By Beatrice Thomas
Riyadh and Jeddah among key destinations for new luxury properties, says Ritz-Carlton
Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest growth markets in the hotel sector as operators tap into both religious and tourist travel, according to a top hotel executive.
Pascal Duchauffour, who is area vice-president Europe, Middle East and Africa for global luxury brand Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, singled out Riyadh and Jeddah as the two key destinations for the company in Saudi.
The company, which on Sunday revealed details of a three-year global expansion plan, opened a hotel in Riyadh two years ago.
However, Duchauffour said it was “actively pursuing” opportunities in Jeddah.
“Saudi is the biggest market you have in the Middle East,” he told Arabian Business.
“Where it is today is: you have the business part of it, which is all your government and all your corporate. Then you also have the religious travel that you have taking place in Saudi.
“The potential is tremendous just because the size of the country, it’s economical power and the fact that not a lot of tourists has developed within Saudi.
“We think this market is meant to grow and we believe that that is one of the biggest markets you have that is on tap today in the region. Saudi remains a very, very important market. “
The Ritz-Carlton Company is planning an extra 20 hotels and resorts worldwide by 2016 – bringing its total portfolio to 105 properties around the globe.
Among its projects, it planned a new hotel in Rabat, Morocco and Cairo, Egypt next year and resorts in Muscat, Oman and Tunis, Tunisia by 2015.
It was also eyeing new hotels in Beirut, Lebanon and the Red Sea in Jordan, as well as other possibilities in Morocco and the North Coast.
Duchauffour said the Middle East accounted for 20 percent of the company’s global revenue last year and it was a figure he expected would grow.
“What we have in the Middle East today is you really have two markets – you have the market that has been affected drastically by the Arab Spring and what is still going on in Egypt and Syria and so on,” he said.
“And then on the other side you have the market that is doing extremely well – the Dubai market and all the neighbouring countries.
“This year we are very positive, we are very optimistic and we believe that looking into 2014 we are going to see continuous growth, especially into key markets like Dubai and other neighbouring countries.”