Mideast hotels have world’s highest occupancy rates, says senior executive

ABU DHABI: Global hospitality brand IHG Hotels and Resorts has 50 percent of its regional development in Saudi Arabia with over 100 projects in the pipeline. 

In an interview with Arab News during the Future Hospitality Summit in Abu Dhabi, Haitham Mattar, managing director of Middle East, Africa, and South West Asia at the company, stated that the Kingdom’s powerful tourism agenda has stimulated the need to bolster hospitality in the country. 

“Saudi Arabia has a clear vision, the 2030 Vision aims to invite over 100 million visits to the Kingdom. This reassures the need for more hotel rooms,” Mattar said. 

He added: “The Kingdom aims to build another half-a-million hotel rooms, and we obviously, being the first operator there, have a great name and a reputation to position ourselves to be one of the preferred brands for private investors and for the government.” 

Mattar revealed that IHG is actively working on approximately 160 hotel projects in the region, set for design and development, with over half of these endeavors based in the Kingdom. 

He further highlighted that IHG was the pioneering five-star international brand to mark its presence in Saudi Arabia, launching the InterContinental Riyadh in 1975. 

Having been one of the initial international entrants into the Saudi market, IHG has fortified its role as a pivotal player in achieving the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals.  

Mattar underscored that IHG currently stands as the largest operator in Saudi Arabia and has several upcoming projects. 

By the end of this year, the company is set to unveil its ultra-luxury brand, Six Senses, in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea project.  

Additionally, InterContinental in the Red Sea is also scheduled to commence operations by the second quarter of 2024. 

Furthermore, Mattar revealed that the soon-to-be-introduced Kimpton Hotel, expected to make its debut by June next year, will be deeply intertwined with Saudi cultural elements.  

The Kimpton Riyadh, a first for the region, will feature five culinary venues: an all-day dining establishment, a specialty restaurant, a lobby lounge, a lobby living room café, and a pool bar. 

“While it’s common to find a five-star hotel in Saudi Arabia, it’s rare to find the Saudi culture in a five-star hotel,” Mattar remarked.

He continued: “In addition, we see immense growth potential in our midscale brands, especially with the Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express brands, which are rapidly expanding throughout the Kingdom. 

“Supported by the Saudi Ministry of Tourism, we recently partnered with Tashyeed to establish 12 Holiday Inn Express hotels across the nation.” 

Speaking about the significance of sustainability in the hospitality sector, Mattar pointed out that environmentally friendly initiatives will have a great impact on hotels. 

He stated that although the decarbonization of already established hotels will require a great deal of investment, the return is much higher. 

“The major return on investment comes from the asset value. So if I was to build a hotel today that follows all the sustainable development criteria, in five years my asset value is going to greatly increase,” Mattar explained.

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