Group’s New CEO Laurent A. Voivenel Unveils Strategy for Growth Focusing on Home Turf UAE
Laurent A. Voivenel took over as the CEO of HMH – Hospitality Management Holdings merely three and a half months ago. During this period he has been busy mapping out 2014 for HMH.
He explains, “My philosophy is to start by understanding what our capabilities are and then finding the best opportunities. HMH is a fantastic organization to do business with and has tremendous potential for growth. We have diverse brands, presence in some of the most promising destinations in the MENA region, highly experienced and talented people and exceptional products and service – all of which differentiate us in a unique way in the market place. The group has come a long way from its modest beginning in 2003. It is an exciting challenge for me to take up the reins at this momentous moment when the organisation has just completed ten eventful years since its formation and lead it into the next decade. It is now time to consolidate and accelerate. I look forward to building on to the great work done so far and steering HMH toward greater success”.
Since Laurent took the helm at HMH, he has set a new tone for the company’s future that is evident from his strategy for the group. He is definitely not in a rush and wants to take steady steps saying, “I believe if something seems not under control, you are going too fast. Therefore, we would be focusing more on value over volume.”
Not surprisingly, the 54-year-old seasoned hotelier exudes a calm almost unflappable air, and is seen as a safe pair of hands with a long to-do list that aims to drive a single mission for HMH: ‘We say, we do’. He knows all the tricks of the trade with an in-depth understanding of hospitality business having spent over 28 years in the industry with legendary hotel chains such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts and Hilton Hotels & Resorts that took him to some of the most fascinating and challenging destinations across Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East (Cannes and Paris in France; French Polynesia; Honolulu, Hawaii; Okinawa, Japan; Tahiti, Manama, Bahrain; Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; Aqaba, Jordan; Brummana in Lebanon; Dubai, UAE; etc).
“First and foremost, we want to listen and learn from our customers. It is absolutely critical to ‘Give customers what they want’. You have got to be anticipating what the customer is going to value in the future and how the competitors are improving. Our business is all about finding and delivering what people value”.
Laurent believes 2014 holds good prospects for HMH. “It will be strongly marked by strengthening our executive team, sharpening our brand image, developing new multi-lingual websites, launching new loyalty programmes and opening four new properties. As we embark on rolling out these strategic initiatives, continued fiscal discipline, superior service and quality control remain central to our objectives. We will work closely with the various departments to establish a new, fully integrated system to boost productivity and are confident that the direction we have chosen is the best way forward for the desired progress and growth. We are redirecting resources to areas where we have identified opportunities to create value with greater local relevance. Let us put it this way, it is not a revolution but an evolution bearing in mind customers’ expectations. The buzzwords at HMH in 2014 will be proactive, strategic, innovative, collaborative and integrative”.
-How many hotels do you operate?
HMH – Hospitality Management Holdings is a fully-integrated hotel management company with four diverse brands namely The Ajman Palace, Coral Hotels & Resorts, Corp Executive Hotels and EWA Hotel Apartments. The group prides itself on being the first hotel chain in the Middle East to offer alcohol-free safe environment. When developers consider our hotel management company for their asset, they know HMH will deliver for ‘We say, we do’. Our existing portfolio features 20 properties, under the various brands as well as a healthy pipeline of hotels under development.
-What are your occupancy rates at the three hotel brands?
2013 was a very good year and we have got very happy owners. All our properties have done exceedingly well in terms of occupancy and RevPar particularly in countries such as the UAE and KSA. Other destinations like Baghdad, Amman, Beirut, Khartoum, Port Sudan, etc too did pretty well with seasonal dips depending on the market conditions often determined by political situation in the region. We do very well when it is calm and not so well when it not calm. With a little bit more stability we could have done better. If you look at the GOP, all our brands are in the same bracket. However, as we have more Coral hotels, the percentage of business is much higher for Coral.
-What are your top markets for Coral, Corp and EWA hotels in Dubai?
It all depends on the property and location you are in. We have had an amazing response from around the world be it the Pan Arab countries, Europe, South Asia, Far East Asia, Africa, North America, Canada and Mexico, South America or Australasia. Moving forward we are certainly keen to expand our share of emerging markets such as China, Nordic countries, Brazil, Latin America and CIS and Baltic states.
-What are your plans for 2014 to expand your portfolio?
We wish to grow the path according to our strategic plan that is sustainable in a physical sense. It is not only about business opportunities out there. Therefore, our expansion plans are at the moment sharply focused on the UAE, followed by GCC. Emerging markets such as North Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and India are on the radar too, but only when the right opportunity knocks. Dubai is the place to be at the moment, as hosting Expo 2020 in the emirate is expected to deliver a two per cent boost to GDP with an estimated $43bn infrastructure spent. Moreover, tourism and property are once again helping fuel the renewed boom in the emirate. Airport capacity, bolstered by the massive new Al Maktoum airport, is set to triple over the next decade as fast-growing Emirates airline grabs a larger share of the global long-haul market. We want to be part of this exciting scenario.
Hotels Opening in 2014
1. Coral Muscat Hotel Apartments (88 keys)
2. EWA Nile Tower – Khartoum (64 keys)
3. EWA Port Sudan (60 Keys)
4. Coral International Sports City Dubai (304 keys)
-Which new markets do you want to enter in the next couple of years?
We are certainly keen to put our foot in Asia and are eager to explore any opportunities that will allow us to export our brand there, but we are definitely not in a hurry to do so given the extent of our ongoing development in the Middle East. Having said that it remains the next frontier of expansion for us as and when the right opportunity knocks our door, hopefully by 2015 / 2016. Some of the countries we are looking at include Indonesia, Malaysia and China. We are keen to diversify our markets but it all has to make financial sense to us being headquartered in Dubai. Before we consider any project we have to make the math.
-What are your plans for Expo 2020? Any plans to be near the Expo 2020 site?
Dubai’s successful bid for World Expo 2020 will be a massive stimulant for the entire (GCC) region’s hospitality and meetings industry accelerating economic growth and development. The Expo will deliver global exposure for the UAE and its tourism sector, including its world-class infrastructure. Being based in Dubai, it will no doubt unlock a world of opportunities for HMH and our various brands. We therefore look ahead with a great deal of confidence and excitement. At this stage there is nothing definite but we are in talks with certain entities to explore opportunities for our brands in Dubai World Central (DWC), the Expo 2020 site.
-What would you focus on economy or luxury hotels, or hotel apartments for 2014 in the next couple of years?
HMH provides hotel owners and developers a broad spectrum of comprehensive management solutions with four distinct, yet complementary, hotel brands catering to varied market segments from budget to luxury. These include The Ajman Palace, Coral Hotels & Resorts, Corp Executive Hotels and EWA Hotel Apartments. Over the years, we have established an excellent reputation with our brands offering a safe, alcohol-free environment that has given us a unique niche both regionally and globally. Building on our strong record, we are stepping into a new era and are ready to take up and new challenges and opportunities be it in 4-5 star category or mid-market / budget segment.
-Do you agree that Dubai and the UAE lacks enough budget hotels? What are you going to do about it?
Hotel stock in the Middle East including the UAE is predominantly geared towards luxury and up-market accommodation leaving a huge gap and opportunity for budget hotels that we are keen to develop. The region is seeing growth in inter-regional travel, increased airport capacity and an expanding middle class that would push the demand for budget hotels. We are eager to target this largely untapped market for mid-scale and economy hotels in the region with ECOS Hotels that will be a perfect fit with its economical and ecological concept. At the moment we have 3 different projects under consideration in the UAE.
-When will ECOS Hotels launch?
We have got solid expansion plans for ECOS Hotels. When you build a hotel, you build a relationship with an owner. Budget hotels have to be in the long-term mind frame. Since the concept of ECOS Hotels is very defined, we are being very careful and selective in not developing the hotel with someone who does not have a long-term understanding with us.
For more information about HMH please visit http://www.hmh-dubai.com
For media contact:
MPJ (Marketing Pro-Junction)
Mob: +971 50 6975146