As Egypt’s hospitality sector sees a remarkable recovery and becomes one of the top performers in the region, with the business landscape maturing at a fast pace, foreign hotel chains are starting to bring in new concepts and models to the local market. Invest-Gate conducts a one-on-one interview with CEO of Kerten Hospitality Marloes Knippenberg, one of the newest brands that has taken the hospitality industry by storm with its state-of-the-art boutique hotels and international-scale expertise. Knippenberg shares the main drivers behind the company’s decision to tap into the Egyptian hospitality sector, while giving a scoop of its domestic planned investments.
What factors do you initially consider before deciding to collaborate with any developer or penetrate a new marketplace?
As a leading mixed-use development specialist, Kerten Hospitality has identified Egypt – with its strategic location and booming hospitality sector – as being ripe for expansion. The most important factor when operating is seeking owners with a vision, who can foresee where the world of living/ hospitality/working is heading and can determine how they will be intricately connected in the future, while having the drive to create a destination that actively addresses that. As I often say, those with large capital, funds, or lands are easily found, but it is those with a vision who can seal the deal.
Kerten Hospitality develops projects that give the best return on investment (ROI) for any owner – something that really adds to the possessed real estate product, and the only way to do so is through collaboration. Currently, we are heading east and are looking forward to expanding into new emerging markets, which have no saturation in the lifestyle segment and hold a high proportion of young adults under 30 years old. More significantly, we grow in places that have the foremost investors for us, ones who share our long-term vision.
In Egypt, specifically, we respect our partners’ efforts to support and encourage entrepreneurship, in addition to those focusing on boosting the local economy and creating local jobs, whilst bringing a world-class experience to the anticipated project.
What are the main challenges that Kerten Hospitality has encountered in the MENA Region’s hospitality industry, and what are the strategies you propose to resolve these issues?
By far, the greatest challenge is bringing something new to the market, where global brands are – or were – traditionally preferred, and where being the “first” is not the drive, but rather being the best to get one’s feet on the ground. But, once that wheel gets going, it goes faster than anyone could ever expect.
Other shortcomings that remain looming are legislations and technology adoption. Each MENA country has different rules; for example, heavy security and bringing off-the-shelf tech products are a hassle. Simply put, replacing a desk in the lobby with a kiosk check-in can be challenging. However, with the combination of our global expertise and our partners’ understanding of the local market, we always find an effective solution.
Lastly, multi-tasking is still an issue in many markets we are expanding into. Although this will improve over time, empowering people with the skills required to operate across a multifunctional destination remains time-consuming…