The big interview: Oussama El Kadiri, Director of Development Middle East, Radisson Hotel Group

Radisson Hotel Group (RHG) is aiming to double its portfolio in the Middle East by 2026, so how will its new Regional Development Director help achieve this?

TOPHOTELNEWS caught up with Oussama El Kadiri as he settles into his role.

How will you and RHG achieve your expansion goals in the Middle East?

We are already on track to achieve these goals. We aim to expand our presence in key markets such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Oman. Within these countries, we have selected several key regional destinations such as Dubai, Riyadh and Jeddah to diversify our offer by offering a wider range of brands, positionings and product types: resorts and serviced apartments. We have also successfully targeted a number of key markets where we will expand our presence by providing a suitable offer for cities such as Makkah and Abu Dhabi and less established growing destinations.

What is RHG’s hotel pipeline in the Middle East and how has it evolved in recent years?

We currently operate over 11,000 keys across 50 operating hotels in the Middle East. This number will grow to 77 hotels, increasing our footprint to over 16,000 keys, over the next two to three years. We strengthened our position in key markets such as Saudi Arabia, revitalized markets in which we had little activity in recent years, such as Kuwait, and re-entered Jordan. This number should increase significantly with stronger partnerships and a presence in high potential markets such as the holy cities in Saudi Arabia and larger projects.

How is the construction of the Radisson Resort Dubai Palm Jumeirah progressing and what does it mean to have a site in such a prestigious location?

Construction progressed well despite the slowdown linked to the pandemic. We plan to open this hotel in the fourth quarter of 2022. This will strengthen RHG’s position in the region as a performing resort player on par with our other regions of the world (Africa, Asia, etc.). Additionally, we launched Nofa Riyadh, A Radisson Collection Resort in 2019, which generates one of the highest rates in the Riyadh area, and this four-star hotel will demonstrate our versatility and deliver high but reasonably high quality. Produced at a low price in a very prestigious area, the Palm tree. In the United Arab Emirates, we also opened the Radisson Resort Ras Al Khaimah, complementing our growing portfolio of resorts and offerings in the Emirate.

Can you tell us about the new RHG office in Saudi Arabia?

The office will be located in Riyadh to support growth and operations. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia now represents over 50% of our total inventory, including properties under development. Our commitment to the Kingdom, which dates back more than 20 years, will be reinforced by the office, which will help improve the performance of our hotels and partners.

According to RHG, which countries in the Middle East have the greatest potential for hotel development?

With the pandemic context, conversion opportunities exploded and could be identified throughout the region. Our pragmatic vision of properties has enabled us to carry out reconversions. If geographic markets are to be named, Saudi Arabia remains the strongest development market as it enjoys the greatest potential and is supported by the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. The country offers a variety of climates and landscapes to be activated by ambitious and large-scale projects. The UAE offers destinations with high development potential such as Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah, with a diverse tourism offer including ecotourism, heritage and culture, and specialized medical wellness products. Other destinations such as Oman or Jordan benefit from solid fundamentals and are experiencing notable growth, which will be reinforced by increased government support.

Which RHG brands or hotel segments does the company intend to focus on in the Middle East?

While Radisson Blu remains the largest upscale in Europe and our strongest brand in the region, we have successfully established Radisson Collection in Riyadh with Nofa Resort and the recent opening of Mansard Riyadh, our luxury brand affordable that we plan to pursue in the UAE. and other regional cities.

Our lifestyle brand Radisson Red will be an alternative to Radisson Blu for a more playful experience for our customers. We carefully select our future flagship Radisson Individuals hotels, which will be unique and tailored to existing independent hotels, or unique design visions. Finally, we are launching our new art-focused brand Art’Otel, which draws on local culture and art to decorate and enhance the guest experience.

Has RHG bolstered its Qatari portfolio ahead of the World Cup at the end of this year?

Qatar-based hotel operators will play a major role in the success of this event. While our local teams are prepared for increased tourist arrivals, we anticipate a spillover in demand that will be captured by neighboring countries such as the United Arab Emirates. As a result, we can expect multi-destination travel and more price-sensitive categories for customers wishing to stay in nearby cities and using the daily flight shuttle services to and from Doha.

Which suppliers does RHG work with on its developments in the Middle East?

We try to ensure a minimum level of commonality between our hotels around the world while integrating our hotels and operations into their immediate surroundings. This leaves room for design creativity, innovation and inspiration from local cultures, which can only be achieved through a local presence. The implementation of the ESG orientation will increase the preference for short circuits for our daily operations. Nevertheless, we welcome all partners from all over the world as long as it adds value to our customers and owners.

What attributes does RHG look for in the vendors it partners with?

We are looking for reliable partners, able to adapt to this rapidly changing environment that characterizes the region, to build lasting partnerships. Sustainability is also embedded in everything we do, so we look for brands and partners who share the same vision and embrace sustainable practices in their operations.

What will RHG’s Middle East division look like in a few years?

The Middle East is the fastest growing tourism region in the world, and many economies in the region are diversifying away from oil and gas, with tourism being one of the alternatives. As approximately 70% of our owners have more than one hotel managed by RHG, the Middle East division will focus on strengthening our existing partnerships and developing many others, including government entities and multidisciplinary groups. Also, as the degree of complexity of the market increases with its diversification, we can expect more specialized products and services that we would provide for this region.

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