‘Our goal is to operate 700 hotels by 2012’

Kurt Ritter, president and CEO of Rezidor SAS Hospitality, on his company’s plans and more
Ritter … optimistic

Your hotel group has had several name changes, today it is called Rezidor SAS Hospitality – why is that?
Originally the group was named SAS Hotels, but the name was changed to SAS International Hotels (SIH) in 1985.

In 1986, I signed an agreement with Radisson Hotels Worldwide, the parent company is the US-based Carlson companies. According to this agreement, we became the sole franchiser of Radisson in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In 2001, SIH was changed to Rezidor SAS Hospitality. In 2002, Rezidor SAS Hospitality became a strong partner for Park Inn, Country Inn and Regent brands through a further agreement with Carlson Hotels Worldwide.

How many hotels does the group have in the Middle East and do you intend to build and/ or manage any more?
Today we have 14 properties and eight under construction, and we are present in nine countries. We were a little late coming into the hospitality market compared to other hotel brands, but since 1985, when we had around 20 hotels worldwide, we have today 260 hotels. We have been growing at a rate of 30 hotels a year; last year it was 50 and this year it will be 60, which is more than one a week. Our declared goal is to operate 700 hotels by the year 2012.

As someone who in your early career was the general manager of a hotel in Kuwait – how would you describe the hotel industry development in the Gulf in the last decade?
I can only say one word: explosive!

What would you say are the unique selling points of your hotels?
That is the million-dollar question. I think the question contains two aspects. First, we are growing so fast, because we are lucky enough to have a very solid customer base. Secondly, we are very open vis-à-vis the hotel owners. We nearly always give the owners what they want. From the guest point of view, we have a very open policy. “Yes, I can” is the company motto. We are a very flexible company.

Are you planning to introduce any new innovative ideas in your hotels in the near future?
From a concept point of view, we are not at present planning any new features in the near future. Our hotels seem to be running smoothly and the guests are satisfied with what we offer.

When you check into someone else’s hotel, how do you measure the quality and standards of that hotel?
I tend to compare the hotel to ours, but I like to stay in hotels belonging to other hotel chains in order to learn something new. I can’t help being critical, although I never complain.

You were born into a hotel family – if you had not chosen the hotel industry as a career, what other profession would you have liked to pursue?
Horse-breeding! When I stop working in the hospitality industry, I am going to breed horses. I have wanted to do this since I was a young boy.

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