Rotana spearheads Middle East growth

There are few tourism destinations in the Middle East that Rotana, one of the region’s largest independent hotel chains, isn’t looking into. The other month it opened a hotel in Khartoum, Sudan. Recently it announced a resort for Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, which will also house a new Guggenheim and Louvre Museum.

The Abu Dhabi-based firm is now gearing-up to have hotels in every key city in the Middle East within the next five years. Rotana’s president and CEO Selim El Zyr says the group might even target Asia in the year’s ahead. Breaking Travel News caught up with El Zyr:

BTN: How are you looking to become one of the leading hospitality management companies in the Middle East?

El Zyr: We have a portfolio of 53 properties, 25 in operation and as long as we are able to manage our growth in an efficient way then we will take further properties. In addition, we have committed to have 25 Centro properties within the coming five years. We are currently negotiating several other projects but we are keen on taking the ones that guarantee a healthy return to the owners and those that would add value to our brand. We are extremely cautious, expanding strategically and efficiently. 

BTN: What are the major challenges for hotel groups such as Rotana?


El Zyr: The main challenge is to find staff, as we will need about 15.000 over the next five years. The traditional markets in emerging countries such as India are simply drying up because of the availability of jobs locally and global competition. Another challenge is remaining up to speed with online technologies since we anticipate that up to 50 percent of our business will be generated online within the next five to seven years.

BTN: You are looking at an IPO in the next few years, what will this allow you to do?

El Zyr: I believe we need to grow further before we make any such move. But having said that, the results of an IPO would allow Rotana to solidify its position regionally and fund growth in to neighbouring regions. Our strong and consistent performance would undoubtedly prove attractive when such a time comes.

BTN: You’ve bucked the low occupancy trends across the Middle East - what do you put this down to?

El Zyr: We have remained close to our existing clients whilst expanding our client base. Customers will ultimately remember who took advantage of a situation by over pricing its property and who did not. We are also encouraged by the efficiency of the various tourism authorities. They are highly focused, very much hands-on and keen to attract new business to their respective cities. We are blessed by their vision, support and hard work.

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