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DUBAI: Abu Dhabi-based Rotana Hotels has a new brand and approach to stand out in a post-pandemic travel landscape. The hospitality major has launched The Edge, a conversion brand that brings existing and independent hotels under its fold to elevate its hospitality offering.

“Now is the perfect time to launch a new post-COVID 19 brand. Struggling hotels will understand the value an operator can bring in terms of financial management and overall performance,” said Guy Hutchinson, President and CEO. the direction of Rotana, in an interview. with Arab News.

“A strong, localized brand like ours can increase performance and returns. It is ideal for hotels run by others who may be dissatisfied, disengaged and feel they can perform better,” Hutchinson said.

Rotana’s current portfolio includes 112 properties across the Middle East and North Africa, both in production and in pipeline. Over the next three years, the Hutchinson team hopes to have 25 properties under The Edge brand alone.

“And that’s a conservative projection; we are starting with two properties already signed in Dubai and Istanbul,” he said. “We see a lot of interest in this concept. Our investors are looking for alignment; the Edge offers them a way to convert to a hotel profitably.

Peak model

The Edge brand will be owned by parent company Rotana alongside well-known brands like Reyhaan and Arjaan. The new conversion-based brand has an in-market development team, with specialists meeting with investors, developers and owners.

“They’re proactive, we talk to all those parties involved and meet with the developers, and then we put together a selection of brands that will meet customer needs,” Hutchinson said. “We have a dedicated development team focusing on that for us.”

Outside of the Edge brand, Rotana has 42 properties in the pipeline and a goal of adding eight to 10 new hotels per year. Hutchinson said the ambitious expansion plans are tasked with maintaining existing Rotana properties and bringing them back to pre-pandemic levels.

“We’ve been through three tough years, and our goal is also to bring existing stakeholders back to where they should be,” he said. “They deserve our attention, and we are responsible to them.”

Rotana’s strategic success has helped the brand emerge strongly from the pandemic. It ended 2020 with an above-average occupancy rate of 90% thanks to smart measures, including providing long-term accommodation for employees in the oil and gas industry when they needed a place to stay. remain offsite, along with approximately 1,500 international medical personnel. who were brought in to help with additional screenings.

Bet on recovery

Today, Rotana is witnessing the effects of pent-up travel demand from domestic and international visitors.

“Industry-wide, this region is leading the global travel recovery,” Hutchinson said. “At the end of the first quarter of 2022, if we take key cities around the Gulf Cooperation Council: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Riyadh, these destinations are probably the top five travel destinations in the world right now.”

The hotelier added that the average occupancy rate for hotels in Dubai in the first quarter of the year was 84%. At the same time, the highest cities were Istanbul and Los Angeles, with 66% and 55% respectively. He credited Dubai’s efforts with the Expo and good handling of COVID-19 restrictions with a positive impact.

Dubai has emerged as a leading leisure, tourism and hospitality destination with a steady stream of investment. Dubai’s hotel sector saw its highest occupancy rate since 2007 in the final weeks ahead of Expo 2020, with 91.7% of Dubai’s rooms occupied, according to early data from STR.

“Saudi Arabia is also a critical space for us and the industry,” Hutchinson said. “As a destination, it is underserved in terms of the number of hotel rooms. The government is also focusing heavily on the development of tourism infrastructure. This is an important opportunity to be at the start of this journey.

Rotana already has seven hotels in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, and seven more in various stages of development in the Kingdom. The team is particularly interested in new destinations that are opening up and have proven popular with domestic travellers, including Alkhobar and AlUla.

“We are interested in expanding, but less in established cities and more in those parts of the country that are opening up and developing tourism infrastructure,” he said. “I think Saudi Arabia will surprise us.”