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CROWNEHOTEL

SAUDI ARABIA - Tourism

Fady Sawaya

Area General Manager IHG, Riyadh Central and Eastern Province & General Manager, Crowne Plaza RDC

Bio

Fady Sawaya has been a passionate hotelier since 1996. Throughout his career with IHG, he has had the privilege of working in various countries and regions, gaining valuable experience with different brands within the hospitality sector. As an Area General Manager, he oversees a portfolio of 14 hotels, working closely with 11 talented General Managers. This role has allowed him to develop leadership skills, mentor aspiring professionals, and create a lasting impact in the industry. He reached this position after several career moves starting in Sales & Marketing to the Rooms Division. He was involved in the opening of hotels in Yas Island Abu Dhabi. One of his greatest joys is catering and fine dining cuisine, as he is deeply passionate about delivering exceptional experiences for guests. He takes pride in his ability to adapt to different countries and regions, embracing the diversity of cultures and ways of working and living. These experiences have taught him valuable lessons in adaptability and have enriched his understanding of the world. He is driven by a strong desire to develop leaders within the industry and leave a positive legacy.

"The Crowne Plaza RDC had the honor of hosting the G20 summit in a hybrid event format, which provided us with a remarkable and unforgettable experience."
TBY talks to Fady Sawaya, Area General Manager IHG, Riyadh Central and Eastern Province & General Manager for Crowne Plaza RDC, about milestones and developments in the local tourism sector.
Can you outline The Crowne Plaza RDC’s journey since its inception and its milestones since then?

The Crowne Plaza RDC had the honor of hosting the G20 summit in a hybrid event format, which provided us with a remarkable and unforgettable experience. With a total of 326 rooms and expansive meeting and conference facilities, our hotel covers an impressive area of approximately 170,000sqm. Known as a prominent venue, we have been privileged to host various significant events, including the recent Cardiologist Association gathering that drew about 2,000 dignitaries from the global cardiology community attendees and occupied our entire meeting spaces. Situated in an advantageous location, we are surrounded by numerous prominent companies that want to hold events and showcase their work. We are the perfect choice to help them achieve their objectives.

How would you assess the hospitality and tourism sector in Saudi Arabia so far?

The sector is experiencing substantial growth thanks to Vision 2030, the direction of the Ministry of Tourism, in collaboration with the government, and the efforts of public and private entities. The government’s facilitation of the industry, notably in expediting visa procedures for tourists, has had a pronounced impact, fostering increased public engagement. Simultaneously, the private sector is witnessing a surge in investments within the Kingdom, contributing to the dynamic activities observed throughout Saudi Arabia. The public sector’s supportive role has facilitated industry expansion and encouraged a growing influx of visitors eager to explore the country’s offerings. This shared enthusiasm to participate in the evolving landscape extends beyond religious tourism, encompassing diverse investment endeavors aimed at establishing a lasting presence and contributing to the broader goals outlined in Vision 2030.

Apart from its location, what makes Crowne Plaza RDC so unique, and what are its competitive advantages?

The hotel’s strategic location in the north of Riyadh plays a pivotal role, serving as a dynamic hub for all the businesses around this area that continues to attract significant attention. Encompassing the Digital City and its close proximity to the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD), the Ministry of Investment, the Ministry of Energy, and several semi-governmental agencies, the hotel’s advantageous position facilitates reciprocal benefits between the hotel and neighboring businesses. The hotel’s capacity is another advantage, including its numerous rooms and expansive conference spaces, positioning it as a preferred destination for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibition (MICE) events. The availability of spacious meeting rooms, suitable for both large-scale and mid-sized gatherings, further enhances its appeal. With the provision of ample parking space and multiple entrances, the hotel ensures seamless accessibility and convenience for event attendees. Additionally, the hotel prides itself on the high quality of service from team members on the ground. Our commitment to ensuring a seamless experience for event organizers reflects the hotel’s holistic approach to hospitality, creating an environment where clients can conduct their events with peace of mind and unwavering confidence.

Who is your target clientele, and is the hotel looking to attract more local or international guests?

Our clientele is largely corporate and public sector customers. Saudi is widely known for its business environment and is now focused on expanding into other segments including leisure and sports that will encourage more people to come to the country. Increasing the number of rooms in Riyadh will be a major focus from now to 2030. We are seeing more international travelers come to the city, though we cannot underestimate the local clientele. Saudi is a large country, and we are witnessing a growing number of visitors from Jeddah, Khobar, and other regions to Riyadh. The city is becoming a hub not only for business but entertainment as well.

What initiatives have you implemented to position the hotel as the preferred choice for both leisure travelers and locals?

Our hotel has earned a commendable reputation for our commitment to excellence in hospitality. This dedication is reflected in our daily operations, where we prioritize the satisfaction of our guests; however, our efforts go beyond on-site service delivery. We actively participate in leading international exhibitions such as WTM, IMEX, and ATM, ensuring our global presence and commitment to a diverse clientele. With dedicated representatives attending events and hosting meetings around the world, including recent participation at the IMEX in Las Vegas, we reinforce our commitment to forging meaningful connections and showcasing our offering on a global scale. Working closely with the Ministry of Tourism, we align our efforts with broader industry initiatives, emphasizing our dedication to promoting the Kingdom’s hospitality sector. Ultimately, our overall goal is to establish a strong and accessible presence in the marketplace, connecting directly with end users and quickly addressing their diverse needs.

How do you envision the future of the hospitality sector implementing innovation and new technology solutions?

The growth trajectory within our operations is a continuous process, characterized by a strong emphasis on enhancing the overall guest experience, from streamlined booking procedures to a seamless stay at our hotel. Leveraging the significant investments made by IHG, we have prioritized the simplification of our systems and platforms, ensuring the right accessibility for our clientele. This commitment extends beyond room bookings to encompass the efficient reservation and utilization of our expansive meeting and event spaces, facilitated by the integration of user-friendly tools designed to cater to the MICE sector. Since the pandemic, most businesses have prioritized digitalization services. Even the government has launched a platform where all governmental institutions can inquire for catering, event space and room requirement through an app. This progressive step has facilitated not only greater transparency from a governmental perspective, but also a more equitable and efficient process, allowing multiple hotels to competitively bid for opportunities. Furthermore, our hotel remains dedicated to embracing technological integration within the realm of event management. Through strategic partnerships with leading tech companies, we have equipped our meeting faciities with cutting-edge solutions, including advanced LED screens, to meet the evolving demands of our distinctive clientele.

Would you say that hosting events is a key priority?

Events are one of our main priorities. For instance, in this specific hotel, an impressive 44% of our revenue comes from F&B services, coupled with meeting facilities, while 40% comes from room bookings. Additionally, 15% comes from other operating departments, encompassing various aspects such as rentals and parking, among others. This well-balanced revenue distribution serves as a distinct advantage for us. Unlike other competitors, for whom room bookings dominate the revenue, our comprehensive range of services allows us to benefit from a more evenly distributed income.

What are your key priorities and what do you hope to achieve by the end of next year?

Our approach is to always align with our owners in terms of priorities from a financial perspective. We also prioritize various KPIs, particularly related to soft metrics, such as guest satisfaction and employee engagement. We hold the satisfaction of both guests and employees in high regard, ensuring that our employees receive the same care and attention as our guests. Nurturing our IHG One Reward guests and members also holds significance for us, as it serves as a tangible demonstration of our mutual loyalty and commitment to providing exceptional services and exclusive benefits within our expansive 6,600 hotels worldwide. In addition to these efforts, our commitment to sustainability and reducing carbon emissions remains a paramount concern. As part of our global corporate sustainability initiatives, we actively pursue various energy-saving measures, including transitioning to energy-efficient LED lighting and implementing solar power systems across our properties. Maintaining superior quality standards within our hotels is another crucial aspect, encompassing meticulous attention to cleanliness and adherence to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), ensuring a safe and comfortable environment for our guests. In 2023, we are participating in Great Place to Work program, an international recognition that acknowledges businesses for their outstanding contributions.

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