirits and lastly enjoy the journey!

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Images: Supplied