The big interview: Oussama El Kadiri, Middle East development director, Radisson Hotel Group

by | 24 Aug 2022 | Interview, People

Radisson Hotel Group (RHG) is targeting a doubling of its Middle Eastern portfolio by 2026, so how will its newly-arrived regional development director help to carry this out?

TOPHOTELNEWS caught up with Oussama El Kadiri as he settles into his role.

How will you and RHG achieve your Middle Eastern expansion targets?

We are already on the right track to achieving these objectives. We aim to expand our presence in key markets such as KSA, the UAE and Oman. Within these countries, we have selected several core regional destinations such as Dubai, Riyadh, and Jeddah to diversify our offering by providing a wider range of brands, positionings, and product types: resorts and serviced apartments. We have also successfully targeted a certain number of key markets where we will expand our presence by providing an adapted offering for cities like Makkah and Abu Dhabi and less established growing destinations.

What is RHG’s Middle Eastern hotel pipeline and how has this progressed over recent years?

We currently operate more than 11,000 keys spread across 50 operating hotels in the Middle East. This number will rise to 77 hotels, increasing our footprint to more than 16,000 keys, over the next two to three years. We have strengthened our position in core markets such as KSA, revitalised markets where we had little activity over the past years such as Kuwait, and re-entered Jordan. This number is expected to increase significantly with more robust partnerships and presence in high-potential markets such as holy cities in KSA and larger projects.

How is the Radisson Resort Dubai Palm Jumeirah construction progressing and what does it mean to have a site in such a prestigious location?

The construction has progressed well despite the pandemic-related decrease in pace. We expect to open this hotel during the fourth quarter of 2022. This will strengthen RHG’s position in the region as a successful resort player on par with our other regions across the globe (Africa, Asia, etc.). In addition, we launched the Nofa Riyadh, A Radisson Collection Resort back in 2019, which generates one of the highest rates in the Riyadh area, and this four-star hotel will be a testimony of our versatility and providing a high-quality yet reasonably priced product in a very prestigious area, the Palm. In the UAE, we also opened the Radisson Resort Ras Al Khaimah, complementing our growing portfolio of resorts and offerings in the Emirate. 

Can you give us any details of RHG’s upcoming new Saudi Arabia office?

The office will be located in Riyadh to support growth and operations. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia now represents more than 50% of our total inventory, including properties under development. Our commitment to the Kingdom, which dates back to more than 20 years ago will be reinforced by the office, which will contribute to enhancing performances for our hotels and partners.

Which Middle Eastern countries does RHG believe have the most potential for hotel development?

With the pandemic context, conversion opportunities have spiked and could be identified across the entire region. Our pragmatic vision of the properties has enabled us to complete conversions successfully. If we are to name geographic markets, Saudi Arabia remains the strongest development market as it enjoys the greatest potential and is backed by the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. The country offers a variety of climates and landscapes to be activated by some ambitious and large projects. The UAE offers high development potential destinations such as Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah, with a diversifying tourism offering including eco-tourism, heritage and culture, and medical wellness specialised products. Other destinations such as Oman or Jordan benefit from strong fundamentals and are growing notably, which will be enhanced by increased governmental support.

Which RHG brands or hotel segments is the company intending to concentrate on in the Middle East?

While Radisson Blu remains the largest upper-upscale in Europe and our strongest brand in the region, we have successfully implemented Radisson Collection in Riyadh with Nofa Resort and the recent opening of Mansard Riyadh, our affordable luxury brand that we plan to pursue in the UAE and other regional cities. 

Our lifestyle brand Radisson Red will be an alternative to Radisson Blu for a more playful experience for our guests. We are carefully selecting our future flagship Radisson Individuals hotels, which will be unique and adapted to existing independent hotels, or unique design visions. Finally, we are launching our new art-focused Art’Otel brand which leverages local culture and art to decorate and enhance the guest experience.

Has RHG ramped up its Qatari portfolio in preparation for the World Cup at the end of this year?

Qatar-based hotel operators will be playing a major role in the success of this event. While our local teams are prepared for the surge in tourism arrivals, we foresee a demand overspill to be captured by neighbouring countries such as the UAE. As a result, we can expect multi-destination travel and more price-sensitive categories for guests looking to stay in neighbouring cities and using the daily flight shuttle services to and from Doha. 

What suppliers does RHG work with on its Middle Eastern developments?

We try to ensure a minimal level of similarity between our hotels across the world while integrating our hotels and operations within their immediate surroundings. This leaves room for design creativity, innovation, and inspiration from the local cultures, which could only be achieved through local presence. The implementation of ESG orientation will increase the preference for short circuits for our day-to-day operations. Nevertheless, we welcome all partners worldwide as long as it adds value to our guests and owners.

What attributes does RHG seek in the suppliers it partners with?

We seek reliable partners that can adapt to this fast-changing environment that characterises the region, to build longstanding partnerships. Sustainability is also embedded in everything we do so we look for brands and partners that share the same vision and embrace sustainable practices in their operations.

What will RHG’s Middle Eastern division look like in a few years’ time?

The Middle East is the fastest growing tourism region in the world, and many of the region’s economies are diversifying away from oil and gas, with tourism being one of the alternatives. As approximately 70% of our owners have more than a single hotel managed by RHG, the Middle Eastern division will focus on strengthening our existing partnerships and developing numerous other ones, including governmental entities and multi-disciplinary groups. Furthermore, as the degree of complexity of the market increases with its diversification, we can expect more specialised products and services that we would provide for this region.

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