“Oman is an important market in the region, and we are ready to respond to market demands. We have growth plans with strategic government entities to help realise the country’s vision with a sustainable development lens,” says Haitham Mohammed Mattar (pictured), Managing Director, India, Middle East & Africa (IMEA), IHG Hotels & Resorts.
Responsible for driving the growth of IHG and its hotels across the region, Haitham assures that the new openings will further strengthen IHG’s portfolio in Oman and increase their ability to provide world class hospitality experiences to a diverse set of travellers.
What will be IHG’s main target areas for the Middle East market?
IHG has ambitious growth plans across the Middle East, and we are looking at a number of markets such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Oman to expand the presence of our existing brands in the region as well as bring new brands from our global portfolio. It is an exciting time for the tourism sector in the Middle East, and with ongoing events and the launch of major attractions across markets, the region is being positioned strongly on the world tourism map.
What will be your priorities for Oman in 2023-2024 and beyond?
We have a portfolio of eight operating hotels in Oman, and another three in the pipeline due to open in the next 2-4 years. These will further strengthen our portfolio in the country and increase our ability to provide world class hospitality experiences to a diverse set of travellers.
Oman is an important market for us in the region, and we are ready to respond to market demands. We have growth plans with strategic government entities to help realise the country’s vision in growing the tourism sector with a sustainable development lens. We look forward to exploring opportunities across hospitality segments, including luxury and lifestyle which constitutes our brands such as Regent, Kimpton and Vignette Collection, and will bring more hotels at the right time and the right locations.
Any plans for flagship luxury brands or budget-friendly stays in Oman?
We will be opening Hotel Indigo Jabal Al Akhdhar – our first Hotel Indigo property and a lifestyle hotel in Oman later this year. We are very excited to open this hotel. No two Hotel Indigo properties are the same, taking inspiration from the area around each hotel to touch all aspects of the guest experience, from the boutique design to locally inspired restaurants and cafes.
We also see a lot of potential to expand luxury portfolio in Oman and look forward to bringing brands such as Regent, Kimpton and Vignette Collection to the market.
When will the Vignette Collection make its entry into Oman?
There is a demand for diverse offerings in Oman and this includes luxury hospitality. We have recently launched our Vignette Collection in the region which embody luxury in an individual way – each has its own distinct style and character. There is definitely potential for the brand in Oman, and we hope to bring Vignette Collection to the market soon.
What are the new upcoming properties in the GCC and Oman?
We have 64 hotels in the pipeline across markets in the Middle East, and these span many of our brands in luxury and lifestyle, premium and mainstream segments. We currently operate eight hotels in Oman, and have three in the pipeline, including the Hotel Indigo Jabal Al Akhdhar.
Your views on ‘Oman Vision 2040’ among IHG portfolio?
We are taking an active role in supporting the economic development goals and national priorities across the region. This includes the ‘Oman Vision 2040’ and a large part of this is our support and development of local talent through opportunities in our hotels. We are excited to be able to offer our guests a taste of authentic local Omani hospitality in our properties.
About IHG’s work with Omran Group creating sustainable tourism assets...
We have a valued partnership with Omran Group, through which we operate an InterContinental and Crowne Plaza properties in Oman. We believe that the partnership enables us to offer world-class hospitality experiences to guests across multiple categories, from business and MICE, to leisure guests. This also contributes to our commitment to supporting Oman Vision 2040, driving forth the social and economic growth of the Sultanate of Oman.
What are the reasons for rise in hotel revenues in Oman in 2022?
The recovery of the hospitality industry is accelerating as people feel safer to travel, and we saw evidence of this in Oman particularly in Q4 of 2022. This was supported by a number of conferences which drove corporate travel increase, but leisure also saw an uplift towards the end of last year – we saw a 100-per cent increase over Q3.
We are also encouraged by the initiatives from Government of Oman and Ministry of Heritage and Tourism for the development of a number of tourist sites and entertainment projects in the coming years. We believe the wider tourism development plan will support the industry and help in further expanding the tourism offering of the country.
What stands out from among IHG competitors in the global market?
We have made major strides in recent years that are fueling growth for today and tomorrow. Whether that be enhancing the quality of our existing estate through new designs, F&B concepts, renovations and removals, or diversifying our brand portfolio by expanding our mainstream offer, transforming our luxury and lifestyle capabilities, providing a greater choice of resort locations and all-inclusive stays, and strengthening our ability to seal conversion deals.
For our guests, love and trust starts with consistently meeting their expectations around product, service, cleanliness, availability and affordability. Leading design, great F&B, an attractive loyalty offer, and cutting-edge technology also matter a great deal, and how our people bring it all together is what is creating the memorable experiences and building lasting connections.
How do you see the consumer landscape and their evolving needs in the next decade?
In a global study commissioned by IHG, we found that 83 per cent of consumers would choose a hotel brand that operates responsibly, with guests willing to spend on average 31 per cent more on accommodation that meets this need. In response to this growing appetite for more eco-friendly stays, search engines and OTAs are now highlighting a hotel’s credentials.
For example, Google now labels hotels meeting its sustainability criteria as Eco-certified and even Booking.com applies its Travel Sustainable badge to hotels.
This attention to how a hotel operates is shared across corporate and leisure guests, with an increasing number deciding whether to book a stay based upon a property’s carbon footprint, sustainable practices and how it supports its local communities.
It’s a trend that will continue to accelerate, with 90 per cent of IHG’s top global customers having already made net-zero or carbon-neutral commitments in recent years. We have also seen some customers taking efforts to prioritise or flag sustainable hotels within their internal booking channels.
What newer aspects do you plan to keep the guests tied to the hospitality sector?
We are bringing new brands to the region and diversifying our offering to keep guests with varied requirements engaged with IHG. In the last few years, we have launched voco, Hotel Indigo and Vignette in the Middle East as well as introduced our existing brands in the region to new markets.
As our guests embark on a new era of travel, we have transformed loyalty with IHG One Rewards – a new and improved offer that gives members more tailored experiences and many more options to earn and redeem points across our brands. Through IHG One Rewards, we will continue to bring more enhancements to the guest experience which will include strategic partnerships to help our brands reach new audiences.