Pascal Gauvin, chief operating officer, India, Middle East and Africa, Intercontinental Hotels Group Pascal Gauvin, chief operating officer, India, Middle East and Africa, Intercontinental Hotels Group

It’s been four years since Pascal Gauvin took on his current role as chief operating officer of India, Middle East and Africa, after having joined InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) in 1993. And the fruits of his labour are being realised with IHG now expecting to record more than 40% growth across the Middle East in the next three to five years, with 25 new hotels in the pipeline.

Currently, the group operates 78 hotels in GCC, Levant, and Egypt alone, and added five new hotels to its operating portfolio in 2015, including the world’s largest Holiday Inn in Saudi Arabia with 5,154 rooms.

Of the 25 properties on the horizon, 11 are in development in the UAE: three InterContinental, three Crowne Plaza, one Holiday Inn, two Staybridge Suites, and two Hotel Indigo hotels. Saudi Arabia has the second largest pipeline, with one InterContinental, one Crowne Plaza, three Staybridge Suites and one Hotel Indigo.

Speaking to Hotelier Middle East, Gauvin, who has 35 years of hospitality experience, says: “We are continuing to grow, which is very important. We have 78 hotels in the Middle East today, and we will grow by another 25 hotels in the coming three to five years, which is 40% growth — it is great to bring our brands across the region.”

Gauvin points to the Hotel Indigo brand which has been signed for the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and says the projects are progressing well — these include the 209-key Hotel Indigo Riyadh King Abdullah Financial District, the 285-key Hotel Indigo Dubai Business Bay, and the 170-room Hotel Indigo The Sustainable City.

In addition to the boutique hotel brand, the UAE is also going to welcome the InterContinental Fujairah Resort in the next 18 months. Gauvin adds: “This is the first time that we are bringing an InterContinental resort to the country, which is really great.”

Gauvin cannot help but discuss the mid-market brands that are also seeing, he reports, massive traction in the region. “Although our pipeline is still luxury with InterContinental, and upscale with Crowne Plaza, we see a large demand for the mid-scale market — you can see the demand for Holiday Inn and Staybridge Suites coming.”

Not just focusing on the UAE, Gauvin re-asserts IHG’s commitment to Saudi Arabia, following the call from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities to attract 45.3 million tourists a year by 2020. He tells Hotelier: “The Saudi Arabia tourism board has told us they want to open for tourism. All that is music to our ears because we are the largest operator in Saudi Arabia with 24 hotels and we are growing really fast, especially in Makkah and Madinah.”

Holiday Inn will be a focus for IHG in this region, as Gauvin is keen to target the domestic market and the tourists who may not be able to afford luxury brands. To that end, IHG has signed a master development agreement with Dur Hospitality in 2014, and has opened a property in Tabuk and signed a further contract in Jubail.

“The map of Saudi Arabia is becoming full of Holiday Inns, especially in secondary cities. We have been in Riyadh and Jeddah for a long time already,” says Gauvin.

He also says the Staybridge Suites long-stay brand is ripe for development. At the end of 2014, Staybridge Suites Dubai World Central was signed, and will become the first franchised property under the brand in the Middle East, along with properties pencilled in for Saudi Arabia.

Story continues below