VP interview: Matthew Tripolone
Matthew Tripolone, vice president, development for IHG in Middle East and Africa, reveals the long-term growth strategy of the InterContinental Hotels Group and the launch of its new brand voco into the region
Vice president, development for IHG in Middle East and Africa Matthew Tripolone was brimming with confidence during a recent exclusive interview with Hotelier.
And it wasn’t without reason. “We are going to have a fantastic signing year this year and opening season, with our global announcements to be released early next year. We have really strong growth ambitions for this side of the world," he said.
The InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is firmly pressing its foot down on the gas pedal and is well and truly in acceleration mode. Under its 2X strategy, the group aims to fast-track at “twice the pace and intends to double its net system size growth to 2020, which we are well on the way to doing,” said Tripolone.
Tripolone, who plays a vital part in ensuring the group’s long-term growth strategy, is helping to grow IHG's portfolio throughout the region. Part of this strategy involved the launch of the voco brand in July of this year. According to Tripolone, voco is filling a gap that IHG saw in the market for a “fun, fresh upscale brand. We are excited to announce also that we have now launched it [voco] in this part of the world. ”
Hotelier reported earlier this year how IHG planned to rebrand Dubai's Nassima Royal hotel, which was finally launched in early December. Located on Sheikh Zayed Road in close proximity to the Dubai World Trade Centre, the hotel will offer 471 rooms, curated for both leisure and business travellers to the city. The rebranding includes three various guest experiences – mainly ‘Come on in’ being a welcome experience in the lobby, ‘Me time’ with rooms designed to be a relaxing space, and ‘Voco life’ – a lobby bar that will serve morning coffee to cocktails in the evening.
Talking about voco, Tripolone said: “We see that there is a growing portion of travellers throughout the world who are looking for a brand that is fun and fresh, has some design and lifestyle elements, but comes with the backing and the guarantee that IHG brings to all of our brands. So we designed the brand from the ground up. It’s really exciting and has some nice clear hallmarks that really give the guests a unique experience and really ticks the boxes of what we think our guests are expecting from our brands.”
InterContinental Hotels Group has ambitious growth aspirations for the Middle East. “We plan to open lots of them [voco],” said Tripolone, who went on to reveal how the group intends to open more of the new brand in the Middle East, Asia and Africa region.
“We plan to open 200 hotels over the next 10 years,’ he said. “We actually feel that there are lots of opportunities for us in this part of the world. We see lots of potential for the brand here region. The brand is really suitable for existing estate, hence the Nassima Royal hotel is our first voco in this part of the world and is a rebranding of an existing hotel. The brand is really suited to this type of opportunities,” he said.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE is where IHG sees most opportunity for the brand. “There are also opportunities in places like Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt,” he added.
Described as quite a flexible brand, Tripolone expects the business mix in each of its voco hotels to be equally weighted between the corporate and leisure travelers.
“We do not streamline it down to a particular segment type of traveller. But we really see that there was a growing percentage of travellers who wanted a fresh lifestyle-led brand that plays in the upscale space and voco has been designed with that in mind,” he said.
Tripolone joined IHG in June 2014, taking on the role as Head of Development for Australasia and Japan. This has helped him to successfully play a vital part in ensuring IHG's long-term growth strategy, including growing IHG's portfolio throughout the region.
During his tenure for Australasia and Japan, he signed a number of significant development deals, including InterContinental Perth, Crowne Plaza Christchurch and Crowne Plaza Hobart. He also led the expansion of the Holiday Inn Express brand in the Australian market, with the launch of Holiday Inn Express Sydney Macquarie Park in April 2016, the first of a 15-hotel pipeline for the brand.
The fact there is much talk within the hotel sector regarding oversaturation has been, to all intents a purposes, like red rag to a bull for IHG. “Often groups like ourselves find the most opportunity for the growth of our brands when markets are perhaps going through some challenges. At the moment Dubai has experienced some ups and downs and that’s generally when many opportunities come to IHG,” said Tripolone.
As part of its growth strategy, IHG also purchased an upper luxury brand called Regent, which Tripolone says the Group is working on a number of great opportunities for that brand in this part of the world. “So, combined with our lifestyle brands which are not really string and present here at the moment – Kempton hotels and restaurants, and hotel indigo – we feel that the future is really bright for IHG in this part of the world,” he said.
Triplone brushed away any talk of challenges in the local market saying that they were “not unusual and what we find is that when we find that when one particular market is finding it difficult other markets pick up the slack. But ultimately we believe in the future of the Middle East market. We have been here a long time, being in this part of the world since 1961 when we launched the iconic Phoenicia Hotel Beirut in Lebanon, our first IHG hotel in the Middle East,” he said, adding that IHG are well equipped to deal with any challenges it comes across and has bright expectations for the future.