InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) in partnership with Ishraq Gulf Real Estate Holding opened the 171 room Holiday Inn Express Dubai Safa Park recently, the first property to begin trading under the brand’s new name. A third property opens this month in Jumeirah. CHERYL MANDY spoke to Phil Kasselis, vice president development, Middle East and Africa
Who will be your main target market?
In our Express by Holiday Inn Dubai Internet City - our first property launched in the Middle East - many customers come out of the UK and Ireland where the brand is known extremely well. The market is predominantly corporate, mid-level management coming to Dubai for temporary work assignments.
Interestingly, the leisure market is also growing – people who come here on holiday are finding that paying Dh1,000 a night is somewhat prohibitive. The Express is targeted at people who want value for money and enables them to stay in affordable accommodation and extend their stay.
The other market is also the immediate business around the hotel. As Business Bay develops there will be a lot of demand for people working in this area or attending meetings.
Are there any special opening rates?
At the moment we do – the room rate is pegged at Dh350 a night for the duration of the summer, after which the rate will flex depending on levels of demand.
Our Express at Safa Park will be operated by Ishraq Hospitality Management, a subsidiary of Ishraq Gulf Real Estate Holding Company, the exclusive developer of the Holiday Inn Express hotels in the GCC countries (apart from Saudi Arabia).
How has the Express concept been received in this region?
Certainly as a concept Express has been very well received. Our Express by Holiday Inn Dubai Internet City has been trading at 85 per cent occupancy – phenomenal for a hotel that has only been open for less than a year. The demand is really strong.
This concept works because it is feasible; the design of the Express is small rooms, functional, convenient, value for money with a contemporary feel in public areas.
In the Middle East the quality of the series is relatively up-scale and functional, we even provide breakfast as part of the room rate here.
How are you tackling the recruitment issues in this part of the world?
The ‘war for talent’ as we call it is rife everywhere. Thank goodness through the IHG system we have access to a large pool of staff. The good thing about branded hotels is you become the employer of choice because the brand attracts people to work with this hotel because they know that after a while they can move to other hotels within the IHG system.
There is no doubt that it is always challenging getting good staff, and as more hotels start to open the ‘war for talent’ is going to be more complicated.
On that issue, we have just launched a training school in Cairo, and we are looking at setting up a training school in Saudi Arabia. We also have training courses available through our own IHG website so we have associated ourselves with Cornell University in the US. Any of our staff can take any number of courses through this website. It is crucial if they want to uplift their skill sets.
• Developed by InterContinental Hotels Group, Express by Holiday Inn is the world’s largest limited service hotel brand and is growing rapidly. Worldwide there are more than 1,800 properties and more than 158,000 rooms operating under this brand flag.
In October 2007 IHG announced a worldwide re-launch of the Holiday Inn brand family, which comprises Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts and Holiday Inn Express (or Express by Holiday Inn as it is known in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.
All Holiday Inn hotels currently open or under development are expected to have implemented the relaunch programme by the end of 2010.