By Andy Sambidge
Hotel group says it is on track to open 13 MENA properties in 2009, including 10 in the UAE.
Hotel group Rotana says it is pushing ahead with expansion plans despite the economic slowdown and is on track to open 13 properties across the MENA region in 2009, including 10 in the UAE.
The Abu Dhabi-based chain, which currently manages 68 hotels in 26 cities across the region, has opened three hotels so far this year.
The most recent - the Al Marwa Rayhaan by Rotana in Makkah, Saudi Arabia - is its first in the kingdom and is also the first to open under the chain's new alcohol-free brand Rayhaan, the company said in an interview with ameinfo.com.
The company added that the Rose Rotana in Dubai, which at 72 storeys will be the tallest hotel in the world, will also open under the 'Rayhaan' brand when it opens in the fourth quarter of this year.
Of the remaining nine hotels that Rotana plans to open this year, six are located in Abu Dhabi.
"January and February were quite tough, but business has improved since June," Michael Marshall, Rotana's corporate vice president for Sales & Marketing told the website.
"One of the things we've noticed is that new customers are coming into Dubai because room rates are more reasonable and airline prices are lower than what they were during the boom. It opens new markets and definitely we have seen that come through this summer," he added.
Like other hotels chains in the industry, Rotana cut its room rates in the emirate by 20-30 percent to help boost occupancy amid the downturn, Marshall said.
He said Rotana had been able to avoid making redundancies since the downturn by relocating staff to other properties.
The company remains optimistic that business will pick up later this year, as a lot of corporate activity has been put on hold during Ramadan.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.