Dur Hospitality's CEO Dr Badr Al Badr Dur Hospitality's CEO Dr Badr Al Badr

A brand relaunch is underway, a master franchise agreement has been entered into for the first time, and a US $400 million investment in new projects has been announced. Dur Hospitality’s CEO Dr Badr Al Badr explains why he is working full steam ahead to meet a target of 20 hotels in Saudi Arabia over the next seven years

In November 2014, former Saudi Hotels & Resorts (Sharaco) began trading as Dur Hospitality, having been on the Saudi stock market since 1976. The company announced it will invest SAR 1.5 billion (US $400 million) in developing three- and four-star hotels and luxury residential complexes, to achieve a planned portfolio of 20 hotels and six residential properties in the next seven years in KSA.

BeBehind the company’s major overhaul, is chief executive officer Dr Badr Al Badr, who joined Dur Hospitality three years ago, in January 2012, from his role as managing director at Cisco Systems Saudi Arabia, where he was responsible for expansion of the company in the Kingdom and the development of Cisco’s Smart Connected Communities practice in the Middle East and Africa.

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“The market has undergone a whole transformation during these years,” said Al Badr, explaining the firm’s rebrand. “When we started 40 years ago we were the pioneers and the demand was not comparable to today. Things today are totally different. We needed to evolve to catch up with the market from one side. From the other side we saw an opportunity to beat the market, not just catch up.”

While previously, Saudi Hotels and Resorts had a recreational arm, which dealt in the development and operation of amusment parks, this shut down last year because “there isn’t much synergy between hotel development, hotel operations and recreational parks”.

Al Badr goes on to explain that even the name Saudi Hotels & Resorts “had connotations of things we don’t do any more”. Dur Hospitality on the other hand, will have a more streamlined approach with the focus firmly on hotel development and operations, as well as residential properties.

“We were looking for [a name] that was more indicative of our new culture, our new spirit and new direction so we chose a short, remarkable name with vibrant colours and that is ‘Dur’, which is Arabic for ‘homes’, so it gives the meaning of a place to live, very friendly, and it works for hospitality guests or for people staying in our residential compounds.”

With 20 hotels targeted, the company’s operational strategy will focus on “three different categories”.
One of these are the Dur-owned hotels operated by international brands — a model to be implemented where “very exclusive expertise is required”.

“I’m talking about five-star ultra-luxury hotels such as the Riyadh Marriott Hotel we are developing in the Diplomatic Quarter of Riyadh. These kinds of projects rely on traditional management agreements with international operators,” says Al Badr.

In another category are hotels operated by Dur Hospitality under its 10-year-old operational brand, Makarim, which will undergo a re-launch.

It will re-emerge as a brand purely targeting the religious tourism segment, with hotels — owned both by Dur Hospitality and other owning companies — to be situated in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.

While the name remains the same, Makarim will be upgraded and the guest experience is to be modified.

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