Mark Allaf, regional general manager of IHG Hotels and Resorts and general manager of voco Riyadh, is at the helm of voco’s first property in Saudi Arabia.

Yours was the first voco property to open in Saudi Arabia. What are some of its highlights?

voco Riyadh marked voco’s debut in the kingdom. This establishment is full of character and boasts a plethora of F&B choices including six dining venues ranging from Lebanese to Indian and fine dining specialties. The property stands out for its expansive conference facilities, encompassing over 22 meeting rooms and a majestic grand ballroom. Breaking new ground, it also became the pioneer voco property to incorporate an electric vehicle charging station. The hotel features a spa and health club, in addition to a world-class padel court and an outdoor pool.

What are some of the key F&B offerings at voco Riyadh?

The hotel’s impressive dining options include Naya Restaurant which showcases the richness of Lebanese and Levant flavours, Anardana Restaurant transports diners to India with its aromatic dishes, while Acacia Italian Ristorante celebrates the essence of Italian gastronomy serving dishes that capture the authentic flavours of a Neapolitan kitchen. Horizon All Day Dining is a culinary journey around the world and is a buffet-style restaurant that hosts themed nights spotlighting the finest dishes from Saudi, Egyptian, and Asian cuisines, as well as a special seafood buffet. Rotunda Lounge is an oasis of calm enhanced by abundant natural light and a central fountain, and Cabana Pool Bar serves an assortment of snacks by a picturesque outdoor pool.

What are the significant challenges that the hotel industry faces within Saudi Arabia?

With Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative aiming to diversify its economy beyond oil, there’s been a surge in tourism and infrastructure projects. While this presents opportunities, it also means increased competition as new hotels and resorts emerge. On the sustainability front, with increasing global awareness about sustainability, there’s pressure on hotels to adopt eco-friendly practices. While we’ve made strides in this area, the broader industry still grapples with sustainable solutions. Despite these challenges, we remain optimistic. The government’s commitment to bolstering the tourism sector and the inherent potential of Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural and historical heritage offer a promising future for the hospitality industry.

What has been the most encouraging feedback you’ve received since the property opened?

Since our grand opening, the feedback from industry stakeholders and the public has been overwhelmingly positive. The culinary scene, in particular, has received substantial acclaim. Many have lauded our expansive range of six restaurants. Stakeholders in the hospitality industry have also recognised our commitment to sustainability, applauding our dedication to environmental initiatives. Our expansive meeting and events facilities, including the 22 meeting rooms and grand ballroom, have received high praise from businesses and event organisers, positioning voco Riyadh as a prime destination for both local and international conferences and events. Moreover, the public’s reception of our award-winning spa and health club further underscores our commitment to providing top-tier services.

What does it mean for the hotel to have been awarded the Best Business Hotel in Riyadh by Business Traveller Middle East for three years in a row?

Winning the Best Business Hotel in Riyadh title from Business Traveller Middle East for the third consecutive year is an achievement and speaks volumes about our sustained commitment to excellence. This accolade is a testament to the unyielding dedication and hard work of our entire team, whose efforts resonate in every corner of voco Riyadh. Our esteemed guests, both regulars and newcomers, can take this recognition as an assurance that at voco Riyadh, they are experiencing a standard of service that stands out even amidst the best. While we’re profoundly grateful for this achievement, it also serves as a factor to motivate us to continually innovate, ensuring voco Riyadh remains the epitome of hospitality in Riyadh.