GM Interview: IHG veteran Thierry Perrot

InterContinental Hotel Group Oman country general manager and InterContinental Muscat general manager, Thierry Perrot, is a fierce supporter of all things local, and he explains how the property manages to stay relevant after 40 years of operation

Executive interviews, Operators

IHG veteran Thierry Perrot joined the company in 1981, and has never looked back. Currently, in addition to being the country general manager for InterContinental Hotels Group in Oman, he is also the general manager of the InterContinental Muscat, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Perrot tells Hotelier Middle East during a visit to Muscat that the team is “very proud” to celebrate the property’s 40th birthday, as he shows off photos of the InterContinental Muscat.

“We were the first hotel to open during that period, and what makes me proud as well is that the Sultan signed the contract for the hotel,” Perrot adds with pride.

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In addition to holding a series of events to commemorate the anniversary, the property is also undergoing renovations. The first phase was completed in March 2017, with the porte-cochere being given an upgrade that included, among other things, a light installation, and heavy doors in the traditional Omani style.

Now the property is undergoing its second phase of renovation. Perrot reveals that the concierge lounge is being renewed, with a revamp that will place strong emphasis on traditional Omani style.

He explains: “Once it opens, I will be very proud to include an area dedicated to items made in Oman, either carvings or other traditional items made by Omanis.” 

Opposite the concierge lounge, a new food and beverage outlet is being built: Tr.Eat Café, which is scheduled to open in March. Perrot says the café will focus on the traditional Arabic cultural experience of drinking coffee. Another addition to the hotel’s F&B offering is a Japanese restaurant, Takara, which opened on January 20.

The hotel’s renovation does not stop there. Perrot reveals: “The third phase is planned to renovate the rooms and suites – that should start in mid-2018. The idea is to go phase by phase and not close the hotel.” 

In the rooms, the changes will include updates to the bathrooms. The Omani culture will also be brought into the design of the rooms and suites with the selection of authentic decorative pieces. 

While the hotel has undergone light refurbishments in the past, Perrot admits this is the most extensive programme to have been undertaken. The aim, he says, is to “bring another level of luxury” to the market.

The InterContinental Muscat has enjoyed success over the decades of its operations, and Perrot attributes some of its success to the brand itself. “This brand is well known throughout the world, and in the Middle East specifically, InterContinental has been operating in many destinations, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt. The name is also well known in Oman. Because the His Majesty the Sultan of Oman signed the contract, a lot of major events took place in this hotel for many years. It’s only recently that other brands have started to open hotels here,” says Perrot.

He goes on to say that the property holds an important place in the local community, as well as with international travellers. “We have a lot of visitors returning here,” says Perrot, adding that when the hotel’s team shared on social media older pictures of the property, alone on its stretch of beach when it was first completed in 1977, they “received amazing responses”.

“We even heard from a lady from England who said she was born in room 505,” he continues. “So, if you ask me what the importance of the InterContinental is in Oman or Muscat, it’s [summed up by]the guest telling that story. The emotional connection makes the property special.”

As Perrot points out, other brands have now entered the Muscat and Oman markets, but Perrot is not fazed by this. “IHG is the largest operator today and has seven properties across three brands — Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, and InterContinental. We have just opened the fifth Crowne Plaza in the country, the Crowne Plaza Muscat – Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre. We also have other projects in the pipeline,” he adds.

Perrot refers to a programme called Tanfeedh (the National Programme for Enhancing Economic Diversification), which was launched by the government and forms part of the country’s efforts to diversify sources of national income and fulfil the objectives of the Ninth Five Year Development Plan 2016 – 2020.

The programme aims to make it more straightforward for investors and brands to enter the Oman market, and to improve services such as visa processing. It also focuses on Omanisation.

Perrot says: “It’s about Omanisation and training Omanis to have the chance to show off their country, and promote the beauty that is here. IHG [...] has programmes that we are launching for our Omani colleagues, to help them to become the hoteliers and general managers of the future  in the country. Our hotel is at 50% Omanisation today, and the goal is to continue this.”

Perrot is serious about this initiative, and adds that the promotion of local talent is important for the sustainability of the hospitality industry in any country. One of the markers of the success of the InterContinental Muscat’s Omanisation policy is the fact that the hotel’s doorman, Habib Aulad Thani (fondly known as Uncle Habib), won the title of Unsung Hero of the Year at the Hotelier Middle East Awards 2017.

“Uncle Habib winning the Unsung Hero award shows that in Oman you can have a gentleman at 75 years old still welcoming guests in his dishdasha and typical Omani uniform, and being a part of promoting Oman. That’s an inspiration for the younger generation,” Perrot says.

“We work alongside colleagues such as Uncle Habib to show that hotels are a great environment for young Omanis. One day there will be more Omanisation, and that will make this country very special compared to others in the region.” 

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