The InterContinental Hotels (IHG) has a sizeable presence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and heading it is Pascal Gauvin who serves as the managing director for India, Middle East & Africa. Gauvin, who has been with IHG since 1993, oversees the hotel company’s 88 hotels operating 30,096 rooms in the region with 28 hotels in the pipeline amounting close to 7,000 rooms.
In the last 12 months, IHG debuted InterContinental Resort Fujairah, the first of its brand in the UAE. It also expanded its presence in Cairo with the signing of Crowne Plaza Sheikh Zayed City. In April 2018, the company signed the Staybridge Suites – Dubai Festival City in partnership with Al Futtaim Group and Staybridge Suites Giza Sun Capital, which is the second property for the company in Egypt.
The US-based company has largely focused its growth in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. Under Gauvin’s helm, IHG opened its 32nd hotel, the 304-key Crowne Plaza Riyadh Palace in the kingdom with another eight in the pipeline.
Not only that, in April 2018, IHG signed a master development agreement (MDA) with Saudi-based Al Hokair Group to debut the Holiday Inn Express brand in the kingdom. The MDA will see a rollout of 15 more hotels of the same brand over the next 15 years.
In 2017, Gauvin’s role was also expanded to include Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia and IHG opened its first Holiday Inn in Algeria earlier this year.
Besides openings and signings, IHG made news in July 2018 for staking out 51% in Regent Hotels & Resorts for US $39 million in cash. Through the acquisition, IHG plans to grow the brand from six hotels to more than 40 and believes Middle East to be an apt market for the luxury hotel brand. The company will have the option to acquire the remaining 49% in a phased manner from 2026.
IHG also plans on bringing other new brand into the Middle East market, namely Voco and Kimpton. Kimpton Hotes & Resorts will be a “bold and colourful” brand aimed at the luxury-centric market in the UAE and Saudi Arabia while Voco is the new upscale brand launched in June 2018. IHG is in the letter of intent (LOI) stage for the brand’s debut in the MEA.
With all the growth activity in the region, Gauvin is currently responsible for more than 25,000 employees but reveals that investment in talent and development is vital for the delivery of personalised guest experience.
He says: “In order to suitably support the opening of 28 hotels in the next 3-5 years, we are focused on finding, developing and accelerating our talent pool in the Middle East region and we are looking at adding another 8,000 jobs over the coming years. This will take us up to well over 30,000 employees in this region - a growth of about 30%.”
Recruitment for the jobs should not present a challenge as IHG’s 2017 employee engagement survey, led by Aeo Hewitt, showed higher engagement results compared to 2016 Dubai’s corporate office scored 84%, putting them in Aeo’ top quartile scoring system.
Progress such as this, Gauvin says, keeps him going.
“One of my greatest achievements in this role continues to be developing an exceptional team both on the front-line in our hotels and in our corporate offices. More importantly, I continue to ensure that this exceptional talent remains motivated in the face of our new challenges, learning from past years and building on the learnings to win in the years ahead.”