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Sun 29 Jan 2006 04:00 AM

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Cut-price king prepares to launch budget hotel chain in Dubai

Greek tycoon Stelios Haji-Ioannou is set to launch a string of budget hotels in Dubai later this month, in a bid to cut the cost of staying in the emirate.

Greek tycoon Stelios Haji-Ioannou is set to launch a string of budget hotels in Dubai later this month, in a bid to cut the cost of staying in the emirate.

The founder of budget airline easyJet, which revolutionised air travel within the UK, is due to meet a number of hotel industry executives in Dubai on February 20. He intends to sign a franchise for the easyHotel chain, which will result in room prices from as little as US$20 a night.

“Stelios will be in Dubai in person to conduct the negotiations and hopefully we can get this project running as soon as possible. It’s our first Middle East venture and we’re very excited,” a spokesman for Haji-Ioannou confirmed last week.

Haji-Ioannou’s easyGroup specialises in “low cost” ventures, which work on a demand-based price structure. Customers pay considerably less for services booked several months in advance, with prices fluctuating as demand rises.

The concept has brought air fares between major European cities such as Paris and London down to as little as US$50 for a return ticket.

EasyGroup has since branched out into car rentals, cinemas, hotels and financial services. “What we want to do in Dubai is give people the chance to stay for a few nights at a very, very good price. By dropping the prices a great deal for advance bookings, we can often guarantee that all the rooms are permanently booked, allowing the ventures to be profitable,” the spokesman added.

In London, easyHotel prices are down to just US$60 per night for high quality hotel rooms booked up to three months in advance, while easyCars — a fleet of A Class Mercedes — can be rented for only US$15 a day.

Haji-Ioannou’s spokesman explained: “Dubai is a great place to visit, you only have to be there for two minutes to realise that. The scale of development, at such great pace, means there are going to be millions for tourist each year.

“Whilst Dubai undoubtedly has some of the best hotels anywhere in the world, not everyone can afford them. Even people who sometimes like to have the option of cheaper accommodation — they can spend more money on Dubai’s many leisure facilities. This will give them the chance to do just that.”

The Greek entrepreneur is now one of Britain’s richest men, with a personal fortune approaching US$2 billion, thanks largely to the easyJet airline he created. He is no longer involved in the airline, describing himself as a “serial entrepreneur.”

Last year, he told Arabian Business: “I can’t help myself. I am always on the look out for new ideas and new ventures. Once I get a good idea, I have to do it immediately. But as soon as it works, I need to move on to the next one.”

He has made several visits to Dubai in the past year, studying the hotel and tourism market closely.

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