The Abu Dhabi-based hospitality company, Rotana, is looking to increase its presence in familiar regions as well as expand into new countries as part of its expansion goal to reach 100 properties by 2020, Rotana President and CEO Omer Kaddouri told 4Hoteliers.
“Our expansion plan is mainly focused on the Gulf countries and the Middle East where we are based,” Kaddouri said at Berlin’s ITB Convention.
“We are also moving into Africa. We are opening a five star hotel in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania this year, it will be our second after Kinshasa, in Congo.”
Leveraging more than a decade of experience of operating in the holy city of Mecca, Rotana opened its first Iranian hotel in the shrine city of Mashhad under the Rayhaan brand this year.
In Rotana’s Gulf markets, political changes are encouraging larger visitor numbers as the UAE and Saudi Arabia have begun to implement policies that are increasing foreign interest in the countries.
“No country has to be the same as another; Saudi Arabia doesn’t need to be like Dubai. But in terms of policies and openness it is something that doesn’t hurt any country,” Kaddouri said.
By the end of 2018 Rotana will have seven hotels operating in Saudi Arabia, with three to four more opening by 2020.
“It has always been our dream to be a big player in the Saudi Arabian hospitality industry, but by next year we can probably say that we are one of the bigger players,” Kaddouri said.
In the United Arab Emirates Rotana has opened two new properties on the north shore of the Dubai Creek, the five-star Al Bandar Rotana and the Al Bandar Arjaan by Rotana, which features fully furnished apartments for extended stays. Kaddouri says that the company’s mix of leisure and business accommodations are particularly well suited to cities like Dubai, which serve as hubs of commerce, but also have a variety of attractions.
“A good 50 percent of people who go to Dubai for business usually tack on a couple of days because there is so much to do and see,” he said. “I think a business customer is always happy to stay in a hotel that is more like a leisure hotel, because there is often time when they are not doing business and they enjoy looking out their windows before they go to a meeting and seeing something beautiful.”
Although artificial intelligence and automation in the hotel industry were among the main topics of panelists at the ITB Convention, Kaddouri cautions against losing sight of what the hotel business is really about.
“You can go digital and use every kind of new platform, but as long as you understand that hospitality is a people industry,” Kaddouri said. “People want to be recognized, they want a waiter who remembers what kind of coffee they like.”
But one trend that it is important not to sleep on is creating working relationships with influencers. Although working with creators is less common in the Middle East, it is still becoming an important part of doing business.
“It is becoming a bigger part of what we do in the Middle East a lot of the projects we have opened whether it is hotels or restaurants, we are always using bloggers to come see what we are doing,” Kaddouri said.
With a pipeline of 48 hotels and 12,437 rooms in 15 countries, the bloggers will be busy.
Some of the current and new projects:
Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas - Exterior:
Beach Arjaan by Rotana - Exterior:
Al Jaddaf Rotana - Exterior:
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