AccorHotels is determined to make an impact on the market in Iran, says Francois Baudin, senior vice President – development of luxury hotels EMEA for AccorHotels.
Baudin was speaking to Hotel News Middle East about his company’s plans for the region and Iran was high on the agenda.
“It’s an untapped country, which has huge potential for hotels. For us it’s very important to our plan, we are looking at it with open eyes,” says Baudin.
“It is going to take time but we are committed.”
Baudin speaks of the challenges that face hoteliers in the country.
“Everything is a challenge when you go to Iran, you can’t use international credit cards. You can only use local credit cards there,” he says.
“If you want to have a computer system for your back-of -house you cannot use an American credit card. It has its challenges so we have to rethink how we will do it.”
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The key, Baudin says, is to be patient when operating in a market like Iran.
“It’s a long process. It’s worth it in terms of return on investment and there is a lot of need for international brands,” he says.
“When you go to Iran you realise there is really a lack of supply. You have to make sure you have the right connections to get a permit in place.”
The company already has an Ibis and a Novotel open in the Iranian capital of Tehran.
“We have a Fairmont under construction there, so hopefully we can announce the signing by the end of the year,” he says.
“We are also looking at opportunities for Pullman, Sofitel and a couple of Swissotels as well. The mood of the market towards Iran is to be a little bit cautious at the moment due to elections in Iran and the US.”
He added that while AccorHotels is being “cautious and prudent” it is a market that will be easy for the group to penetrate at the right time due to the set-up and experience it has.
While Iran was certainly a hot topic with Baudin, it wasn’t the only issue on the table.
“We have been very strong in the market in the UAE especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi,” he says, before turning his attention to the strategic partnership between AccorHotels and Rixos Hotels that was announced in March.
“We are going to be looking at Ras Al Khaimah next. The midscale and economy resort sector is largely untapped. The luxury market is reaching maturity and Rixos is an interesting proposition for AccorHotels as it has full board and is all-inclusive, which there wasn’t here before. There is a big demand and market for it here in the Middle East.”