These are tough times for our region’s hotels, but Mövenpick is still gaining ground.
By Dina al Wakeel
Tourism in our part of the world is far from being in rude health. Instability has scared many foreign tourists away, leaving the industry in many Arab countries in the red.
Yet Frank Reichenbach, General and Regional Manager of Mövenpick Turkey, says a new found preference by Arabs for regional tourism, Turkey included, has given a much-needed boost to his chain’s hotels in the region.
What’s your biggest market in the region and where do you mostly receive guests from?
The hotels with the best results are in Dubai where they are doing extremely well. In Turkey, Istanbul is also one of the successful ones.
[The guests mostly come from] Germany, the UK, Switzerland, some from America and South America, and China is building up.
Did the increasing fear of instability in the region affect the numbers of your guests?
Our hotels in Jordan in general are doing really well. Beirut is always a bit up and down. In Egypt, where we have 10 hotels and eight Nile cruise boats, the drop following the revolution of 2011 was in the region of 25 to 30 percent, though this was not consistent with all hotels. The Red Sea hotels have been less affected, [while] the hotels near the Pyramids in Cairo and the cruise boats, more so.
The recovery has been gradual, and this summer was very strong again with visitors coming mainly from GCC countries, Russia, and local Egyptians. We feel that 2015 will show growth again, with occupancies approximately 15 percent behind a normal good year like 2008 and 2010.
In Turkey, with the border [crisis], the news you see on TV about any country does have effects. They say: “How’s Istanbul?” I say it’s 2,500 kilometers away from the Syrian border. But from certain countries people say they prefer to put it on hold. Business travelers will still come, but leisure is a different story… so we try to get guests from other markets.
That’s part of this whole challenge: the political events do affect certain markets. Then I think some domestic markets become stronger; within the Middle East people travel around. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait are very important markets, they are still sustainable. Beirut is still a preferable location, and we have discovered that Turkey, particularly Istanbul is also receiving a lot more Middle Eastern customers because they’d now rather go there because it’s closer to home, than other destinations like mainstream Europe.
How do you differentiate yourself from the competition in the region where there are a wide range of five star hotels?
This is tough and I think if you ask 10 of my colleagues we will all give you a bit of a similar answer: We go the extra mile. In Mövenpick our base is gastronomy. We started as a restaurant chain some 60 plus years ago, so this is still key for us and I think that we have generally a very good reputation for our food and beverage. So that’s one way where we set ourselves apart. Another is this Swissness we have; we like to have things on time, we fulfill the promises, and we are not huge, we are 80 hotels worldwide, mainly in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. So compared to the big players we have this boutique family touch. We still know the guests and other colleagues in the hotel industry, so that gives us a certain advantage.