Luxury hotel chain Ritz-Carlton plans to increase the number
of properties it operates in the Middle East to 24 by 2014, its head of
worldwide operations said Tuesday.
The luxury hotelier is in talks with a number of developers
for properties in Abu Dhabi and Oman and plans to use The Ritz-Carlton Riyadh
as a springboard for expansion in Saudi Arabia.
“The whole idea is to double the size of the existing hotels
and grow even further; be in the major cities and then go to the secondary
cities,” Bob Kharazmi, global officer, worldwide operations for The Ritz-Carlton
Hotel Company, told Arabian Business.
Plans for new hotels in Muscat and Saadiyat Island in Abu
Dhabi are under negotiation with investors. The company is scheduled to open
its third UAE property, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, in late 2011.
“We are in conversation with Oman in Muscat, to be able to
have one or two hotels there,” said Kharazmi. The chain is also eying a second
property on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island.
“We are conversation [at the moment]. Whoever is interested
in the name of Ritz-Carlton we are in conversations with them,” he said.
The move would see Ritz-Carlton go head-to-head with fellow
luxury chains Park Hyatt and St Regis. Both brands are scheduled to open hotels
on the Abu Dhabi island later this year.
Consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle warned Sunday that hotels in
the UAE capital may struggle for occupancy until key tourism attractions, such
as The Louvre and Guggenheim museums, open; a view dismissed by Kharazmi.
Abu Dhabi is a part that is going to grow absolutely
rapidly,” he said. “There is no concern. With the [political] concerns around
the rest of the Middle East a lot of businesses are coming to Dubai and Abu
Dhabi as well, so no concerns from that side.”
The US operator, which is owned by Marriott International,
will open its first property in Saudi Arabia this year in a bid to tap into the
kingdom’s underserved tourism market.
The wealthiest Gulf state plays host to millions of
religious tourists each year, who flock to the kingdom to undertake the
pilgrimages hajj and umrah.
“Absolutely [we see more hotels in Saudi Arabia],” said Kharazmi.
“Jeddah is another part we would like to have and outside of Riyadh there are a
lot of golf courses, great amenities that we also be involved in.”
Ritz-Carlton has six hotels operational in the Middle East
and a further six under construction.
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