18COMMENT     Going from B&B to luxury          Viability director Guy Wilkinson offers his views on the cultural acclimat...
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Going from b&b to luxury


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Viability's Guy Wilkinson writes a monthly column for Hotelier Middle East Magazine. This article originally appeared in August 2009.
For more information about Viability, please visit http://www.linkedin.com/company/2347942 or http://www.viability.ae/

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Going from b&b to luxury

  1. 1. 18COMMENT Going from B&B to luxury Viability director Guy Wilkinson offers his views on the cultural acclimatisation of the limited service brand and uncovers the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s secret bed and breakfast network accommodation that is anywhere near recession-proof — being cheap to build, cheap to operate and cheap to stay at. Admittedly, development programmes have been curtailed somewhat, but that’s due to funding problems and specifically, poor mar- ket conditions in Dubai (where most of these hotels are located to date), not to any defect in the concept itself. Bear in mind, however, that both Ibis and Express have been adapted to pander to GCC customer expecta- COLUMNIST tions and are noticeably more luxuri- ous and fully serviced than their origi- he best-selling car in the world nal models in Europe and the US. T is the humble Toyota Corolla, with more than 35 million sold as of 2007. The top hotel brands in the world are both in the mid-mar- ket: Best Western and Holiday Inn, UNLIKELY IMPORTS The prospect of importing brands with still more limited services, even in the current recession, therefore which had 308,636 and 256,699 rooms remains remote. The archetypal bud- under their flags respectively in July get brands are Accor’s Etap Hotel 2008, according to the Hotels 325 sur- (two-star) and Formule 1 (one-star). How far can hoteliers push the budget bracket in the GCC? vey. My point is nothing sells better The latter features ‘room vend- than something affordable and reli- ing machines’ to complement a able, especially these days. reception that is manned for just IT WILL BE A LONG TIME BEFORE GCC Thus one might be forgiven for assuming that of all the new hotel con- a couple of hours in the morning and evening. GUESTS OF ANY NATIONALITY OR cepts introduced in our region over the past few years, the best poised to Accor has confirmed on several occasions that there is no plan to intro- ECONOMIC BRACKET ARE PREPARED weather today’s economic conditions duce either to the Middle East yet, and TO ‘SLUM IT’ TO SAVE A FEW DOLLARS would be the branded, limited-service one can understand why. Recession hotel, epitomised by Ibis and Express or no recession, it will surely be a long terms of introducing a true mid-mar- is the Affordable Suites of America! by Holiday Inn, which now have a time before GCC guests of any nation- ket brand. This is arguably because It is a little known fact that Saudi handful of operational GCC proper- ality or economic bracket are pre- ARRs are lower than for equivalent Arabia, for example, possessed a ties. Another emerging brand is Pre- pared to ‘slum it’ for the sake of sav- hotels, due to the longer average stay massive 2437 serviced apartment mier Inn, with one Dubai unit . ing a few dollars, let alone embracing and resultant discounting in serviced buildings in 2006, containing 58,239 Up until the opening of the first Ibis such extreme concepts as easyHotel apartments, and also because even apartments. Almost all of these are at Dubai World Trade Centre in 2003, or the Japanese-style, Kuwait-funded the deluxe serviced residences gener- unbranded, low-cost and privately- Gulf travellers on a budget had only Yotel ‘capsule room’, with letting ally have limited facilities, unless con- run, effectively creating the Saudi two choices: to stay at an unbranded units of 15- and 10.5m2 respectively. nected to a full-service hotel. equivalent of a B&B network. hotel or double up in an expensive Why would they, when unbranded Accor, predictably, has come near- In today’s economic climate, surely branded room. Now there are a select hotels of an equivalent price can offer est to entering the mid-market, hav- the time is right for an affordable number of branded hotels that embla- them full amenities of a standard size ing just debuted its four-star Suit- international brand to be profitably zon their affordable rates — less than and full services? eHotel brand near the Mall of the introduced into this sector? HME US$100 in several cases this summer Serviced apartments long ago Emirates in Dubai, which offers a mix — in large signs on the wall outside. became accepted as a popular lodg- of suites measuring 30 and 45m², plus It seems clear that this is a good thing, ing choice in the Gulf, resulting in a restaurant, a bar, 24-hour deli, pool, both for guests and in particular, for the entry of hotel chains such as Mar- fitness room and business corner. By the operators and developers, who riott and Accor at the luxury level. contrast, both the US and Europe are Guy Wilkinson is a director of Viability, a hospitality and property consulting firm in Dubai. must be congratulating themselves on But strangely, this market sector well provided for with true budget For more information, email: guy@viability.ae creating one of the few types of hotel has lagged behind that of hotels in ‘extended stay’ brands; my favourite August 2009 • Hotelier Middle East www.hoteliermiddleeast.com