For Riyadh Al Hassni, head concierge at Sheraton Oman Hotel, arranging hard-to-get tickets for visitors, reuniting long-lost friends, and coming to his guests’ rescue is all part of his job. That he makes many of these remarkable things happen even after he’s off duty is a testament to his commitment to surpassing his guest’s expectations.
Though every day is different for Hassni and his team, they start each morning by reviewing the possible needs of current guests, as well as those arriving that day. “We make sure that the taxis and the hotel cars are ready for guests going for business meetings,” says Hassni. “For guests going on day tours, we arrange for towels and water and also follow up with the tour guides to confirm they are on the way.”
It’s no small task to see that every guest’s experience is positive, but Hassni and his team conduct their work with ease.
Marriott TRAVELER caught up with Hassni and talked to him about the city he calls home, the things he does to make every guest’s stay special, and the different things visitors can do in Oman.
Sheraton is known for its excellent service. What are some ways Sheraton Oman’s staff exceeds its guests’ expectations?
“We love making occasions special for our guests. Let’s say one of our guests is having a birthday or honeymoon or anniversary — we make arrangements for them, like a romantic dinner in our restaurant or by the poolside. Sometimes our guests request reservations in a specific restaurant; we go out of our way to arrange the whole thing for them.
I want all our guests to try something new. So I keep up to date and gather information about what is happening in Oman. Like events or a new opening of a restaurant — if there’s anything new, I share it with the guest and encourage them to try something different.”
What’s the one thing that you’re particularly proud of as Sheraton’s head concierge?
“Taking care of my guests and making [sure they’re] worry free. One time I arranged a tour to Jebel Akhdar, which is in the mountains, for two guests. Unfortunately, they got stuck on the mountain because a road was blocked due to an accident. So the guests told me that they couldn’t come back to the hotel, but they needed to be at [the] airport because their flight departure time was close.
They needed assistance: someone to pack their luggage and then also to make the payment and do their checkout [and] then send the luggage to [the] airport.
So I informed the front office manager and then I sent the bellboy to pack their luggage, and we took the paperwork to the airport for them to sign for the payment.
The guests were so relieved! It made me feel happy to see their worry go away.”
Has a guest ever made a hard-to-grant request that you still managed to fulfill?
“Oh, many times! On New Year’s Eve, some guests were looking for a local restaurant with a DJ and live band. I found one for them, but the tickets were sold out. I somehow managed to convince the restaurant to give me tickets, but they did not have transportation to bring the tickets to the hotel, and the guests didn’t have time to pick them up because they had earlier plans.
So after my duty, I went to the restaurant, and I got the tickets for them personally.”
What’s the most unusual request you’ve received from a guest?
“I once had guests who wanted to drive a yacht by themselves. This is very difficult to find in Oman. But I searched around and was able to find one company that allows that.”
Your job is all about exceeding your guest’s expectations. Is there a specific experience that holds special meaning for you?
“Yes, actually, there is one incident that still brings a smile to my face.
A few months ago, there was one guest who was searching for an old friend. This guest used to live in Oman 10 years ago but lost touch with his friend when he left the country. He gave me his friend’s name and asked if I could help find him.
I got information like where he used to work 10 years ago then started searching. Luckily, a friend of mine was working in that company. I asked him to find out if this man was still working there, and he was! So I got them both in touch, and they were reunited after 10 years.”
Oman’s culture is very family orientated. For families staying at the Sheraton Oman Hotel, how do you make the parents’ stay stress-free and the children’s visit fun and entertaining?
“We have an indoor swimming pool that’s very popular with families. We have activities for the kids like swimming lessons and karate.
Parents and children can also go to the beach, which is 10 minutes away. Sheraton Oman has a private beach where families often go to spend the day.”
What are some of the cultural sights in Oman guests can visit and explore?
“We have a lot of cultural places. There is the fort, which is famous in Oman. We have Nizwa Fort and Bahla and Jabrin, which is famous. We arrange tours for them all.
If the guests also want to see the mountains, we can arrange to see the fort and the mountains at the same time.”
So, you recommend places depending on your guests’ preferences?
“Yes, exactly. Even for the restaurants, we always ask them what cuisine they like and what kind of location or atmosphere they are looking for and then we will book the restaurants based on their preference.”
What are your top three recommendations for places to see and things to do in Oman?
“Number one is the Wahiba Sands, where they tour the desert and do dune-bashing. Then there is the Bedouin Village. That is where they can ride the camels. After that, they can go to Wadi Bani Khalid, which is a beautiful oasis. Guests can swim and have lunch there before coming back to the hotel.
Does Sheraton Oman arrange these trips?
“Yes, I arrange them with tour companies as Sheraton Oman’s concierge. All the guests have to do is tell me what kind of sightseeing or activities they want to do, and I help plan their day.”
Let’s talk food. What’s the one local dish guests at Sheraton must try when they visit Oman?
“Shuwa. It’s a traditional Omani food, which normally we cook in the celebration, when we are celebrating our Eid. This actually is a meat dish. The meat is cooked under the ground in a sand oven for 24 hours.”
24 hours! Oh, wow.
“Yes, the meat is marinated with spices and wrapped in banana or palm leaves and slowly cooked in the oven. It is usually served with rice.”
Where do you suggest guests go to see things that are unique to Oman?
“I always suggest Muttrah Souq, where they can see the little things that make Oman unique. Like the Omani Luban (frankincense) and the Omani dagger. They can also see Omani clothes that local people wear. Some of the guests like them so much they wear Omani clothes during their stay with us.
To learn about the history and the lifestyle, I recommend Oman National Museum and the town of Bahla.”
Oman’s known for its beautiful architecture — especially the mosques. What are your personal must-visit mosque recommendations?
“There is Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque that is very beautiful. There is also a new mosque that I love — Al Ameen Mosque. They are my two favorite.”
What’s the nightlife like in Oman?
“Well, for the night, actually in our Sheraton Oman, we have Turbine & Taps, which has a DJ in the evening. It’s nice to chill out there, and [it] is very popular with our guests. We also have a lot of clubs outside in Muscat like Rumba Lattina, Copacabana and Under Locks. These are the best in the city.”
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