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Wed 2 May 2007 04:58 PM

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Hotel group adds 'homely' brand to ME

InterContinental Hotels Group is rolling out its extended-stay brand to the UAE, Kuwait and Egypt.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has expanded its product portfolio in the region with the addition of extended-stay concept Staybridge Suites, fuelled by the brand's success in the US.

Speaking at Dubai's Arabian Travel Market, William Morris, IHG's senior vice president of sales & marketing, Europe, Middle East & Africa, said extended-stay concepts are taking off in the region, yet IHG's blueprinted properties would provide a key point of difference: a residential, homely spirit.

The properties offer features including laundry service, exercise rooms, outdoor terraces and complimentary breakfast.

"Extended-stay is one of the fastest growing segments in the US and the UK, a trend that is mirrored in the Middle East, so we aim to lead the market by differentiating from competitors in the market, which have been relatively small-scale, fragmented, unbranded and luxury," said Morris.

The group's product portfolio currently includes InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Express by Holiday Inn, yet the new concept is aimed at long-stay business travelers seeking 'more home than hotel,' according to the brand's maxim.

"We launched this brand in the US in 1997, and we now have 100 properties in that country. Staybridge sits between the apartment product and the hotel product, with a focus on allowing guests to interact together, and targeting the more than five night stay sector," he said.

"We don't want to just plonk it down in the Middle East, so we've made it appropriate for the geography and sensitive to cultural norms, and we will offer studio, one and two-bedroom suites."

Phil Kasselis, IHG's vice president development, Middle East & Africa revealed there will be three properties in Kuwait alone, with Bu Khamseen Group Holding named as the investor for the first 150-room property, set for 2008 completion.

Two properties have also been projected for Dubai, with the first expected to open by the end of this year, to be developed by a local company, while the second will be developed by a private developer. The contract for the inaugural Staybridge Suites property in Egypt is expected to be signed imminently.

According to Kasselis, the brand will be driven by long-term foreign business ventures in the region, the influx of large families on holiday and the need for new, high-quality extended-stay properties, whilst the speakers also highlighted its 'the longer you stay, the less you pay' pricing policy, and said although rates would vary across the countries, they are tipped to be in the four-star hotel bracket.

"We are looking at business travelers and relocating families, yet some of our customers stay for years at a time, as there isn't a lease. A key feature of the brand is the sense of community, with four complimentary evening receptions with the general manager at the properties each week," commented John Wagner, vice president, Staybridge Suites, Europe, Middle East & Africa.

The group also unveiled the planned interiors for the rooms, which will include flat screen TVs, internet access, kitchen and work areas and modern, residential-style design.

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