Wishes and Expectations

Wishes and Expectations

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Exceeding guests’ expectations is all too familiar to hospitality professionals and is something we strive to do on a daily basis, but what if the tables were turned? As the year winds down, we thought it would be an interesting idea to present the wishes and expectations of our dear friends in the industry, with the intention of gauging their reactions and finding out if 2020 will exceed their own expectations.

Selim El Zyr
Vice Chairman, Rotana

1. What are your top expectations for 2020 with regards to the hospitality industry in the Middle East?
The Middle East has been undergoing tremendous economic transformation primarily driven by the ambitious OPINION 2020 diversification agenda of regional governments. As a result of the fast-paced infrastructure development, the growing focus on tourism and the many megaevents and giga-projects underway, among others, the region has increasingly become an attractive destination for tourists and investors from around the world. On the back of these developments, the hospitality industry is gearing up for an exciting year and we are projecting significant improvements across key performance indicators for hotels.

2. What is on your 2020 wish list?
With the objective of capitalizing on opportunities that await the regional hospitality industry in 2020, Rotana has laid out an impressive pipeline plan in line with its controlled expansion strategy. We have lined up five unique hotels to open during the year, including: Centro Corniche, Al Khobar; DAMAC Towers Arjaan by Rotana, in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh; Slemani Rotana, Sulaymaniyah; Centro Amman, Amman; and Al Jaddaf Rotana in Dubai. As a well-established hotel operator, Rotana has built a robust, diversified portfolio of offerings and this has helped the company overcome the challenges that have come its way and stay resilient in difficult market conditions. Our ultimate wish is for the economic and political uncertainty to settle across the region and globally!

Pascal Gauvin
MD, India, Middle East and Africa, IHG

1. What are your top expectations for 2020 with regards to the hospitality industry in the Middle East?
As various destinations within the Middle East continue to grow as tourist and business hubs, we remain confident of our long-term growth in the region. The UAE and KSA account for most of our pipeline in the region and we expect to see substantial growth in their respective hospitality industries through large-scale government initiatives, the opening and establishment of new tourist attractions such as museums, theme parks etc. and major leisure and business events related to diversified industries, arts, entertainment and culture across both countries. In the UAE, we have begun our ramp up for Dubai Expo 2020 and expect that we will continue this for the early part of the year. The opening and the following three months will be critical to the success of the event as they will be for our business. IHG is well equipped to cater to these new guest segments and we look forward to hosting them. With Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is preparing to welcome tourists from all over the world, fostering unprecedented growth opportunities for the travel and tourism industries. We expect that 2020 will see further changes in the Kingdom with regards to the business and tourism offerings and this will lead to an expansion of the hospitality industry. We also envisage that religious travel will increase and we are well equipped to cater to this demand with several new hotels to open in the Holy City, including the 4,200 room voco Makkah. We plan to build on our already strong local presence in the country and introduce new IHG brands to this growing market in the coming years.

2. What is on your 2020 wish list?
Given the current geopolitical volatility in the Middle East, I wish to see peace and stability in the region. Safety and security are important for travel destinations to flourish, however, it is more important to ensure that people living in the region feel safe and secure in their surroundings. With respect to our business, my wish list begins with our team which is at the heart of the business – my wish is to continue to see highly positive colleague engagement in 2020. We are well into our planning for 2020 which will ensure our IHG brands and employees witness a successful and rewarding year. Training, development and cultivating a positive growth environment across our hotel teams will remain a top priority for us as we enter the New Year. As we build more strategic partnerships with prolific owners in the region, I wish to continue to develop these partnerships into long-term relationships with trust as the focal point between us, especially as we drive towards major milestones such as Vision 2030 and Dubai Expo 2020. Most importantly, we wish to remain our guests’ first choice, as we further our commitment to providing them with exceptional experiences and memorable stays at our hotels across the Middle East and beyond.

Tim Cordon
Area Senior Vice President, Radisson Hotel Group for Middle East and Africa

1. What are your top expectations for 2020 with regards to the hospitality industry in the Middle East?
We currently have over 90 operating hotels within the Middle East and Africa and the pipeline includes an additional 90 hotels. The coming months hold some exciting openings and we look forward to adding them to our portfolio. The region and its destinations are continuously developing and include natural, cultural and heritage tourism assets, offering a wide spectrum of activities. Tourism has become a major economic pillar in many Middle East countries and I truly believe that they will remain among the key destinations for global travelers. With a year to go until Expo 2020 and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, we are definitely looking forward to next year.

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2. What is on your 2020 wish list?
Our organisation’s vision is to be one of the top three hotel companies in the world and we have recently just become number two. I think we reflect that with what we are doing in our area, modernizing systems, heavily investing in technology and using that to get ever closer to our owners, guests and employees. So my wish is for us to remain profitable for our owners and to continue to lead the way in Customer Service, Sustainability, and People Development including our Diversity & Inclusion efforts focused on gender equality.

Chris Nader
Vice President Development, Shaza Hotels

1. What are your top expectations for 2020 with regards to the hospitality industry in the Middle East?
The markets in the region are going through very different cycles at the moment. If we take the main cities in the GCC, we expect to see an improvement in KPIs across most asset classes, especially the midscale and upscale segments. Dubai is getting ready for Expo. Doha is in full swing to prepare for the FIFA World Cup 2022 and other international sports events in 2020 and 2021. Jeddah and Riyadh should also continue to register some of the highest RevPAR results in the Middle East, mainly due to the change in visa regulations as tourist and pilgrim numbers will continue to rise.

2.What is on your 2020 wish list?
Shaza wants to become a leader in experiential lodging in the Middle East. We are already operating three unique lodges in the Emirate of Sharjah called the Sharjah Collection by Mysk and we are currently negotiating other similar properties such as agri-tourism lodges, wellness resorts, boutique hotels and lodges in historical sites. There are enough city hotels out there and the market is very competitive. Success lies in those who are able to differentiate themselves and offer experiences that are aligned with today’s new wave of travelers. My wish for 2020 is to therefore secure these deals and to continue growing our portfolio of experiential lodging.

Tony Ramy
President, Lebanese Syndicate Owners of Restaurants, Cafes, Night-clubs and Pastries

1. What are your top expectations for 2020 with regards to the hospitality industry in the Middle East?
To begin with, Lebanon’s position on the international tourism map is reliant upon the hospitality industry. The Lebanese market is witnessing a new kind of tourism emerging, which is the European tourism. I urge restaurant owners to make the necessary adaptation to this genre, to meet the market requirements, such as meal packages, offer and set menus. On the other hand, we are aware that the Gulf segment has recently witnessed changes when it comes to period of stay and tourism expenditure, so the restaurant sector should remain focused on quality, value and taste which is the magic equation to keep the business going, and to preserve the image of Lebanon, Lebanese concepts and nightlife.

2. What is on your 2020 wish list?
The latest incidents that Lebanon has passed through since October 17 was the ‘knockout’ of our sector. During this period, the restaurant owners are relying on their internal managerial structure for cost control, P&L analysis, financials, cash flow, crisis management, payroll and many other subjects that could help them to survive in the current circumstances. The private sector and tourism industry have always been the backbone of the Lebanese economy. Once stability reigns over the political and security levels, our country can then start a new chapter. Now that Lebanon is rising up, we are taking individual initiatives based on our innovation in order to overcome the crisis and we call on the government to grant the sector serious and concrete support at this time, otherwise we will face dark times in the coming years.

Daniel During
Principal and Management Director, Thomas Klein International

1. What are your top expectations for 2020 with regards to the hospitality industry in the Middle East?
In Dubai, everything will continue to remain focused on Expo 2020, with efforts concentrated on having both hotel and standalone restaurants opened by or before September 2020. I don’t expect any significant opening to happen after that date, with latecomers maybe opening toward the beginning of 2021. We will also see some more world famous names coming in, in between now and late October. During Expo 2020, I foresee quite a few pop-ups, both in the Expo ground itself as well as elsewhere in the city. Dubai will probably enter a golden F&B era, with creativity being displayed across all F&B sectors. KSA will see accelerated growth in contemporary concepts in all F&S segments, including home-grown concepts and world names to align with the current momentum of openness that the Kingdom is experiencing.

2. What is on your 2020 wish list?
Sustainability, creativity, environment, fun and entertainment will be keywords in both the UAE and KSA that we will see being addressed during the upcoming year and they will hopefully stay beyond 2020.

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