With both major and peripheral cities undergoing development expected to boost the travel and tourism industry, Saudi Arabia has become a true favourite amongst hotel companies. Natalie Hami reports.
Classed as the second largest hub for hotel construction – behind the UAE – in the MENA region, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to show unprecedented growth in its tourism product, with this year set to be a record year for hotel openings.
And why not? With an ambitious strategy to host 45.3 million tourists each year by 2020, KSA must prepare itself to welcome these guests.
According to a report by TOPHOTELPROJECTS, commissioned by The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia 2016, the KSA has 47,431 rooms and 124 hotel projects currently under development.
The majority of projects are in their final construction and pre-opening stages, with 52 projects and almost 20,000 rooms set to open to the public throughout 2016.
Group event director, dmg events hospitality portfolio (organisers of The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia), Christine Davidson said: “Saudi remains the leading tourist destination in the region and religious tourist figures are forecast to reach new heights with government improvements to infrastructure, and developments to the two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah. The opportunities for smart hoteliers and restaurateurs are significant.”
This growth was also confirmed by director of sales and marketing, Makkah Marriott Hotel, Moataz El Tabei who told TTG: “Makkah city is booming with significant mega projects of expanding the holy Haram, which aims to provide new praying areas and essential services to the millions of pilgrims who visit Makkah seasonally for Hajj and Umrah.”
El Tabei also referred to a major infrastructural project, Al-Haramain Train project, expected to boost the economy and connectivity. “This vital and strategic project is one of the implementation schemes of the mass expansion of the Saudi railway across the country. This will connect four main stations in the project between Makkah, Jeddah, King Abdullah Economic City and Madinah which will boost the economy indicator in Makkah hotels eventually.”
Meanwhile, a number of regional and international hospitality companies continue to factor Saudi Arabia into their regional expansion plans.
One such company is AccorHotels, which currently has 15 properties in operation and close to 4,500 opened rooms, spanning a range of brands, according to vice-president of operations, AccorHotels KSA and Egypt, Salah Oumouden.
He added: “In the pipeline, we currently have 34 properties under development across Saudi Arabia, bringing an additional 9,000 rooms and raising AccorHotels’ portfolio closer to our target of 50 hotels in the Kingdom.”
Referring to the motivation behind such ambitious expansion plans in the KSA, Oumouden explained that the potential seen in the destination is based on the phenomenal growth in the number of visitors that the country is currently witnessing.
“Religious tourism for Hajj and Umrah around the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah is drawing in increasingly large numbers of guests. The country also has a growing business travel segment in cities like Riyadh and Jeddah, and remains a popular destination for many nationals from the GCC region.”
Another such company is serviced residence owner-operator, The Ascott Limited. Director, business development – GCC, Ascott International Management, Dubai, Hafid Mirabti told TTG: “KSA is now our largest growth pipeline in the Middle East, with four properties planned bringing our KSA portfolio to seven properties. Existing properties recently opened from Q4 of 2015 are Ascott Tahlia, Ascott Sari and Citadines Al Salamah in Jeddah; the first hotel apartments to enter the market which are being very well received by both business and leisure travellers.”
Furthermore, regional powerhouse Rotana Hotel Management Corporation has plans to open the doors to five new hotels in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Al Khobar, by the end of 2016.
“Four of these properties fall under the ‘Centro by Rotana’ brand, a new designation that meets the demand of all kinds of travellers on a limited budget. The fifth property, and the first one to open, falls under the Rayhaan by Rotana brand, introducing modernity closely complimenting the Arabian culture in the heart of the capital, Riyadh,” revealed area vice president – KSA, Sudan, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan and Bahrain, Rotana, Mohamad Haj Hassan.
However the destination’s tourism industry and its stakeholders are not only embracing the need for increased rooms, it is also taking into consideration the need for providing a wide range of brands from lavish luxury all the way down to affordable budget brands.
Traditionally a destination for pilgrims, the KSA is also making room for a number of other tourism segments.
According to Haj Hassan, Rotana aims to capture the different segments of the market by ensuring Rotana guests find all that they are looking for in any one of its hotels.
“Our new properties opening in the Kingdom will be appealing to large corporate entities, small and medium business owners, and individual travellers.”
With Saudi Arabia looking to tap into more mass tourism via budget accommodation, Haj Hassan explained that the Centro Hotels by Rotana concept is specifically designed to cater to this rapidly expanding market.
“We will work to promote the concept of economy hotels, which is relatively new in the Kingdom and will offer guests a wonderful stay at convenient prices while still providing them with the highest standards of hospitality.”
Also prioritising the mid-market segment, along with the luxury segment, is Millennium and Copthorne Middle East and Africa.
“We have a multi-brand development strategy planned for Saudi Arabia, with an aim to serve different market segments, representing quality and value in every class,” president and CEO, Millennium and Copthorne Middle East and Africa, Ali Hamad Lakhraim Alzaabi exclusively told TTG.
Alzaabi further noted that the rise in business travel has resulted in the opportunity to build affordable, budget accommodation, as such the hospitality giant will be introducing Studio M, Millennium Executive Apartments, Copthorne and Kingsgate brands.
For the discerning luxury traveller Millennium and Copthorne is offering properties such as Biltmore and Grand Millennium.
A tourism stronghold for the region, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to hold great appeal.