am­bi­tious AS­PI­RA­TIONS

Hotelier Middle East - - PEOPLE - Derek Is­sacs Pho­tog­ra­phy by Ra­jesh Raghav

Matthew Tripolone, vice pres­i­dent, de­vel­op­ment for IHG in Mid­dle East and Africa, re­veals the long-term growth strat­egy of the In­tercon­ti­nen­tal Ho­tels Group and the launch of its new brand voco into the re­gion

Vice pres­i­dent, de­vel­op­ment for IHG in Mid­dle East and Africa Matthew Tripolone was brim­ming with con­fi­dence dur­ing a re­cent

ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Hote­lier. And it wasn’t with­out rea­son. “We are go­ing to have a fan­tas­tic sign­ing year this year and open­ing sea­son, with our global an­nounce­ments to be re­leased early next year. We have re­ally strong growth am­bi­tions for this side of the world," he said.

The In­tercon­ti­nen­tal Ho­tels Group (IHG) is firmly press­ing its foot down on the gas pedal and is well and truly in ac­cel­er­a­tion mode. Un­der its 2X strat­egy, the group aims to fast­track at “twice the pace and in­tends to dou­ble its net sys­tem size growth to 2020, which we are well on the way to do­ing,” said Tripolone.

Tripolone, who plays a vi­tal part in en­sur­ing the group’s long-term growth strat­egy, is help­ing to grow IHG'S port­fo­lio through­out the

re­gion. Part of this strat­egy in­volved the launch of the voco brand in July of this year. Ac­cord­ing to Tripolone, voco is fill­ing a gap that IHG saw in the mar­ket for a “fun, fresh up­scale brand. We are ex­cited to an­nounce also that we have now launched it [voco] in this part of the world. ”

Hote­lier re­ported ear­lier this year how IHG planned to re­brand Dubai's Nas­sima Royal ho­tel, which was fi­nally launched in early De­cem­ber. Lo­cated on Sheikh Zayed Road in close prox­im­ity to the Dubai World Trade Cen­tre, the ho­tel will of­fer 471 rooms, cu­rated for both leisure and busi­ness trav­ellers to the city. The re­brand­ing in­cludes three var­i­ous guest ex­pe­ri­ences – mainly ‘Come on in’ be­ing a wel­come ex­pe­ri­ence in the lobby, ‘Me time’ with rooms de­signed to be a re­lax­ing space, and ‘Voco life’ – a lobby bar that will serve morn­ing cof­fee to cock­tails in the evening.

Talk­ing about voco, Tripolone said: “We see that there is a grow­ing por­tion of trav­ellers through­out the world who are look­ing for a brand that is fun and fresh, has some de­sign and lifestyle el­e­ments, but comes with the back­ing and the guar­an­tee that IHG brings to all of our brands. So we de­signed the brand from the ground up. It’s re­ally ex­cit­ing and has some nice clear hall­marks that re­ally give the guests a unique ex­pe­ri­ence and re­ally ticks the boxes of what we think our guests are ex­pect­ing from our brands.”

In­tercon­ti­nen­tal Ho­tels Group has am­bi­tious growth as­pi­ra­tions for the Mid­dle East. “We plan to open lots of them [voco],” said Tripolone, who went on to re­veal how the group in­tends to open more of the new brand in the Mid­dle East, Asia and Africa re­gion.

“We plan to open 200 ho­tels over the next 10 years,’ he said. “We ac­tu­ally feel that there are lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties for us in this part of the world. We see lots of po­ten­tial for the brand here re­gion. The brand is re­ally suit­able for ex­ist­ing es­tate, hence the Nas­sima Royal ho­tel is our first voco in this part of the world and is a re­brand­ing of an ex­ist­ing ho­tel. The brand is re­ally suited to this type of op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he said.

Saudi Ara­bia and the UAE is where IHG sees most op­por­tu­nity for the brand. “There are also op­por­tu­ni­ties in places like Jor­dan, Le­banon and Egypt,” he added.

De­scribed as quite a flex­i­ble brand, Tripolone ex­pects the busi­ness mix in each of its voco ho­tels to be equally

We do not stream­line it down to a par­tic­u­lar seg­ment type of trav­eller. But we re­ally see that there was a grow­ing per­cent­age of trav­ellers who wanted a fresh lifestyle-led brand that plays in the up­scale space and voco has been de­signed with that in mind”

brand. “There are also op­por­tu­ni­ties in places like Jor­dan, Le­banon and Egypt,” he added.

De­scribed as quite a flex­i­ble brand, Tripolone ex­pects the busi­ness mix in each of its voco ho­tels to be equally weighted be­tween the cor­po­rate and leisure trav­el­ers.

“We do not stream­line it down to a par­tic­u­lar seg­ment type of trav­eller. But we re­ally see that there was a grow­ing per­cent­age of trav­ellers who wanted a fresh lifestyle-led brand that plays in the up­scale space and voco has been de­signed with that in mind,” he said.

Tripolone joined IHG in June 2014, tak­ing on the role as Head of De­vel­op­ment for Aus­trala­sia and Ja­pan. This has helped him to suc­cess­fully play a vi­tal part in en­sur­ing IHG'S long-term growth strat­egy, in­clud­ing grow­ing IHG’S port­fo­lio through­out the re­gion.

Dur­ing his ten­ure for Aus­trala­sia and Ja­pan, he signed a num­ber of sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment deals, in­clud­ing In­tercon­ti­nen­tal Perth, Crowne Plaza Christchurch and Crowne Plaza Ho­bart. He also led the ex­pan­sion of the Hol­i­day Inn Ex­press brand in the Aus­tralian mar­ket, with the launch of Hol­i­day Inn Ex­press Syd­ney Mac­quarie Park in April 2016, the first of a 15-ho­tel pipe­line for the brand.

The fact there is much talk within the ho­tel sec­tor re­gard­ing over­sat­u­ra­tion has been, to all in­tents a pur­poses, like red rag to a bull for IHG. “Of­ten groups like our­selves find the most op­por­tu­nity for the growth of our brands when mar­kets are per­haps go­ing through some chal­lenges. At the mo­ment Dubai has ex­pe­ri­enced some ups and downs and that’s gen­er­ally when many op­por­tu­ni­ties come to IHG,” said Tripolone.

As part of its growth strat­egy, IHG also pur­chased an up­per lux­ury brand called Re­gent, which Tripolone says the Group is work­ing on a num­ber of great op­por­tu­ni­ties for that brand in this part of the world. “So, com­bined with our lifestyle brands which are not re­ally string and present here at the mo­ment – Kemp­ton ho­tels and res­tau­rants, and ho­tel indigo – we feel that the fu­ture is re­ally bright for IHG in this part of the world,” he said.

Triplone brushed away any talk of chal­lenges in the lo­cal mar­ket say­ing that they were “not un­usual and what we find is that when we find that when one par­tic­u­lar mar­ket is find­ing it dif­fi­cult other mar­kets pick up the slack. But ul­ti­mately we be­lieve in the fu­ture of the Mid­dle East mar­ket. We have been here a long time, be­ing in this part of the world since 1961 when we launched the iconic Phoeni­cia Ho­tel Beirut in Le­banon, our first IHG ho­tel in the Mid­dle East,” he said, ad­ding that IHG are well equipped to deal with any chal­lenges it comes across and has bright ex­pec­ta­tions for the fu­ture.

Voco

Nasima Royal ho­tel is the first voco brand in the Mid­dle East and is the re­brand­ing of an ex­ist­ing ho­tel

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