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Tue 22 May 2007 03:41 PM

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Southern Sun shines in Middle East

South Africa's largest hotel company Southern Sun has revealed aggressive plans to roll out properties across the region.

South Africa's largest hotel company Southern Sun has revealed aggressive plans to roll out properties across the region.

"Our strategy is to really be a big player in the Middle East, starting with the UAE, and then spread out to the Gulf and the wider Middle East," Richard Weilers, CEO, Southern Sun Middle East told

in an exclusive interview.

"What's important is not to grow for the sake of growing, but to grow with the right properties."

He was speaking after Southern Sun unveiled details of its latest venture; the five-star boutique Plantation Hotel and Spa, located on 180 hectares in Dubailand's Equestrian Community.

Due to open late 2009, the Plantation project, which will include 110 exclusive Plantation Villas, as well as five polo fields and equestrian facilities, is designed to be one of the leading polo and equestrian destinations in the world and is described by Weilers as a "secluded retreat" for Dubai residents and visitors.

"The environment is a deciding factor for travellers selecting a hotel in Dubai; we will offer a leisure concept in an enclave of serenity," he said.

Southern Sun also recently opened the doors to two corporate-focused properties in the new Downtown Dubai area, close to the city's super skyscraper, Burj Dubai, which is currently under construction. Al Manzil and Qamardeen, which both opened in January, are "four-star deluxe" boutique properties with 197- and 186-rooms respectively, and are two of the nine hotels Emaar has signed up for the Burj precinct.

Both properties are already attracting corporate and Meetings Industry delegates, including those attending exhibitions at the nearby Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), and Weilers said he expected more leisure guests once the Burj precinct's giant mall opened its doors.

Looking ahead, Southern Sun is also signed up to operate a three-star hotel under its ‘Sun Square' banner in Abu Dhabi's new industrial area, Al Qudra, near Mustafah. The 248-room property will feature 20m² guest rooms with more space dedicated to the bedroom than the average budget hotel, according to Weilers.

"We are also in the advanced stage of developing a four-star deluxe property in Dubai Marina and are looking for projects in other emirates, as well as in Bahrain and Qatar," he said.

"Our five-year strategy is to operate between 10 and 15 hotels in the GCC across all the sectors."

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