InterContinental Hotels Group has robust plans to expand in the Middle East, supported by new luxury offerings and a next-generation customer reservations system and related departments all under the same roof.
RAS AL KHAIMAH, United Arab Emirates—InterContinental Hotels Group is strengthening its position in the Middle East and North Africa and expanding into new markets such as Algeria.
At the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, Pascal Gauvin, IHG’s managing director, India, Middle East and Africa, said his company sees value in developing in the region. IHG operates 84 hotels in the Middle East and has another 27 in the pipeline.
IHG’s growth is centered largely in the United Arab Emirates—where the company has a pipeline of 12 properties—and Saudi Arabia, where IHG is building eight hotels, he said.
In the United Arab Emirates, Gauvin and his team recently opened a resort in Fujairah, on the country’s east coast, while in Ras al Khaimah a 320-room hotel is under construction and currently has no announced IHG brand.
IHG will primarily steer development in the region with its focus-serviced brands—Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express, Gauvin said.
“Today (18 April), we are opening the 510-room Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City, where we already have an InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and InterContinental Residence Suites,” Gauvin said.
Gauvin said he is excited by the moves IHG had made in the luxury segment.
“We always wanted a luxury halo,” Gauvin said, who mentioned IHG brands Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, InterContinental and new member Regent Hotels & Resorts.
“Our market share is growing. We are being consistent in what we do,” Gauvin said.
Gauvin said IHG has 31 hotels in Saudi Arabia.
In Qatar, IHG executives are happy with performance despite an ongoing boycott by Gulf Cooperation Countries.
“I am quite surprised by its resilience,” Gauvin said, who added IHG recently opened the Crowne Plaza Oman Convention & Exhibition Center in Muscat, the second of that brand in the Omani capital.
Gauvin said the company is also seeing success in Algiers with the recent opening of the Holiday Inn Algiers Cheraga Tower, which marks IHG’s debut in the country.
“Algeria was a pleasant surprise,” Gauvin said. “It has potential, and I want new hotels there.”
Growth efforts in the Middle East clearly have the support of IHG CEO Keith Barr, who told the AHIC audience the company has been in the Middle East for four decades.
“We’ve … cemented relationships. It is one of our priority markets. It is a phenomenally important region, dynamic, growing,” Barr said.
Gauvin is confident IHG can reach more guests who then book direct via its technology initiatives, as well as cementing relationships with existing guests.
“One huge chain is that our commercial and technology teams are now in one department, with the tech side an enabler to push performance,” Gauvin said. “Sales, loyalty, brand marketing, distribution and tech all together, all together to ensure the thinking is focused on the guest and the end product.”
Gauvin said IHG has fully retired its original central reservations system, Holidex.
“The new tech is agile. It allows us to plug in new elements very easily,” Gauvin said.
Gauvin said the new system has been tested in 225 U.S. hotels on a rolling test going from the West Coast to the East Coast.
“It will be rolled out in the Middle East in September,” Gauvin added.