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Thu 27 Apr 2017 02:18 PM

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Spanish hotelier says eyeing Gulf for expansion

Meliá ramps up growth in region in response to heightened demand, with plans to bring new brands to the UAE

Spanish hotelier says eyeing Gulf for expansion

Spanish hotel brand Meliá is ramping up expansion in the Gulf in response to heightened demand, with plans to bring new brands to the UAE and reposition existing office, residential and hotel assets to boost its pipeline.

Its key development directors told Arabian Business there were “untapped opportunities for resort-style hotels” in the UAE in particular – for example on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah and neighbouring emirates such as Fujairah.

Meliá is looking to bring its resort brands Sol and Gran Meliá to the country within the next 3-4 years, they revealed. Sol by Meliá is a midscale, beach holiday-style resort brand aimed at families looking for affordable deals. It has hotels across southern Europe and north Africa, such as Morocco and the Cape Verde Islands.

Gran Meliá is a more upmarket city resorts brand with hotels in Rome, Mallorca, Rio, Tenerife and across Spain.

Benjamin Oppl, development director, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at Meliá, said the company aims to respond to rising demand for midmarket, leisure-based hotel accommodation in the region.

The company has eight operational hotels in MENA and 17 in the pipeline over the next 2-3 years, with plans to have 25 operational by 2019/20, Oppl added.

The Meliá Dubai in Port Rashid, Deira, is the only Meliá hotel in the emirate at present, but there are plans for three more, including the under construction ME by Meliá, delivery of which was delayed from 2016 due to “contractual and construction challenges”, Oppl said, but which is now scheduled to open in the coming quarter.

The other two are an Inside by Meliá in Jumeirah Lakes Towers scheduled for delivery in 2018, and a Meliá Residences (serviced apartments) in Downtown planned for completion in 2019, Oppl revealed.

María Zarraluqui, global development managing director at Meliá, said that due to a shortage of available and/or affordable land, the company is looking to buy up and convert existing ‘de-flagged’ hotels or redevelop other assets such as offices and residential blocks to help it meet its development targets for 2020.

It has already done this in several locations across Europe, for example the conversion of Commerzbank’s former office in Amsterdam into a ME by Melia through a 25-year lease with Commerz Real Estate in 2015.

“We really want to expand the company in the short term,” she said.

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