Amir Lababedi, vice president for development, Middle East and South Asia, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, outlines his ambitious goals for the hotel brand now he has taken on this newly created expansion-focused role
Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts recently created a new role designed specifically to fast track the execution of its strategic goals for the Middle East and South Asia regions.
As the hospitality firm looks to rapidly expand its property and brand presence in these high growth markets, it has appointed Amir Lababedi as vice president for development, Middle East and South Asia.
“We’ve been operating hotels in the region for more than 20 years now and have been fortunate to build strong and lasting relationships with our owners, many of whom continue to collaborate with us on future projects,” says Andreas Mattmüller, chief operating officer, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, Middle East and Asia.
“With the appointment of Amir, we now have a dedicated professional who is tasked with the very specific objective to drive growth and develop the Mövenpick brand in the region, with the right assets in the right locations.”
Although Mövenpick already has a significant presence in the Middle East with 29 properties currently in operation, its intention is to ramp this up to 42 by 2020.
Amongst the new territories prioritised for future development are Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah, Muscat, Delhi, Mumbai and Dhaka, as well as the Dubai World Central (DWC) airport district. Primary and secondary cities in Saudi Arabia including Jubail, remain high on the company’s radar, as well as other locations in the UAE, Oman, Qatar, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Here Lababedi discusses the role he will play in ensuring Mövenpick’s expansion plans come to fruition.
What attracted you to this newly created role?
Mövenpick has a solid presence in the Middle East where it currently operates 29 hotels, which includes clusters in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan, as well as good reach across the GCC and the Arabian Peninsula. As we continue to grow, our strategy for 2020 is to have 42 hotels operating in the region – it is certainly achievable and I am thrilled to join the team and assist in accomplishing this exciting goal. The company culture also attracted me as it promotes an enjoyable working environment for all of its stakeholders, which I found very unique. The employee engagement rate is very high as Mövenpick offers a warm environment where strong, trusting relationships are cultivated at all levels.
How does your hotel industry experience set you in good stead for this role?
Fortunately I have been exposed to many aspects and fields within the hospitality industry over the past 20 years. My career started in operations, which provided me with a holistic understanding of all hotel departments and the day-to-day challenges associated with operating a hotel. My experience in the industry also covers investment advisory services to many of the world’s leading hotel investment stakeholders, and has given me significant exposure to different asset classes in various markets and competitive environments. Finally, the development roles I have held on the owner’s side, complete the experience required that allows me to understand every element of an owner’s investment considerations, and to work closely with the various central functions of our company.
What are your top priorities now you’ve taken on this position and why?
To further drive awareness and growth of the brand by identifying markets in which we can justifiably and sustainably increase our presence. Those may be metropolitan city hotels, airport hotels, resorts or residences, but our overriding priority is to work on projects that will not only work for Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, but importantly for the owner. Ultimately however, our plan is to continue growing at a sustainable pace while ensuring that our values are embedded in all our new properties. Maintaining the strength of our existing relationships and developing new long-term win-win relationships are at the core of our development plans. We will also aim to consolidate our position as a leading international hotel operator. In the Middle East Brand Ranking Index conducted by independent research consultancy firm BDRC in 2013, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts ranked second in terms of brand recognition, a significant achievement for our international company.
What destinations are you targeting for growth and why?
New territories prioritised for future development are Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah and Muscat, as well as the Dubai World Central airport district. Primary and secondary cities in Saudi Arabia including Jubai remain high on the company’s radar, as well as other locations within the GCC.
What key factors do you take into consideration when planning new properties?
As an upscale management company our primary target is to provide unique guest experiences while ensuring optimal return on investment for owners. We believe feasibility studies conducted by external consultants and supported by our own internal analysis, are essential to proving to investors with the peace of mind that their capital return requirements can be met. We like to work very closely with our owning companies to ensure that they can maximise the commercial revenue-generating areas of the project and ultimately keep their development costs to the minimum level necessary.
What role do owners and investors play in this research and development process?
Retaining a professional advisory company prior to exposing themselves to the significant costs associated with planning and developing a hotel project is considered extremely important. Equally important is retaining a core team of professionals that can deliver a high-quality project, specifically the architect, interior designer, and the project manager.
With other hotel companies vying for the same markets for expansion, how will you ensure Mövenpick carves a niche in new areas?
We work very closely with owners to meet their specific investment return requirements standards. Our vision is sustainable growth, and a key part of achieving this is through these owner relationships. The speed with which our senior executive personnel are able to respond to owner queries in my experience is very unique. It is our aim to always align with the vision of our investors and to be as flexible as possible in order to their requirements. Sharing their vision allows us to achieve our common objectives and goals in terms of financial returns, quality of service, guest satisfaction and employee fulfillment. We also offer exciting and unique dining experiences with quality food, which is very much part of our DNA and one of our core competencies. With our Swiss roots, consistency in product and service delivery is mandatory, to which we aim to add some fun and interesting elements that guests will remember and return for.