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Wed 12 May 2004 04:00 AM

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Hotel chains bullish about Saudi hospitality sector

Despite mounting attacks on foreigners in Saudi Arabia, the tourism and hotel sector is attracting more investment.

Despite mounting attacks on foreigners in Saudi Arabia, the tourism and hotel sector is attracting more investment.

Many new multi-million-dollar projects are in the pipeline in the Kingdom. French hotel company Accor is targeting a 40% increase in Middle East business by the end of 2004 with three new Saudi properties. Other chains like Hilton International, Le Meridien, Radisson SAS and UAE-based Metropolitan Hotels are also planning new properties in the kingdom.

Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts have announced two significant new properties in Saudi Arabia. The group has taken over the management of the 1320-room Le Meridien Mecca Tower project, the largest hotel in the Gulf. It is also planning to open Le Meridien Riyadh in 2005.

The Accor group has tied up with a prominent Saudi royal family member to set up and manage new hotel chains in the kingdom. The group has selected Saudi Arabia as the prime location for a projected 40% increase in Middle East business by the end of this year.

“The Middle East is a very fast-growing market and Saudi Arabia is one of the prime growth areas for us,” says Christopher Landais, Accor’s Middle East regional director. “We plan to add more than 10,000 new rooms over the next three years. Already five new hotels are under way in Saudi Arabia.”

Accor is the only international hotel chain with a locally registered hotel management company in Saudi Arabia and will manage new properties being developed on behalf of the Saudi Royal family.

“New developments in Saudi Arabia include the 200-room Novotel Riyadh and the 230-room Sofitel Al-Khobar, both due to open in 2006, the Grand Mercure Golden Jeddah (118 rooms); and the Mercure Turki Mecca (100 rooms) that will open later this year. The 1,240 room Zam Zam Towers in Mecca will open in 2006,” said Landais.

Hotel projects in Saudi Arabia are eyeing Umrah pilgrimage and tourism packages that will boost the regional and Islamic tourism market in the kingdom. About 6 million people perform the Umrah every year.

Hilton International will open its luxurious 54-suite property, the Jeddah Hilton Palace, shortly.

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