IHG aims for 40pc growth by 2021

IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) is expecting to record more than 40 per cent growth across the Middle East in the next three to five years, with 25 new hotels in the pipeline.

Currently, the group operates 78 hotels in GCC, Levant and Egypt, following a well-rounded 2015, when it added five new hotels to its books, including the world’s largest Holiday Inn in Saudi Arabia with 5,154 rooms.

The company is placing a special focus on mid-market hotels, with many GCC States addressing the lack of affordable options for low-budget and family travellers. Dubai, in particular, is seeking to triple its annual tourism income to $82 billion by the time the Expo rolls around in 2020 – a huge increase of affordable leisure and business offerings will be needed to address the inevitable influx of visitors.

'As well as our leisure offerings, we continue to place great emphasis on our business properties. Traditionally, Abu Dhabi and Dubai have been very attractive locations for business travellers, due to the cities’ commercial hubs and tourism features. As a result, our Mice business has been one of our strongest segments, and we will continue to build on this for the mid to long term outlook for the region, in tandem with our drive towards IHG Business Rewards,' says Pascal Gauvin, chief operating officer, India, Middle East & Africa, IHG.

Of the 25 properties on the horizon, 11 are in development in the UAE: three InterContinental, three Crowne Plaza, one Holiday Inn, two Staybridge Suites, and two Hotel Indigo properties. Saudi Arabia has the second-largest pipeline, with one InterContinental, one Crowne Plaza, three Staybridge Suites and one Hotel Indigo.

IHG is committed to the Kingdom, following the call from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities to attract 45.3 million tourists a year by 2020. In 2013, just 14 million visitors arrived in Saudi Arabia, but with plans to develop 50,000 additional hotel rooms and 74,000 new furnished apartments, IHG believes it can contribute to its positive growth.

With 23,300 rooms already in operation across nine countries in the Middle East, IHG says one of its key pillars of success is its IHG Rewards Club, and has reiterated an effort to continue improving its loyalty program.

'Our loyal members contribute up to 40 per cent of our bookings, and are certainly our most valued customers. Of our bookings, 60 per cent stem from our business customers – 20 per cent of which are Mice customers,' says James Britchford, vice-president of sales & marketing, India, Middle East & Africa at InterContinental Hotels Group.

'We always look forward to welcoming new members to our loyalty program, and will continue to ensure it’s as valuable and rewarding as possible. We have developed one of the leading mobile bookings apps, produced a website that supports 13 languages, including Arabic and created a loyal global community of 92 million Rewards Club members.'

Research suggested just a five per cent increase in customer loyalty can result in a 25 to 85 per cent increase in profit. IHG has committed to building on its current rewards program by focusing on customers’ most important demand; the perfect balance of inclusivity and individuality. The group revealed that members are four times more likely to post online reviews and six times more likely to book through a direct IHG channel. Moreover, they account for a third of all Middle East, Africa and Asia room revenues.

Last year, the group launched IHG Business Rewards, its global bookings program offering rewards on all qualified business bookings for guest rooms, meeting rooms, and events.