French national Christophe Landais’ commitment to establishing and expanding his company’s Middle Eastern venture is second to none; since 2000, he has successfully launched internationally branded mid-scale properties in the region with the Novotel brand, and economy lodging with the ibis brand.
He led the first foray of the upscale Pullman brand into the Middle East market and now, is behind the launch of an innovative network of urban residences, Adagio for the Gulf region, which will be introduced in Abu Dhabi to cater to the serviced-apartment segment.
When Landais took up his role in 2000 the group had 16 hotels in six countries; as of September 1, 2013, the Middle East portfolio includes a total of 61 operational hotels with 14,351 rooms in 10 countries: Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen, covering the full spectrum from luxury to economy segments.
Eight hotels (3071 keys) opened in what has been a very robust last 12 months for Accor, including Ibis Riyadh Olaya Street, Novotel Abu Dhabi Gate, Sofitel Dubai Palm Jumeirah Resort and Pullman Zamzam in Makkah, KSA — with 1315 rooms.
Seven hotels were signed in the same period, all of them in Saudi Arabia. The only blemish on the group’s record was the loss of the Pullman hotel at Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, now run by Starwood, although a second Pullman will open in Dubai in 2014, a 354-room hotel in Jumeirah Lake Towers.
By the end of 2014, 11 properties with 2583 rooms are scheduled to open in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt, bringing the portfolio to 72 properties. Adagio Al Bustan in Abu Dhabi will be the brand’s debut this year, followed by Adagio Fujairah Town Centre next year. One year later, and Landais expects there will be another 10 hotels operating — a total of 82 open hotels.
Looking further forward still he says: “We have committed to expand the network to reach over 25 cities in 10 different countries and we are well on track to achieve our mid-term target of 100 hotels throughout the region by the end of 2015”.
Portfolio growth aside, Landais is also heavily invested in achieving Accor’s sustainable development programme, Planet 21. Ibis and Novotel hotels are being environmentally certified under ISO 14001, but developing human capital and helping local communities is also important.
Landais is most proud of the work being done in Saudi Arabia, which links with his long-held vision to develop Saudisation.
“In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we have initiated with the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities to develop a Saudi trainee management scheme in Saudi Arabia to nurture young educated Saudis to become heads of department and future leaders in our hotels.
This is one among some important initiatives that Accor undertakes which has direct impact on the communities, of which I am most proud,” he says.