RIYADH: A massive clock tower overlooking the holiest of Muslim sites, the Kaaba in Makkah, is run by a French company.
Fairmont Makkah, the hotel connected to the iconic tower, is operated by Accor Group, a French multinational hospitality company that owns, manages and franchises hotels worldwide. It is the closest hotel to the Kaaba, making it the best for Umrah and Hajj.
The building’s structure also spreads over seven skyscrapers erected above podiums and stands 601 meters above ground. Accor operates six hotels in the seven skyscrapers within the King Abdul Aziz Endowment, known as Abraj Al-Bait.
“We open our doors to offer unparalleled peace and a warm Arabic welcome for pilgrims to this holy sanctuary,” Alaa Eldin Saleh, managing director of Raffles, Fairmont and Swissotel Makkah, told Arab News.
“Accor understands the unique path that many faithful followers take before or after Hajj and Umrah, and thus enjoys the largest inventory of rooms in both Makkah and Madinah, which is an added value for pilgrims looking to stay steps away from both holy mosques.”
The Makkah Clock Royal Tower, the third-tallest building and fifth-tallest freestanding structure in the world, is located less than 50 steps away from the sacred Grand Mosque.
The 120-story structure is topped by a four-faced clock, visible from a distance of 25 km. The clock is the highest in the world at over 400 meters above ground, and its faces are the largest in the world, measuring 43 meters by 43 meters on each side — 35 times larger than Big Ben in London.
Work on the Makkah Clock Royal Tower began in 2004 and was finished in 2012, while the hotel was built in 2010. The tower complex includes residential towers, Abraj Al-Bait shopping mall, an Islamic Museum, a Lunar Observation Center and a large prayer room with space for more than 10,000 worshippers.
The complex allows up to 75,000 residents from all the seven towers to exit the building through a podium during each prayer time.
While work largely has been halted during the pandemic, staff have found ways to keep ways busy.
“We have a series of things to be proud of,” said Saleh. “In this pandemic, we have shown our positioning as the leaders of hospitality in the holy city by stepping forward and conducting unlimited corporate social responsibility initiatives to bond with our local society.
“We have managed to protect our colleagues, and have shown a great level of solidarity and stayed connected as much as we can. Our teams have shown high dedication by working remotely and have carried out the required (measures) across different functions.”
Last year, Saudi Arabia hosted 2,371,675 pilgrims in Makkah for Hajj, but due to the exceptional circumstances and the country’s safeguarding the residents and nationals, only 1,000 will perform their religious journey later this month.
Accor’s hotels in Makkah will welcome back a limited number of guests.
“Welcoming, safeguarding and taking care of others is at the heart of what we do and who we are,” Saleh said.
“The health, safety and well-being of our staff, guests and partners remains our top priority. Our hotels have now established some of the most stringent cleaning standards and operational procedures in the world of hospitality to ensure guest safety as hotels reopen around the world.”
Sanitary guidelines help operations align on a set of common standards and inspire best practices when reopening.
“Our hotels are pioneering a new guest safety initiative that redefines the hospitality experience in the Middle East and Africa during these unprecedented times,” he added.
The ground-breaking ALL Safe Officer program, which is scheduled to be rolled out in coming weeks, will see every hotel appoint a health and safety officer who will not only ensure cleaning and hygiene protocols are implemented to the highest standards, but also will be available to handle guests’ questions and concerns.
“These specially trained officers are the face of Accor’s new ALL Safe Accor Programme — a set of rigorous measures designed to protect and reassure guests that are being implemented at its 300 properties in the region,” Saleh said.
While the hotels were forced to close when the pandemic struck, Accor is in the process of reopening them again.
“We showed great solidarity and emotion when closing our hotels. We want to reopen them with even greater care and passion,” Saleh said.