Fairmont Hotels and Resorts plans as many as 12 hotels in Saudi Arabia in the next three to four years, requiring up to 10,000 additional employees, the chain’s vice president in the country said.
The US hotelier, which in April announced plans to build its fourth property in the kingdom, plans to tap into rising demand for luxury travel in the Gulf’s wealthiest economy.
“It is our plan to expand in all major cities in Saudi Arabia,” Mohammed Hassan Arkobi, vice president for Fairmont in Saudi Arabia, told Arabian Business.
“Each major city can accommodate all three brands but it depends on the market. In my opinion within three to four years we’ll have around 12 hotels. Maybe we’ll need another 10,000 staff.”
Saudi’s cities play host to millions of religious tourists each year, who flock to the kingdom to undertake the pilgrimages hajj and umrah. The number of pilgrims entering the kingdom is expected to grow to almost 14 million by the end of the decade.
Hoteliers Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International and Hyatt International last week signed deals to operate 12 properties in Makkah, as part of a $5.5bn mega-project in the city.
Saudi Arabia’s tourism market has also largely sidestepped any impact from the widespread political unrest in the Middle East, Arkobi said.
Fairmont operates two hotels in the kingdom, the Raffles Makkah Palace and the Makkah Clock Royal Tower, which opened in September.
“During the last ten months, we have had an average occupancy rate of almost 60 percent, and during weekends we have often had 100 percent occupancy,” Arkobi said. “This is a big achievement for a new hotel, especially in a seasonal market.”
The hotelier will open its third hotel, the 1,500 room Makkah Swissotel, later this year and plans to build a fourth, the Fairmont Business Gate, in the Saudi Capital.
In the neighbouring UAE, the firm has seen a series of delays to planned properties following the credit crunch and the collapse of Dubai’s real estate market.
Fairmont’s second Abu Dhabi property, to be built on a breakwater overlooking the Corniche, was announced in 2004 but has failed to start construction.
It is now being designed for the third time, as the hotelier aims to adapt its hospitality offering in line with the current economic realities. Three other Fairmont hotels, scheduled for Fujairah and the Palm Jumeirah, have also encountered delays due to financial issues.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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