As the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference returns to Ras al Khaimah, Breaking Travel News chats with Ali Hamad Lakhraim Alzaabi, president of Millennium Hotels & Resorts in the Middle East & Africa, about the rapidly developing hospitality sector in the regions
Breaking Travel News: As we begin the annual Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, can you describe the mood among hoteliers in the Middle East in early 2019?
Ali Hamad Lakhraim Alzaabi: The Middle East region provides significant opportunities for hoteliers to satisfy the increasing demand for quality and value services especially with the anticipated growth in visitor numbers prompted by an ease in visa regulations in the gulf countries.
The hospitality sector in the region continues to mature from its existing provision of luxury, branded hotels and owner-operated accommodation, the need for more upscale and midscale developments reaching international standards is expected to increase to meet the demands of a wider spectrum of visitors.
More lifestyle and midscale segment properties have begun entering the market with new concepts of innovative accommodation solutions offering community spaces that increase guests’ interactions.
Health and wellness are playing increasingly bigger role today, where hospitality must amend its offering to adapt to this trend.
Food and beverage concepts are to be revisited to meet the guests’ changing needs as well as spa and gym business approach to offer distinctive wellness programs for the guests.
Millennium Hotels & Resorts has firmly established itself as one of the fastest growing hotel management companies in the region and we have envisioned a great potential in the hospitality industry that inspired us to introduce an array of distinct brands to the region, serving different market segments over the last twenty years and we are proud to play a significant role in the continued growth of Middle East hospitality sector.
BTN: Which markets is Millennium Hotels & Resorts most excited about this year? Where can we expect to see new properties from the brand?
AHLA: We are excited to add 14 new hotels to our portfolio in 2019 where we will be operating more than 50 hotels, growing from 26 properties in 2016 which position us as the fastest growing hotel operator in the region.
The 14 new hotels and the existing portfolio of 40 hotels in the Middle East and Africa region will help grow tourism demand in the GCC including UAE – who will be hosting the World Expo 2020 and is expected to receive 25 million visitors in six months.
Our fast-developing hotel portfolio is geared to support the vision of the UAE government.
This year, we will add 14 hotels in addition to 35 new hotels that are in the pipeline.
In order to bring variety to the market and to offer customized hospitality offerings, we have introduced two contemporary products – Studio M and Millennium Place – to suit the varied budgets of our valued customers.
Studio M is a three-star lifestyle concept, offering savvy travellers, chic design and contemporary functionality as well as a personal sanctuary of urban living for those that appreciate the work-life balance.
BTN: Millennium Hotels & Resorts recently launched a new loyalty programme – My Millennium. How has that been received by guests?
AHLA: My Millennium is our way of rewarding our guest every time he stays with us, anywhere in the world.
As a member, he will get to enjoy rewards that will help him make the most of each moment.
The new My Millennium Loyalty program will be introducing for the first time-ever a series of new exciting benefits to existing and new members.
The new benefits will enable members to redeem more than 100 rewards, from room upgrades and hotel nights to shopping experiences with brands such as Apple, M&S, Macy’s and immediate discounts at Spotify, Uber, Netflix and much more.
BTN: Millennium for Business has also been launched around the world in bid to welcome more small- and medium-sized enterprises to the company. What can you tell me about that?
AHLA: Millennium for Business is a dynamic and powerful booking management tool that promises profitable and tailored rewards for both bookers and guests.
It offers exclusive rewards and rates and member discounts across all of our hotels worldwide.
All registered companies have the ability to apply to set up a business account using a co-branded credit card, use a dynamic booking system that allows for flexible, rewarding and efficient booking management.
The program allows members also to profit from their business travel and earn cash back on every booking made and every booking stayed and enjoy guaranteed lowest rate at more than 130 hotels worldwide and other benefits.
BTN: Ctrip.com recently signed a distribution partnership with Millennium Hotels & Resorts focused on outbound tourism from the rapidly growing Chinese market. How important do you expect that to be for the company?
AHLA: Ctrip.com, the number one platform for Chinese nationals travelling overseas, signed agreement with Millennium Hotels & Resorts to develop a global distribution strategy promoting MHR properties to Ctrip’s 300 million strong customer base and this marks the start of an alliance enabling Ctrip to offer MHR’s iconic portfolio of hotels in the USA, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia to its China-based business and leisure travel clients.
Through this strategic agreement, Ctrip’s membership program will certify our properties as Chinese Friendly Hotels and enable us to benefit from Ctrip’s influential ranking system.
Millennium Hotels & Resorts and Ctrip will also work towards customer initiatives such as the launching of a flagship store on Ctrip’s digital platforms, joint marketing campaigns as well as knowledge sharing and cross exposure programmes for team members.
Joining forces with Ctrip will raise the profile of our hotel offering in the large and fast-growing China travel market.
Asia is our second biggest region of operations and we already have a deep and embedded experience of what it takes to meet the high demands of business and leisure travellers from China.
With hotels located in some of the world’s most attractive destinations, we look forward to welcoming more of Ctrip’s customers in the coming year.
Find out more about the company on the official website.