Sapphire Plaza looking to capitalise on mid-market hotel shortage
Ahead of the official opening of the Sapphire Plaza, a four-star hotel with 174 rooms and suites, Ahmed Abdelrazek, managing director, Sapphire Hospitality and Management, talks about the growth prospects of the hospitality sector in Qatar, and shares how a shortage of supply in the mid-market segment creates a perfect business opportunity to launch the property.
After having a soft launch in September, you are now preparing to open the hotel for guests later this year. Do you think the timing is right for launching a new property when the market is tough?
Yes, we had our pre-soft opening last September 2015. In regards to the timing, what I can say from my 25 years of experience working for many big hotels and resort chains is that there is no universal rule about the best day to launch a property. However, as a preparation for opening this hotel, we have taken into consideration a number of things such as developing a market study and action plan, formulating a strategy for upcoming events in Doha and so on.
That is why we are definitely confident of our decision to launch our first four-star hotel, Sapphire Plaza hotel, in Doha, Qatar.
Qatar’s hospitality sector over the years has seen much of its new supply coming in for the high-end, luxury and five-star segments. The country seems to have a shortage of mid-market properties. Yours is a four-star hotel. Is it a deliberate strategy to capture the mid-market segment?
The market in Qatar has been actively developing a new dimension of luxury hotel and apartment properties for the past years. So, I would say, yes, one of our major focuses is the mid-market segment. We intent to offer spacious rooms with understated luxury services and elegance, just like a five-star hotel, but at a good price.
So would you say that your unique selling proposition (USP) is offering luxury services at a good price. How are you going to present yourself in the market which is seeing a tough competition due to new supply?
Our USP is to establish a close rapport with our mid-market segment, business and leisure travellers. Yes, having a clear and refined target market always gives us an advantage and better understanding. There can be hundreds of hotels in Doha that offer food and lodging, but what Sapphire Plaza hotel is looking to provide is a superior experience at a reasonable price. To sum up, I would say it is very important to understand the reason behind a person’s choice of travel or hotel, no matter whether they are business or leisure travellers, or even corporate clients.
Tell us about your parent company and how that experience helped you venture into the hospitality sector.
Our parent company, Dania group – which was established in 1997 and promoted by our chairman Sheikh Nasser Bin Mohammed Al Thani and Shahzad Ahmed Mughal, CEO and partner – plays an enormous role in achieving business success and company’s growth.
Dania group has a wide range of business divisions such as real estate, contracting, interior designing and decorating, trading, travel and tourism, entertainment, and information technology.
Driven by the sense of commitment to develop a new dimension in the hospitality sector, Sapphire Hospitality and Management has managed to establish itself in the first quarter of 2014. Certainly, our parent company has played a big role in that by providing full support – right from selecting property locations, furnitures and IT solution to helping us put out our first four-star hotel, in September 2015.
What is your take on the growth prospects of the hospitality and tourism sector in Qatar?
Among its neighbours, for the past years, Qatar remains one of the largest and fastest growing markets in hospitality and tourism, registering an average annual visitor’s growth rate of 11.5 percent.
According to Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), the tourism sector recorded an impressive performance last year, registering 3.7 percent increase in the number of foreign visitors, in comparison to 2014. The country received 2.93 million visitors in 2015, when the hotel occupancy rates stood at as high as 71 percent, despite the addition of 15 new hotels into the market.
The interesting thing to notice here is that hotel and hotel apartment data showed a positive performance with especially high occupancy rates in four-star hotels and standard
These impressive results are certainly having a positive impact on us. I think Qatar will get along in terms of tourism numbers, especially due to the upcoming 2022 World Cup, which will also offer good business and investment opportunities.
The majority of Qatar’s travellers fall within the business segment, with a very low number of leisure travellers. Is this your main target market?
Yes, one of our target markets is the business travellers who are looking for convenience and a good price.
There is a fear of oversupply in the market due to the massive planned supply that is expected to enter in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup. Are you concerned about your occupancy rates and profits post the 2022 World Cup?
In terms of number, I do not think there will be any effect on the hotels after the 2022 World Cup.
In line with the Qatar National Vision 2030, Qatar is growing and so is the hospitality sector. The number of investors and visitors into this country are also increasing rapidly. We believe that after the 2022 World Cup, Qatar market will grow strongly and will continue to do so over the next decade.