HMH focuses on stability in the Mideast

Noblet... ready for more opportunities

AS the New Year rolls in, Michel Noblet, president & CEO, HMH – Hospitality Management Holdings looks back at 2011 as a tough, often overwhelming year.

“Much of the year was about how best to restructure our business in the wake of the regional unrest that was already badly bruised from global recession and later economic downturn in Europe. However, let’s not forget, with every crisis comes an opportunity. Putting aside the setbacks, we at HMH had our share of victories too. The good news is that these tough times gave us fresh insight into our business bringing us invaluable learning experience,” he says.

Some of the greatest challenge for HMH has been sustaining growth and development in existing economic and political scenario. Noblet adds “We are experiencing major delays in Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt and Syria owing to the political unrest in those countries. It is vital to regain the trust of travellers in terms of safety and security across the Middle East to keep them  coming back.”

In terms of hotel performance, while hotels in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Lebanon enjoyed a high occupancy and RevPar, it obviously hasn’t been the same for hotels in Syria, Bahrain, Egypt or Yemen which were severely affected. “Certain countries like the UAE with its free economy, political stability and culture of openness is witnessing a period of great opportunity and is attracting travellers in large numbers. Recently, a lot of business was re-routed to Dubai especially from destinations like Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia and Syria owing to the Arab Spring. Over the last few months we have seen an increase in inbound traffic from the GCC, Russia and parts of Asia and Africa. Initially there was a slight drop in business from Europe but it is picking up now.

We are also seeing a significant rebound in tourism in some other GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman as well as Lebanon and Jordan that have remained largely peaceful and stable all through this period” he added.

Speaking about new source markets, inbound tourism to the Middle East from emerging markets like Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) has seen much consistent growth. Noblet anticipates the numbers to go up drastically in the coming months and years.

“In order to exploit the growth opportunities presented by these countries we are carrying out aggressive sales and marketing campaigns to raise awareness about our brands as well as implementing measures that will make our guests feel welcome and comfortable at our hotels.”

Looking ahead, a more flexible and sustainable approach has been planned for 2012. For HMH the most strategic priorities today are; consolidation of portfolio, positioning of upcoming hotels and securing the market share in the face of stiffening competition.

The New Year will see a significant number of openings that will add about 1,200 keys to HMH’s existing portfolio of hotels across the Middle East. In 2012 the company will open 10 new properties namely, The Ajman Palace, Coral Jeddah, Corp Dabab and Coral Hotel Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, Coral Plaza Qurum and EWA Mahdha Hotel in Oman, Corp Executive Hotel in Amman, Jordan, EWA Deira and Corp Executive Hotel Al Khoory in Dubai and the Coral Martini in Syria.

In addition Noblet adds that they are negotiating some new projects in Iraq, Sudan and Egypt.

Noblet adds, “The business forecast is at the moment looking quite promising for both luxury and budget hotels. Aside from emerging markets like Russia, China, Korea, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil, we are tapping European markets such as UK, Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands, Belgium and Poland. These countries represent undeniable opportunities for our brands as we are seeing a sizeable increase in the number of guests from these markets. Like all new frontiers, they represent an exciting mix of business opportunities for our group. There is a huge potential of growth for our brands. We are aggressively tapping all avenues for generating more revenue - from ‘word of mouth’ to ‘word of mouse’.

Strong marketing initiatives, a powerful central reservation system, strategic brand affiliations and launch of innovative loyalty programs are all geared to maximize revenue and profitability for our owners and associates while delivering the best value to our customers and widening our brand appeal,” said Noblet.

HMH also plans to roll out a new exciting loyalty programme that will offer its members fabulous rewards and recognition whenever they stay at any participating hotel under HMH.