Deep dive with Bani Haddad, founder & MD, Aleph Hospitality

Middle East and Africa independent hotel management company, Aleph Hospitality, is seeking to reach a 50 hotel portfolio in the region over the next few years.

Therefore THP News caught up with the firm’s founder and MD Bani Haddad to see how it will meet its target.

What does your project pipeline currently look like and how has this developed over recent years?

In just seven years, Aleph Hospitality has grown its portfolio to 11 operating hotels comprising 1,109 keys in the Middle East and Africa, with 13 signed hotels under various stages of development representing over 2,000 keys in the pipeline. The growth in number of open hotels combined with the growth in number of contracts signed demonstrate a solid pipeline to achieve our objective of a portfolio of 50 hotels in the Middle East and Africa by the end of 2026.

How did you arrive at the target of 50 hotels and how do you intend to meet this?

We did the maths. We quickly realised that our hotel management model met a demand in the hotel investment community for independent and flexible management. In contrast to traditional hotel management models in the region, we manage hotels directly for owners, either on a franchise basis for branded properties or as a white label operator for independently branded hotels. 

Aleph Hospitality has consistently opened hotels and secured contracts based on yearly objectives, and our rapid growth – 350% over the past two financial years – along with a significant investor infusion means that we are right on track to reach our objective of 50 operating hotels comprising 10,000 rooms by 2026.

You recently signed a deal with France-based Fauchon Hospitality – how did this come about?

At the same time as we were looking to meet a consumer demand for a new brand with an exceptional, experiential offering, Fauchon Hospitality was looking to expand in the region. During our discussions, both sides realised that we could add great value to each other, and in February we signed an exclusive agreement for Aleph Hospitality to grow and operate the legendary brand’s glamorous hotel portfolio in the Middle East and Africa. Aleph has the hotel management expertise and operational knowledge locally while the Fauchon L’Hôtel concept and brand addresses a market need for luxury boutique lifestyle hotels.

Which countries in particular will you be targeting to develop and operate hotels for that brand and why?

We are looking to grow the Fauchon L’Hôtel portfolio in all the key regional cities in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries but also in Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and some other key African gateway countries. The Maldives and Seychelles are also in our sights. Besides the cosmopolitan boutique hotel, we are planning to develop Fauchon retreats, residences and probably beach clubs in exceptional locations with superior culinary concepts and indulgent private services beyond the usual five-star experience. 

For your overall portfolio, are you focusing on entering any further new African or Middle Eastern markets or expanding in existing ones?

Leads, generated through word of mouth and Aleph’s extensive network, are currently being negotiated in markets like South Africa, Rwanda, Egypt, Ghana and the Maldives. We also have advanced discussions underway across the UAE, in places such as Ras Al Khaimah, and in Saudi Arabia.

How do you choose which major hotel groups to work alongside?

Aleph is a trusted operator by all international hotel brands. We have built a team of professionals to ensure we preserve the brands’ integrity and standards while maximising the benefits we should be driving from the brands systems.

For each of the projects we consider, we run an analysis on behalf of the hotel owner and evaluate which brand is the most appropriate for the project in question. We take into consideration a number of factors such as the existing and future supply of each brand in the market, the strength of their global network, the investment required to meet brand standards versus the owner’s financial objectives and a number of other quantitative and qualitative criteria.

We are brand agnostic and continue to work with all of them for our upcoming hotels. 60% of all leads now come from brands keen to work with Aleph as a trusted partner.

Which hotel segments do you see the most opportunities within in the coming years and why?

It is all driven by local market dynamics, but design and experience led hotels will represent the largest opportunities in most markets.

A natural extension of our hotel management services, food and beverage development is a growing area of interest for us, and we are currently in discussions with a couple of food and beverage brands in relation to potential partnerships.

18 months on from your Innovation Lab launch to help drive innovation in travel, tourism and hospitality, which start-ups have successfully been admitted to the scheme?

The first start-up company in our Innovation Lab is Burnt, a food company in the process of developing an app for the food and beverage space. Their mission is to bring the industry to the forefront, and we could tell from the get-go that they are passionate about the industry and their product. We are happy to support them with our mentorship, office space and our team’s experience.

How do you see Aleph Hospitality progressing over the coming years?

With a proven USP of improving ROI right from the outset of a project, we expect to see a continued expansion of our portfolio of managed hotels. In addition, we have just announced the opening of a regional office in Saudi Arabia. Our five-year plan also includes opening regional offices in East Africa and West Africa, development of food and beverage concepts, doubling the size of the corporate team to maintain a solid support level and further developing the proprietary Aleph mobile application aiming to keep a high level of transparency with our hotel owners and enabling us to make decisions faster.