Chief operating officer – Middle East, India and Africa, IHG, Pascal Gauvin

As travel habits change and evolve, chief operating officer – Middle East, India and Africa, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Pascal Gauvin speaks exclusively to TTG about the growing portfolio of the company in addition to how it’s serving the needs of Boomers and Millennials

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.

The year 2015 is an exciting one for IHG in the Middle East with a number of landmark hotels set to open in the region. One of the hotels we are looking forward to adding to our portfolio is Hotel Indigo Riyadh King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD), which will mark the entrance of our Hotel Indigo brand into the Middle East market.

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Hotel Indigo is our boutique brand designed for travellers seeking a unique hotel experience. Each hotel is inspired by the neighbourhood it’s located in and reflects the local culture, character and history of the surrounding area. Guests will be able to enjoy food and beverage in an all-day dining restaurant, a specialty restaurant and a lobby lounge café. The hotel will also include business facilities, a wellness centre and leisure facilities such as a swimming pool and a secret garden. To top it all off, our guests can look forward to a double-height royal suite with a balcony offering a panoramic view of KAFD.

Another key hotel opening for us this year is InterContinental Dubai Marina, which is located within walking distance of the popular Jumeirah Beach Residences’ (JBR) beach and has direct views over the water.

Locals and our guests alike will have access to a diverse range of eight F&B options. We are very excited to announce that one of the restaurants opening in InterContinental Dubai Marina this September is celebrity chef Jason Atherton’s first restaurant in the Middle East, Marina Social & The Social Room.

We also have our eye on KSA, which is expected to witness a 400 per cent growth in domestic tourism by 2016. To cater to the growth in visitor arrivals we will open our second Crowne Plaza property in the city’s new Information Technology & Communications Complex later this year. We are anticipating further growth in the KSA with nine properties in our pipeline, due to open in the next three to five years.

TTG: What upcoming trends have you witnessed during 2014 and what are your forecasts for the remainder of the year?

The Middle East is a hyper competitive market and it’s important to stay ahead of guests’ travel requirements. Our 2014 IHG Trends Report on ‘Creating Moments of Trust’ showed that travellers are reshaping their expectations and looking to global hotel brands not only for consistently good service and to reflect local trends and customs, but to also tailor services to meet their personal preferences. From the report we also found that technology is providing us with more ways to personalise our guest experiences, but it is important that it continues to be delivered hand in hand with the human touch.

We recently released our 2015 IHG Trends Report which focuses on building Trust Capital. The report highlights the growing importance for companies to build brand and organisational trust. The development of Trust Capital – which we’ve identified as the ‘4th C’ of organisational value alongside Human, Financial and Intellectual Capital – is at the heart of this.

Trust capital is the confidence consumers have in the credibility, integrity, leadership and responsibility of an organisation and its brands. Why it’s important is that it plays a critical role in delivering sustainable, high quality revenue growth and creates value for the organisation. Trust capital also helps protect the business when there is a credibility issue or a crisis.

Dubai and the entire Middle Eastern region is developing and acquiring a deeper need for personalisation. Translating this for the hospitality industry, we see that our guests are not just looking for a place to rest, but a hotel experience to remember. In addressing this change we also need to remember that the demographic world is changing. The marketing world is getting older and younger at the same time – but not in the same places. The travel market currently comprises a large group of Boomers (born 1946-1964) and Millennials (born 1982-2000), and the big opportunity for brands is strategically managing both of these groups at the same time.