French hotelier Laurent A. Voivenel has recently taken over as senior vice president, operations and development for the Middle East, Africa, and India at Swiss-Belhotel International. Voivenel, with more than 32 years of experience, including 17 in the region, is focused on accelerating the growth of Swiss-Belhotel in the region.
The group has seven hotels in the region, including one in Turkey, with plans to operate another 26 properties. Voivenel tells Hotelier that of the 26 hotels, 16 are under construction and 10 are under negotiation.
The operator is currently in charge of 1,546 rooms, with a further 2,131 under construction and 2,000 in talks with owners. Swiss-Belhotel signed a management agreement for Swiss-Belresidences Juffair in Bahrain in June 2017, and Swiss-Belresidences Al Sharq in Kuwait in May 2017, which marked the debut of the Swiss-Belresidences brand in the region.
In addition, the group introduced the Swiss-Belboutique brand in the GCC in May with the announcement of Swiss-Belboutique Bneid Al Gar in Kuwait. It also plans to bring its other brands to the region.
Voivenel says: “We expect to introduce Zest Hotels to the Middle East, which is a fun and fresh budget hotel brand. We believe that savvy travellers shouldn’t have to sacrifice comfort, convenience, or style even when sticking to a budget [hotel] and, therefore, [we] created the Zest Hotels concept in 2015 to fit that important gap in the market.
“These developments are aimed at diversifying our offering in the region while meeting the growing demand for mid-market hotels and serviced apartments.”
Since Voivenel took charge of the company in April of this year, Swiss-Belhotel has introduced Grand Swiss-Belresort Seef in Bahrain; Swiss-Belresidences Juffair, also in Bahrain; Swiss-Belresort Marseilia Beach 4 in Egypt; Swiss-Belboutique Bneid Al Gar and Swiss-Belresidences Al Sharq, both in Kuwait; and Grand Swiss-Belresort Tala Bay Aqaba in Jordan.
He says: “We currently have seven hotels in operation but in the next five years we expect to reach 25 to 30 hotels. This is mainly because we have a very strong development pipeline of more than 3,500 rooms.”
The operator aims to take on five new hotels next year as it prepares for Expo 2020 Dubai. Voivenel says: “In addition to the 16 hotels in development, our target is to sign five hotels in the UAE, including two hotels in Dubai, by 2020.”