The opening of MENA Plaza Albarsha Dubai officially signalled the arrival of Saudi Arabian home-grown mid-scale lifestyle hotel brand MENA Hotels on UAE shores.
MENA Hotels was founded in 2008 under the corporate umbrella of Saudi Arabian hospitality and entertainment group Al Hokair, an accomplished multi-brand hotel owner and investor for over the past two decades. As one of Saudi Arabia’s most established names in the hospitality and entertainment sector, Al Hokair itself was founded in 1975 under the leadership of Sheikh Abdulmohsin Alhokair. The conglomerate has a portfolio of 79 entertainment centres and 34 hotels comprising 4,792 rooms spread across the KSA and UAE. Occupying over 882,226m2 of space in the two countries and employing over 4,100 experienced professionals, the group’s enterprises serve over eight million people annually.
MENA Hotels specialises in hotel management services that encompass acquisition, development, technical services, sales and marketing, including a global distribution system in international markets and serviced hotel and resort operations. Aside from the newly opened Al Barsha property in Dubai, the group currently operates MENA Hotel Riyadh and MENA Airport Hotel Jeddah. While the brand name may not yet be easily recognisable in the UAE, with the group’s future vision and impending development pipeline, that is set to change in the very near future.
In the weeks following MENA Plaza Albarsha Dubai’s opening, Hotelier Express managed to catch up for a chat with MENA Hotels co-founder and regional director, branding and business development Fadi Mazkour who essentially confirms that the UAE is very much within the group’s scope of development targets.
“By the end of 2018, we expect to reach 18 hotels with over 2,000 rooms. This incredible growth is supported by the massive demand for quality mid-market hotels in the region and we are ideally placed to capitalise on the opportunity,” Mazkour says.
He elaborates further: “We definitely have a number of hotels planned in the pipeline but cannot put a number to it yet. Most of these hotels will be located within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia such as Al Khobar, Jeddah, Riyadh, Hail, Jubail, Tabuk. We have just inaugurated a hotel at Jeddah Airport Executive Area and soon this shall be followed by few other hotel openings.”
“One more MENA Hotel shall be announced shortly in Dubai followed by another one in the Kingdom of Jordan,” Mazkour continues. “The MENA Hotels & Resorts development team is currently negotiating other hotel management contracts that will be announced once these are signed.”
As a home-grown Saudi Arabian hotel brand differentiating from other brands coming up in the region, Mazkour is bullish about MENA Hotels’ regional prospects, expressing confidence in his company’s philosophy, proven track record and management competencies, stating: “We are a trusted name in hospitality.”
“We are confident that the great experience our guests associate with our hotels will position us as a preferred brand, no matter where we operate,” he asserts, declaring: “We are first and foremost a family-oriented, affordable lifestyle brand offering great value for money.”
To this end, he outlines the clear-cut goals set out by the company for the next few years.
“We aim to be one of the key regional hotel management companies in the mid-market sector,” he says. “We aim to be the favourite hotel for families and business executives and we want to have a collection of hotels that caters to all types of clientele and develop hotels that meet their demands.”
In sharing his own insights about mid-market hotel supply in two of MENA Hotels’ most significant targets for development, Mazkour believes that opportunities still abound. However, he admits that threats to further investment in the the sector could lie in high land development costs and softening demand coupled with future over-supply leading to pricing and, ultimately, profitability, being squeezed.
“In the absence of adequate supply of mid-market hotels in both the KSA and UAE compared to demand that has increased due to the growth of low-cost carriers and the expanding middle class in both domestic and key feeder markets, there is a huge potential for affordable accommodation,” he shares.