Frédéric Savoye, who recently joined FRHI as vice president sales & marketing, MEA & India, outlines how the group will carve out a niche with its three distinct brands as it rapidly expands its regional presence.
FRHI is just one of many hotel groups significantly increasing its portfolio region wide by the end of the decade; how will you position each hotel and brand to ensure they stand out in their competitive set and meet their performance targets?
One of the main differences between FRHI Hotels & Resorts and other brands is that our hotels are situated in the luxury and upper upscale market and each one features its own distinct personality. We are in a unique position because thanks to our three big brands and landmark hotels such as Raffles Singapore and The Savoy, a Fairmont-managed hotel in London, we are known as a key player in the luxury hotel market, but at the same time we operate as a smaller hotel chain having retained lasting and meaningful relationships with our owners.
We also operate a number of iconic hotels region wide, from Fairmont Dubai, which marked the debut of the brand outside of North America when it opened in 2002, to the biggest guestroom inventory in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, with our three properties (Raffles, Fairmont, Swissôtel) located next to the holy mosque.
Within the next five years, FRHI aims to more than double its portfolio with key properties including Fairmont Riyadh, Raffles Jeddah, Fairmont Jeddah, and the tri-branded CityStars Sharm El Sheikh project. We’ve also announced two additional projects in Egypt – a Fairmont in Soma Bay, Hurghada and a Swissôtel in Katameyah, referred to as the ‘New Cairo’. With a robust portfolio in place, leveraging our existing brand equity becomes a key focus for FRHI and this certainly falls in line with our pipeline growth projections.
Our expansion is not only based on aggressively pursuing growth markets, but also a reflection of the trust owners have in FRHI. Our goal is to ensure owners are taken on as long-term partners and that we continue delivering exemplary service combined with top line revenue and market penetration. This is clearly demonstrated with our company’s foothold in Egypt. Given our successful management of Fairmont Nile City over the past six years, the owning company has entrusted us with five landmark projects, all of which are due to open before 2020.
Lastly, to support our growth and to support our 19 hotels already in operation, we have invested in a regional office in Dubai Media City. Over the past two years we have successfully recruited more than 60 professionals to help us achieve our corporate ambition to become the preferred luxury hospitality company in the region. These include experts across divisions spanning design and construction, development, human resources, operations, finance, F&B, spa, procurement, IT, finance, and sales and marketing.
What does each FRHI brand offer that’s unique?
Under the FRHI portfolio banner, Fairmont, Raffles, and Swissôtel bring more than 100 years of history and operational experience to the region, and the attributes of each brand help to differentiate our group in the MEA & India markets. They represent three distinct visions, all of which are guest focused. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is a luxury collection based on a thoughtful and engaging service; Raffles Hotels & Resorts offers sophisticated luxury and residential charm, along with a personal, thoughtful and discrete service; and properties in the Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts portfolio makes a quality of life promise to its guests, with a focus on sustainability. This brand is inspired by Switzerland’s high living standards and contemporary style.
What role will technology and social media play in the group’s sales and marketing strategy going forward?
Technology and social media continue to play an increasingly important role in our business in terms of how we interact with our guests. Today’s travellers are constantly seeking more digital sources for research and direct bookings. In the Middle East there are more than 135 million Internet users and more than 71 million of them actively use social media, research reveals. One of our strengths in the digital arena is our MICE sales and marketing strategy. We are working with some the most internationally recognised MICE digital distribution companies to promote our meeting spaces using various online platforms. We launched a yearlong campaign that has already yielded substantial returns to date, with countless leads generated for our hotels across the region.
We’ve also leveraged our digital assets to ‘tell’ the story of the destination and the communities in which we operate. We have launched topical videos showcasing behind-the-scenes information on destinations and their lesser-known attractions.
Lastly, we treat social media as a way to communicate directly with our guests. In this region we recently completed a Fairmont Luxury survey, which reached more than five million people (23 million impressions). The survey found ‘exploring the world’ was what real luxury meant to 42% of respondents, as opposed to consumer goods. Armed with this knowledge our hotels across the region have developed packages and niche programmes that meet this criteria. Our ‘Makkah Landmarks’ programme, for example, provides guests with access to a number of scared but lesser visited sites in the holy city, providing an unprecedented historical view.
What key source markets are emerging for the group’s current and upcoming properties and how do you intend to tap into them?
The GCC remains a key source market for our hotels within the region. The Tourism 2020 Vision study (by the World Tourism Organisation) also reveals the Middle East will generate more than 35 million outbound travellers by 2020. Compared to the rest of the world, GCC Nationals spend 260% more on airfares and 430% more on accommodation. Qataris spend the most per day during their travels ($4,100) followed by Saudi Arabia ($3,360 per day) and the UAE ($3,280 per day).
Given these figures, the Middle East is an essential feeder market, particularly for our hotels in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. We therefore recently launched an FRHI digital media campaign designed to boost awareness of our Makkah complex, which comprises 3,000 guestrooms and suites across our three brands. In the UAE we’ve extended our ‘50% off the second guestroom’ promotion targeting GCC families in particular.