Pakistan is not widely known for its luxury tourism, but hotels such as those owned by the Serena Hotel Group are changing all that
For far too long, Pakistan has been a victim of what Mr. Aziz Boolani calls “the narrative” -- where the media does not depict the true reflection of the country. You almost never hear about its cultural treasures, natural wonders, traditional hospitality and steadily improving macroeconomic indicators. Serena Hotels aim to project a country making every effort to secure the well-being of its people, adds Mr. Boolani, who as CEO of the Serena Hotels, South and Central Asia wants to make sure the other side of the story gets told.
“Serena Hotels’ philosophy is to promote and project the cultural values and heritage of the countries where they are located. We make sure that a stay with us is a pillar of our guests’ experience in Pakistan. What they see gets registered in their minds and when they get home they say ‘I had this great experience in Pakistan’ or ‘The people were fantastic’. Our Hotels’ interiors and operating style also reflect and transmit local traditions and culture; this makes us different from other hotel chains.”
A glance around the public areas, guest rooms, terraced gardens and grounds of the five-star Islamabad Serena Hotel attests to the company’s participation in Pakistan’s cultural outreach initiatives. The eye is held entranced by its Islamic-inspired architecture, the opulent detail of its lacquered furniture and decorative screens, all the work of traditional craftsmen and skilled artisans.
“Nothing but Pakistan” is Mr. Boolani’s mission statement as well as his personal motto. “As soon as you walk into the lobby you see the beautifully laid Pakistani marble and the wooden Mashrabia, crafted by the Pakistani artisans. “The ceilings are hand painted by Pakistani artists. Our SerenArts Program showcases talented Pakistani artist’s work and provides them with a platform to connect with the right audiences.”
But the success of the local approach is best reflected in the personalized treatment guests receive from hotel staff, an aspect that has been widely praised in social media. The Hotels have an extensive training and mentorship program for all associates aimed at increasing and honing their skill set. These training programs also have important benefits for local communities.
Corporate social responsibility is high on Serena Hotels list of priorities, and the Hotels are proud of their Cultural and Sports Diplomacy Initiatives operating under the banner of the Serena Environmental and Educational Development Program (SEED). The Initiatives aim to connect communities with each other. During their ‘Spirit of Compassion’ campaign, Serena Hotels in Pakistan contributed double the amount of funds collected from the restaurant’s guests and donated towards the relief efforts for those affected by the country’s monsoon floods in 2015.
Serena Hotels are particularly proud of their role in forming the Adventure Diplomacy Group (ADG), in which Serena Hotels and the Ambassadors of the United States of America, Nepal, Indonesia, the Russian Federation and the Argentine Republic, sponsored the young Pakistani climber Samina Ali Baig, in her bid to become the first female mountaineer to reach the seven highest summits on the seven continents. The Adventure Diplomacy Initiative set a world record for Pakistan.
Located near the cool Margalla Hills adjacent to the diplomatic compound, the Islamabad Serena Hotel offers a full range of spas, fitness centers, banquet halls, meeting and conference facilities that draw on state of the art technology, not to mention nine different outlets specializing in Asian, Middle Eastern and Continental cuisines.