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Sun 15 Sep 2013 10:23 AM

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Ritz eyes Oman, Tunisia in ambitious expansion plans

Company plans 20 new hotels by 2016

Ritz eyes Oman, Tunisia in ambitious expansion plans
Pascal Duchauffour, area vice-president Europe, Middle East and Africa at Ritz-Carlton.

Global hotel brand the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is set to open new properties in Oman and Tunisia and is eyeing projects in Lebanon and Jordan as part of ambitious expansion plans.

Revealing details of its three-year plan on Sunday, the Ritz-Carlton Company said it was planning an extra 20 hotels and resorts worldwide by 2016 – bringing its total portfolio to 105 properties around the globe.

Speaking to Arabian Business, Pascal Duchauffour, area vice-president Europe, Middle East and Africa, confirmed that after opening a beachfront hotel in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, more projects were slated for the Middle East.

The region accounted for 20 percent of the company’s total global revenue.

Among its projects, it planned a new hotel in Rabat, Morocco and Cairo, Egypt next year. It would be alongside 2014 openings in Kyoto, Japan; Nanjing, China; Manesar, India and Bali, in Indonesia.

The Ritz-Carlton also anticipated that it would open by 2015 world-class luxury hotels and resorts in Muscat, Oman; Tunis, Tunisia; Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam; Haikou, China and Cabo San Lucas.

Duchauffour said as well as confirmed openings it was “actively pursuing” opportunities in Jeddah in Saudi after opening in Riyadh two years ago.

It had also renovated its Dubai hotel on Jumeirah Beach, which it was expanding to 286 rooms by mid next year.

“We don’t have other finalised products in the Middle East, but we are looking at some destinations which have always been of interest to Ritz-Carlton,” Duchauffour said.

These included Beirut in Lebanon and a small resort on the Red Sea in Jordan.

Duchauffour said the company was also looking at other possibilities in Morocco and the North Coast.

As well as Abu Dhabi, the Ritz-Carlton has opened in Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico and Vienna in Austria in the past 12 months.

A further five Ritz-Carlton hotels are scheduled to open in the last quarter of this year, including two properties in China; The Ritz-Carlton, Chengdu and The Ritz-Carlton, Tianjin; The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba in the Caribbean and Almaty in Kazakhstan and The Ritz-Carlton, Bangalore in India.

Duchauffour said residences were also slated to open in Montreal, Canada; Herzliya and Almaty, Kazakhstan.

However, Duchauffour said the company was looking at “quality versus quantity”.

“It means we are not announcing another six hotels just within Dubai, because we want to make sure that whenever we have a project it focuses on the quality, on the destination and on the experience the customer will have,” he said.

Duchauffour said the company was also pursuing a separate expansion under the brand, The Ritz-Carlton Reserve.

With three existing properties under the theme of “smaller properties with much higher level of service and attention in terms of ratio of employees” it had another seven under construction of finalisation, he said.

“The specific of this new brand is really destination and the fact that we are looking at various remote locations,” he said. “Destinations where people will really go to isolate themselves and really get a unique experience.”

Companies such as Rezidor have flagged plans for 2 to 3-star branded hotels, including in the Middle East.

But, Duchauffour said it had no desire to take a similar path.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “Ritz-Carlton is purely luxury, it’s really about delivering that exceptional, personalized service and we are purely focusing on our location, our design, the quality of the offering and we are staying on the upper market.

"There is today no desire or no business sense for us to go into any other categories.”

Duchauffour  said it was open to further opportunities in Qatar beyond its two existing properties, especially towards the 2022 World Cup, though it was a “long-term approach”.

“We’re not walking away from Qatar because we know it is a very important and a very expanding market,” he said.

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