Recently appointed Christian Pertl, regional vice president sales operations, Hyatt International Southwest Asia, unveils Hyatt’s ambitious pipeline plans plus key factors driving revenue, demand and occupancies to the prestigious properties.
You spent 13 years with the Intercontinental Hotel Group and six years with Jumeirah, what factors from these two roles place you in good stead for your current position?
Both of these were great companies to work with and I was able to take learnings from both organisations – one a key global player and the other a high end luxury operator – and bring them to my role at Hyatt. I’ve developed a strong network and extensive international experience in commercial operations.
What is the latest on Hyatt’s regional footprint and pipeline?
The Middle East and Africa region is of great importance to Hyatt, and we have a healthy pipeline here. In November 2015 we announced plans for a 261-room Grand Hyatt Kuwait as part of 360 MALL. Saudi Arabia also has a very strong Hyatt presence with Hyatt Place Riyadh and Hyatt Regency Riyadh expected to open in summer of 2016, and we also just recently opened Hyatt Regency Mecca. In 2015 we also opened Hyatt Place Dubai, Baniyas Square – the second for Dubai and earlier Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights. 2016 will also see the fantastic Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi opening which will definitely be a feather in our cap for the UAE.
We also recently opened Park Hyatt Zanzibar, the first ever Hyatt hotel on the idyllic East African island which is one of our most breath-taking hotels. It sits on the beachfront in Stone Town, the historical centre of the city and a designated UNESCO heritage site. Zanzibar was just voted as one of the top 10 destinations to watch by Conde Nast Traveller for 2016, and we’re delighted to be a part of this destination.
Overall, we have 23 properties across the region, if you include the imminently opening Hyatt Regency Riyadh, a Hyatt Place Riyadh and Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi. There are further projects under negotiations and Hyatt will continue to develop our presence here.
Given the huge proliferation of luxury hotel brands in the Middle East market, what does Hyatt bring to the mix that is different?
It is a number of things, but one strong differentiator is the diversification of brands while still providing the touchpoints that Hyatt is known for. Park Hyatt brings personal luxury and unfolds a journey of rare and intimate experiences. Being true masters of detail, Grand Hyatt acts as a grand hub for travellers and locals alike and provides abundance of experiences, options and multicultural experiences. Hyatt Regency hotels offer a one-stop experience and a place where people can connect, and Hyatt Place –which is a key focus for us in this region creates uncomplicated experiences and focus on purposeful service. Hyatt’s other brands, not yet in the MEA region, also include the cultural and innovative Andaz, upscale extended-stay Hyatt House, all-inclusive resorts Hyatt Zilara and Hyatt Ziva, as well as the cosmopolitan and eclectic Hyatt Centric.
Where are your main source markets for business and why?
In Dubai as an example, the key source markets are essentially the same across all hotel brands: GCC travellers, mostly from Saudi Arabia, along with the growing Indian market and of course the European market – UK and Germany and other CIS markets.
A lot of markets are up in Dubai – including China particularly for city properties, which is a key focus for Hyatt.
There are similarities across the Middle East in terms of source markets, but if you look into locations like Muscat or Doha, there is a lot coming from within the region – the UAE is a great source market for Muscat as it is for Doha from a corporate perspective. So there are overlaps for all markets but the weight is different.
What factors do you expect will drive revenue, demand and occupancies to the properties over the next 12 months?
Generally speaking, 2016 will remain with certain challenges, but we are all positive. We have learned from 2015, and the important thing is to have your strategies right and keep innovating. If you don’t do things differently, you will not make a difference. Almost every single hotel brand is present here and they all have relatively high standards – so very often it comes back to not only the ‘hardware’ of the property, so to speak, but also how you deliver in terms of ‘software’ – or the people and service element.
Also for hotels, the property and the destination go hand-in-hand, and Dubai is surely one of our strongest destinations globally. The next big thing here are the theme parks, and we are looking forward to being a part of this pull.
What are your top priorities in your new role and for the year ahead?
2016 is a lot about structuring the region. Hyatt is going through a lot of positive change globally, and we will align the region to all of these changes. We are dedicated to ensuring we can provide the necessary support to hotels in order for them to perform at their best.
This means ensuring sufficient training, rolling out of new tools, and importantly – people development. Without the right talent, you simply will not make it.
At the same time, one of my key priorities is to challenge the status quo in the region and in the industry. I am looking forward to shaking things up a bit!
What are the key facets of your 2016-2017 sales and marketing strategy?
We, of course, want to ensure that we drive the highest returns for our companies and owners, but we want to make sure that in each market we are leading in each of our competitive sets. There is a lot of focus on digital marketing – a very important platform here and another area we are looking more closely into is partnerships, whether airlines, luxury brands or any other on-brand companies that align with and share Hyatt’s values.
We’re also heavily investing in event marketing and roadshows, but with very different positioning rather than the typical dinners events. We’ll be making a lot of noise about these in the market!
What opportunities are there for the Hyatt International brand to expand its Middle East presence going forward?
The entire region is full of opportunities and we have a very good position within the market place simply because we have very strong brands, and we will continue to expand these.
Hyatt Place operates in a segment which is very much needed within the region. The focus here so far, across all hospitality companies, has been on luxury development, but the market for 3- and 4-star hotels is growing, and Hyatt is best positioned to provide supply for this demand. Hyatt Place is a solid, easy product to develop, easy to build, and positioned in an interesting pricing segment. There are more opportunities in the market place for a Hyatt Place versus a Park Hyatt, for example.
We are also keen to introduce some of the other Hyatt brands not yet in the MEA region –Andaz, Hyatt Centric and Hyatt House. Each of these brands bring something unique to the table, whether it is an all-inclusive, upscale extended-stay with Hyatt House, or a boutique-style lifestyle offering with the Andaz or Hyatt Centric. There is much opportunity to be able to provide the market with continuously innovative and expanding guest accommodations.
What is your long term growth plan for Hyatt in the region?
This region enjoys top priority for Hyatt with regards to development, and we have continued growth in all markets with some very exciting projects we’re working on. We have several upcoming hotels in our region such as Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Emirates Pearl, Hyatt Regency Riyadh, Hyatt Place and Hyatt House in Makkah, Grand Hyatt Kuwait and others in Jordan and the UAE.