As IHG Hotels & Resorts signs a major partnership in Saudi Arabia, Breaking Travel News speaks to Haitham Mattar, managing director in India, Middle East and Africa for the hospitality giant, about what it means for the future of the company in the Middle East.
Breaking Travel News: IHG Hotels & Resorts signed a major deal with RIVA Development Company at Arabian Travel Market – what can you tell us about that?
Haitham Mattar: Yes, it is a master development agreement (MDA) with RIVA Development Company to open at least seven hotels in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia across IHG’s portfolio of brands across Riyadh, Jeddah, Eastern Province, Abha, Hail, Qassim and Tabuk.
The deal is in alignment with the Saudi tourism development strategy and the priority destinations highlighted by the strategy.
Hotels under the agreement will focus on contributing to the Sustainable Tourism Development Goals by creating jobs, preserving the Saudi culture and community engagement.
IHG has a strong legacy in the kingdom, and we continue to be committed to expanding our presence across the country through our portfolio of global brands and leverage the growth opportunities that focus on aligning with Saudi’s vision 2030 and the priority destinations highlighted in the Saudi Tourism Strategy.
BTN: How important is Saudi Arabia for IHG in the mid-term?
HM: IHG was one of the first hospitality players to enter the Saudi market in 1975 and have consistently expanded our footprint in the country.
Despite the current challenging circumstances, we remain committed to our growth ambition in Saudi Arabia and are confident of the continued progress of hospitality projects under the leadership of prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud and the Saudi Vision 2030.
IHG currently operates 38 hotels across five brands in Saudi Arabia, including: InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites and voco with a further 20 hotels in the development pipeline due to open within the next three to five years.
We are also in active discussions with strategic partners to bring new, iconic brands to the country such as Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and Regent Hotels & Resorts with flagship properties in tier one cities.
We hope to share more news on the same soon.
BTN: Arabian Travel Market 2021 marked the return of in person events to the Middle East – would you describe it as a success from an IHG perspective?
HM: It was great to see an industry gather in-person event taking place.
Testament to the great efforts made by the Dubai government, the event made it clear that large scale events will come back sooner than we thought they would, provided health and safety protocols are followed.
In the meanwhile, it may still take some time for such events to take place at the same scale as they were taking place in 2019 or before, however, there is an inherent need to network, collaborate and build relationships face to face.
BTN: You took up your new role with IHG just last month, after successful spells in Ras al Khaimah and Saudi Arabia. What are your ambitions for your new position?
HM: This is my second tenure with IHG.
I previously worked at the company across different roles for over a decade.
My goal is to maintain the wonderful work and people culture that the company has instilled over the years and continue to build on IHG’s global diversity and inclusion strategy.
We aim to take a leading role in supporting government initiatives in the region to drive local talent into the industry and engage with the local communities, while we realise our growth ambition for markets across India, Middle East and Africa.
Find out more about IHG Hotels & Resorts on the official website.