Breaking Travel News interview: Omer Kaddour, president and chief executive officer, Rotana Hotels
With Rotana working to bolster its position in the Middle East as it continues to develop further afield, Breaking Travel News’ editor Chris O’Toole here sits down with chief executive Omer Kaddour to discuss the current director of the brand.
Also on the agenda is Rotana’s plan to grow the number of properties it operates to 100 by 2020.
Breaking Travel News: Thank you for taking the time out to talk to Breaking Travel News today. You have been in position as president chief executive of Rotana for a little over four months now. Has the direction of the brand changed under your leadership?
Omer Kaddour: Since being appointed as the president and chief executive at Rotana, I have continued to focus on expanding the Rotana brand and its successful operational formula within the region whilst also migrating the group into new territories.
We will continue to push ahead into exciting new countries, growing organically and expanding in markets that we understand.
With growth comes responsibility we have continued to develop our global corporate sustainability platform Rotana Earth - a comprehensive framework that addresses environmental, economic and social sustainability - which we are implementing across the entire portfolio to support Rotana’s expansion plans over the next ten years.
BTN: Could you bring our readers up to date with the latest developments at the brand? I understand you are seeking to open 100 properties by 2020? How far along the road to achieving this goal is Rotana?
OK: Rotana is making strong headway towards reaching the target of 100 hotels by 2020.
As the Middle East’s most successful home-grown hospitality brand, we believe we are well positioned to execute these expansion plans and to venture into new territories
So far this year, we have opened a property in Al Ain, UAE and the group’s first property in Oman.
This stunning property in Salalah, Oman’s southern province, marked the 50th hotel to be operated by Rotana and represents the half-way mark in the group’s 2020 vision.
Moving forward, we expect to open our first hotel in Turkey at the end of this year Turkey will in fact become a very important market for us and is a significant landmark for Rotana as this is a new territory in which we will be introducing the values that make us the leading hotel management company in the Middle East.
Most recently we have announced the signing of ten new hotels in the UAE, Iran and Sudan.
These are in addition to the properties announced earlier which will open in Turkey, Erbil, Jordan and Qatar.
Expanding Rotana’s global presence represents a key milestone and important achievement for the group.
Mashhad Rayhaan by Rotana
BTN: Which markets are you particularly excited about in the Middle East at present? What do you think Rotana brings to what is a very competitive market in the region which is not offered by rival brands?
OK: At Rotana we have a carefully considered international development strategy in place and we are constantly looking for and evaluating growth opportunities.
We have an exceptional and specialised international team who identify and assess the new travel destinations which will come to the surface in five to ten years.
This is how we came to acknowledge that Oman would resurface as a luxury travel destination, and indeed it has been widely acknowledged as one of this year’s must-visit destinations.
The recent opening of Salalah Rotana Resort in Oman is coincidentally our first property in the region and we are expecting a large amount of interest from the leisure market.
Salalah is a beach destination and we are extremely happy to be present in what we believe will be a holiday destination for leisure travellers throughout the year.
Our extensive research and investigation into consumer trends has also identified that there is a growing interest in Iran as a leisure destination and in recent months we have witnessed Iran’s tourism industry bouncing back.
Considering the increasing international interest in Iran, and with European airlines adding and restoring links, we are anticipating an excellent response for our debut projects in the country.
Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the Middle East which has resulted in an extremely competitive hospitality market.
The make-up of Rotana is effectively the same as any other – in many ways we are similar to our larger brand counterparts, even though our inventory is smaller.
Though, because we are smaller, we pay acute attention to our guests.
Rotana understands that in today’s world, we all lead busy and pressured lives and that time is our most precious commodity.
We therefore understand that this results in it being ‘Treasured Time’ which is why it is our promise to all of our guests that we commit to understanding and meeting the individual needs of everyone who steps through our doors to ensure their valued time is essentially time well spent.
BTN: Rotana is also active in Africa, south Asia and Eastern Europe. Where do you see growth coming from in these regions?
OK: Our brand portfolio and product offering is exceptionally strong.
Internationally, in the markets we operate in, our guests know what to expect when they stay at our properties and it is of utmost importance for us to maintain.
We have worked extremely hard to gain the trust of our customers in the highly competitive market of the MEA region and achieve leadership position, where most global brands were operating two to three decades before we entered.
We are certain of our ability to recreate the same level of success in all new countries which we are planning to enter.
BTN: Rotana was recognised at the Middle East’s Leading Hotel Brand by the World Travel Awards at the Middle East Gala Ceremony in Dubai earlier this year. Can you explain how this title will aid the development of the Rotana brand and how you expect to leverage it in your marketing campaigns?
OK: We are thrilled to have been repeatedly voted as the Middle East’s Leading Hotel Brand for the last eight years.
It is an honour to once again receive 12 awards from one of the most renowned international annual accolades.
We are truly proud of this recognition and owe this success to our team efforts, dedication and our commitment in extending the best hospitality standards to our guests.
We are very honoured to be recognised globally by hospitality professionals and to be rewarded with a mark of excellence among our industry peers.
The award supports Rotana’s vision to be the leading hospitality provider in the Middle East and is certainly an indicator that we are on track.
Interview: Chris O’Toole