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How is the re­gional in­dus­try cur­rently far­ing com­pared to other mar­kets?

The hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try in the MENA re­gion is pretty ver­sa­tile, in part be­cause the ma­jor play­ers in tourism have, for years, demon­strated great in­ge­nu­ity on all fronts. Hos­pi­tal­ity es­tab­lish­ments op­er­at­ing through­out the re­gion have cir­cum­nav­i­gated all re­gional pres­sures. The devel­op­ment of ho­tels has re­mained a focal point in the real es­tate sec­tor, with the tourism in­dus­try a top em­ployer and provider of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct across re­spec­tive lo­cal economies. How­ever, we will see a change go­ing for­ward, as we need to strengthen the of­fer­ing, de­liv­ery and per­for­mance of ho­tels to fully ben­e­fit from the part­ner­ships be­tween the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors.

What can you tell us about some of the most promis­ing ideas and projects you are cur­rently work­ing on?

As the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor con­tin­ues to evolve, any steps or ac­tiv­i­ties un­der­taken should aim to main­tain that mo­men­tum. Hu­man re­sources are still the key fo­cus. How­ever, prod­uct im­prove­ment, novel tech­nolo­gies and ful­fill­ing cus­tomers’ ex­pec­ta­tions re­main the most chal­leng­ing facets of the in­dus­try. One key fac­tor we have worked on is evolv­ing the Golden Tulip brand to cater to the mil­len­nial au­di­ence, while adopt­ing the new travel trends to main­tain op­er­a­tional lead­er­ship for the next 20-30 years. With Lou­vre Ho­tels Group, our brand’s main en­tity and the own­er­ship of Jin Jiang In­ter­na­tional, the bud­get ho­tel sec­tor, is set to grow stronger through­out our re­gion, as it is play­ing a more im­por­tant role than ever be­fore, es­pe­cially at key and se­condary des­ti­na­tions.

Tech sup­port com­ing from our re­search and devel­op­ment (R&D) de­part­ments in China and Paris pro­vides un­par­al­leled in­sight into our elec­tronic dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nels, with e-com­merce and e-mar­ket­ing re­flect­ing a pos­i­tive out­look for re­turn on in­vest­ment (ROI).

Which mar­kets are you most in­ter­ested in break­ing into right now and why?

The MENA re­gion re­mains the most im­por­tant in­bound and out­bound mar­ket­place. Saudi Ara­bia, in its en­tirety, rep­re­sents the largest and most im­por­tant mar­ket for the ho­tel sec­tor. In Le­banon, the di­as­pora has played a ma­jor role in our econ­omy and the coun­try re­mains a tar­get for fu­ture de­vel­op­ments, of­fer­ing plenty of ex­pan­sion op­por­tu­ni­ties. Another coun­try we are look­ing at is Syria, where we al­ready have three de­vel­op­ments un­der­way. Iraq and Egypt are two equally im­por­tant des­ti­na­tions that could ben­e­fit greatly from our ver­sa­tile brand of Lou­vre Ho­tels, which range from two to five-star es­tab­lish­ments.

Based on our ag­gres­sive ex­pan­sion plans, we in­tend to be present in ev­ery cap­i­tal in the Arab world by 2020 In ad­di­tion, our aim is to de­velop 10 Cam­panile ho­tels in Al­ge­ria, with an equal num­ber in Geor­gia. We will also have a sec­ond ho­tel in Bishkek, Kyr­gyzs­tan, and are soon to be­come the largest op­er­a­tor in the Sul­tanate of Oman. Dubai will ben­e­fit from the devel­op­ment of the new Golden Tulip and Tulip Inn, in prepa­ra­tion for Expo 2020. Ad­di­tion­ally, we plan to de­velop three Kyr­iad ho­tels and five Cam­panile ho­tels. Based on our ag­gres­sive ex­pan­sion plans, we in­tend to be present in ev­ery cap­i­tal in the Arab world by 2020, thereby en­sur­ing that our cus­tomers, em­ploy­ees, in­vestors, de­vel­op­ers and own­ers are in good stand­ing.

What role does in­ter­ac­tion and pas­sion play in your work and how do you in­cor­po­rate them into the es­tab­lish­ments you man­age?

Ev­ery trip teaches us some­thing new. In that re­spect, we should be able to adapt these ideas and in­cor­po­rate them into their re­spec­tive mar­kets. This is a never-end­ing learn­ing curve, with tech­nol­ogy play­ing a ma­jor role, be it in the field of in­stalled equip­ment, elec­tronic mo­bile ser­vices of­fered or seam­less room ac­cess.

Merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions are the or­der of the day. What are the ad­van­tages and dis­ad­van­tages for both the es­tab­lish­ments them­selves and guests?

The ad­van­tages are numerous, rang­ing from syn­ergy man­age­ment and loy­alty pro­grams to the en­hance­ment of con­tin­ued pro­duc­tiv­ity. Whether it will help the es­tab­lish­ment be­come bet­ter is a mat­ter that re­mains open to ques­tion. I do not want this state­ment to be mis­un­der­stood, since there are far too many mov­ing parts, es­pe­cially when con­sid­er­ing po­lit­i­cal un­rest, loom­ing se­cu­rity is­sues, tax­a­tion and re­duc­tions in oil and gas prices.

What is the main driver in hos­pi­tal­ity?

The tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try, ir­re­spec­tive of the tech­nolo­gies de­ployed, peo­ple will re­main the main driv­ers of this well-oiled ma­chine. I would also like to em­pha­size the im­por­tance of our slo­gan, ‘In­ter­na­tional Stan­dards, Lo­cal Fla­vors’, which is highly-in­dica­tive of the strat­egy which, over many years of op­er­a­tions, has brought us great suc­cess.

What are some of the key dif­fer­en­tia­tors that are in­stru­men­tal in adding value to the guest ex­pe­ri­ence?

The hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor re­mains a ma­jor player in any lo­cal econ­omy through­out our re­gion. We are wit­ness­ing the devel­op­ment of ho­tels in Saudi Ara­bia, in spite of eco­nomic re­ces­sion, which is tricky, con­sid­er­ing that there are over 25,000 ho­tels rooms to be de­vel­oped in Makkah. The same ap­plies to the ho­tel projects in Dubai and Riyadh.

Another chal­leng­ing fac­tor is driv­ing busi­ness re­fer­rals to these des­ti­na­tions. Our prop­er­ties in Makkah and Mad­i­nah are ma­jor venues, wel­com­ing reli­gious pil­grims. On the other hand, Dubai has a dif­fer­ent cus­tomer pro­file, and is pri­mar­ily fo­cused on cre­ative, in­no­va­tive prod­uct of­fer­ings, from ex­hi­bi­tions, con­fer­ences and events all the way to fam­ily tourism. In that re­spect, air­lines have played a ma­jor role for de­vel­op­ers, as we have seen from the growth of these car­ri­ers through­out the Arab world. Yet, ir­re­spec­tive of the kind of trav­eler you are, the guest ex­pe­ri­ence re­mains an im­por­tant plat­form in ev­ery ho­tel, whether bud­get, mid-scale, up-scale or fives­tar re­sort, as to­day, we eval­u­ate the ho­tel’s per­for­mance through guest feed­back on so­cial me­dia.

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