Leading hotel management company, Rotana, is well ahead on the road to recovery from after a tumultuous year following the covid-19 outbreak.
With the world slowly opening up travel and tourism activities, and equipped with several new properties in the pipeline, the group is geared and focused on rebuilding.
Rotana President and CEO Guy Hutchinson, says: “Developments hit a hard stop last April. People took six-seven months to rebalance.
“Volume in terms of occupancy hit pre-pandemic levels by Q1 this year in the region. That volume is now changing, which is also driving up the RevPARS because now international markets are reopening. Both the combination of volumes and number of travelers and the average pricing that we can achieve are starting to recover quickly. Q4 this year versus Q4 2019 we will be close to 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
“The Expo is a very significant catalyst for recovery. This is one of the safest platforms in the world for people to travel to. Vaccination, policies, procedures and governance are all in place and the country is set to host a calendar of events including a cricket world cup.”
From Q4 last year the group has seen a marked uptake in developmental recovery and investor activity and that has continued to accelerate throughout this year.
“We have just signed a 500-key project in Qatar, and are seeing half a dozen projects coming to our table every fortnight. You can see that developmental activity is starting to recover.
“Whenever you go through that recovery process you also have to reassess your fundamentals in terms of service and quality and excellence.”
As part of COVID-19 regulations, a series of new technologies have been incorporated into businesses, including hospitality. While this has enhanced business operations in a post-pandemic scenario, Hutchinson is in the belief that it is still not time for a complete transition.
“In some respect, it is a reactive response around bio-safety and security on how you provide an environment for guests. There are certain elements which we think will continue, while there are certain technologies which we don’t think will remain long-term. We are only interested in technology or digitization in a way that it does not replace the customer journey or contact points but instead it enables and enriches their journey.”
The group tied up with Dubai-based AI automation development startup, Visionize Technology to reintroduce QR codes as additional safety measures in handling services.
“The firm has helped us use QR technology to reorganize the delivery systems in house for guests. Guests can now manage everything through their phones. For instance you can book the pool, or see where your food order is. Gone are the days you sit by the pool and wave at someone to bring you a drink.
“This has really enabled the customer experience. Our delivery time has been cut by 10-12 minutes, our revenues are up by 19 per cent because we are more efficient, and we have been able to reach customers better. These are examples where we have used technology initially through the pandemic and that will stay as a part of our operations moving forward. However, certain services like contactless service, we hope to consign that to the past quickly.”
At the recently held Arabian & African Hospitality Investment Conference (AHIC) in Dubai, the company announced the signing of a new project with Bin Al Sheikh Holding Group, a well-diversified Qatari business conglomerate. The project includes the management of a 400-key Arjaan Hotel Apartments by Rotana and 103-keys under The Residences by Rotana brand.
The new project will add 503 rooms to Rotana’s existing 1110 rooms in Qatar, just in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The hotel and residences will feature an all-day dining restaurant and café, two expansive meeting rooms, a fully equipped gymnasium and a swimming pool, and is expected to be completed in Q4 2022.
Rotana also recently announced taking over the management of the 250-key Sedra Arjaan by Rotana, in The Pearl Island, Doha and signed a hotel management agreement under the Centro Hotels brand, with a stylish 350-key property that is set to open by 2023.
The group believes that the hospitality market in the coming year will remain positive with the progress that has been made across the region.
Rotana started 2021 on a positive note with the announcement of its expanding pipeline for the next three years, comprising 10 new landmark developments, significant hotel signings and new agreements which will take place in Bahrain and in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, alongside further expansion in the UAE, Qatar and Turkey.
“Developments hit a hard stop last April. People took six-seven months rebalance. From Q4 last year we have seen a marked uptake in developmental recovery and investor activity and that has continued to accelerate throughout the year,” says Hutchinson.
In the last quarter, Rotana also signed new management agreements with Al Marasem Development and Marina Way Lagoon, strengthening its presence in Egypt.
Currently the group is looking towards Saudi Arabia, which has reopened for business. “We are excited about that. Germany is reopened and the UK as well. These are three of the largest source markets for the UAE so to have them back to being open and available will be good. Our priority is to rebuild these markets to a 100 per cent and return these core markets to full strength. In the interim, certain markets have worked quite well such as France, and South America.
“This region has always prided itself over having a world class level of hospitality. If you are bringing back pre pandemic levels of business it also means bringing back pre-pandemic levels of excellence and execution. Restoring this fundamental has been a big focus for us. Giving our customers a safe space will remain as priority for a while, as it has to. That is what makes destinations like the GCC unique – enabling it to accelerate faster and have more confidence to travel into these destinations than others. We know we have one of the bet platforms to attract that demand in the world. The safety programs need to stay at least for the next 12 months until we have a better picture of where we are with the pandemic.”
Firmly aligned with its long-term growth strategy, Rotana continues to expand its global footprint in a strategic market that offers seamless opportunities for business growth.
The group currently operates 68 hotels in 24 cities across 14 countries, including 10,012 keys spanning 36 hotels in the UAE. The group’s pipeline consists of 44 upcoming projects, including 10 that will deliver more than 3,000 keys to the market in the next three years.
Rotana currently manages a portfolio of over 100 properties throughout the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Turkey. Its product brands include, Rotana Hotels & Resorts, Centro Hotels by Rotana, Rayhaan Hotels & Resorts by Rotana, Arjaan Hotel Apartments by Rotana and The Residences by Rotana.
Post pandemic, Hutchinson believes that hotel guests will be more selective around sustainability. “There has been a strong reset in how people are looking at wellness and wellbeing, and sustainability through the pandemic. I feel people are going to look much more specifically for businesses that walk-the-talk that legitimately deliver sustainability. And we are one of the leaders in the region to do so.”
One of the key reasons for businesses in this region to be further ahead than anywhere else in the world is how close a collaboration has been between industry – airline, hotel, car rentals, airports, and even rail – all aspects of the travel industry led by government organizations.”