CEO, Katara Hospitality, Hamad Abdulla Al-Mulla

Discussing the appeal of Katara Hospitality’s France properties to MENA travellers with Mario Hajiloizis, CEO, Katara Hospitality, Hamad Abdulla Al-Mulla also describes how France entices MENA, while touching upon which regional markets visit and much more.

TTG: In what ways are your France-based hotels particularly suitable to accommodating travellers from the Middle East?
As we continue to redevelop spectacular legacy hotels across the globe, Katara Hospitality is becoming increasingly recognised as a Qatari organisation bringing period, heritage properties up to a world-class, modern standard in some of the world’s leading tourism destinations.

Our European presence is growing particularly in France, Switzerland and Italy, where we continue to expand our footprint, and we have also expanded into Germany, Spain, Netherlands and the UK.

IMEX Frankfurt 2020

In 2014, according to the country’s tourism and promotional body, Atout France, the Middle East and Turkey was the second fastest source market for France, after China. Travellers from the Middle East are considered high contributors to the French tourism industry in terms of their liberal spending habits and long stays.

In France, our hotels offer the quintessence of the French culture with state-of-the art services in iconic locations. Our guests visiting us from Middle-East are very interested in cultural as well as historical heritage and look today for a holistic experience with tailored services in the most exclusive locations.

At The Peninsula Paris, our guests can enjoy the taste and refinement of French elegance in an iconic property designed during the Belle Époque period, when Paris was at the height of its creativity and glamour. Along with this unique legacy, the hotel combines comfort and technology with 200 luxurious rooms, including 34 suites, which are among the most spectacular in the city, a 1,800m2 deluxe spa, a gourmet Chinese restaurant and a rooftop French restaurant next to the Arc de Triomphe, just round the corner from the Champs-Elysées.

Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris, which opened in 2010 after an extensive renovation, offers to our Middle-Eastern guests the opportunity to experience luxury hospitality in the most exciting Palace in Paris, combining Parisian Chic with relaxed sophistication. Rooted in the original spirit of the 1930s, this contemporary masterpiece designed by Philippe Starck features 149 spacious rooms and suites, two restaurants celebrating French authenticity and Italian regional food, a 99-seat cinema, an art gallery and an exclusive service of Art Concierge. Our Middle-East guests appreciate in particular the option to completely privatise an all-suite section of the hotel with interconnected dependencies and a dedicated entrance for further privacy. In terms of activities, our guests enjoy the ultimate escape at our spa by Clarins, a 1,500m2 sanctuary with the longest swimming pool in a Paris hotel.

The Buddha Bar Hotel Paris is another luxury immersion option offered to our Middle-Eastern guests with the fusion of an intimate 18th-century mansion, formerly owned by the treasurer to King Louis XV, and Neo-Asian design in the heart of the Faubourg Saint-Honoré district for an exclusive shopping and Parisian lifestyle experience. The hotel includes 56 elegant guestrooms combining modern design with classic French style, a gourmet restaurant with contemporary international cuisine and an intimate spa offering signature massages and luxurious treatments.

The InterContinental Carlton Cannes is also very popular with our guests from the Middle-East, offering a luxury experience in the most iconic location on the French Riviera. The hotel, facing the Mediterranean Sea, features 343 rooms, including 39 renovated suites, two restaurants, two bars, 10 meeting rooms and a private sandy beach. It has welcomed prestigious guests for more than a century, combining the Belle Époque elegance and the French Art de Vivre by the sea.

TTG: France has long been a favourite destination within Europe for Middle East travellers to visit. What do you believe are the main reasons behind this?
Europe on the whole has strong appeal as an aspirational holiday destination for Middle Eastern travellers owing to the diverse and high quality of its tourism offering with the added appeal of cross-country travel.

France is renowned for its cultural heritage and has given the world fabulous cuisine, amazing artists, unique fashion trends and memorable monuments.

Middle-East travellers appreciate this subtle mix of history, Art de Vivre and luxury sophistication which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

TTG: Which MENA countries are your guests arriving from when visiting your France-based hotels and why do you believe this to be the case?
Our iconic hotels in France welcome a large range of guests from the Middle-East including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Lebanon.

In addition to the features previously mentioned, our guests primarily enjoy the exclusive experience offered at our hotels where we can ensure comfort and confidentiality at all times and deliver tailored services to any leisure and business expectations.

Ultimately, we thrive to offer our guests a home away from home with everlasting memories.

TTG: Travellers from the region are well known for their lengthy stays and spending power. What trends have you noticed among these travellers at your France-based hotels and how do you capitalise on them?
As observed by the French National Statistics Agency (INSEE), the number of room nights generated from Middle-East visitors have kept on growing for the last few years with an impressive 17 per ent year-on-year growth in 2014, representing a total of 2.3 million room nights.

The increase was even stronger in Paris with a jump of 21 per cent since last year with an overall 1.6 million room nights in 2014. This was the fastest growing market in France last year and we expect this trend to carry on forward. This pattern has been similar at our French properties where the number of room nights has increased together with the average lengths of stay.

As most of our guests are repeat visitors, it is essential to privilege tailored services and a dedicated relationship to anticipate any needs and cater beyond expectations with experiences which we continually enhance or diversify.

To name a few, this can range from a private helicopter tour of the Loire Valley castles, to a Rolls-Royce journey to Versailles for a private and behind-the-scenes tour of the world’s most famous palace or a personal encounter arranged with your favourite PSG player on the famous Parc des Princes football pitch.