INTERVIEW: Vice president – development, Shaza Hotels, Chris Nader

Shaza Hotels

Speaking to TTG exclusively, vice president – development, Shaza Hotels, Chris Nader shares the thriving hospitality company’s very latest news and aim at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM).

TTG: What’s new with Shaza Hotels?
We have recently opened Shaza Hotel Residences, Riyadh. The property is the first for our brand in Riyadh, as well as the first extended stay property to open for Shaza Hotels.

We recently signed an agreement with the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) to manage three retreats, including Kingfisher Lodge in Kalba, Al Badayer Oasis in Al Badayer and Al Faya Lodge in Mleiha. The high-end destinations, which fall under the ‘Sharjah Collection’ brand by Shurooq, will be operated under our Mysk by Shaza brand. With the Sharjah Collection, we aim to become a pioneer in the management of upscale retreats that are part of a beach-desert-mountain circuit within the same emirate. In Kingfisher Lodge, guests can be watching animals on a reserve island one day, go to Al Faya Lodge the next day to camp near the archaeological sites of Fossil Rock and Mleiha, and finish their tour with a cultural immersion in the desert at Al Badayer Oasis.  You can’t find this anywhere else in the region and we are proud to offer these experiences with an authentic Arabian hospitality. Kingfisher Lodge is already open, while the other two Mysk retreats will soft-open shortly.

THE HOTEL SHOW DUBAI 2019

We also recently announced a new project in Jeddah that will mark the debut of the Mysk brand in the KSA, our fifth property in the Kingdom.

TTG: What is your message at ATM and what are you promoting this year?
ATM offers us the perfect platform to exhibit our existing and upcoming portfolio of diverse properties, as well as demonstrate the unique strengths and characteristics of our brands.

In the Middle East, we proudly showcase the Arabian cultures and hospitality of the region. We are the leading international hotel group that exclusively operates alcohol-free hotels with halal food only – be it in the Middle East Europe or Asia. Our brand particularly appeals to travellers seeking a family-friendly environment, or looking for a wellness experience, or wanting to experience authentic hospitality from the Silk Route.

We are small in size which makes us agile, flexible and responsive to owners’ requests and needs, but we have a large distribution capability and strong loyalty programme with the Global Hotel Alliance (GHA) and its 13 million members. We tailor each hotel to the target market, the location and the vision of the owner. We do not cookie cut. Currently in our portfolio, we have a mix of city hotels, resorts, eco-retreats, boutique hotels, serviced apartments and hotels catering to pilgrims.

TTG: What is your plan of action for the rest of 2019?
It is a very significant year for us with seven new hotels opening in quick succession within the next 12 months. With these properties we will be entering some of the most sought-after destinations in the Arabian Peninsula, such as Riyadh, Dubai, Sharjah, Doha and Salalah.  The latest developments along with our existing properties in Madinah, Makkah and Muscat will boost our portfolio of operating hotels to 10 – our biggest milestone to date.

TTG: What were last year’s most prominent travel trends?
With a global trend towards experiential travel, hotels are no longer about offering accommodation, but about integrating the lifestyle of guests with the local community and the environment.
As part of the various tourism initiatives in the region, we are seeing a push by the public sector towards the creation of new destinations and this will encourage tourists to discover the hidden gems of the Arabian Peninsula. And in each of these destinations, the trend is towards eco-resorts, desert retreats, lodges, camps etc. We clearly see this in KSA with Al Ula, the Amaala project or the Red Sea project, and in the UAE Shurooq is also going down this route with its Sharjah Collection which we are managing. This is a completely new direction for the industry in the region that was so far concentrating on traditional concrete blocks or standard resorts. We are keen to see more of this new hospitality offering in the region and we hope to expand our retreat/lodge collection in more locations.

TTG: Finally, where will visitors be able to find you at ATM?
Visitors to ATM can find us on stand HC1050 located in Sheikh Saeed Arena in Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. They can find out about our latest developments and projects.