Area VP – Middle East and Turkey, The Rezidor Hotel Group, Mark Willis

In a busy year for The Rezidor Hotel Group, area vice president – Middle East and Turkey, The Rezidor Hotel Group, Mark Willis informs TTG about all the exciting developments the group has in store for the remainder of 2015.

TTG: Tell us about your latest news and developments, and any plans you have to enhance your product or bolster business for the remainder of 2015.

Rezidor had a second consecutive record year in the Middle East last year with the addition of 12 hotels to its portfolio. These included Radisson Blu and Park Inn by Radisson hotels and serviced apartments in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, as well as in a recovering Egypt. The year 2015 has started strong and we expect to sign around the same number of hotels again this year.

IBTM China 2019

The increasing popularity of our Radisson Blu and Park Inn by Radisson properties – two core brands with solid service fundamentals – is a testament that we understand the needs of travellers in this region. The mid-market is most certainly a key area of growth for us in the coming few years and we will be focusing on adding more Park Inn by Radisson properties in strategic markets, such as the KSA and the UAE, to our portfolio. We recently opened our first Park Inn by Radisson in Dubai and are set to open our second one in the city later this month.

TTG: What message will you be conveying this year?

Rezidor is one of the leading operators in Saudi Arabia in both major and emerging cities including Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Yanbu, Al Khobar, and Jizan. We currently operate seven hotels in the country and have ambitious plans to expand our portfolio with new hotels in key cities around the Kingdom. Future plans include two more openings in 2015, and another two openings next year. We have more openings planned in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam and are also looking at having a presence in smaller cities in Saudi Arabia including in Hail, Abha and Al Baha.

Elsewhere in the region we will be opening a new Radisson Blu property in Sohar, Oman, later this year and a second Park Inn by Radisson in Dubai.

One of our messages this year will be on recruitment and retention. We have a robust development and retention programme in place and a clear strategy to grow and develop our employees within the Rezidor organisation. We grow from within and have most recently promoted two of our general managers to regional roles. This year we have a greater focus on developing talent and our talent review management programme allows us to identify the potential of our employees to be able to create the right development programme for them.

Another area that we will be talking about at this year’s show is women in leadership. Our significant growth puts pressure on our talent pool and we believe that diversity and inclusion is a strategy for winning the war for talent and the gender mix is a very visible part of that. Last year we launched our Women in Leadership (WiL) initiative which has been created to build on our heritage of growing from within and bring a positive change in Rezidor’s culture by overcoming the barriers that may be blocking women from developing into senior leadership positions. Our objective is to be an employer of choice in the global hotel industry, no matter a person’s gender.

TTG: What upcoming trends have you witnessed during 2014 and what are your forecasts for the remainder of 2015 relating to your own business and your destination?

One of the emerging trends in the global hospitality industry is the growth of the midscale segment for city and resort hotels. Brands like the Park Inn by Radisson have become increasingly popular, showing that despite times of economic instability and investor caution, consumers are still looking for options that can cater to their budget.

And this is an emerging trend across the Gulf. As centres of trade and industry, the growth of this mid-market brand will serve Oman and Dubai well as they seek to transform their hospitality industry into one that is diverse, dynamic and inclusive.

The region’s governments are pushing towards diversifying their portfolio, encouraging sectors such as infrastructure, manufacturing, healthcare, education and tourism so it is a very pro- business environment because the market fundamentals are solid.

Our commercial strategy has a strong focus on digital development and distribution and we are fully committed to embracing the shifting dynamics of the marketplace through the employment of digital resources. Our aim is to constantly enhance our company culture and to further develop our overall business strategy to maximise profitable total revenue. We have invested significantly in our marketing team, all of whom have considerable experience in the digital workspace.