FIVE Hospitality CEO Aloki Batra is shaking up the industry

Aloki Batra, CEO of Dubai’s FIVE Hospitality
Meet Aloki Batra, CEO of Dubai’s FIVE Hospitality – the company shaking up the hotel industry with sector-leading results and a digital-first strategy

Entertainment. That is the missing ingredient from the hospitality industry, according to Aloki Batra, the showman CEO of FIVE Hospitality. He’s not making this up – the dictionary definition that Aloki confidently shares is taken straight from the Oxford English Dictionary.

That celebrated tome defines hospitality as ‘The act or practice of being hospitable; the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers, with liberality and goodwill.’

“Where the hell is the entertainment in the hospitality industry?” Aloki asks, laughing to himself.

“I don't know if what we do is disruptive, but other hotel chains, they’re a lodging industry, not a hospitality industry.”

It’s fair to say that FIVE takes the entertainment element of hospitality to heart, and five million guests can’t be wrong.

Dubai-based FIVE is shaking up the hotel industry with sector leading results based on a digital-first strategy and focus on fun.

Describing itself as an ‘immersive 360-degree luxury lifestyle entertainment destination’ FIVE Hotels and Resorts has created an award-winning formula with digital-savvy guests who crave experiences rather than simply a place to sleep.

A digital-first strategy and focus on fun is key for FIVE Hospitality CEO Aloki Batra

Anyone in the hospitality industry thinking FIVE is all show and no substance should take a close look at the numbers.

In 2022, FIVE Palm Jumeirah and FIVE Jumeirah Village enjoyed an impressive average occupancy rate of 93% – 36% higher than its competitors. FIVE Hotels and Resorts is also performing three times higher in terms of TrevPAR – an industry term that measures total revenue per available room.

FIVE Jumeirah Village is the most reviewed hotel on with more than 38,000 reviews and a rating of 9.1/10. And in those difficult pandemic years, FIVE Hospitality saw revenue grow by 210%.

Its numbers on sustainability are equally impressive. As well as being the only company to secure an ‘A’ rating for ESG within the ISS Corporate rating universe among 10,000+ companies, FIVE hotels are all powered by 100% renewable electricity, and have all secured LEED Platinum certification – with FIVE Zurich claiming the second-highest score in the world. 

Driving this success, Aloki has been recognised as one of the Top 100 CEOs in the Middle East by Forbes and his relentless efforts to integrate both technology and sustainability into the business has led to high profit margins and seen FIVE recognised as one of the region’s most innovative companies by Fast Company. 

Clearly, Aloki has hit on a winning formula and while he may mask his achievements by suggesting he was in the right place at the right time – spotting Dubai’s potential as a global tourism hotspot before most had even heard of it – it would be wrong to downplay his influence on the FIVE success story.

Not bad for someone with no formal hospitality training, but with an innate understanding of what people want. 

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Palm Jumeirah gamble pays off

The FIVE story started back in 2011. Then known as SKAI Holdings, the real estate development and hospitality company made a huge success of running a small hotel in Dubai’s Green Community that they had acquired from Emaar Hospitality.

That led to the bold decision to build a residence and hotel on the prime Palm Jumeirah development – something Aloki describes as ‘an expensive, all-in investment’. Unfortunately, the relationship with the potential hotel operator did not work out. That’s when Aloki got the call asking him to run the hotel himself – having successfully sold the US$400 million residences.

“I had a fairly good idea how to run rooms from a small perspective, but never luxury,” Aloki admits. “I had never run a restaurant. Parties, for sure, I did that as a kid and these things stay with you.”

SKAI became FIVE in 2017 and Aloki made the brave decision not to learn the hotel business from anyone else, but instead to go through the process his way – and that was to focus on the brand from a digital perspective.

He had been quick to recognise the drive to digital and the fact that there was an opportunity for a small brand like FIVE to take on the big boys.

“We just didn't figure on their radar. It was so inexpensive to tactically grow this brand digitally in a rapidly digitising world – from Instagram to Facebook to Google search,” he says.

Now, 80% of FIVE’s marketing budget is allocated to digital marketing, primarily because FIVE’s target audience are active on social media platforms. This next generation of global travellers simply do not want to stay at the kind of hotels their parents frequented – quality, five-star establishments in their own right, but a very different, sterile experience.

“Trends are trends and people want to do different things and we just need to be visible and create that discernible difference,” says Aloki.  “This is my brand. This is us and we’re different. You can't compare. So I tailored a lot of our F&B, a lot of our events, a lot of our venues to cater to that feeling of difference – and now we almost have a cult following. 

“When you look back, we all make a lot of mistakes, but sometimes when you have a certain vision and a certain direction, and it works, it's a beautiful journey.”

Aloki has been recognised as one of the Top 100 CEOs in the Middle East by Forbes

That journey continues. With hotels on Dubai’s Palm Jumeriah and also in the city’s Jumeirah Village Circle, not to mention a property in Zurich, FIVE is taking things to another level with the launch of the FIVE LUXE property on Dubai’s prime JBR beach.

“We've been running at over 90% occupancy through the year and our rate has gone up 150% since we started in 2018, so obviously we are not able to cater to the demand our brand has,” says Aloki.

“I realised we had the opportunity to take it up a notch in terms of finishing. I'm not trying to change my customer base. I just believe our customers are more influential and have much more money than ever before.

“The world has changed. I remember people in their 30s when they started making good money would want to save to buy a house – now they just want to rent and keep on moving every few years.”

Aloki says he believes to be a leader you need to be both a student and a teacher

Inspiring leadership

It must be a challenge leading a hospitality business when you do not come from a hospitality background, so how does Aloki manage – what is his leadership style?

He says he believes to be a leader you need to be both a student and a teacher. You need to know how to inspire, but you also need to know your job.

“I've never believed in the carrot and stick approach. If you can inspire the team, you can bring out the best of them and that passion is why we can deliver better results. If I can inspire passion in people and what they're doing, and I can keep my door open for them to come and talk to me any time, I've done my job.”

That’s his job as a CEO, but what expectations does Aloki have for the hotel staff? Active on social media, Aloki can usually be found encouraging his team members to party with guests – something that would surely be frowned upon in certain hospitality circles.

He says its essential for FIVERS – for that is what they are called – to listen to their customers and be aware of their needs

“The secret of FIVE is people who can adapt, who welcome change – not for the sake of change, but by listening to people. Our brand is an ever evolving brand. As the customer needs change, we will be the first to adapt and change,” he says. 

Around 30% of guests return for more of the so-called FIVE Vibe. It’s just one of the many stats that show FIVE is shaking up the hospitality industry by embracing digital and offering fresh experiences to a changing customer base.

“For me it's always, listen to your customer, always watch your customer, and the customer is always right,” says Aloki. “I believe in giving customers great value, a great time and a memorable experience – and they keep coming back.”


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