Millennium Hotels and Resorts MEA CEO on surviving the pandemic

Kevork Deldelian speaks to Hotelier Middle East

Kevork Deldelian
Kevork Deldelian

Kevork Deldelian, has more than three decades of experience in the hotel industry, mostly in this region.

Currently, the group operates around 50 hotels and 15,000 rooms in the region.

Deldelian was number eight in our Power 50 list in 2019. Here he tells us how Millennium Hotels and Resorts has coped during the Covid-19 pandemic.

What are some new initiatives that you have implemented since reopening?
Millennium Hotels & Resorts – Middle East & Africa has always been perceived by guests to operate at the highest level of cleanliness.  Under the large umbrella of our initiative, ‘We clean. We Care. We Welcome.’ we employed a wide range of preventative measures including regular sanitisation of guest rooms.

In addition to a paperless process for check-in and check-out, front-desk screening, touchless transactions, sanitiser stations, social distancing guidelines, reduction of contact points and strict hygiene rules for F&B outlets, protective equipment is available to staff and guests at all times. Guests may also ask for certified safety standards scores achieved at any time upon request.

We also introduced new venues, equipment, tools and technology that help us more to live up to embrace the new norms and bring it on board.  We revised all our Standard Operating Procedures bringing in new methods and processes in our day to day operation.

Millennium Hotels & Resorts – Middle East & Africa also partnered with Ecolab, one of the most renowned companies in water, hygiene and infection prevention internationally, to deliver the highest level of cleanliness across all its properties in the region. Through this collaboration, we launched new venues, used new innovative tools, and adopted new technologies that will help us embrace the new norms and bring it on board.

We went beyond conventional cleanliness by providing comprehensive training programs to every staff member while maintaining strict measures and world-class health and safety standards at all times.

Have you made any changes to your product offering?
We introduced several measures to help our guests including waiving cancellation fees, flexibility in check-in & check-out, hosting stranded passengers, and supporting concerned authorities in each country throughout the region in fighting against the pandemic.

It’s no secret that tourism is a seasonal industry by nature, so Millennium Hotels & Resorts MEA will continue to focus on domestic guests by introducing specialised packages. Our properties under various brands echo a deep understanding of what domestic tourists seek. With a diversified portfolio, Millennium Hotels & Resorts MEA covers a wide range of tourists’ segments through its creative brands such as Grand Millennium, Millennium Place, Studio M and Millennium Central. Each brand provides its guests with unique experience starting from in-house recreational activities to nearby attractions. 

We have introduced an offer valid until December 31 2020, offering up to 20 percent discount on Flexible Rate, members of My Millennium loyalty programme availed additional discount on their stays up to 15 percent off and 2,000 bonus points. Moreover, Guests were eligible to up to 20 percent off  dining, early check-in and late check-out until 6pm. Subject to availability, the offer was valid for bookings via the official online portals of Millennium Hotels and Resorts MEA.

What has been your biggest challenge during this time?
Millennium Hotels & Resorts MEA is one of the fastest-growing regional hotel management companies in the Middle East & Africa and is the operator with the least hotels being closed and the main reason is our tight ship style of operation, which has always been based on driving our Hotels with efficiency, which in this situation caused a much lower impact on the cash flow and allowed our hotels to persevere. 

We had a milder hit and this allowed us to not have to terminate a lot of staff so we were able to retain a considerable number of our staff and the team. We did have to incorporate some unpaid measures but the most important thing was that we were able to protect our people and our cash flows that has got us to today in a position where we can sustain the impact for another few months.

Have any positives come out of the situation?
The situation provided us with the opportunity to get closer to our customers and we have outperformed last year performance during the same period on the company level.

Millennium Hotels & Resorts in the MEA are one of the companies who kept the majority of their locations open, with only two in Makkah and two in Madinah in the KSA being closed. One of the reasons we could manage to do this was that, at a very early stage in the development of Covid-19 globally, we announced as a company that we were ready to extend and provide all our hotels to the local authorities to help and support with accommodating medical teams where it was required. This gesture brought in a lot of occupants and at some sites, even ensured the locations were running at 100 per cent occupancy and to break-even. A few sites even made minor profits which helped ease the impact of Covid-19 compared to the rest of the companies operating in the market.

Forty-one out of forty-five Millennium properties across the region were operating and delivered a positive bottom line to the company and operated at best standards during May. Closed hotels were mainly located in the holy cities including Makkah and Madinah due to the suspension of Umrah by the government of Saudi Arabia as a precautionary measure to fight Covid-19.

Have you received support or guidance from any organisations during this time?
Recently, we have partnered with Ecolab to deliver to our guests the highest level of hygiene and cleanliness across all properties in the region. Backed by scientifically proven methods and latest technologies, we are now capable of offering guests with a hospital-grade environment without compromising on the comfort and uniqueness levels of our services. 

What do you think the long-term effects will be on your property and the hospitality industry in general?
The Middle Eastern hospitality sector has evolved throughout the years to emerge immune against regional and international crisis.

We are positive and totally putting our trust in the wise leaderships of the region. The preventative measures which have been taken have proven to be impactful in countering the spread of the virus and with the positive & full compliance from the public. Thankfully, we are now able to welcome our beloved guests once more to experience their favourite recreational activities.

Regional and global indicators reflect a rapid restoration of local travel markets. We expect a vigorous and speedy recovery from the international travel overlapping with the easing of preventive measures in various regions. Major events are scheduled for next year, and the commercial key players will accelerate their efforts to secure their market shares.

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