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Rotana is moving rapidly onto the world MICE scene

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Rotana’s Chief Operating Officer, Omer Kaddouri, talks to ITCM about the group’s expansion plans

Rotana’s first major hotel was the Rotana Beach in Abu Dhabi. Possibly still the flagship property, it has benefited from the more recent development of Yas Island just offshore, so that the Abu Dhabi Formula One race circuit and Ferrari World, the world’s biggest indoor theme park, have added to the hotel’s attractions.

Today, there are 43 Rotana hotels operating and a further 27 already under way.
‘We are opening about seven or eight properties a year’, says the group’s Chief Operating Officer, Omer Kaddouri. ‘We are at present very much a UAE and neighbouring countries group, but are now expanding into new destinations, including India, Turkey and Africa. In five years’ time we expect to be a group of about 100 hotels’.

The wisdom of this strategy is all the more obvious in the current situation, as Omer goes on to point out. ‘Like most other hotel groups in the world, we have been affected, of course, by the recession. The travel sector has been one of the biggest casualties. Fortunately, we were flexible and reacted early to the challenge, tailoring packages and rates to maintain a good level of revenue.

‘In addition our main destinations have been affected by the impact of the Arab Spring, that has disrupted so many territories in the Middle East. The more territories we cover into the future, the more we will be able to balance a downturn in one area with upturns in other areas.’

He says that this trend is already very apparent. When there was severe disruption in Egypt and floods in Bangkok, business increased in Dubai.

Typically, Rotana properties will have room numbers of from 250 to 400, with multiple f&b outlets. The Rotana Beach in Abu Dhabi has 14 restaurants. They will be situated in either important business centres or renowned resorts – or locations that can claim to be both.

‘Especially in city sites’, says Omer, ‘conferences and events will be particularly important and we will ensure that our properties are able to offer every facility for MICE business, including large ballrooms and at least ten smaller meeting rooms or break-out spaces. Those properties will be targeting a major slice of revenue from events. The MICE market is very important to the group and represents some 45% of our total income’.

All the Rotana properties are new-builds with local partners owning a substantial portion of the equity. ‘We work from a very early stage with our partners, the owners of the sites and the hotels,’ Omer points out, ‘and so we are able to make a substantial input to the design. This ensures that the final product is one that we feel confident is right for the market and fits well into our overall image’.

The emphasis on events business has resulted in Rotana setting up strategically placed sales offices with MICE specialists so that organisers can get a rapid response and centralised assistance in every aspect of staging an event.

‘Clients don’t have to deal with multiple people to find the most suitable facility that has availability at the right price. Our personnel take an enquiry and then handle it for the organiser, keeping closely in touch so that the client can have an input all the way along, as necessary. We have these sales offices in the UAE, Mumbai, Moscow and Shanghai’.

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