Chief executive officer of Dur Hospitality, Dr. Badr Al Badr is recognized for his extensive record in managing, developing and operating a wide portfolio of hotels and residential compounds across Saudi Arabia. With plenty of opportunities opening up in the tourism and hospitality sector, Dr. Badr is setting his sights on realizing the country’s vision
Tell us about your career in hospitality and what you regard as the key milestones.
Backed by my knowledge and the skills I’d gathered in my former career, I made my first move into the hospitality sector when I first joined Dur Hospitality, the Saudi-grown, publicly listed hospitality company, established in 1976, that owns, develops and manages a broad range of hospitality and residential properties across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. During this time, I’ve been fortunate to be involved in the company’s remarkable successes, which would not have been possible without the support of Dur’s board of directors and the efforts of the executive team.
From a personal perspective, some of my greatest highlights include steering the company’s evolution from SHARACO to Dur Hospitality, and doubling its portfolio of owned properties, with projects in the pipeline worth SAR 2.4 billion. Dur’s pipeline currently consists of 21 projects at various stages of development, most of which are scheduled for delivery between now and 2020.
My career in hospitality has also provided me with an opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with other members of the industry, particularly during keynote addresses at major events, including Saudi Arabia Hotel Investment Conference (SHIC), Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), the Schneider Innovation Summit, Saudi Travel & Tourism Investment Market (STTIM) Riyadh, Global Tourism Forum Istanbul and many others.
What are the advantages of being a homegrown Saudi company?
One of the key benefits of being a Saudi company with more than 40 years of operating in the market is the depth of experience we have as an organization, which provides us with a real competitive advantage. We have a profound understanding of evolving customer preferences, with the changing socio-economic factors in the country, which further enables us to offer tailor-made services to match these needs, thereby earning the credibility of our customers. In addition, abiding by the regulations and customs of the country has further established a foundation of trust with government bodies in line with our field of work.
Looking ahead, this knowledge and experience means we are ideally placed to help realize the ambitions set out in the Vision 2030 economic strategy, which will transform the Kingdom’s economy over the next decade.
Which international companies are your partners of choice and why?
At Dur, we recognize the necessity of creating and establishing strategic partnerships with international hotel operations. We are therefore constantly on the look-out for opportunities that facilitate successful hospitality development through genuine hospitality services to enable us to become the perfect partner for any local, regional or international party. This concept is strongly reflected in our partnerships with Marriott International and IHG.
Dur partnered with Marriott International over 40 years ago, which led to the introduction of the concept of 5-star hotels to the Kingdom. Following this fruitful partnership, in 2016, we expanded our partnership by signing a franchise agreement to further develop and launch the first Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn by Marriott properties in Yanbu.
Dur also partnered with IHG on a master franchise agreement in 2014 that aims to develop properties across the Kingdom with a streamlined focus on secondary cities. As such, together with IHG, we opened the first Holiday Inn Hotel in Tabuk in June 2017, and we recently announced the opening of the Crowne Plaza® Riyadh Palace.
Which markets are you currently present in and where would like to break into?
Over the last 40 years, we’ve established a strong presence in the Kingdom’s biggest cities. However, moving forward, we’ve identified significant opportunities in cities that are set to benefit from infrastructure funding under Vision 2030, as well as the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage’s efforts to promote tourism in these markets. As a result, we have extended our strategy to include more hospitality projects, particularly 3- and 4-star hotels, in high-growth markets, such as Tabuk, Jubail, Yanbu and Al Hofuf. Furthermore, with the growing numbers of visitors to the two Holy Cities of Makkah and Medina, we are further expanding in the Western region through our Saudi-grown, award-winning brand, Makarem Hotels, that delivers authentic Saudi hospitality services, coupled with international standards.
How will Dur be a part of the process of constructing the next generation of Saudi’s hospitality projects?
As one of the Kingdom’s leading hospitality companies, we are committed to playing a major role in realizing the country’s future vision. We are committed to innovation, through the launch of the country’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified hotel, endorsing the concept of specialization in hotels through Makarem, and developing a new concept of serviced apartments that we will be announcing soon.
We also have a significant pipeline of projects under development, which include:
• Developing Marriot Hotel and Marriot Executive Apartments in Diplomatic Quarter – Riyadh, which has been designed to achieve the LEED’s Golden certification;
• Developing a 4-star hotel, featuring 120 rooms, in Al-Hofuf city – Al-Ahsa province;
• Developing the first Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn by Marriott properties in Yanbu. This 150-room-project will be Marriott International’s first franchised property in the Kingdom;
• Currently developing a piece of land in Jubail Industrial City to build a 144-room and suites hotel under the Holiday Inn brand;
• Developing serviced apartments in Tabuk that consist of 61 hotel units;
• Expanding into the Western region of Saudi Arabia, especially in Al Medina, by operating two hotels at Dar al-Hijra project.
The SHIC has just taken place in Saudi Arabia. As an industry leader and the conference’s strategic partner, what can you tell us about this milestone?
The launch of the conference marked a major milestone in the industry’s development in Saudi Arabia and is testament to the level of interest in the market, both locally and internationally. The Saudi market is undoubtedly a hotspot, with plenty of opportunities opening up in the tourism and hospitality sectors, attracting multinational companies, following the implementation of new regulations on foreign investments in the Kingdom. This market transformation underpinned the importance of a dedicated Saudi conference that brought together industry experts to discuss both the challenges and opportunities in the sector. It was a very successful event and we look forward to supporting it again in the future.