In line with Hyatt Hotels’ expansion plans and debuts across various markets, HN spoke with Ludwig Bouldoukian, regional vice president, development – Middle East and Africa at Hyatt Hotels Corporation, to shed light on the hotel chain’s agenda and portfolio in the MENA.
How do you view your business in the MENA region and has it been less impacted by Covid-19?
Hyatt’s first quarter results in the Middle East region exceeded expectations as demand improved meaningfully over the course of the quarter. 2020 was a challenging year for the hospitality industry globally but the rapid vaccination drives across the region combined with the effective social distancing and capacity restrictions allowed hotels to continue operating for most of the year. In 2020, Hyatt successfully opened 72 hotels and entered 27 new markets. As a result, we reported strong net room growth in EAME of three percent last quarter, compared to the first quarter of 2020. This sustained growth demonstrates the resilience of the Hyatt brand and its strong positioning in the market, even in challenging circumstances.
Which hospitality trends have emerged during the pandemic that you anticipate will continue?
The pandemic incited many new travel trends, which are set to continue as travelers rebuild their trust in the industry once again. Leisure travelers will be more likely to plan extended holidays and seek authentic experiences. Remote working will continue to be a major movement as we see travelers take advantage of packages such as Hyatt’s ‘The Great Relocate’ catering to guests looking for long stay remote working locations.
Which markets interest you most in the MENA and why?
As we continue our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, we, at Hyatt, remain committed to our purpose of care, which will continue to differentiate us. Grounded in consumer insights and expanding our global footprint in markets that matter most to our guests, we continue to strive forward with purposeful development plans in the Middle East, a market that has always been a vital component in our growth strategy. In 2021, Hyatt properties in the Middle East outperformed other markets, with the UAE specifically representing one of the strongest-performing countries within the GCC and also globally. We retain an exceptionally strong pipeline of hotels scheduled to open over the next few years and remain committed to expanding our brand presence further.
Can you share with us insights about your upcoming openings?
Across the Middle East and North Africa, we have been curating unique brand-led experiences for our customers, driving growth for us in the region, as well as looking ahead to our increasing footprint and new brand entries. This year, we will introduce several new brands to the region, including Hyatt Centric Jumeirah Dubai in the UAE, Andaz Doha in Qatar and a new Grand Hyatt in Kuwait. We will also focus on increasing the presence of existing brands such as Hyatt Regency in key markets such as The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In June of this year, we opened our second Alila property in Oman in Hinu Bay, building on the success of Jabal Akhdar in the Hajar Mountains.
KSA, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Morocco and Egypt are all important markets for us and we look forward to further cementing our footprint in these destinations in the second half of 2021 and 2022.