Swissotel Makkah to open for Ramadan

Saudi Arabia's largest hotel will open its doors on the first day of this year's holy month
Swissotel Makkah to open for Ramadan
(Image for illustrative purposes only)
By Shane McGinley
Sun 27 May 2012 04:17 PM

The Swissotel Makkah, Saudi Arabia’s largest hotel and the Zurich-based hotelier’s first property in the Middle East, is due to open on the first day of Ramadan this year, it was announced on Sunday.

The 1,487-roomed hotel will offer views of the Grand Mosque and the Holy Kaaba and is due to open in July, when the Islamic holy month begins.

"With the most convenient location in the holy city of Makkah, we anticipate Swissotel Makkah to be the preferred destination not only for pilgrims and Umra performers but also for business travelers, who will be visiting the holy city of Makkah," said Mohammed Arkobi, vice president and managing director of Fairmont Raffles Hotels International Makkah, Swissotel’s Canada-based parent company.

Facilities in the hotel will include 352 triple-bed rooms and 22 disabled-friendly rooms.

Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Swissotel's parent company, plans as many as 12 hotels in Saudi Arabia in the next three to four years, requiring up to 10,000 additional employees, the chain’s vice president in the country said in May.

The US hotelier, which in April announced plans to build its fourth property in the kingdom, plans to tap into rising demand for luxury travel in the Gulf’s wealthiest economy.

“It is our plan to expand in all major cities in Saudi Arabia,” Mohammed Hassan Arkobi, vice president for Fairmont in Saudi Arabia, told Arabian Business during April's Arabian Travel Market event in Dubai.

“Each major city can accommodate all three brands but it depends on the market. In my opinion within three to four years we’ll have around 12 hotels. Maybe we’ll need another 10,000 staff.”

Saudi’s cities play host to millions of religious tourists each year, who flock to the kingdom to undertake the pilgrimages hajj and umrah. The number of pilgrims entering the kingdom is expected to grow to almost 14m by the end of the decade.

Hoteliers Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International and Hyatt International last week signed deals to operate 12 properties in Makkah, as part of a US$5.5bn mega-project in the city.

Saudi Arabia’s tourism market has also largely sidestepped any impact from the widespread political unrest in the Middle East, Arkobi said.

Fairmont operates two hotels in the kingdom, the Raffles Makkah Palace and the Makkah Clock Royal Tower, which opened in September.

“During the last ten months, we have had an average occupancy rate of almost 60 percent, and during weekends we have often had 100 percent occupancy,” Arkobi said. “This is a big achievement for a new hotel, especially in a seasonal market.”

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