Fairmont beefs up Middle East footprint with new hotels

Canada-based hotel chain plans up to seven new properties, eyes Saudi, Qatar
Fairmont beefs up Middle East footprint with new hotels
The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi. The UAE has seen a surge in tourism amid the Arab Spring, the chain said
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Thu 15 Dec 2011 09:11 AM

Luxury hotel
chain Fairmont Hotels & Resorts plans to open up to seven new hotels in the
Middle East and North Africa by 2016, its regional director of development said.

The
Toronto-based hotel operator on Wednesday said it would open its first property
in Jordan in partnership with developer Isam Khatib and Partners, its first
property in the Levant.

“We
think that the brand has picked up a lot of momentum from 2002 when we opened
the [Fairmont Dubai] up to today where we have ten. We feel over the next few
years we should be bringing in a few more - at least five to seven properties
by 2016 in addition to the four under development,” said Rami Moukarzel.

New
hotels are likely to be in Doha, Beirut and Saudi Arabia, he added. “We are working
on key gateway cities, in Saudi Arabia
… Beirut is a very important city as
well…Doha is another key city that we are looking at,” he said. “We’re in the
process of discussing the projects right now.”

The
group, which operates a string of luxury hotels including New York’s The Plaza
and London-based Savoy, said it expects to open its 300-room Amman property by
2014. Work has already started, said Moukarzel.

“We are
quite bullish about the property [and] about the destination. We’ve actually
broken ground. Construction hasn’t started yet…its foundation work.”

Fairmont
Hotels & Resorts is ramping up its expansion outside of its home market.
The group currently has ten properties under operation in the MENA region and
four under construction.

Business
at its hotels in Abu Dhabi and Dubai
has grown 11 percent this year as the UAE won
tourists from protest-hit travel hotspots such as Egypt, Tunisia and Syria.

In the
UAE region we’ve seen some significant growth, almost 11 percent year over
year,” said Raki Phillips, area director of sales and marketing, Middle East. “The
Arab Spring that happened this year has really benefitted the UAE; this is
still seen as a safe haven for both corporate and leisure travellers,” he said.

Occupancy
rates in Dubai touched the pre-crisis levels of 2007 in October, data from TRI
Hospitality Consulting showed last month. In Abu Dhabi, occupancy levels jumped
to 82.8 percent, a rise of nine percent on the year-earlier period.

Occupancy
levels in Egypt, where Fairmont operates two hotels, are unlikely to return to
2010 levels for some time but are starting to show some signs of recovery, said
Philips.

“Across
the market there were some hotels that got into the single digits but right now
you are looking at a decline of 40 percent versus what it was last year - it
was in the 70s last year.

“As long
as the elections run smooth it should be fine. You are seeing Arabs starting to
travel over there so there is some drive that’s coming into there [but] you are
not going to see those levels of occupancy for another year unfortunately. It’s
going to take some time,” he said.

Fairmont
is operated by Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, a holding company owned
by Colony Capital and Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Hotels International.

Fairmont
Raffles Hotels International operates more than 88 hotels in 27 countries.

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