What’s really impressive about the last 12 months for the Rezidor Hotel Group is the 50 properties it reportedly has in its pipeline for the Middle East and North Africa, up from 21 in the Middle East last year. With 39 operating properties and 8,751 rooms, Mark Willis (who in the last year was promoted to a senior role and added Africa to his portfolio), says that in Saudi Arabia, the company is “one of the fastest-growing hotel groups”, with expansion in both primary and secondary cities.
Willis has been focused on many initiatives that centre around diversity, inclusion, and equal rights last year. The operator was the first in hospitality worldwide to appoint a Saudi female general manager, in March 2017. The appointment complements Saudi Vision 2030, which emphasises the Saudi women’s role in leading the development of both social and professional growth in the Kingdom.
Staff development is enormously important, says Willis: “I truly believe what motivates talent to excel is when they have a sense of purpose and when they are recognised for great work. I am pleased that I can demonstrate many examples of this, like our mentee programme, which has seen multiple Rezidorians progress to general manager level in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa region.”
The operator also spearheads a development programme called STEPS, designed to accelerate the careers of talented females across the group. It was also the first hospitality company to introduce an enhanced maternity leave policy in the Middle East region, offering 60 days’ maternity leave in the UAE and Oman, and 70 days in Kuwait and Lebanon — an increase on the respective countries’ statutory levels for private-sector companies.
The owner-operator relationship is key to Rezidor’s success. And while the group is no longer managing what was earlier flagged as the Radisson Blu Downtown hotel, during an interview with a Rezidor spokesperson earlier this year Hotelier was told that this was a mutual and amicable decision.
Willis emphasises the importance of working well with owners: “The success in establishing relationships with new — and strengthening relationships with existing — owners is evidenced in the continued growth within the region, with more than 180 hotels in operation or under development in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa. Our strong pipeline is now coming to fruition and we are pleased that we will have more than 25 hotels opening across the region in this year alone. And we set a new record when we signed the largest Radisson Blu and Park Inn by Radisson hotels in the world in Makkah this year.”