The buzz of a new brand

Brand: InterContinental Spokesman: Chris Moloney, COO for the Middle East and Africa, InterContinental Hotels Group.
New InterContinental hotels at Dubai Festival City; (inset) Moloney

Expansions, openings or closures?
When you develop a hotel, you need to think 10 years out as to what the standards and are going to be.

We have made a commitment to the Middle East market and are capable of responding to owner’s and customer’s requirements.
Significant this year will be the introduction of the first Express by Holiday Inn properties in the Middle East. The market is eagerly anticipating the new brand – which will make its regional debut as the group’s budget hotel concept in Dubai, Jeddah and Riyadh this year – with plans to launch up to 30 of the properties in the next five years. Worldwide, there are more than 1,450 Express by Holiday Inn properties with more than 120,000 rooms.
We also signed an agreement with our lead investor in the Levant, Hotel Development Services, a subsidary of Societe des Grandes Hotels du Liban (SGHL), for 20 Express by Holiday Inn hotels by 2010.

Spotlight on Dubai, Egypt, Kuwait
Two new properties at Dubai’s Festival City, an InterContinental and Crowne Plaza, are set to open in 2007. The Crowne Plaza will be sited directly above a 4,500 sqm conference centre to capitalise on the tremendous MICE business in the region. After three recent openings, Egypt will see a Holiday Inn Citystars at the end of 2006, besides further expanding the choice of properties on offer. Over the next year and a half, we plan to open two properties in Kuwait: the Holiday Inn Downtown Kuwait in early 2006, and the InterContinental Kuwait in 2007.

Economic indicators?
With extensive promotion in international markets of the benefits of business in the Middle East and the subsequent influx of foreign investment, the hotel sector has experienced a significant boost in demand.
As the largest operator in the region, we have witnessed a healthy growth in business in the Middle East during the past decade, especially with the initial introduction of an increased number of tax free trade zones. Even though many major business projects are still in the development phase, the hotel sector – particularly InterContinental Hotels Group – is already experiencing the positive knock-on effect. We are witnessing the strongest growth in the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Strategy in the face of competition?
There is a pressure within the tourism industry for each group to maintain a strong hold on the market. In Dubai alone, there are around 275 hotels with 25,000 in a competitive environment. However, all major players are unanimous that there is plenty of business to go around.
As the sector continues to develop, we will continue to see the emergence of more brands into the region. This is a good thing, as competition is healthy, and it gives visitors to the Middle East more to choose from.
We will continue focusing on the MICE market by providing the most comprehensive end-to-end packages possible.
The group is very focused on local management, as one of the its greatest successes is that they are a global operator that thinks nationally, reflecting a local experience on a global basis.