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5 Minutes with… Taras Ettl, vice president of development, MENA region, IHG

What were the hotel group’s key achievements and milestones in 2015?

Globally, we maintained a strong momentum in 2015, driven by a clear strategy and disciplined execution. We delivered our highest room openings since 2009, our best signings since 2008, 11% underlying profit growth and 19% underlying EPS growth. We have strengthened our brand portfolio, adding Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants into the IHG family and accelerating signings across our mainstream and extended stay brands. In the Middle East, we were impacted by declining oil prices, ending the year up 0.2%, however we achieved significant milestones across the region opening four hotels in 2015:
The 100 key Holiday Inn Tabuk, will be the first hotel to be signed and opened under our MDA with DUR Hospitality Group.

InterContinental Dubai Marina has 150 rooms and is home to Marina Social restaurant – Michelin-starred chef, Jason Atherton’s first in the Middle East.

Holiday Inn Jeddah Gateway, with 200 rooms, our second property in Jeddah.

Crowne Plaza Kuwait Thuraya City has210 rooms

What have been the key challenges facing your hotel group and the hospitality sector in general and how have you met these challenges?

The current oil prices do impose pressure on the Middle East’s trade and economy, however, the medium to long-term prospects for the hotel industry remain good. Moreover, the strength of our business model gives us the confidence to continue as planned on our Middle East pipeline.

What are the hotel group’s key goals for 2016 and why?

We will continue to build on our strengths across the Middle East– particularly in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Our key goal is to ensure that we are the number one choice for our guests, employees and hotel owners in the region. We continue to invest in our people, our service and our brands to deliver on this goal.

How is technology dictating the way you run your business and liaise with customers, from bookings and social media to in-room technology?

Technology and loyalty play an important part in driving our revenue delivery. Globally, our digital revenue of $4.2bn is up more than $0.4bn year-on-year, ahead of any other channel. 40% of our digital traffic comes from mobile devices, which is an area we continue to focus on. Our winning strategy is underpinned by investment in technology platforms.

Key elements of IHG’S technology roadmap include:

Digital Content – to connect and engage with guests throughout the guest journey and to broaden the role of the brand

Property Level Capabilities – robust and efficient in-hotel execution to deliver on the brand promise

Data, analytics and CRM – focused on driving personalisation and the latest programmatic marketing capabilities

Flexible and scalable infrastructure – to ensure solid foundations for flexible, agile and integrated technology ecosystems

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