QNHC aiming for regional and worldwide expansion

QATAR National Hotels Company (QNHC) is one of Qatar’s largest hotel owners and developers and earlier this year the company launched its own brand in the shape of Merweb. Group director of marketing TAMARA KHALIL spoke to TTN about how the brand is shaping up and what’s in store for the future.

I appreciate that figures are not available yet but How is Merweb coming along in its first year?

Merwebhotel Central Doha officially opened on January 15, 2010. Since then, we have received positive feedback. We measure our success by the number of repeat guests, which is a factor that indicates that we are delivering the brand promise. We can definitely see that the concept of the Merweb brand is working well in Qatar and with Merwebhotel Central Doha being the first hotel to operate under the new generation of Merwebhotels, we planned to take advantage of the first few months of operation to ensure the strategies that have been put in place actually work. We were cautious as to how much we should advertise the hotel as we didn’t like to proclaim the absolute best and then not be able to deliver. However, with the excellent financial results achieved by Merwebhotel Central Doha during the first few months of opening and with the levels of brand awareness we have achieved, we are proud that the hotel’s reputation has surpassed our expectations and the word has definitely spread that there is a Qatari-born and grown brand in the market with a new hospitality concept that is definitely worth visiting. In addition, the hotel is specifically designed at a price point where guests can enjoy excellent value for their money.

Are there plans for rebranding of the other QNHC managed properties?

The only other operational hotel currently under the Merweb brand is the Merwebhotel Al Sadd Doha, which is undergoing renovations to its food and beverage outlets to reflect the Merwebhotel brand – informal enough to make guests feel comfortable and at ease yet stylish enough to make it ideal for business gatherings. 

Sealine Beach Resort, which is managed by QNH’s operating division, will not be rebranded. Merweb branded hotels focus on the business traveller and Sealine Beach Resort is purely dedicated to leisure and corporate retreats.

What’s next for Merweb, are there any further hotels planned?

Currently the focus is on the local market. Merweb being a ‘made in Qatar’ brand, was born in Qatar and needs to be grown in Qatar to start with. The city centre project is the next to come online under the Merweb brand, which is expected to open its doors to the public in the summer of next year. We also have two projects in the pipeline for Lusail, one in the Marina district and the other in Foxhills. We are currently looking into the Gulf region with negotiations with our neighboring countries and within the next three to five years we expect to have at least one operational hotel outside Qatar and a few signed deals. We will then venture into the Mena region before going international with our Qatari hotel management brand.

How has the year been so far for QNHC and what are the plans for the future?

We are fortunate to be a Qatari company and part of one of the world’s fastest growing economies. It’s been a great year for us given the global financial crisis. Never before has Qatar been the focus of so much attention and we, as QNHC, are focusing to use our investment wealth to continue the profitable success we have achieved in recent years by continually striving to achieve more and better. We have been busy with renovation plans for our owned properties and concentrating our efforts on our operated properties. We have a new project in the Comoros Islands, which has kept us busy and, with the Paris property under construction, it has been one of our busiest years and we have been gaining a lot of global recognition. We are taking advantage of Qatar’s rapid growth and we are continuously evaluating investments in emerging markets. We believe that we have the expertise to create substantial value from our acquisitions to the benefit of our partners and stakeholders.