InterContinental Dar Al Tawhid, Makkah: Indulgent and Distinct Experience

InterContinental Hotels Group® is a global hospitality company with 18 brands, one of the industry’s largest loyalty programs, over 6000 open hotels in more than 100 countries, and a further 1,800 hotels in our development pipeline. IHG has a strong presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) while operating 41 hotels across 5 brands, and continuously aiming at expanding their footprint in the kingdom, especially the luxury presence. Significant among them is InterContinental Dar Al Tawhid, Makkah being one of the flagship hotels in the Middle East.

Offering Unparalleled Experience

Mere steps from the Holy Kaaba and King Fahad Gate, and with easy access to Islamic sites such as Mina, Muzdalifah, Arafat, and Jabal Al Noor, Dar Al Tawhid InterContinental offers a truly unparalleled and distinct experience. The hotel has spacious and elegantly furnished guest rooms, many of which provide a panoramic view of the Holy Mosque. Each room is ornately decorated and has a range of modern amenities. It has 3 restaurants for guests to choose from, serving a wide range of international cuisine, as well as many Middle Eastern specialties with a magnificent view of the Holy Masjid Al-Haram.

The Mission/Purpose is to create Great Hotels Guests Love® by providing “True Hospitality for Good”. IHG’s strategic vision focuses on value creation by building preferred brands, delivering a superior owner proposition, strengthening its loyalty program, leveraging scale, and generating revenue through the lowest-cost direct channels. Their targeted portfolio, together with disciplined execution of their strategy and a commitment to doing business responsibly, are designed to achieve industry-leading net rooms’ growth over the medium term.

Mohammad Abuharba, the Regional General Manager (KSA WEST) for IHG® has been associated with Dar Al Tawhid InterContinental Makkah since July 2003 and heads the operations. He is currently leading the region (IHG-KSA West) having 11 hotels under his patch with 13,000+ rooms. In his capacity, he has introduced a lot of fresh ideas which have been impactful either financially or reflected in an elevated guest experience. For instance, one of his ideas was introducing the Kids Club facilities in the hotel, which was new for their religious destination market, running the business responsibly and sustainably was evident in implementing the smart room management system and LED lighting on a wide scale, which was new for the market as well. The concept of forming a Procurement Committee for the region headed by Mohammad Abuharba and various other procurement directors in the area, has shown evident results of major savings across all IHG KSA hotels without any compromise on quality.

Technology for Elevated Experience

In today’s digital world, embracing technology has become an integral part of IHG’s workings. The Group is keen on keeping up with emerging Technologies to create a digital Advantage, provide a more seamless experience for the guests, and increased efficiency and operational excellence alongside unlocking revenue opportunities as well.

Their branded next-generation mobile App is providing a richer customer experience with streamlined booking that allows guests to check in faster and powering IHG One Reward to

give members seamless access to their loyalty benefits. Their digital customer journey is grounded in what matters most to their guests.

In 2004, Dar Al Tawhid became one of the first hospitality hotels to invest in smart room technology. This was to provide guests with a more personalized and seamless experience. The SMART Room Management System is one of the unique technologies deployed in the hotel, which resulted in enhanced guest experience as well as carbon emission reduction. “We continue our journey towards the future by upgrading our systems to the latest state-of-the-art technology,” says Mohammad Abuharba.

The hotel technology platform facilitates a painless, quick check-in experience and contactless payment wherever possible. Several collaboration apps are being invested in by Dar Al Tawhid InterContinental to enhance collaboration among the hotel teams. As part of their ‘Journey to the Future’, they invest in the development of smart buildings through the utilization of Internet of Things (IoT) technology to monitor hotel energy usage and reduce energy consumption.

IHG has announced a partnership with technology company Winnow to help its hotels automatically track, measure, and reduce food waste for more sustainable and efficient restaurant and bar operations. IHG is the first global hotel company to use the award-winning Winnow Vision AI-enabled technology, which will help its hotels achieve a 30% reduction in food waste.

By using hotel technology solutions, hotels understand their customers and provide tailored services based on their preferences, offering more personalized experiences. This helps to create loyalty and increase customer satisfaction, which in turn leads to higher retention rates and more direct bookings.

Delivering a Holistic Experience

Dar Al Tawhid InterContinental Makkah is committed to exceeding expectations through its elevated services and linking its guests with the local destination reflecting the generosity and heritage of Makkah. For example, they provide an authentic sense of arrival experience like their welcoming traditional Saudi Coffee with local dates, serviced by the local colleagues in the traditional outfit while sharing with the guests some stories and tips about the destination.

Adapting to emerging technologies and digital transformation, reflecting in their superior, secure internet service, ensures that their guests have the best online experience possible. Their flexible BYOD offering provides the guests with the convenience and comfort of accessing their own content on the go, while they take extra measures to ensure the security and reliability of their online services.

To provide their valued members with the best experience possible, Dar AL Tawhid InterContinental customizes the guest experience based on their preferences and behaviors and offers them personalized recommendations for dining, activities, and other amenities.

As part of the development of IHG mobile apps, guests are able to check in and check out, order room service, use their mobile key, and access other hotel amenities via their mobile devices.

Addressing Challenges for Smooth Functioning

As global travel grows, so do the challenges associated with it which need to be addressed by the industry giants like IHG such as:

Exceptional Service Expectation: Today the guests are well-informed and world travelers. They know their expectations very well. This is one of the biggest challenges (i.e.) providing Exceptional Experience and outperforming competitors. Therefore, Dar Al Tawhid InterContinental Makah customizes its services and products and strives to create a WOW experience.

Technology in Hospitality: The hospitality Industry faces one of the greatest challenges of keeping up-to-date with the rapid technological changes, and it is playing a significant role in the business. IHG® is continuing to embrace technological changes such as AI, mobile applications, reliability on technology, etc to enhance guests’ experience as well as improve its efficiency.

Constant changes in guests’ demand and behavior: The market is quite dynamic and guests’ demands are constantly changing, creating challenges to hotel operations and being competitive which is one of the biggest hurdles in the hotel industry. To combat constant changes in guests’ demand, they respond quickly to market shifts adjusting their offerings and services and ensuring they are flexible and willing to adapt to changes so that they stay competitive.

Elevation in Operational Cost: Constant rising in the operational costs in line with global inflation as well is one of the biggest challenges for IHG’s operation. Energy Costs, Food prices, and Labor costs are swelling. However, with no compromise on the services and quality, they get the guests engaged with them in energy savings, making use of digital technologies. Utilizing Work Optimization Tools etc are some of their techniques for beating this challenge.

Committed to DE&I

IHG’s commitment to diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I) sits at the heart of its purpose to provide True Hospitality for Good and is crucial to growing its business. They do champion a diverse culture where everyone can thrive.

They have outstanding individuals and they value and respect every one of them, committed to creating a sense of belonging at IHG and a freedom to be themselves. Giving such space to colleagues sparks the innovation and ideas IHG needs to succeed as a global business.

“Driving Gender-balance is one of our company’s commitments, and it’s evident in my hotel where our numbers in hiring local female workforce are significantly increasing year on year. Local females across all departments and many of them in supervisory and managerial positions on equal footing with their male counterparts and as we are all aware Saudi Arabia has made significant progress on women’s rights and labor force participation,” shares Mohammad Abuharba.

In Saudi Arabia, the company has created a dedicated DE&I workstream and launched a series of functional talent development programs, providing internships that are supporting the growth of our Saudi colleagues and fast-tracking them into leadership positions. IHG has launched the ‘True Saudi, True Hospitality’ campaign, with the aim of hiring a big number of nationals in KSA by 2030. This is an excellent opportunity for young Saudis to embark on new careers that play a crucial role in the Kingdom’s economy.

Keeping Sustainability in Mind

As we strengthen the business, it’s important we do so responsibly and sustainably for our people, communities, and planet. IHG has developed innovative ways to reduce waste, plastic, energy, and water usage in their hotels, including introducing new brand standards and a bespoke tool to reduce energy and costs. For instance, smart guest room management system to control lighting and A/C, digitization, plastic reduction, LED lighting, eliminating Plastic, purchasing energy-efficiency equipment, and food waste reduction through embracing technology such as Winnow Vision technology.

In 2021, IHG launched “Journey to Tomorrow” – its 10-year plan to help shape the future of responsible travel and deliver a sustainable travel business for a fairer, better, and greener future, aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it’s a powerful framework for how they can focus their efforts to deliver their purpose of True Hospitality for Good in five key areas: people; communities; carbon & energy; waste; and water.

IHG aims at operating thoughtfully and growing sustainably in line with the Kingdom Vision 2030 and Saudi Green initiative which works on increasing Saudi Arabia’s reliance on clean energy, offsetting emissions, and protecting the environment.

Marching Ahead

Dar Al Tawhid InterContinental has achieved remarkable awards and accolades, and below are highlight of few of them :

· Selected as Hotel Leader of the Year 2012, InterContinental Hotels during IHG AMEA Leaders Meeting held at Abu Dhabi, UAE

· Hotel Solutions – Best Idea IHG AMEA Award in 2012

· World Travel Awards 2013 as Makkah’s Leading Hotel and Saudi Arabia’s Leading Hotel

· IHG Winning Metrics Front Runner Award, Q4 2016

· HeartBeat Excellence Award 2016 – IHG India, Middle East & Africa (IMEA)

· GCC’s Best General Manager (Hospitality) Award – 2018

· IHG General Manager Owner Impact Award – 2022.

· Hotelier Saudi Award as General Manager of the Year (Mid-Range to Luxury) – Highly Commended – 2023.

· IHG Highest Profit Generator award for Makkah & Madina – 2022

· IHG Heartbeat Excellence Award – 2022

The Group’s actions are shaped by a culture of strong governance, clear policies, and a series of ambitious commitments set out in their ‘Journey to Tomorrow 2030’ responsible business plan.

Presently IHG’s KSA portfolio consists of 41 hotels across 5 brands and they are aiming to double up the brands in the coming years, especially the luxury footprints.

They are rapidly growing in the region and new hotels are opening & conversions are in the pipeline. Their inventory in the last few years has tremendously risen and they have a fourfold growth plan in the coming years to lead the market. In line with its growth and development plan, IHG has established a fully functional regional office in KSA to support IHG’s vision of expanding its footprints in KSA aligned with KSA’s 2030 vision for tourism.

Quote: “Our Brand service is creating a brand-defined service experience supported by a suite of Training Tools besides our amazing legacy from iconic guests to incredible destinations makes us truly unique.”