IHG expands regional presence

Blanc… growing market share

Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) expects to grow 25 per cent over the next three to five years in the Middle East market and has announced a robust expansion plan for the region.

The group wants to capitalise on Saudi Arabia’s focus to develop its tourism industry on a large scale as well the expanding potential of other GCC states in the tourism and Mice segments.

The group opened the largest Holiday Inn hotel in the UAE in Dubai Festival City earlier this year, while also signing a management agreement for Staybridge Suites Dubai Festival City, which will debut the brand in Dubai.The new 508-room Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City features three food and beverage outlets, a rooftop bar, a pool and fitness centre, four meeting rooms and a conference centre with a capacity to seat 200 people. IHG has also signed a master development agreement with Saudi Arabian business conglomerate, Al Hokair Group, which will see the debut of Holiday Inn Express brand in Saudi Arabia, with a rollout of at least 10 Holiday Inn Express hotels over next 15 years. Further afield, IHG signed a double hotel deal in Egypt with Arabia Hotels – Holiday Inn Giza Sun Capital and Staybridge Suites Giza Sun Capital.

TTN spoke to Bastien Blanc, Vice President of Operations Middle East, for insight into the summer months.

“We have operations in some challenging markets right now. Even though Dubai is a strong international player, it has been seeing some adjustments as compared to previous years. We are quite positive about our growth in the market share – we have grown 2.7 per cent over the past 18 months. When markets are challenging, what remains important is a strong distribution system and a very strong search team. Over the past six months, IHG has put together technology and commercial, putting sales, revenue management, rewards and customer satisfaction all under one umbrella, which helps us to optimise the return we get from our portfolio of clientele.”

The umbrella platform - IHG Concerto – is the IHG’s proprietary system and has been developed in partnership with Amadeus. Blanc is very confident about the important role of travel agents and wholesalers in the growth of IHG.

“We have very strong partnerships with international travel partners from wholesalers to travel agents. We have a very clear policy to work together with these entities. As hoteliers, we do not develop destinations, what we do is to provide the right tools in the destinations for partners to bring clients to these destinations.

“In Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, local agencies – not the international ones – have a huge positive impact on our business. They are important partners to our business and we constantly create programmes to work with them. For instance, our loyalty programme called IHG Rewards was recognised as the best rewards programme in the hotel industry. Within IHG Rewards, we have a dedicated programme for bookers.

“What’s happening in the region is fascinating. The UAE has been the leaders in developing mix type of segments. They started with business and Mice, then transit and moving more into leisure tourism with development of parks and museums, and this is a very strong trend helping to absorb every new growth of tourism. If you look at Saudi Arabia right now, it has been mostly about religious and business travel. Now, so much is changing in the country. The huge development that we have on the Red Sea – this project will be transforming leisure tourism for Saudi Arabia. Bahrain is expanding its presence globally through representative offices and Oman is expanding its target visitor market.”