Head of Hospitality at Emaar Group
Current scale of operations
We are 30-plus hotels now. We’ve grown from the downtown [Dubai] area to further afield – we have a Vida Umm Al Quwain property that opened last year, an Address Fujairah which has been really well received in the market and our creek harbour developments in Dubai. We’re very excited that we could expand into other emirates, and now regionally as well. If you look at 2021 numbers versus 2019, for Emaar Hospitality Group, we saw growth. 2022 is showing a progression over 2021 – in the first quarter we did occupancies of 75 per cent plus. In the UAE, we’ve actually seen occupancy numbers coming back to 2019 numbers and even exceeding it [in some cases].
The Saudi Arabia market
The Saudi market overall as a percentage of business is anything between 15-21 per cent. In terms of expansion into Saudi, we’re opening up the Address Jabal Omar Hotel in early 2023 first quarter – it’s a 1,480 key hotel with all the premium services of an Address, and we’re very happy to be opening in Makkah. Recently we’ve announced the Diriyah Gate hotel too – it will the third Armani hotel within our group.
On the positioning of the Arabian Travel Market
This show has always been very valuable in the region. Last year, was a test for us all to understand what ATM could provide in a pandemic era. We could have a maximum of 11,000 people at any one time, we were all very careful. This year is just phenomenal, because everything is really back and we’re able to really showcase what we’ve been up to over the last year. Emaar Hospitality, over the pandemic era, opened a number of hotels. We really looked at the future of hospitality and worked on a number of things around that. This show gives us the ability to showcase what we’ve been working on.
On the challenges within the industry
Some of the bumps in the road we are seeing is a slight increase in prices in terms of raw products. It’s something we’re having to manage and be careful of because we want to make sure the returns, particularly to our owners, are maintained overall. We’re being very careful in terms of ensuring that each of our expenses are managed effectively. We’re also looking at where we buy our produce from. Now that we’re a slightly bigger company, we can negotiate a little bit more of economies of scale at the same time just really making sure that we continue to deliver value-formoney offerings.
On the approach to growth
At the moment we are building ground up. As a hospitality company, we’re growing organically. We’re not a hotel company looking at building 40 hotels this year and 50 hotels in the next. We’re considering four-five hotels every year. We’re focused on an asset light strategy, so we’re looking at investors coming in and working with us in terms of our bands and hotel management and these [hotels] tend to be new builds.