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The Ritz-Carlton Qatar's Director of Public Relations Promotes Luxury Hotel Group's Brand in the Middle East
By Alma Kadragic | January 6, 2011 11:22 AM ET
(DOHA, QATAR) -- Claudia Hardt started New Year 2011 with a new job, Director of Public Relations for The Ritz-Carlton Hotels of Qatar. Area General Manager Hoss Vetry made the announcement on December 29, practically the last gasp of the old year. In her new capacity, she is responsible for regional and international communications and public relations for The Ritz-Carlton, Doha and Sharq Village & Spa. After 21 years in the hospitality business, Hardt said she considers it "one of the most fascinating fields you can work in" because "every day brings new experiences and challenges, and you have the great opportunity to meet wonderful people all over the world."
Hardt began her career in hotels right after high school, enrolling in a hotel management school in Germany and going on to an industry apprenticeship. At the same time, she was able to continue writing and publishing stories about sports and other fields as she had been doing in high school. Hardt said, "I was very blessed to combine my passion for media with my job and to move on in the Public Relations field." Along with a diploma in hotel business management administration, she holds a certificate as a PR consultant from the German Public Relations Academy.
Joining The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company in 1999, Hardt worked with the regional public relations office in Germany to help set up the PR department at The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul. She gained further experience at C & C Contact & Creation, one of the leading PR agencies in Germany for the hospitality industry, managing hotel, airline and tourism board accounts. That led to the position of Director of Public Relations at The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin in 2003 where she was involved in pre-opening activities.
"I had the great chance to set up the Public Relations department, ensuring coverage already during the construction phase and working towards the big day, the opening day [January 2004]." Hardt recalled. "And I have to say, whenever I am coming back to this property, it feels like being my 'baby.' Working on the construction site with a hard hat and rubber boots, showing media how the hotel will look and introducing them to the new concepts from the restaurants to interior design are very exciting tasks, I saw everything growing from the parking level up to the highest floor."
Hardt's success in her homeland was rewarded with a posting to an entirely different market in Hong Kong. Director of Communications at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong served as prelude to her first assignment in the Middle East as Director of Public Relations at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa. As a European, she was again faced with a new environment, luckily one that she already knew.
"I always had a passion for the Middle East," Hardt said, "and used to travel to this region for pleasure since the mid 90s. As I got the assignment for Bahrain, I took on the new challenge with great pleasure," Hardt explained, "although you have to adapt to the working culture but, saying this, you always learn in life and you expand your knowledge and experiences." Moreover, "successes I had here would not have been possible anywhere else in the world."
The goal was to step up the awareness of The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa and to increase international, regional, and local coverage. "Although the property was already well positioned," explained Hardt, "we had the chance to move it up to the next level. And we have been very successful over the past four years during my time in Bahrain. It was nice to see that the property got exposure, for example, in Europe and Asia in print media as well as on TV and, of course, on social media." That led to her being recognized In 2008 as Marketing/PR Person of the Year by Hotelier Middle East.
The Ritz-Carlton, Doha thrusts 115 meters above the sea and desert of Qatar's capital and is a symbol of the nation's emergence as a destination for travelers to the Middle East. Located on its own island in prestigious West Bay Lagoon, the hotel has sweeping views of the Arabian Gulf and fuses contemporary styling with Arabic and European design. Hardt's new position means that she will be promoting The Ritz-Carlton Doha and the other property Sharq Village & Spa as the international spotlight shines on Qatar due to its winning the World Cup 2022.
Hardt has been involved in smaller sports events but recognizes "this project is going to be a very special one with tremendous PR opportunities to work on, a once-in a lifetime opportunity to showcase Qatar and to expose its grandeur, hospitality, and cultural heritage to the world and all football enthusiasts." The World Cup "will help to promote the city, building new infrastructure facilities, boosting the economy, and leaving historical footprints of the country and the entire hospitality sector," she added.
As an industry veteran, Hardt knows "grand events like the 2022 World Cup always give the opportunity in all kind of areas to be creative, to develop, to implement new technologies, services and procedures, and to shine even brighter." She looks forward to "more visitors to come over the next years which will build up to 2022 and which will help to position and market our exciting destination with an even stronger focus and impact.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C, of Chevy Chase, Md. operates 73 hotels in the Americas, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean. More than 30 hotel and residential projects are under development around the globe with future openings in Dubai International Financial Centre, UAE; Toronto; and Hong Kong, Kowloon.