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Sun 25 Aug 2002 04:00 AM

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Conrad looks to acquire luxury Gulf property

Conrad Hotels, the luxury brand of Hilton Group is seeking to enter the Gulf market. It is looking to find a top location to compete with Crowne Plaza and Ritz Carlton.

Conrad Hotels, the luxury brand of Hilton Group is seeking to enter the Gulf market. It is looking to find a top location to compete with Crowne Plaza and Ritz Carlton. With the whole Gulf region looking to expand its tourism business the upmarket Conrad hotels group has confirmed to ITP.net that it is actively looking to enter the market. Since November 2000 the group has built a small but impressive portfolio of 16 five-star properties around the world. These include three in Egypt and two under development in Asia.Company President, Clem Barter, says they are looking to a Gulf entry as a long term project which has no bearing on the current state of the market.Conrad’s research is not confined to the obvious location of Dubai. Their executives are well aware of the opportunities elsewhere in the Gulf region, most notably Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. The attraction from the company’s viewpoint is that it is a management operation and therefore does not need to become involved in the initial massive expense of building and equipping a new five-star hotel. There is no doubting the brand’s quality. On a recent visit to London and the company’s Brussels headquarters, at Conrad’s expense, a group of Middle East journalists was able to sample the luxury on offer.The London Conrad, for instance, is the UK capital’s only all-suite hotel and occupies a prime site overlooking the exclusive Chelsea Harbour development, where the late Princess Di used to take her exercise and where movie star Michael Caine has a home.One important feature of this property is the security. Guests even have to use their room keys to operate the lifts. No key – no go. That feature alone, according to the local management, has attracted an increase in Middle East holiday makers this summer.The headquarters property is in the Belgian capital, Brussels. As you would expect, it is not inexpensive. It has 269 rooms and suites and its fifteen duplex suites (specially designed to accommodate local planning laws which do not permit the alterations to the 100 year old 12-foot high windows) sell for $1500 a night. The Royal suite, favoured by President Clinton and Celine Dion when they visit the city, comes for a cool $3,500.Sitting on the Avenue Louise, it is only minutes walk or taxi ride away from the tourist attractions, such as the Grand Place, Museum of Art and Parc de Bruxelles, making it an ideal location for both business and vacation visitors.Both of these properties are very much both business and tourist hotels. According to their managements the split is well defined. Weekdays are predominantly business. Weekends find a tourist clientele. It is clear from simple observation that they both enjoy a significant number of family visitors from the Middle East during the summer months.The brand is now well established in Europe and, with properties in Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Australia, it is inconceivable that it will not complete the global circle by taking on properties in the Gulf region.You can read the full story in next month's edition of Arabian Business.

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