By Claire Valdini
US hotelier says Saudi a "strategic market", will open 14 new hotels in kingdom
Worldwide plans to open nearly 7,000 rooms in Saudi Arabia over the next two
years, its CEO for the Middle East and Africa said.
The hotelier, which counts Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts among its portfolio of brands, will open 14 new hotels in the kingdom, making it the fastest growing hotel company in the Gulf state.
“Saudi Arabia is a key strategic market for us and I’m pleased to note that our established Saudi pipeline will take us from six hotels to 20 in the space of two years,” Rudi Jagersbacher, president, Hilton Worldwide, Middle East & Africa, said in a statement.
“As a long standing hotel operator in the kingdom, we understand the potential of the country’s tourism market and our plans have been developed in line with the expected city-based expansion as well as to support the fledgling leisure and tourism industry,” he added.
The expansion strategy, which includes six new properties in Makkah, represents over 17 percent of Saudi Arabia’s hotel pipeline and accounts for more than one third of Hilton Worldwide’s total pipeline for Middle East and Africa.
Opening more properties in the holy city would allow Hilton to capitalise on Hajj tourism, which sees millions flock to the city on Islamic pilgrimages each year.
InterContinental Hotels Group, Starwood and Dubai-based Jumeirah Group have also announced plans to ramp up the number of hotels in the oil-rich kingdom amid a shortage of hotels for corporate and religious tourism.
The Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently issued licenses for the construction of 500 hotels near the Grand Mosque in Makkah, including one with 5,000 rooms.
The number of tourists heading to Saudi Arabia is expected to reach 15.8m by 2014, up from around 13m in 2010, according to international industry consultant Business Monitor International.
Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism industry is estimated to grow to SAR55.8bn (US$14.88bn) in 2012 compared to SAR38.9bn (US$10.37bn) recorded in 2009.