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Saudi arabia’s first hotel chain comes of age


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Viability's Guy Wilkinson writes a monthly column for Hotelier Middle East Magazine. This article originally appeared in April 2011.
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Saudi arabia’s first hotel chain comes of age

  1. 1. 22COMMENT Saudi Arabia’s first hotel chain comes of age Al Hokair Group’s MENA Hotels & Resorts brand is set for regional expansion following the success of its first hotel in Riyadh, reports Viability director Guy Wilkinson OWNER APPEAL So why would a prospective owner consider MENA Hotels instead of one of the longer-established inter- national brands? “We tell them that we are owners ourselves, so we speak their language — we know intimately the concerns of hotel developers and owners in the region and under- stand perfectly well their objectives,” MENA’s director and operational supremo, Fadi Mazkour tells me. “Our expansion plans are restricted COLUMNIST to the MENA region that we know best, and as a result, we will always be he Gulf region has seen a geographically close to our owners. In T Guests checking in at the MENA Hotel Riyadh, which has achieved 32% Saudisation of its complete workforce. number of local hotel chains this way, we can be more flexible than come to prominence over the the big international brands in terms past few decades. The UAE of responding to owners’ require- has predictably been the hot bed of ments, as well as in fees we charge.” chain development activity, given its According to Mazkour, the MENA prominence as a tourist destination, Hotel Riyadh has achieved 32% with such established chains and Saudisation of its workforce, from brands as Al Diar (from Abu Dha- rank and file staff through to manage- bi National Hotels), Coral/HMH, ment. All the Al Hokair hotels receive Danat (National Corporation for support in achieving similar levels Hotels), Flamingo, Habtoor, Jebel through the services of the Abdul Ali International, Jumeirah and Ro- Mohsen Al Hokair High Institute for tana being joined in recent years by a Hospitality in Riyadh. plethora of start-ups, including The Mazkour claims that MENA’s Address, Armani, Auris, Citymax, various brand formulae have been City Seasons, Essque, ETA Star, carefully conceived to maximise Flora, Gloria, Layia, Samaya, Shaza, MENA Hotels aims to match, if not exceed, the levels of comfort that are offered by international hotel chains. owner returns, with the MENA Tamani, V. Continents and Vision. Hotel Riyadh achieving a GOP of Elsewhere in the GCC, Bahrain and brands. MENA may be termed The chain’s first property is the 62% in 2010. has its Elite Group of serviced apart- the first ‘new generation’ hotel opera- MENA Hotel Riyadh, a 164-key ‘life- “It’s a matter of optimised human ments, Qatar National Hotels has tor in the Kingdom, in that the chain style boutique hotel’ in downtown resources, efficient distribution and its Merweb brand, while in Kuwait, set out from the start to equal, if not Olaya, which reflects the company’s real value creation through offering Safir International is in fact the Gulf’s exceed, the standards of the top inter- four-star ‘lively, welcoming and guests the same luxurious standards oldest chain, and Refad (including national management companies. affordable’ core brand ethic, includ- they enjoy at home,” he says. The Monarch and other brands) is MENA is part of the Al Hokair ing bright contemporary interiors MENA Hotels & Resorts is linked growing fast. Group, headed up by Sami Al Hokair, with oriental accents, as well as the to the expected GDS, IDS and whole- In Saudi Arabia — by far the which additionally owns and oper- latest in technology. The other three salers, and will soon benefit from a region’s largest hotel market, with ates three unbranded hotels in Saudi brands on offer are MENA Grand, central reservation office to be created 1140 hotels with 102,305 rooms in Arabia, and has as no less than 22 soon to be embodied in a 400-room for the Al Hokair Group hotels, which 2009 — there have surprisingly been others under franchise from differ- five-star property in the Khaldia will be opened in future to Saudi only two chains to emerge, Dallah ent international chains: six Holiday district of Riyadh; MENA Suites, properties outside the group. HME Hotels & Resorts, with three prop- Inns, 13 Golden Tulips/Tulip Inns, opening soon in Olaya; and Bayti erties in the Western Province, and an upcoming Novotel and two Hilton by MENA, a limited service con- most recently, MENA Hotels & Garden Inns (one operational, one to cept. Some of the Al Hokair group’s Resorts, which launched its first hotel open soon). In short, it is an owning existing portfolio of internationally in Riyadh in 2008. company with a wealth of experience, branded properties are now being Guy Wilkinson is a director of Viability, a Both these chains grew out of hotel which it is now putting to good use targeted for conversion, while fur- hospitality and property consulting firm in Dubai. owning companies, which is also true in offering management expertise to ther management opportunities are For more information, e-mail: of the majority of the region’s chains other owners. being sought in the MENA region. April 2011 • Hotelier Middle East