How has 2007 fared for Rotana Hotels?
2007 was one of the record years for the hospitality industry in the Middle East and therefore to Rotana too.
The properties under our management have performed extremely well specifically in the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Syria. This of course excludes Rotana in Lebanon, which have strived throughout 2007 and fortunately achieved an average occupancy of 45 per cent.
In 2007, Rotana opened properties in Khartoum, Sudan, Kuwait and two in the UAE. We also signed 16 new management agreements.
What are the company’s plans for 2008?
We will be opening seven new properties: in Dubai and the northern Emirates there are the Rose Rotana, Amwaj Rotana Resort, Media Rotana Hotel, Al Sufouh Rotana Suites and The Cove Rotana Resort & Spa. In Doha we will open the City Center Rotana Hotel and in Beirut we have the Raouché Rotana Suites.
Are there plans to enter new markets?
Our main priority is to have a property in the main cities in Saudi Arabia and in Cairo. We are currently negotiating several other projects but we are keen on taking the ones that would guarantee a healthy return to the owners and those would add value to our brand. But we welcome any other appropriate opportunity in the remaining Arab states. As long as we are able to manage our growth in an efficient way then we will take further properties as we are extremely cautious on expanding strategically and efficiently.
What is the company’s strategy in the face of competition?
We deliver what we promise. So far, we haven’t failed to deliver on that promise, be it to our guests, staff or owners. Our strength is our knowledge of the market. Also, we consider every staff member as part of our family and retaining this culture throughout our establishment is what will be key to our success and everything else comes naturally.
What do you see as the biggest challenge in the region in 2008?
The main challenge is to find staff, as we will need about 15,000 team members over the next five years. Rotana Hotels currently has 6000 employees and by 2010 the company will be increasing it’s manning by 150 per cent, which makes the approximate total number of employees 15,000. Rotana Hotels is looking at recruiting 8,300 employees, out of which are 27 general managers, 330 department heads, 390 managers, 685 supervisors and 6600 employees. The traditional markets in emerging countries such as India are simply drying up because of the availability of jobs locally and global competition.
Another challenge is remaining up to speed with online technologies since we anticipate that up to 50 per cent of our business will be generated online within the next five to seven years.
One last challenge is of course the political situation in the Middle East, which is totally out of our control.