When FRHI was acquired by AccorHotels just over a year ago, to support the luxury and upper-upscale segment the operator established an operational framework with dedicated resources and specific brand strategies to ensure differentiation among its brands and the competition.
Chris Cahill, who has 19 years of experience with FRHI, was appointed to the role of CEO for the luxury division, based in Paris, and Sami Nasser reports directly to Cahill – effectively making him the leader of the luxury brands in this region.
Comprising brands like Raffles, Fairmont, Sofitel, Sofitel Legend, Pullman, Swissôtel, MGallery, and Grand Mercure, the operator has more than 22 hotels in the Middle East and upwards of 40 hotels when incorporating FRHI legacy hotels, making approximately 15,000 rooms across eight countries. More than 30 properties are under development, which will add a further 9,000 hotel rooms to the group’s luxury upscale segment by 2021.
The luxury division boasts robust owner relations, resulting in more than 60% of new projects being with existing owners, including the reflag/takeover of well-known properties Al Ghurair Hotels & Residences – with the Swissôtel & Swissôtel Living brands – and the Sofitel Wafi.
There have been two flagship Fairmont openings within the last 12 months, including Fairmont Fujairah and Fairmont Amman. The 1,487-room Swissôtel Al Maqam also opened its doors, and is flanked by four other properties already within the AccorHotels Luxe portfolio: Pullman ZamZam Makkah, Raffles Makkah Palace, Fairmont Makkah Clock Royal Tower, and Swissôtel Makkah. The Accor properties in Makkah offer a total inventory of more than 6,000 rooms.
Nasser’s other accomplishments, he believes, relate to the company’s talent and culture: “One of my key accomplishments is mentoring and grooming directors of operations and hotel managers,” he says.
Over the course of a year, he has prepared six staff members to take on top leadership positions either at their own hotels or within one of the other hotels in the firm’s portfolio. Setting up a proper framework for professional growth and giving staff the opportunity to take the reins of at a hotel are “key to our business”, he says.