Established in 1897, Kempinski Hotels has a a portfolio of 76 five-star hotels and residences in 31 countries and continues to add new properties in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In the Middle East it has 21 properties alone.
Q+A with Henk Meyknecht, chief operating officer, Middle East & Africa, Kempinski Hotels
What have been the hotel group’s recent achievements and milestones in the region? Kempinski Hotels reached a momentous milestone this year as we celebrate 120 years as a pioneering luxury hotelier. We are incredibly proud to remain Europe’s oldest independent luxury hotel company. This unique heritage and positioning gives us a competitive advantage in an industry facing substantial consolidation. In 2016 I transitioned into my current role leading our hotel operations in the Middle East and Africa, and we opened two stunning properties. The Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort Beirut in Lebanon and Kempinski Al Othman Al Khobar in Saudi Arabia – while planning for additional openings in the pipeline throughout 2017.
What have been the key challenges for your hotel group and how have you tackled them? We are operating in a dynamic region where the travel and booking patterns from feeder markets are affected by a rapidly changing landscape. Within this context, bookings are increasingly made at the last minute, making it more challenging to forecast. As an independent luxury operator, with a long-term focus, we are able to work closely with our corporate and leisure partners to gather market intelligence and ensure we react swiftly within these market conditions, which demands constant attention to detail. We invest substantially in training and coaching, as we know that employee engagement leads to consistent quality service and, ultimately, guest satisfaction. This year Kempinski will launch a new internal information network to strengthen connections worldwide between our managers and employees for sharing career opportunities, boosting talent mobility and assessing additional training needs.
What are the hotel group’s development goals in the MENA region? We are optimistic about the long-term outlook for luxury hospitality in the region, particularly in growing cities in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait. In Saudi Arabia we currently operate two hotels in Riyadh and Al Khobar, and are planning future developments in Jeddah and Medina. Our aim is to operate luxury hotels in each key city in the GCC and we look forward to opening the Kempinski Hotel Muscat at the end of 2017, while moving forward on new potential projects in Bahrain and Kuwait. Overall we benefit from strong brand recognition for Kempinski across the region, and as we explore new markets in Central Asia, India and China, we expect these feeder markets to support our growing portfolio in the Middle East, particularly in the meetings and events segment.
How is technology dictating the way you run your business? Looking ahead, guest intelligence continues to be one our key investment strategies, both at a group level and in the Middle East. In the region, we have enhanced technology to capture and reflect the individual preferences, booking channels and seasonality of guests so that we can personalise their experiences even more effectively.