As a pioneering third-party hotel management company for the Middle East and Africa, Aleph Hospitality enables regional hotel owners to take advantage of all the benefits that come with franchising an international hotel brand, while also securing a dedicated management team fully aligned with the owner’s interests. HN discussed with Bani Haddad, the Dubai-based company’s founder and managing director the current African operation and its Middle Eastern expansion plans
What, currently, are the hotels your company is offering its services to?
Aleph Hospitality has signed a management agreement with the owner of the Best Western Plus Nairobi Westlands in Kenya. The services that form part of a management agreement related to this specific project were called on during the hotel’s construction. We were requested to provide extensive pre-opening support as well as managing the day to day operation once the hotel opens. This full-service solution includes technical services assistance, with Aleph Hospitality reviewing the design and liaising with the owner’s appointed contractors and architects to ensure that the hotel is optimally designed for efficient and successful operations. In addition, we maximize revenue and address guest expectations, while ensuring the safety and comfort of both staff and guests. Furthermore, we are recruiting and training all hotel staff and establishing standard operating procedures. Moreover, we are running the day-to-day operations including sales and marketing, revenue management and guest services. For this particular hotel, we are developing a really exciting food and beverage concept on offer at its rooftop lounge, something that will be a true foodie destination in its own right.
How did you land this account and what were the challenges faced?
Having worked across the African continent for almost a decade, I noticed that there was a real gap in the market for a credible, trusted hotel management company such as Aleph Hospitality. All the big brands want to expand their presence in Africa and one of the quickest ways for them to do this is through franchising, as it means they don’t need to go through the expense and effort of setting up a local management infrastructure in each market.
However, the brands are understandably wary of who they give franchises to, as they want to ensure that their brand equity will be protected and enhanced, with the hotels operated professionally and in accordance with brand standards. Often, a lot of local hotel investors are successful business people in other fields who aim to diversify their portfolios, yet often lack first-hand experience of running hotels. This means there is a missed opportunity for many investors looking to own an internationally branded hotel, but who struggle to secure a franchise agreement or the right partner for that matter.
As a company staffed by top-level executives with both extensive experience of branded hotel operations as well as firsthand knowledge of the intricacies of operating in Africa, Aleph Hospitality is the perfect entity to bring together the best of both worlds. We call this approach third-party management.
In terms of challenges, the biggest we face is educating people on the third-party management model. Whilst it has been the major catalyst for growth in the industry in other parts of the world such as the US, where the top 10 third-party management companies alone account for more than 370,000 guest rooms, we are introducing it to Africa and the Middle East for the first time. This means it takes time, although we already have six hotels scheduled, which is phenomenal considering that the company has only been in operation for three years.
What, in the years to follow is your expansion strategy for the Middle East and why now?
In addition to our third-party management solutions, we are also white-label operators, meaning that we are equally at home running independent hotels, which don’t carry an international brand. In fact, the hotel that we currently manage in the Ethiopian capital, Getfam Hotel Addis Ababa, is a great example of this. The hotel itself is a real hidden gem, with exceptional leisure facilities and huge event spaces. However, in the face of rising competition, the owners wanted to bring someone on board who could take the hotel to the next level on par with international standards. So, we took over the running of the hotel in July of this year and we’re really excited about the opportunity of making it the best that it can be.
Between both our white-label and third-party management models, we see significant opportunity across the Middle East. Whether this is in developing Dubai’s midscale segment where the brands aren’t interested in managing the hotels themselves, or whether it’s running existing room stock in places such as Iran that has stunning and iconic hotels that are not living up to their full potential, the possibilities are plentiful and quite promising. In conclusion, I would like to say that we’re already in talks related to a number of projects across the Middle East and it’s just a matter of time until we’re able to make an announcement!
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