The development of Qatar over the past few years has been little short of meteoric and has proved the catalyst for the continued growth of the hotel industry within the country.
Very much at the forefront of hotel development in Qatar – and nowadays much further beyond, is Katara Hospitality, a company which has become part of the fabric of the nation’s hotel sector.
“Katara Hospitality, formerly known as Qatar National Hotels Limited, was established in 1970 by the Government of Qatar and since then has adopted a pioneering approach to developing the hospitality landscape in the country,” states Hamad Abdullah Al-Mulla, CEO.
“Using our experience and scale, we continued to develop high quality hospitality environments and today we own and manage more than 7,000 four-and five-star hotel rooms across Europe, Asia and Africa,” he continues.
The company was re-named in 2012 as Katara Hospitality to reflect the company’s heritage and international expansion plans. Katara Hospitality currently owns properties spread across 3 continents in Qatar, Egypt, Morocco, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Singapore and Thailand.
“Our continued vision is to develop a portfolio of unique properties that are celebrated hospitality icons across the world and we take immense pride in and enjoy the challenge of converting properties that carry fascinating history into remarkable hospitality complexes,” Abdullah Al-Mulla describes.
“Each of our properties represents a hospitality icon in its own right, further strengthening Qatar’s reputation as a key player in the global tourism market. It’s in our interest to preserve these icons by investing in their restoration and discrete modernisation to ensure their heritage and luxury offering is available for future generations.”
Katara Hospitality’s beginnings can be traced back to 1970, when the Government of Qatar established Qatar National Hotels Limited to manage the Gulf Hotel, now the Doha Marriott, the country’s first five-star hotel, while 1982 marked the opening of the first internationally branded property, the iconic Sheraton Doha.
Since 2003, Katara Hospitality evolved into a highly profitable owner, developer and operator with ambitious plans for Qatar and other regions throughout the world.
“Katara Hospitality began with the goal of being Qatar’s leading hospitality organisation in addition to setting the standards for the hospitality sector in Qatar. The company’s goal now is also to be one of the leading hospitality organisations in the world,” says Abdullah Al-Mulla.
That ambition is certainly tangible given the company’s significantly expanded global reach in recent years.
Of course global expansion requires a successful platform on which to build and Katara has attained this thanks to its adherence to tradition, as Abdullah Al-Mulla explains:
“Our contemporary interpretation of the traditional values of Arabic hospitality influences everything we do and it is illustrated on the local landscape as Sheraton Doha Resort & Convention Hotel has been a celebrated symbol of Qatari hospitality for over 30 years, while the future Katara Towers, Lusail Marina District will become a new hospitality landmark.
“Those values are just as important when it comes to our international interests. In 2006, we acquired the Renaissance Sharm El Sheikh Golden View Beach Resort in Egypt and today, our property and development portfolio encompasses iconic hotels in France, Switzerland, Italy, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, UK, Morocco, Singapore and Thailand.”
Over time Katara Hospitality has created an iconic collection of hotels spread across 12 countries on 3 continents. The company actively pursues its strategic expansion plans by investing in peerless hotels in Qatar while growing its collection of iconic properties in key international markets. Katara Hospitality’s portfolio has grown to include 35 owned and / or managed hotels and the company is now focused on achieving its target of 60 hotels in its portfolio by 2026.
“Europe remains a key part of our focused international expansion,” Abdullah Al-Mulla asserts. “Our European presence continues to be strong and next year will see the opening of several iconic hotels. With properties in UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, and Switzerland, we expect to invest in other markets in the Mediterranean countries. North America is also a possibility and we intend to further expand in Asia.
“In 2015 we added The Westin Excelsior Rome, The Peninsula Paris and Excelsior Hotel Gallia, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Milan to our global portfolio, which brings us to a total of 35 properties in operation or under development,” he continues.
Location is an important consideration for each hotel within Katara’s portfolio, along with practicality, as Abdullah Al Mulla outlines:
“Part of our mission is to preserve the heritage of iconic hotels and combine the history with the modern high end technology and services throughout the iconic hotels in our portfolio. Katara Hospitality’s success has been built on 45 years of strategic planning, hard work and commitment to Qatar’s hospitality’s landscape. In a quest to lead hospitality and tourism innovation, utilising a mixed-use approach for our project has allowed Katara Hospitality to develop products that caters to the needs of a more diverse clientele base. We strive to create a modern, luxurious yet practical business and residential environment that appeals to both local and international visitors to our hotels.”
Abdullah Al-Mulla feels that experience and shrewd decision-making have played a key role in Katara Hospitality’s success:
“We believe our strengths lie in the expertise we bring to the luxury hospitality sector; through identifying attractive investment opportunities, developing innovative hospitality assets, increasing revenue streams and most importantly presenting exceptional service to our guests.”
Further strength can be found in the company’s dedication to its workforce of 150 people, with significant investment made in development, as Al-Mulla explains:
“We take our role in the creation of a local knowledge economy very seriously and pay special attention to the country’s Qatarisation policies. Our agenda includes training, equipping and investing in our employees for a successful career in the hospitality industry. Under my leadership and beyond, talent development is, and will always, be a focus area of ours. We will provide robust training and development programmes for all our employees to help develop and train young Qataris to become the future hospitality leaders of our country.”
Investment continues apace at Katara Hospitality and in recent months the company opened The Peninsula Paris, a mere few steps from historic French landmarks Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe.
Other big openings included The Excelsior Hotel Gallia, a Luxury Collection Hotel Milan, Italy’s fashion capital, as well as the Royal Savoy Lausanne in Switzerland, after Katara Hospitality’s massive investment in product redesign. Bürgenstock Resort Lake Lucerne in Switzerland and Tazi Palace Hotel Tangier in Morocco, are currently under development and expected to open in 2018, while The Katara Towers, Lusail Marina District development, a landmark project in Qatar’s capital, Doha, is a premium mixed-use development expected to open in 2018.
Katara Hospitality has gained global recognition for the contributions it has made to the Qatari and international hospitality landscape, with a succession of awards including “Middle East’s Leading Hospitality Development Company” for the second year running at the 2015 World Travel Awards.
The iconic Katara Towers development in the Marina District of Doha’s Lusail City was recognised as the “Middle East Leading Tourism Development Project” at the 2015 World Travel Awards. In addition to the Seven Star Special Award for “Remarkable & Exceptional Achievement in the Luxury Hospitality Industry” that the company recently won, Katara Hospitality was also recognised as the “Hospitality Company of the Year” at the fifth Arabian Business Qatar Awards and the “2014 Hospitality Achiever” at the Inaugural Qatar Enterprise Agility Awards.
In addition, Abdullah Al-Mulla was recently ranked number one within the 2015 Hotelier Middle East Power 50 List.
Katara Hospitality shows no signs of easing up with its ambitions, as Abdullah Al-Mulla looks to the future with relish:
“One of our main goals was to add 30 properties to our portfolio by 2016, and we have done so 2 years ahead of schedule, which has been a great achievement. Following the success achieved in 2014 and so far in 2015, we are now focusing on expanding our portfolio of iconic hotels to 60 properties by 2026.
“We will continue to aspire to create exceptional legacies that are aligned with our commitment to preserving heritage. We enjoy the challenge of converting and meticulously restoring buildings that carry history and that have become very much part of local communities and cultures.
“A core area of focus for Katara Hospitality will be the refurbishment and upgrade of our existing Doha portfolio. The Sealine Beach Resort will see the addition of 20 new villas as well as the detailed landscaping of the existing chalets, villas, indoor and outdoor facilities. We are also undertaking a phased renovation of the rooms, spa, lobby and restaurants at The Ritz-Carlton, Doha. The Doha Marriott Hotel will also undergo a full phased renovation towards the end of the year and the external façade and apartments of the stylish Somerset West Bay Doha will be refurbished in addition to the opening of the Hotel Park,” he concludes.