Basel Talal: RHG launches smart solutions to lead the hospitality recovery

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Basel Talal, Radisson Hotel Group’s Regional Director for Saudi Arabia & Kuwait

With Radisson Hotel Group being one one of the fastest growing companies in the Kingdom,, Basel Talal, Radisson Hotel Group’s Regional Director for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Levant, believes that Radisson Hotels are well-positioned to play a leading role in the Kingdom’s tourism and hospitality comeback.

The region remains to be one of the key focus markets for Radisson Hotel Group’s global development strategy as they continue to reinforce their leading position in Saudi Arabia. Despite the current climate, Radisson Hotel Group is on track to open two new hotels in Saudi Arabia, further strengthening their leading position within the region. The group’s current portfolio in the Kingdom consists of over 45 hotels, resorts and serviced apartments in operation and under development and they  aim to keep the  momentum going. ,

The upcoming hotel openings will debut the Group’s fast-growing midscale Park Inn by Radisson brand in both Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia and Jeddah, the commercial hub.

” Looking towards the future, our ambitions across the region have remained the same and we are further accelerating our footprint within the Kingdom. Despite the unprecedented challenges we face, the upcoming openings re-affirm the Group’s commitment to its ambitious 5-year plan.  In October 2020, Park Inn by Radisson is set to have openings in both Jeddah and Riyadh and we look forward to introduce the brand to these cities. Park Inn by Radisson is a 4-star upper-midscale brand that offers stress-free stays in an vibrant environments..” said Basel Talal, Regional Director for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Levant.

Looking back there is no question, the tourism and hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, but COVID-19 has also brought out many positive attributes in people around the world. It has been uplifting to see communities and hotels come together in support of key workers and medical professionals, rallying around each other.

With the challenging economic situation, international travel ban, and the drop in the hospitality sector, one may wonder about the reasons that are driving RHG’s expansion in Saudi Arabia, and Basel points toward the efforts being made by the country’s government in reopening the market and ensure applying safety standards in all touristic facilities and hotels as well.

Park Inn Riyadh

“The COIVD-19 impact on hospitality business was massive and unprecedented, yet the Saudi government took swift and immediate actions to focus on the safety of people and the result is satisfying so far. . The nation trusts the government and with all  the heightened awareness and precautionary measuresin place, people are feeling safe and they started returning to the “new normal“, while taking into consideration the health and safety recommendations,” he said.

As the lockdown has eased and the world starts to awaken from its COVID-19 slumber, the hospitality industry takes the tentative steps in its comeback, while entering a new landscape and unpredicted times.

“Most hotels across Saudi Arabia have re-opened successfully, only Makkah hotels remain closed due to the restrictions on the Holy City and the international travel ban,.

With the restriction of travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic and suspension of international flights, this summer has been an exceptional one with many venturing out to discover the beauty of Saudi Arabia.

“While many would usually leave Saudi Arabia during the summer months, thr international travel ban has made things different and resulted in an increased demand locally.  Nationals and expatriates used the opportunity to explore Saudi’s heritage and culture as well as its breathtaking scenic beauty.With such high demand for staycations, the reopening of the outside dining culture and and the gradual return of the meetings and events, , we expect hotels revenue to grow again,”

He added, “The Eastern Province, will continue to be a key market for staycations, as locals and residents can enjoy a nature’s adventure while staying at Radisson Blu Resort, Khobar Half Moon Bay with free access to the beach, private chalet, and sport activities. We believe it’s the time to focus on local tourism. We can see that travelers still want to go on holiday, especially after being isolated for such a long time, but safety has become a top priority. As a result, there will definitely be a demand for staycation packages and we expected this trend to continue in the coming months.”

Basel confirmed that there is a gradual increase in bookings rather than cancellations over the last four weeks. “We have seen more bookings than cancellations, with an occupancy level of 50%, especially  in the resorts. Looking at current studies, the market has seen an increased interest from customers searching for private luxury villas, and experiences such as private dining – where they can still enjoy being catered to and looked after, but in a setting that feels peaceful and safe. Speaking about once in a lifetime experiences, we have seen an increased demand for Nofa Resort Riyadh, A Radisson Collection Hotel, an Safari-style resort with 57 luxurious bungalows and villas overlooking Nofa Wildlife Park .” Basel said.

Saudi Arabia positions itself as a destination where international tourists and local guests can avail of safe, reliable, and innovative solutions.

“The successful comeback has been made due to comprehensive changes at our  hotels. We have all had to adapt and act together as a global community for the health and safety of our neighbours, families and friends. Operations have and will continue to change as we continue to apply the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol and the recommendations of the WHO and local health authorities. Measures have included express online check-in and check-out, online payment, the online menu for room service, cutting down total guest numbers to keep common areas quiet, the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) , enhanced and recorded cleaning and disinfection frequency, social distancing in all areas, the reiteration of food safety standards and comprehensive staff training,” he said.

According to Basel, the Saudi Ministry of Tourism had put in place a comeback plan taking into consideration all the precaution measures and safety protocol.

Park Inn Jeddah

“At Radisson Hotels, we have put inplace all the necessary precautionary measures recommended by local authorities. That said, we are proud to announce 26 of our hotels in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the Levant have successfully completed the SGS Disinfection and got the SGS  Pledge certification.

The official SGS Disinfection Monitored and Cleaning Checked Mark confirms the hotels met the highest cleanliness, disinfection, and safety measures and is based on the successful completion of independent, comprehensive testing by SGS including a remote in-depth validation to ensure hotels have implemented all 20-Step and +10-Step protocols for Meetings & Events as outlined and recommended in the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol, followed by an on-site audit and specialized inspection which is completed using the latest testing technology. So far 15 hotels had completed the SGS Plus certification and all the remaining hotels are to follow by the end of September.

Conducted by local SGS inspectors, the on-site two-fold testing includes in-situ Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) and RT-qPCR testing. Both testing methods are essential to confirm whether the hotel is conducting enhanced in-depth cleaning and disinfection measures in line with the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol.

According to Basel, there will be a huge demand for hotels – people want to get back out there.

We can see a massive hunger to get back to travel, vacations, and hotels’ life, meetings and events and outdoor dining,”

To cope with the changes and for a strong comeback with the highest safety standards, RHG did not limit their services to the traditional ones, yet they go beyond and started a smooth digital transformation journey.

” Moving forward, technology will be a key tool in the revival of travel and as we enter into this new era, we will all need to implement various methods to ensure travellers maintain their personal space, making them and others feel safe and at ease. To reduce contact points with our guests, we are implementing more technology while ensuring the experience will remain fast, safe, and effective. For example, we enhanced our Radisson Meeting concept by launching RHG virtual and hyper meetings solutions in EMEA, our hotels are now implementing all the needed requirements to delivering a seamless event of any kind, from hybrid multi-site meetings to broadcasting events.”

Basel added, “We’ll ensure smooth delivery for meetings and events that are efficient, effective, and engaging. And we promise flawless execution. No audio problems, video hiccups, or log-in issues. Guests can rely on our top-notch in-room technology for small meetings. For more complex needs, they can choose from our leading technology partners or we can collaborate with their preferred AV supplier. We believe that virtual experiences can be as effective as traditional face to face meetings and events, but they must be orchestrated differently. From tech glitches, noise distractions, and the challenge of keeping remote attendees engaged, planners have many hurdles to overcome. We work closely with our technology partners, to help deliver a successful virtual event.”

In dining areas, RHG launched the e-menus system, in which guests can scan the barcode and easily select whatever they need from hotels’ digital menus. “Such technology will effectively help us to win the guests’ trust again and gradually, welcome back more guests.”

Radisson will open 8 hotels in Saudi Arabia in 2021, with an ambitious growth plan. “Continuing Radisson Hotel Group’s expansion in Saudi Arabia key cities are Riyadh, and Makkah. We are also getting ready to open the second Radisson Collection in Riyadh, The Mansard Riyadh, A Radisson Collection Hotel, which will be the group’s sixth hotel in the Saudi capital. Later on next year, , we will introduce the Radisson brand to the Saudi market for the first time” Basel added.

RHG aims to increase its presence in dynamic cities such as Riyadh by establishing its new 5 hotels in dynamic areas such as Riyadh Airport, Al Sahafa District, Riyadh International Convention & Exhibition Center, Al Olaya, and Al Thumama District.

 

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