Laurent A. Voivenel, CEO of HMH discusses the hotel group’s 2015 achievements, future goals and its planned MEA pipeline.
What were the hotel group’s key achievements and milestones in 2015?
2015 was a challenging year but it was equally productive in laying the foundation for a strong and vibrant 2016. The dramatic drop in oil prices, weakening of the Euro and Russian Ruble, had a major impact on tourist numbers. In 2015, our key priorities were exploring new grounds in terms of expansion, technology optimisation and the strengthening of our team with our HMH Revenue Academy.
Key achievements include:
- During 2015 we invested 90% of our capital expenditure on technology upgrades, equipping ourselves with the very best resources.
- In a bid to drive our key growth markets and provide greater value to our customers, we formalised strategic tie-ups with two very successful airline loyalty programmes namely Alfursan by Saudia and ShebaMiles by Ethiopian Airlines.
- We have not only invested in the necessary equipment and software but also invested in people who master technology ensuring they are equally adept at using technology to create competitive advantage for the hotels we manage. A key aspect of this strategy we initiated in 2015 ‘HMH Revenue Academy’ whereby it is mandatory for all sales and revenue personnel to undergo five days HMH Revenue Academy training three times a year.
What have been the key challenges facing a) your hotel group b) the hospitality sector in general and how have you met these challenges?
At HMH we are facing exactly the same challenges as the rest of the industry. We strategically deployed and optimised our resources to address the challenges and to add value to our projects and services. We are confident our strong regional network and know-how will be instrumental in giving us greater reach and foothold in our key markets.
What are the hotel group’s key goals for 2016 in the MENA region?
Expansion: Looking ahead, expansion in key destinations, innovative solutions, entrepreneurial people and strategic alliances will continue to strengthen our presence in the MENA region and drive growth at HMH. The GCC, with a special focus on the UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia is central to our strategy. The scale of opportunity in the region for hotels especially in the budget segment is unprecedented. By 2020 our goal is to multiply by four our total inventory of keys and have a hotel in every GCC country while doubling our portfolio in the UAE. To achieve it we have set in motion a strong pipeline of development.
Opening soon: In Q1 of 2016, we have a superb opening coming up with Coral Muscat Hotel and Apartments that will be our flagship property in Muscat. The 4-star property is located in Qurum merely 20 minutes-drive away from Muscat International Airport and enjoys close proximity to diplomatic and commercial city centre.
Coral Al Madina Hotel in Saudi Arabia: By the end of 2016 we will be progressing to the completion of Coral Al Madina Hotel in Saudi Arabia. The 5-star hotel has been conceived to be a prestigious address for discerning travellers to Madina and is located just across the road overlooking the Holy Mosque. Featuring 400 plus rooms and suites, Coral Al Madina Hotel is spread over 10 floors and five basements.
Driving demand: We remain extremely bullish for the future as we try to maximise profits. To sustain our growth in a highly competitive environment, it is absolutely essential to have a stronger grip on our business. Besides existing markets, in bound tourism to the Middle East from emerging markets is growing rapidly and consistently thanks to the vast global airline network, growth of low-cost carriers and outstanding communication services. Aside from countries like Russia, China, Korea, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil, we are tapping into the Nordic market. It represents undeniable opportunities for our brands as we are seeing a sizeable increase in the number of guests from there. We anticipate the numbers to go up drastically in the coming years.
Market positioning and visibility: As far as market positioning goes, the strategic focus for our group remains on building investor and consumer perception to view HMH and its various brands as ‘safe’ alcohol-free indigenous entities offering great value in every aspect and segment.