Our latest investment report on Kuwait was recently published in one of the leading Spanish dailies, ABC. FindMe in Kuwait explores the economic perspectives of Kuwait and the country´s future plans to compete with its fast developing neighbours. Once the leading country of the Gulf, Kuwait has remained silent for the past decade. And although many would like to see faster changes, Kuwait is moving, at its pace, to them. Inexorably. Learn about who is who in Kuwait and read what the leaders say about their own future in our upcoming release: FindMe in Kuwait Mobile app.
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Global Gulf Consulting has concluded its latest production on Bahrain, FindMe in Bahrain giving the country a fresh approach after a couple of difficult years of local demonstrations that matched the global recession. Bahrain is a small island in the Arabian Gulf with an incredible potential for logistics, industries and tourism. FindMe in Bahrain was supported by both the public and private sector of Bahrain. Banagas, Nass Corporation, BBK and DHL were GGC strategic partners in the development of the series among others.
FindMe in Bahrain is available at the local bookstores Jashamal and online as well as in the Apple Store. It is a full business leisure and business guide for any investor or visitor interested in traveling to Bahrain or for those that already live there.
FindMe in Saudi offers a multi-faceted overview combining business and leisure, economy and heritage. The book aims to capture the current development of Saudi Arabia in the words of the people who live and work there. It is an authoritative source of information for investors, businessmen and travellers produced to firmly position KSA as an attractive investment destination.
In contains general information about the country´ economic performance and who is who as a sectorial overview and a leisure guide.
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Mr. Noureddine Mouguila
General Manager of MENA
Al Hokair's signature brand: Mena
Some 20 years ago, the group got involved in the hospitality industry, building hotels which they owned but were managed by the Holiday Inn and later the Golden Tulip brands. As time went on and the group gained experience, Al Hokair set up its own management company, MENA Hotels & Resorts. “MENA is my baby”, Mazkour admits. “I established it for Al Hokair in 2008 and put a lot of passion and work in it, coming up with the concept and the standards.” The brand is jointly owned by Sami Al Hokair as its principal investor and Fadi Mazkour as its principal operator, and concentrates on independent boutique hotels in the 4 and 5 star categories. Mazkour has over 30 years of experience in the tourism industry. “As long as I remember,” he smiles, “I have always worked behind the bar in restaurants and hotels to get some pocket money, and I loved it.” He later went to a hotel management school and started working in Meridien hotels in France, later moving on to brands such as Continental, Plaza or Rotana. “Since 2003, I had been working with Coral, a Dubai-based hotel management company. But I have always wanted to work together with the Al Hokair family and when I finally had the chance, we cut a deal. MENA (Middle East & North Africa) is a very emblematic name, it stands for our philosophy: we are from the Middle East, we are established here. As Arabs, we are experts in hospitality, that is what we have always been known for.”
Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Al Hokair, representing an important shift in the world of hospitality and accommodation in KSA, inaugurated the first MENA Hotel in Riyadh on October 4th, 2008. “We have another MENA hotel scheduled to open soon in Riyadh with around 450 rooms and a smaller, residential 3 star property will be inaugurated later as the first MENA Suites.” The group is planning to develop the brand and introduce it to other cities in KSA, as well as to UAE, Oman, other GCC countries “and the entire MENA region, as the name itself implies”, Mazkour smiles.
Mr. Noureddine Bouguila is a man on a challenging adventure: he is the first general manager of the first MENA hotel, in Riyadh. Bouguila has previously worked in several international hotel chains, most recently Meridien, in countries such as the UAE, the Comoro Islands and Sudan. He has also run the Arabian Food Supply Catering Company, which cooked the daily meals for more than 15,000 Aramco staff members.
“We want the MENA brand to stand for boutique style hotels with an innovative style and decoration to attract young customers and business travellers alike,” Bouguila explains. “We roll out the red carpet for businessmen by offering privileged services and amenities including an exclusive Business Centre equipped with wireless high-speed internet access, facsimile and secretarial services. For seminars, we have two Conference rooms that can accommodate up to 70 persons each, with built-in data projectors and screens, boards and flip charts, meeting kits and technical assistance.” In all, the hotel offers 92 premium rooms, 23 executive rooms and 49 congress suites spread over five floors. Al Rehab dining and the Café Inn are joined by a spa and fitness centre to complete the experience.
“Mena has a clear image of where we want to go in the short term. Our aim is to become the leader of the local market as a local company”, continues Bouguila. “Our first hotel, Mena Riyadh, has been doing very well so far. Our occupancy rate is 72%-75% year round.” Europeans make up about 40% of this number while Saudi and GCC customers account for another 40%, the being Asians and Australians.
One group that the brand has managed to attract in numbers are businesswomen. KSA has only recently started to allow women to travel and stay in hotels unaccompanied by their mehrem – a male family member protecting their honour - and Mena immediately started catering for these new potential clients. “Today many women are opening up and running their own business. Accordingly, they are participating in trade fairs and conferences and so need to travel often. When they get good services at a hotel, they recommend it to their friends, families and business partners. We have been building a good image among the female clients as they have been satisfied with our services”.
The sky is the limit
But there is more to Al Hokair than its youngest sprout MENA. In 2008 Al Hokair Group signed an agreement with Hilton to develop 13 Garden Inn hotels in KSA, the first of which – and the first Hilton Garden Inn of the Middle East - has meanwhile opened on Riyadh’s Olaya Road in the city's commercial district. The group has unveiled a very aggressive expansion plan, aiming to expand to 25 hotels over the next five years. The group is expecting to invest SR 1 billion in the sector in the same period, doubling its number of hotel rooms to 7,000 by 2014.
“This year we have 3 to 4 hotels opening, so that is an expansion of 15%. In terms of return and profit, the number will be lower at first but grow over the years,” states Mazkour. “The sky is the limit.” Al Hokair's hotel and restaurant/entertainment divisions are almost evenly balanced now, and cooperate intensely by one branch providing the coffee shops, restaurants and kids' zones in the hotels. Its theme parks and are spreading fast too, with four in Abu Dhabi and the group looking at opportunities in Jordan and Lebanon. But its home remains KSA. Says Bouguila: “The Saudi market is an extraordinary market and the country is well worth visiting. It is a safe place where contracts are respected, unlike some other places I have known. I am sure that we will have great opportunities to attract people in the future, mainly through the work of the SCTA and the interest of the government in driving the development of the sector.”
Training for the future
To keep up with the human resources challenge posed by an ever-expanding business amid a lack of qualified hospitality professionals in Saudi Arabia, the group has created its own solution: establishing the first Tourism Academy of the country in a partnership with the Jordanian Company for Hotel and Tourist Education in 2009
The academy, originally created to train Al Hokair own employees in different areas of hotel management and services, has turned out to be in great demand with universities, institutions and individuals with many interested to enrol as students. Al Hokair has two more training ventures scheduled, one in a partnership with Saudi Oger and another as a joint venture between the Tourism Academy and the municipality of Jeddah.
“Even more than other sectors of the economy, the tourist industry will always need Saudi nationals to be represent our own tradition of hospitality”, explains Fadi Mazkour, Director of Business Development and Marketing. “We want to focus more on developing people and maintaining the personnel we already have by offering them lifetime careers”. This would be another success for Al Hokair, which has already been awarded the prize of 'Best Work Environment' in KSA.