How has 2007 fared for the InterContinental Hotels Group?
This has been a year of significant growth in terms of property numbers, as well as a high level of planning to build more.
Regionally new development signings have included Holiday Inn Bur Dubai, two Crowne Plaza properties in KSA, InterContinental Kuwait, InterContinental Resort Mauritius Balaclava Fort and the signing of an agreement to develop the Express brand in KSA. There has been the re-opening of flagship InterContinental properties in Abu Dhabi and Nairobi following extensive enhancements.
Key openings include InterContinental Dubai Festival City - the 150th hotel for the brand globally - and the opening of Express by Holiday Inn Dubai Internet City.
The group has ventured into two new markets as region’s industry matures: Limited service with Express by Holiday Inn and the announcement of Staybridge Suites in key destinations such as Kuwait, Dubai and Cairo.
Service-led brand initiatives have made a significant impact in 2007. For example, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts has introduced the Colleague Engagement training programme, which reached tens of thousands of employees.
The brand also rolled out the Concierge programme throughout 2006, which means that the Concierge role has evolved within the group to become guests’ ‘insider knowledge’ on the place in which they are staying.
What are the company’s plans for 2008?
In addition to the signing announcements made, IHG will also open Holiday Inn Al Barsha in Dubai, Crowne Plaza Sohar in Oman and Staybridge Suites properties in Dubai and Kuwait.
Are there plans to enter new markets?
Africa is witnessing dramatic growth year-on-year and IHG has a number of developments in the pipeline across the InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Express by Holiday brands. In 2008 the group will be opening several new properties here, including under the Express by Holiday Inn and InterContinental brands.
China is a fast emerging market for the Middle East region, and we are working closely with the teams in Asia Pacific to investigate this segment, we have planned a number of road shows there for 2008. Eastern Europe is a key focus and one that has grown significantly for travellers to the Middle East.
What is the company’s strategy in the face of competition?
Current regional strategy in terms of development is in line with the global IHG strategy to grow organically by 50-60,000 hotel rooms by the end of 2008.
IHG is also focused on differentiating brands to stand out from the competition. The five tiers of accommodation now available /planned for the region meet new and diversifying demand drivers across the market.
Is IHG bullish about 2008? If yes, why?
For IHG MEA, business is increasing year-on-year across all markets. The Middle East and Africa region is becoming increasingly important as both a leisure and business destination. Access is easier each year, primarily driven by additional airline routes as well as more competitive travel costs.
The demand within the region presents great opportunities for the travel industry as a whole.
What can guests look forward to in the New Year?
The Festival City properties will hold their official opening ceremonies and Pierre Gagnaire, Michelin star chef, will open his restaurant at the InterContinental.
Alongside the development of the Express by Holiday Inn and Staybridge Suites brands, and the expansion of established brands such as InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn, guests will notice the effects of InterContinental Hotels & Resorts’ Concierge and Colleague Engagement programmes that is being rolled out internationally.
What will be the biggest challenges facing you in the Middle East in 2008?
IHG is committed to the success of all destinations and will be particularly focused on supporting Lebanon as the market stabilises. The roll out of the Holiday Inn re-launch training programme will be a significant people challenge and one that is set to add tremendous value to the brand.
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