Swiss-Belhotel International’s global expansion strategy includes the unveiling of at least 60 new hotels and resorts worldwide over the next few years. The company celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, and enters a new era of expansion including, but not limited to, Indonesia, Australasia, the Middle East, China, Vietnam and Europe. The group also hopes to unveil five properties in Africa by 2021, even while it expects Swiss-Belresort Zanzibar to open next year.
The Middle East, however, offers significant opportunities for Swiss-Belhotel International, and a series of new projects are already being developed across the region. Seven new hotels and resorts will open in 2018 alone, including the company’s inaugural properties in Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. By 2020, Swiss-Belhotel is aiming to reach an operating portfolio of 20 hotels in the region. Swiss-Belhotel is also excited to launch a fresh and award-winning mid-market brand in the region called Zest Hotels.
TTN spoke to Laurent A Voivenel, senior vice-president, operations and development for the Middle East, Africa and India for Swiss-Belhotel International, for more insight.
“We have chalked out a very aggressive expansion strategy for the Middle East and Africa, with 17 per cent of our global portfolio of hotels comprising 3,500 rooms centred in the region. This is in line with the region’s growth and investment in the hospitality sector. We have 11 openings lined up this year and the next in addition to a series of new projects under development. These will not only add some fantastic hotels to our portfolio but will allow us to penetrate new destinations such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait and Egypt, while growing our presence in existing territories. In addition, it marks the debut of some of our brands that will be available in the region for the first time ranging from luxury five-star segment to mid-market,”says Voivenel.
The upcoming openings in 2018 and 2019 include Grand Swiss-Belresort Seef, Bahrain; Swiss-Belresidences Juffair, Bahrain; Swiss-Belhotel Al Aziziyah Makkah, KSA; Swiss-Belboutique Tahlia, Riyadh, KSA; Swiss-Belhotel Riyadh, KSA; Swiss-Belinn Airport Muscat, Oman; Swiss-Belresidences Al Sharq, Kuwait; Swiss-Belboutique Bneid Al Gar, Kuwait; Swiss-Belresort Battersea, North Coast, Egypt; Swiss-Belhotel and Suites Asmarat, Cairo, Egypt.
“Soon we expect to introduce in the Middle East region, Zest Hotels, which is a fun and fresh budget hotel brand voted as Asia’s leading budget hotel brand at World Travel Awards 2017. We believe that savvy travellers shouldn’t have to sacrifice comfort, convenience and style even when sticking to a budget and, therefore, was created the Zest Hotels concept in 2015 to fill that important gap in the market. These developments are aimed at diversifying our offering in the region while meeting the growing demand for mid-market hotels and serviced apartments.”
DISTRIBUTION AND AGENTS
“We have got the industry’s best distribution and revenue management systems as well as cutting-edge technology to drive and boost demand at our hotels while optimizing our direct reach to customers. Distribution channels’ production varies by region, destination, property, etc hence all the channels are equally significant for our hotels. However, overall for the Group, one of the most important distribution channels has been the GDS. We do see a shift towards the B2C channels in the future, as most of the big OTAs are growing their base with reach to the corporate market,” he says.
Tourism performance in the main cities across the Middle East is expected to remain strong with the fruition of major infrastructure projects such as airport expansions, increased global connectivity and growth of low-cost carriers, new leisure attractions, enhanced business facilities and a year-long calendar of regional and international events.
'Countries such as China, India and Africa, where outbound tourism is increasing rapidly, have shown strong growth, mainly through the offline travel agent segment whether in groups or FIT'
- Laurent A Voivenel
“The increasing complexity of travel choices and growing demand for experiential travel is in turn driving demand for services of travel agents. Travel agents and tour operators will continue to hold their importance in tourism owing to the vital role they play as a catalyst for the industry’s growth as well as the way they have made use of technology to remain a key player in the game. Every hotel needs diverse feeder segments and this channel of revenue will continue to remain significant for our industry.
“Countries such as China, India and Africa, where outbound tourism is increasing rapidly, have shown strong growth, mainly through the offline travel agent segment whether in groups or FIT,” says Voivenel.
It is easy to lose a brand’s essence when one is expanding in so many directions and so rapidly. “One of the most important differentiators of Swiss-Belhotel International is our award-winning service. The essence of our brands revolves around the heritage of Swiss hospitality with the passion and service of Asia, and our hotels deliver on this promise. Therefore, passion and professionalism are the core of our brand culture. Our philosophy is to work hand-in-hand with our owners and business partners to maximise the financial returns and exceed the expectations of our guests, investors and associates.
“Our aim is to position Swiss-Belhotel International as the best alternative to blue chip companies offering superior returns, unbeatable value and unforgettable experiences. Travellers, especially the millennial generation, are looking for experiences and hotels need to be more hands-on in creating these unique experiences for their guests. The industry needs to listen to consumers on where there are gaps and boost markets that need the growth.
"In order to maximise our owners’ asset value and returns, operational excellence forms the core of our business. Therefore, we are continuously striving to take advantage of the advancements in technology and hospitality systems. Our current focus is on leveraging real time business intelligence, improved revenue/yield management, enhancing guest experience as well as operational efficiency through strategic investments in technology. We are working very closely with the various departments/hotels to establish a new, fully integrated system to boost productivity and seamless operation, and are confident that the direction we have chosen is the best way forward for the desired progress and growth of the group."
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
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