In the wake of the Abraham Accords and the news that the Ritz Carlton, Bahrain had decided to offer kosher food, the Israel Gulf Report was excited to learn about how the momentous decision came about.
Bernard de Villèle, General Manager of the Ritz Carlton, Bahrain discusses the background and what he hopes for the future.
We saw reports about the Ritz Carlton in Manama beginning to serve kosher food, can you provide an update on this new initiative, are the kosher options now available?
After the recent signing of the Abraham Accord, we immediately knew that there would be a requirement for Kosher food and began taking steps to address this requirement, and we wanted the Ritz-Carlton to be the first to offer Kosher Cuisine in the Kingdom of Bahrain. We took the initiative to source flash frozen Certified Kosher meals to ensure we are able to cater to this new market in the short term until a more permanent solution is established.
Can you provide details on what kosher options are available or your vision for the future of this addition to your menus? Is this an in-room dining option or something at the restaurants, and if so can you give us some insight into how it will work?
As time is of the essence, we immediately contacted our suppliers in the UK to provide us with certified flash frozen Kosher meals, which enabled us to immediately address the need of the Kosher traveler in any dining venue within the hotel. At the same time, we are finalizing the recruitment of a Kosher Sous Chef through the Orthodox Union, and renovating a dedicated Kosher Kitchen, that will be ready early in 2021.
Travelers who may want kosher options have been traveling to the Gulf for years, have you found growing demand for kosher options?
We have not had this demand in the past, but have seen the demand grow since the signing of the Abraham Accord. The demand is not large, but we feel it will grow once flight connectivity increases.
Is the decision to provide kosher tied to the Abraham Accords or was it a decision made earlier?
As mentioned earlier, it became evident to us that this was an incredible new opportunity after the signing of the Abraham Accord, and we were determined to be the first in the market.
Other Ritz Carlton’s offer kosher options, did this help inform the decision and make it easier to provide?
We did not benchmark ourselves with other Ritz-Carlton hotels, but we did reach out to our sister property, the Ritz-Carlton Herzliya in Tel Aviv, for some guidance, and to introduce us with the right people to assist. In addition to working with Rabbi Krakowski from the Orthodox Union who has been an enormous help.
Do you envision the kosher news from your hotel increasing tourism either from Israel or international guests?
Yes this is our expectation. Orthodox Jewish guests from around the world now know that they can travel to Bahrain, stay at the Ritz-Carlton, and enjoy certified Kosher cuisine, while exploring our beautiful Kingdom. Additionally, we have been delighted with the incredible amount of press our initiative has received, which will certainly help in the development of this new market.
Can you provide any general comments about your hopes for the future after the Israel-Bahrain agreement which will likely see increased business and tourism travel between Tel Aviv and Manama, how do you think your hotel is positioned in this regard?
From a hotel perspective, we are looking forward to welcoming guests from this entirely new market. As Bahrain already has an indigenous Jewish community, and a Synagogue, we are well positioned to become a preferred destination. This will also be buoyed by the numerous weekly direct flights starting in the new year, which will provide much needed ease of access between our two countries corporate and leisure guests alike.
Do you foresee any special initiatives related to Ritz Carlton that may highlight the possibilities that travelers to the Gulf can now “hop over” to Tel Aviv and enjoy the same Ritz Carlton brand here?
We have already connected with our Sister property in Israel, and are looking at further opportunities to cross promote each other. I’m positive that there will be a large demand from Bahrain to travel to Israel in the new year, and there is no better place to stay than our beautiful Ritz-Carlton property there. In fact we are also planning a visit to Israel in the New Year to explore the country and opportunities of mutual benefit.
Can you provide a brief background on your past experience and at the Ritz Carlton in Bahrain in your current position?
I am a seasoned Hotelier, who has had the pleasure of working in some of the most iconic hotels around the world, my most recent role was as General Manager at the St. Regis in Mexico, before moving to Bahrain. I have had the pleasure of working with the Jewish community, all around the world, from Strasbourg, to London, to Paris, the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Mexico, and I am delighted to now be welcoming these guests now to Bahrain. I consider the Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain to be the perfect urban resort which is an oasis of tranquility in the heart of Manama. Thanks to our amazing team of ladies and gentlemen, and our incredible ownership, we continue to lead the charge in luxury hospitality.
Any other highlights, maybe a brief description of what visitors at your hotel can enjoy?
The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain offers the longest private beach in the Kingdom, 12 exclusive dining venues, private island, state of the art gym, indulgent spa, and private marina. A true urban oasis in the heart of the city and near the Kingdom’s largest shopping mall. Within mere minutes from our front door, guests can explore the historical sights of Bahrain, shop in the traditional souk, or dive for pearls as its been done for centuries. Bahrain is the perfect mix between culture and modernity, and the ideal destination for your Arabian escape.
Are there Covid-19 restrictions that are in place that will change in coming months that we should mention?
Currently all visitors must have a COVID test on arrival, and download Bahrain’s BeAware App. They will receive their test result via this App within 24 hours, and if the result is negative, they are free to enjoy their time in the Kingdom without restriction. We are proud to mention that the Kingdom of Bahrain, has done an marvelous job of protecting its population, curbing the spread of the virus, and is at the forefront of its eradication in the region.
For more on the Ritz Carlton, Bahrain see the following:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ritzcarltonbahrain
Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/ritzcarltonbahrain