|Growing with the UAE|
Al Habtoor Group is one of the most successful businesses in the GCC. The group operates in multiple sectors in the UAE and international markets. It is best known for its reputable hotels in different countries namely Lebanon, the UAE and Hungary.
Moreover, the company owns an automobile division which includes a prodigious portfolio of cars. In 2013, Al Habtoor Motors imported more than 43,000 vehicles from Japan.
Among myriad of other objectives, Al Habtoor Group has long been committed to grow with the UAE and contribute to the country’s economic development through its businesses. With the wise leadership of its board of directors, the company has succeeded in securing this growth on all levels.
A closer look on Mohammed Khalaf Al Habtoor
Mohammed Khalaf Al Habtoor joined Al Habtoor Group. In 2010, he got promoted to Vice Chairman. He is also CEO of the Al Habtoor Group and member of the Al Habtoor Leighton Group's board of directors.
Mohammed graduated from the ATI Career Institute (USA) where he studied Hotel and Restaurant Management. He has also received a number of certificates in various other disciplines from the University of Surrey, University of Slough (UK) and the Cornell University (USA) as well as Higher Colleges of Technology, Dubai Men's College (UAE) where he successfully completed the Management Development Program. All this added value allowed Mohammed to enhance the group with his extensive business expertise and professionalism.
As a successful businessman, how did you grow your company to become one of the most prosperous businesses in the region?
Our slogan says: “We grow with the UAE”. When we first established our business in 1970 it was a construction company. In 1978, we stepped into the hospitality sector when we started building our first hospitality venture - the Metropolitan hotel. Subsequently, we acquired the automobile agencies and started expanding our activities.
Therefore, we are exactly like the UAE, same as it was in 1970. We matured with the country’s growth and followed the same successful path.
The economy in the GCC and the UAE in particular is very strong. It is one of the strongest and fastest growing economies in the world. This is why, we don’t wait for things to happen, we anticipate and predict what is needed in the future and take action accordingly.
Given that your group operates in different industries, how do you excel in developing businesses in multiple sectors?
Personally, I believe that anyone can build towers and sell apartments. However, we are leaders in two areas. First, the hospitality sector since we own four hotels in Dubai, three in Lebanon and one in Hungary and we are currently expanding our activities. We have just opened Waldorf Astoria hotel in Dubai Palm Jumeirah and we are building three other hotels on Sheikh Zayed Road: St Regis, Westin and W. Additionally, we are in discussions with architects planning to finalize two other hotels.
Our second area of strength lies in the automobile sector. Al Habtoor Motors' brand includes Bentley, Mitsubishi, Bugatti and McLaren. We recently added to our portfolio Chery and Jac, both Chinese cars. Thus, we have now six car agencies and we are thinking to expand our presence outside the UAE to reach some markets that we will be revealing shortly.
As a leader in the hospitality sector, where do you see this industry is currently standing in the UAE when compared to other countries?
The hotels in the UAE are at the forefront of the hospitality sector in the world. We have the best hotels, services and facilities in Dubai. What is alarming to note, through my various stays in the best hotels around the world, is the fact that I always pay double the price than in Dubai without even getting the services and facilities provided by the hotels here. The hospitality sector in our country has become an example to many countries in the Middle East. People visit hotels in Dubai to get information as well as insights about their operations so they can apply the same in their countries.
Although the UAE market has grown rapidly in the last ten years, what, according to you, is this market still lacking?
I think that the entertainment sector is not yet developed in the UAE. If we want to be on top of other countries we have to allocate more attention to entertainment. The UAE has to build a number of amusement parks, zoos and museums. We need those attractions in order to entice more people to visit the UAE. We have everything in Dubai, the best restaurants, the best hotels and resorts however, new sources of entertainment will boost the country.
Which sector is currently triumphing in Dubai and attracting foreign direct investments?
I think with real estate developments, the hospitality sector is gaining momentum. There is a big demand on properties. However, we need to be cautious in order to shy away from the risk of a potential crisis similar to that in 2008. Moreover, even trading in construction materials is triumphing. We can see that prices are rising due to the demand, and this will not stop until the Expo 2020.
How do you assess the preparations for the Expo 2020?
The entire country is preparing for this event. All the emirates will benefit from this occasion. By the year of 2020, the number of hotels in Dubai won’t be sufficient to accommodate all the visitors participating in this event. Therefore Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and the Northern Emirates are also getting ready.
How do you see business improving in the local market?
With all the troubles happening in the Middle East, the UAE is the safest haven in this region. All the businessmen in the word are realizing that this country is the right place to be and the correct location for investments. Moreover, many conglomerates decided to move their headquarters to the UAE and this has a great impact on the local market.
In your opinion, what is the recipe for continuous success?
Dedication. There are no limits for success; success is not measured. It is the same, whether for a regular employee or an advanced businessman. One has to work hard in order to improve himself and achieve great success.
Personally, I don’t take holidays. I come to the office every day, even during the weekend. A responsible businessman has to be available 24/7 to answer all his emails and respond to inquiries. The most important thing in business is to avoid procrastination. One has to take action immediately and never postpone things for tomorrow.