Between high Eid occupancies and deafening lockdowns, Dur Hospitality has managed to refurbish some of its most sought-after properties, train and upskill its staff, launch a new brand, open a new property as well as announce seven more in the pipeline. Hassan Ahab, President of Hotel Operations, Dur Hospitality, tells us how it was done.
“We currently have 11 hotels in the Kingdom with seven more in the pipeline to start opening 2022 onwards. These new projects include four in Madinah, one in Yanbu, one in Al Hasa and one in Jeddah.
“Our internal growth strategy for our own brand Makarem is to reach 10,000 keys by 2028. In terms of the pandemic, although access to some construction materials may have slowed us down, we have continued with construction.
“My dream is to reconnect Saudi Arabia and help keep it on the map.”
Ahab joined Dur Hospitality in 2017, however, is no stranger to the hospitably industry with over 30 years of experience with brands such as Retaj Hospitality Group, Starwood Hotels and Resorts & Le Meriden (both now within the Marriott portfolio) with postings from the Caribbean, Europe, to the Indian Ocean and the Middle East.
The impact of the Covid was felt everywhere and occupancies went down to zero in some hotels, while others were used for quarantine he tells us. “But we saw the opportunity to use this time to train our people, to improve their skills. We also used the time to renovate some of our properties. Our Makkah hotel, for example, pre-Covid had over 90 per cent occupancy throughout the year, so we never had the opportunity to refurbish it. Now, the hotel has a new lobby, new outlets, new technology. It is like a brand-new property.
“In addition, we accelerated and opened a new hotel, the 144-key Holiday Inn in Jubail, in November 2020 with no task force, just our existing teams from other properties. We added 93 rooms to Riyadh’s Airport Marriott Hotel. In Tabuk, the nearest city to Neom, we saw the demand, so we added a 70-key extension to the Holiday Inn. This should be ready by year end.”
In Riyadh, Dur Hospitality renovated the Crowne Plaza, with new state-of-the-art rooms, a new lobby and these renovations continue. Shada Hospitality, a subsidiary of Dur Hospitality, was launched, with new openings in Riyadh to be announced in the coming months.
“An increase of the staycation market kept us busy, both with religious tourism and staycations. We saw 70 per cent occupancies. In Jeddah, at our 150-room Makarem Annakheel Resort, we recorded almost 90 per cent occupancy (with strict rules) during the EID Period. We also had high occupancy in Jubail. So with this domestic success, we are ready to welcome guest when borders open.”