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Thu 25 Nov 2010 12:00 AM

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Pipeline promotion

Following his recent promotion to area vice president, Europe, Middle East & Africa for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel company, Pascal Duchauffour discusses the group’s upcoming property pipeline and reveals why hotels in Oman, Beirut and Jordan are on his wishlist.

Pipeline promotion
Duchauffour has revealed that The Ritz-Carlton Hotel company is looking to expand to Lebanon and Jordan.

Starting with the United Arab Emirates,
how is the refurbishment at Ritz-Carlton Dubai progressing?

In Dubai we have the expansion of this hotel; we have 138
rooms currently in this building and we are creating an expansion that will add
about 152 rooms plus a ballroom, a new spa and some very exciting F&B
concepts, including a chillout bar that’s going to be on the resort facing the
water. We believe this is really what this hotel needed, it’s a beautiful
hotel, it is an oasis within this surrounding and the attention was really to
keep that feel. We have closer access to the beach now and this will be
preserved.

Also in Dubai you have the opening
of Ritz-Carlton Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), which is now
scheduled for December 15 — what are the highlights of this hotel?

This is a very important hotel for us, because it is a large
inventory; it has 341 rooms and it has 124 executive residences, meaning
individuals will be able to live with us on a long term basis.

The hotel is linked to DIFC, it’s actually walking distance
so you will be able to come to the hotel in air conditioned surroundings and
it’s really going to be key in order to be convenient to our clients based in
DIFC. But also the hotel will offer some incredible meeting and conference
facilities with a very large ballroom. We are currently going through our
selection of all our ladies and gentlemen, then we are ready to go in December.

I was GM in that hotel and also overseeing the Middle East
region, today, because I have taken a bigger role and I travel more to Europe
and Africa, we appointed a new general manger — Lothar Quarz. He has been with
us in Berlin
and he has a sales and marketing background that we believe is going to be an
extremely good fit for this hotel.

There have been
various delays plus reports of the DIFC hotel being sold by Union Properties;
can you reveal the new owners?

No we still are with Union Properties, they are still our
owners, they clearly have the desire to sell but the main reason for the delay
was the fact that we wanted the hotel to be completely finished ready for when
we opened — that is why we’ve agreed to push it by a few months.

Ritz-Carlton is
also very active in Egypt;
what’s the update there?

The Nile Ritz-Carlton is the previous Nile Hilton. It’s
currently closed. I was there last week; it’s actually been completely gutted,
there’s nothing left. It will take about two years to reopen. In the back of
the property on the opposite side of the Nile
we are developing very extensive meeting facilities with a very large ballroom.
We’re recreating the landscaping in the back and redoing the entire inventory
and enlarging the guest room by taking the balcony into the room.

We’re also progressing in Cairo with Palm Hills — we have a 27-hole
golf course that is ready today and we’re going to open it in the first quarter
of 2011. And then on the golf course we are developing a hotel and construction
starts also in the first quarter. We are also very closely looking at a project in Marassi, so
going north in Egypt.

What stage is
development of the Grand Canal Hotel in partnership with Abu Dhabi National
Hotels at?

Within a year we’ll open this hotel. We are currently
reviewing all the design and food and beverage concepts with our owners. The
project is going very well and we can’t wait to be in Abu Dhabi, that will be very important for
us.

We are looking at Abu Dhabi
as a very good destination, we believe there could be space for a second
property in Abu Dhabi,
and yes, we are looking at the options.

Where else in the Middle East is on the Ritz-Carlton wishlist?

We have a project that we are finalising in Muscat,
Oman that we’ll be able to
announce soon and we are also very active in Saudi Arabia. In Riyadh we are in the final stages and we are
also working very closely on Jeddah. Riyadh
obviously is very business and government focused,  going into Jeddah we would love to be by the
Corniche.

Lebanon
is a destination we would love to be in, our president has been there several
times. We haven’t found the right combination yet but if we had to look at a
map of the Middle East, Jordan
with a small resort would be a good option and the next one would definitely
be  Beirut.

You are also
responsible for the Edition and Bulgari hotel brands. Are we likely to see
these in the region?

With Edition we have right now a development in Istanbul, and with Bulgari we are looking into Europe. Right now we are in Milan
and we are in Bali, we are looking at a few other
options. With Bulgari we can see some good prospects coming up in the next few
years. We have not found the right fit for the brand in this region yet.

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