“Currently, we have about 800 direct employees and we plan to hire around 1,600-1,700 more staff in the next five years in line with our expansion plans in the region, taking our total staff strength to around 2,500,” Paul Bridger, chief operating officer of Rove Hotels told The National on the sidelines of the Future Hospitality Summit in Abu Dhabi.
Rove Hotels is seeking to expand beyond the UAE, primarily in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
“Following our success over the last few years, particularly in Dubai, we want to take the brand now beyond UAE to the GCC region. Our focus is obviously the key markets of UAE, Saudi and Egypt but we are open to other GCC countries. And potentially further afield,” Mr Bridger said.
“The region is undergoing a hospitality boom. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE are seeing huge investment in tourism projects. This has given us confidence to be part of the success story.”
The hotel market in the Middle East has emerged as the strongest in the world this year judging by industry performance metrics such as occupancy, revenue per available room (RevPar) and average room rate, as stated by hospitality data analytics firm STR.
Regional hotels' average room rate reached $160 year-to-date in 2023, compared to $142 for US hotels, $141 for European hotels and $90 for their Asia-Pacific counterpart, STR said in a report this month.
Last year was the "best year ever" for Rove Hotels, which is a joint venture between Meraas and Emaar Properties, Mr Bridger said.
"This year we're having another strong year and we're already forecasting to be around 20 per cent ahead of our full year profit targets, supported by major city events in [the fourth quarter] including Cop28 and others,” he said.
The top three markets where Rove Hotels’ guests come from are the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Russia, Mr Bridger said.
Next come tourists from the UK and India.
“Tourists from within the UAE top the list as most of them are looking for staycations, or they just moved into the UAE or are leaving the country.”
Rove currently has around 3,500 rooms operational, and is targeting 10,000 rooms in operation or under development over the next five years.
The hotel chain, which currently owns nine hotels, is also looking for more opportunities in the residential property market, after its first two branded residence projects – Rove Home Aljada and Rove Home in Downtown Dubai – sold out.
“We expect to be launching more similar products soon,” Mr Bridger said.
"We're also looking at potentially doing mixed use projects moving forward where there will be a hotel component, a branded residence component and another component such as a more extensive F&B [food and beverage] or entertainment offering, under the Rove brand.”
Rove Hotels will be “focused on taking on management opportunities, as opposed to owning all our hotel assets and thanks to the brand recognition we believe now is a good time to really take this brand across the GCC,” he added.
The Middle East's tourism sector has recorded the strongest post-pandemic rebound in the world despite persistent global economic headwinds, as stated in an August report by HSBC.
The region is unique in recording a “total recovery” in terms of tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2023, the bank said.
The number of tourist arrivals to the Middle East in the first three months of this year climbed 15 per cent on the levels recorded in 2019.