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In-Depth: InterContinental Hotels Group

voco Dubai

IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) is a significant operator in the Middle East with a long-standing history and legacy across the region.

IHG has 91 hotels (31,726 rooms) operating in nine countries in the Middle East region (GCC, Levant, and Egypt), across nine of its core brands in the Middle East, including InterContinental Hotels and Resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, voco and Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas. The operator has 48 hotels (16,576 rooms) in its current pipeline in the Middle East (GCC, Levant, and Egypt) set to open in the next three to five years.

United Arab Emirates
In the UAE, IHG has 22 hotels (6,625 rooms) open, with 16 hotels (4,304 rooms) in its current pipeline set to open in the next three-five years, including brands that are new to the market. The first voco in Dubai opened last year and the first Hotel Indigo will open in 2020.

voco, Al Khobar

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
In KSA, IHG currently has a total of 33 hotels (15,388 rooms), with 20 hotels (10,028 rooms) set to open in the next three-five years, including the world’s largest voco hotel in Makkah, comprising of over 4,200 rooms which will be fully operational early this year.

North Africa
In North Africa (Egypt and Algeria), IHG currently has six hotels operating across three brands including InterContinental Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn and Staybridge Suites. IHG also has six hotels in its pipeline in North Africa (Egypt and Morocco), which are due to open in the next three-five years.  

New Hotels
As part of the growth strategy, IHG is opening several hotels across the region. This year, IHG will debut its boutique brand, Hotel Indigo with the opening of Hotel Indigo Downtown Dubai, and has recently expanded the footprint of its upscale brand, Crowne Plaza with the opening of Crowne Plaza Dubai Marina.

This year will also see voco Makkah, the world’s largest voco hotel with 4,200 rooms, be fully operational for Hajj season. IHG will also be opening an InterContinental Resort in Ras Al Khaimah in the next couple of years and it will mark the first IHG hotel in the emirate. 

Loyalty and Talent Programmes

Loyalty – IHG® Rewards Club
With more than 100 million enrolled members globally, IHG® Rewards Club is the first and largest guest loyalty programme in the hotel industry. Named Best Hotel Rewards Program in the World for the 14th consecutive year as voted by the readers of Global Traveler magazine, IHG® Rewards Club offers sought-after benefits and is easy to use. Members qualify for Your Rate by IHG® Rewards Club, an exclusive rate offered when they book direct.

In addition to flexible features like No Blackout Dates for Reward Nights, Points & Cash and free Internet with IHG® Connect, IHG® Rewards Club members have hundreds of options for redeeming points including: Reward Nights, Flights Anywhere™, Cars Anywhere, digital downloads, brand name items and retail gift cards. Enrolment in IHG® Rewards Club is free.

Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City

Talent
IHG has a number of talent development programmes such as Early Careers, which is an accelerated plan to grow operational talent into managerial roles. The operator’s Future Leader programme prepares hospitality professionals for the next-step management position in just 12-18 months. Candidates are given access to world-class training, supported by outstanding coaches and leaders. IHG also offers a supervisory fast-track development programme called the True Leaders Programme.

As part of IHG’s 2019 successes, the group was named one of the best places to work in KSA by Great Place to Work, establishing itself as an employer of choice in the Kingdom.

Pascal Gauvin, Managing Director, IMEA, IHG

What are the main challenges you face in hotel management and operations?
Attracting and retaining the next generation of talent is a challenge for the industry at large. In order to appeal to the right talent, overall, the hospitality sector needs to be positioned suitably among the workforce and primarily, young talent.

At IHG, we truly believe that our role as leaders in hospitality is to develop the young workforce and give them access to the careers and success they want to accomplish. We believe this can be done by promoting various career streams and functions within our industry to talent from an early age and by integrating them into our teams to learn and explore their interests within the industry.

We’re building local capability to support our current and future growth through IHG Academy, which is a pioneering global collaboration between IHG, and local education and community providers. In the Middle East, we’re committed to bringing graduates from this programme into our hotels in the region. It’s all part of our commitment to create jobs and stimulate economic development in the communities where we live and work.

Additionally, the delicate geopolitical climate in some local markets presents some challenges. However, we have a long history in these markets and have both the experience and expertise to operate in the market context. We’re focused on providing great stay experiences to our guests and delivering a strong bottom line for our owners and partners. Our confidence in the region remains strong and we will continue to build on our strengths and expand our brand portfolio with the right partners.

What do you think are the most important criteria for a smooth flow of F&B operations?
As one of the leading hospitality players in the world, we’re committed to providing our guests with a seamless experience throughout their stay and our highly-trained operations team is a major contributor to this success.  

Specifically, our attention to detail and commitment to excellence are reflected through all of our distinct brands and are also evident through our F&B offerings.

For seamless F&B operations, we believe hiring and regularly training the right talent is crucial. Use of technology for consistency is equally important. We also put emphasis on regular quality checks and improvements based on guest feedback.  

Today, guests are constantly looking for unique F&B experiences, therefore, awareness of the latest F&B trends and concepts is a must to ensure we stay competent and thriving in an increasingly competitive market.

How do you see the future of the chain in the Middle East?
With a number of significant socio-economic changes across key markets in the Middle East, the region is transforming and the economy is diversifying. This presents great opportunities for the hospitality sector and we’re committed to accelerating growth and expanding our presence in the region. We’re committed to growing the footprint of our well-established brands in the region and introducing new brands from our global portfolio.

Further, there are three key factors, which I believe will support our growth and shape our future in the region:

Talent development
People are at the heart of our business, and given that we’re now growing at a faster speed and opening more hotels, consistently, we need a robust talent pipeline. Therefore, we want to continue investing in training and development programmes that enable us to drive our talent pipeline and deliver against our growth.

I envision IHG as being the frontrunner in the delivery of personalised guest experiences across the region and this is only possible if we have the very best talent in place who are motivated and passionate about the business and our brands.

Use of technology
The consumer landscape continues to evolve, and guests today expect technology to inform and enrich their stays. The key is to find the right balance of simplicity, convenience and delight, and seamlessly carry this formula across the complete guest journey from booking, travel and arrival through to the hotel’s guestroom and experience of the public space.

IHG recently rolled out the industry’s most sophisticated cloud-based platform, IHG Concerto, across all markets. Eventually, the reservation system will play a big part in IHG’s direct sales strategy with the technology, enabling hotels to offer different rates and products and services via different channels. It will enable guests to build the kind of stay they want, and for us to offer stay options and amenities according to past booking preferences of the guests. In addition, guests will be able to book directly specific rooms and select preferences, for example booking top floor, corner room, extra-large room, late check-out, lounge access, among other amenities.

Sustainability
As one of the world’s biggest hotel companies, we recognise the opportunity we have to make a positive difference to the environment and our local communities. Our responsible business commitments reflect our purpose to provide True Hospitality for everyone, and our ethos is weaved in all aspects of our operations.

As a step towards reducing our waste footprint and environmental impact, we recently announced our commitment to switch to bulk-size bathroom amenities across our entire global estate, with the transition to be completed during 2021. We have also made a commitment to remove plastic straws from our global estate. Also, several IHG hotels have partnered with technology company Winnow to automatically track, measure and reduce food waste for more sustainable and efficient restaurant and bar operations.

Additionally, our online sustainability platform, the IHG Green Engage™ system, provides our hotels with more than 200 solutions to help them manage and measure their use of energy, carbon, water and waste, minimising their environmental impact and utility costs.

It has been our endeavour to work towards a sustainable future and we will continue to explore ways to make a positive difference to the environment and to the local communities we operate in.

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