France's Sofitel in talks for Doha, Saudi hotels - CEO

Designer-led 'So by Sofitel' likely to be in Dubai within next 3 years

(Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

(Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

Luxury hotel brand Sofitel, which is owned by French parent company Accor, is in active talks to sign new hotels in Qatar and Saudi Arabia and is keen to expand its designer.

'So by Sofitel' brand across the region, the hotelier’s CEO told Arabian Business.

Qatar is quickly building up its portfolio of hotels in anticipation of hosting the FIFA 2022 World Cup in less than a decade. With hotel openings a regular occurrence, Sofitel could also be the latest addition to the Doha hotel landscape.

“I went to Doha and we have a very good opportunity… They have given me two weeks and we either have it or we don’t,” Robert Gaymer-Jones, chief executive officer of Sofitel Worldwide said in an interview.

Gaymer-Jones was in the Middle East to formally sign an agreement with Al Tamiuz Hotels & Resorts to manage a new 189 room hotel in Jeddah. Scheduled to open in 2014, the Sofitel Jeddah will be located on the city’s corniche and include six food and beverage outlets, meeting facilities, two swimming pools, a health club, a spa, squash court and a cinema.

“We trust there is a great potential for Sofitel in the Middle East and we are delighted to sign a new agreement for this beautiful project in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, by blending our different cultures: our French heritage of elegance and lifestyle with the finest of the Islamic culture and the Arabic tradition for hospitality,” Jones said.

Sofitel currently has eight properties in the GCC, and already operates in KSA in Al Khobar, with a flagship property in Riyadh scheduled to open for 2015.

The Jeddah hotel was previously a Westin-branded property but it was shut for two years for renovation and will be given a facelift before it reopens under the Sofitel flag.

Jeddah is unlikely to be the last new property in the kingdom for Sofitel as Jones revealed talks were underway for more openings: “We have a very good opportunity we are just about to sign for Makkah and we are looking a signing a hotel in Madinah… Makkah would be advanced stages.”

Across the Middle East and North Africa, Yousef Wahbah, Head of Transaction Real Estate at Ernest and Young, said earlier this month the first half of 2013 has shown positive signs. “The hospitality market across the MENA region witnessed strong growth in H1 2013. Despite the continued economic and political uncertainty in a number of markets, overall hotel occupancy rates and RevPAR have continued to grow.

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