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Tue 11 Dec 2012 10:06 AM

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Kempinski says on target for record year

Luxury hotelier said operating profit for MEA increased 20 percent year-on-year

Kempinski says on target for record year
Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi.

Kempinski said 2012 will be a record year for the operator amid rising demand for luxury hotels, with overall revenues up 14 percent year-on-year, its COO told Arabian Business.

The Geneva-based firm, which operates around 75 luxury hotels across Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific, including Abu Dhabi’s iconic Emirates Palace, said 2012 operating profit for its Middle East and Africa hotels had increased 20 percent compared to the same period the previous year.

“We have a record year in the history of the company, both on a top line and a bottom line,” said Duncan O’Rourke. “[We are up] around 14 percent [on 2011], Germany has done well as has Switzerland, Turkey and the UAE is coming back.

“Middle East and Africa has done well again and we have a clear strategy to continue the growth in Africa. Africa is very key to us,” he added.

The hospitality industry in the UAE, which was hit hard by the 2008-2009 global economic crisis, is starting to show signs of a recovery, said O’Rourke. “In 2011 and 2010 hotels had the occupancy but they didn’t get the rate, but the rates are climbing now,” he said. 

Kempinski, Europe’s oldest luxury hotel group, currently operates 14 hotels across the Middle East and Africa but is ramping up its expansion across the region with 16 properties in the pipeline.

Next year it will open properties in Al Khobar and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, but has been forced to suspend work on new two hotels in Syria and another two in Lebanon following the Arab Spring.

Kempinski last week held its annual Career Day at Emirates Palace in a bid to find up to 500 staff for its expansion in the region. Once new hotels are complete, the firm will need an additional 5,000 staff to service its hotels, said O’Rourke.

“We are looking to hire around 500 entry level employees for across-the-board management [including] management training, sales and marketing, food and beverage, engineering and IT,” he said.

“We are expanding heavily in the Middle East and Africa and by 2015 we’ll need around 5,000 employees."

Kempinski said it will look to target GCC nationals for jobs amid a change in social attitudes towards employment in hospitality across the region. “We like to embrace the culture and the environment where we are, so we really appreciate to have as many locals as we can in our hotels,” said O’Rourke.

“[Working in the hospitality industry] is a lot more accepted now and it’s more embraced by the families as well, so the trend is changing.”