Dubai: The InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has 110 hotels in the pipeline for the Middle East, India and Africa due to open over the next three to five years, according to top company officials for the region.
The developments will include seven hotels in the UAE, eight in Saudi Arabia, 37 in India and others mainly in South East Asia, said Jan Smits, IHG chief executive for Asia, Middle East and Africa at a media roundtable yesterday.
In the UAE, IHG is planning to open a 132-room InterContinental Dubai Marina at the end of 2013 and a 442-room Crowne Plaza Resort in Ras Al Khaimah by 2015, the company announced. The seven new hotels will add 1,500 rooms over the next three years to the UAE, where IHG currently has 18 hotels or 4,960 rooms. These will include two InterContinental hotels, two Crowne Plaza hotels and three Staybridge Suites. IHG sees more opportunities to grow in the mid-scale range hotel market in Dubai, Smits added.
In Saudi Arabia, where IHG has 2,450 rooms in the pipeline, it is introducing the Hotel Indigo brand to the market by 2014 for the first time in the Middle East, Smits said. It currently operates 22 hotels there or 5,100 rooms. Strong leisure and religious tourism and high GDP growth in Saudi Arabia make it a “very promising market” for long-term growth, Smits said.
Asked about the status of their projects in Arab Spring countries, Pascal Gauvin, chief executive of IHG for India, Middle East and Africa, said that two properties in Syria, an InterContinental Hotel and a Holiday Inn, were currently on hold. Construction of the properties has stopped and the company is in a “wait and see” mode, he said, as the civil war continues to ravage Syria.
Asked if there will be a hotel oversupply in Dubai once the Arab Spring spillover effect ceases and those countries stabilize, Smits said:
“We’re in a cyclical business, which is amazing, it goes through incredible cycles, things could stabilize and things could move around but at the same time there’s also new markets coming in,” he said, referring to Chinese tourists beginning to explore the local market.
“That’s why we say no to more deals than we say yes because at the end of the day, when we do a deal, we need to be assured ourselves that we will be able to deliver. We are very careful. Its not growth for the sake of growth, you need to be in the right location and the right brand.”
Gauvin added: “Dubai has enough business for everyone all year round,” he said, noting that the conferences market is an important and growing one for Dubai.
India, emerging markets
Capitalising on domestic travel, IHG aims to open 150 hotels in India by 2020, said Smits. In the meantime, it has 7,800 rooms in the pipeline for India, with 19 Holiday Inn hotels, 11 Holiday Inn Express hotels, six Crowne Plaza hotels and one InterContinental Hotel. Currently, IHG has 12 hotels or 1,900 rooms in India.
Asked if IHG is eyeing the Middle East as its next growth market in the light of the economic slowdown in Europe, Smits said that while the company is still growing in some European markets, emerging markets such as the Middle East, India, Brazil and China have always been a focus for IHG because they will be driving travel in the future and will continue to be high growth markets.
In terms of new brands, the world’s largest hotel operator by number of rooms is rolling out a new China-branded line of hotels called Hualuxe, an upscale brand specifically for China.