What is the scope of Radisson Hotel Group’s (RHG) operations in the region you oversee?
I am currently responsible for our hotels in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Levant where Radisson Hotel Group is rapidly expanding with over 40 hotels in operation and under development.
How significant is Saudi Arabia for the group?
Our Saudi Arabia portfolio makes up around half of our presence in the Middle East and that’s the reason we focus on this market. To support [our efforts in Saudi], we will open a full-fledged office in Riyadh by the end of 2022. We see great opportunities for further growth of RHG in Saudi, driven by the numerous mega development projects around the kingdom, as well as a more brand-focused presence in secondary cities, and also through extending our relationship with our key Saudi owners for multiple properties at selected locations.
What is the potential for growth in Saudi?
In line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, we are making sure that we are part of the kingdom’s enormous potential to deliver more hotel rooms and a more diverse branded hospitality offering across the market. The kingdom is a key development area for us. Fifty per cent of our Middle East portfolio in operation and under development is in the kingdom, and we currently operate over 26 hotels, resorts, and serviced apartments with a pipeline that will double our portfolio by 2026.
What are RHG’s overall expansion plans in the region?
We successfully opened many flagship properties earlier this year, such as the highly-anticipated Mansard Riyadh, A Radisson Collection Hotel, and brought the Radisson brand to Saudi Arabia with the opening of Radisson Riyadh Airport.
Other expected openings over the following months include the Radisson Blu Hotel, Riyadh Convention and Exhibition Center.
We have strengthened our position in [other regional] markets with the debut of our second brand in Kuwait with the signing of Park Inn by Radisson Kuwait Hotel and Apartments, and re-entered Jordan too with the signing of Radisson Blu Hotel, Amman Galleria Mall.
What are the biggest challenges that you are currently facing?
The two key challenges within the hospitality industry that are being faced by almost all hotels are the implementation of technology and the retention of employees.
Over the last two-three years, the use of technology within a hotel’s operations became the norm and was essential to improve the guest experience. The new processes [that needed to be implemented] were challenged by a lack of infrastructure. To overcome them, the key was to ensure the required investments are made and proper training imparted to the employees.
Employee retention is another challenge that will continue to impact the hospitality industry over the coming years, and hotels specifically. High turnover margins by nature, growing employee expectations, and hotel expansions are all factors that are impacting the retention abilities at any hotel. Part of the solution is in hiring qualified, skilled employees with competitive remuneration packages, providing clear career progression paths, and ensuring that hotels are up-to-date with market trends in terms of compensation, training, and incentives.