Pascal Gauvin Pascal Gauvin

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has indentified Saudi Arabia as one of two markets representing the most opportunity for its Middle East business to grow in 2013.

Eight hotels are signed and scheduled to open in Saudi Arabia by 2018, IHG India, Middle East and Africa COO Pascal Gauvin told Hotelier Middle East.

“There is significant opportunity across the Middle East region. Two markets in particular stand out. Firstly Saudi Arabia offers a big opportunity, primarily in terms of the size of the market and its growth,” said Gauvin.

“We are the largest international hotel company in Saudi Arabia, both by number of hotels (22) and by number of rooms (5000). Our pipeline already highlights some of the growth we can expect to see.

“It is our biggest pipeline in the region — we have eight hotels due to open in the next three to five years, representing 2,500 hotel rooms,” revealed Gauvin.

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Planned openings in the Kingdom for 2013 include Holiday Inn Riyadh Meydan and Crowne Plaza Riyadh – ITCC.

In 2012, IHG signed two hotels in Saudi Arabia in Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District, an InterContinental and a Hotel Indigo — the first hotel under this brand to be agreed for the region.

The second Middle East market Gauvin identified as having most growth potential over the year ahead was the UAE.

“Both regional and international travellers will continue to play a significant role in the growth of the tourism and hospitality industry in the UAE. In fact the number of foreign visitors arriving in the UAE is forecast to total nearly 19 million by 2022,” he said.

“Our upcoming pipeline reflects the ongoing diversification of the UAE, not just in terms of the brands available to consumers but also in terms of destination. Whilst Dubai and Abu Dhabi have traditionally been the hubs of the UAE, new opportunities are opening up. Ras Al Khaimah is a prime example of this and we signed Crowne Plaza Ras Al Khaimah Resort [last] year.”

The new RAK hotel is also set to be the first Crowne Plaza Resort in the UAE, Gauvin added.