Steigenberger preparing for Middle Eastern debut

Buijs...seeking right property

STEIGENBERGER Hotels operates 78 properties, with a total of 14,000 rooms in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Egypt.

The company, which was bought by Hamed El Chiaty – Egyptian tourism entrepreneur and owner of Travco Group – in 2009, has ambitions to internationalise and grow.

Recently appointed CEO Arco Buijs says: 'The Steigenberger brand has a lot of potential in this region, we see great opportunities and are keen to see this happen. As a first step we have appointed a local GSA for the region to attract more business from the Middle East to our hotels in Vienna or Frankfurt, Hamburg and Dusseldorf, cities that are already popular with Arab guests.'

The group plans to grow its portfolio of luxury Steigenberger Hotels and Resorts and the mid-range InterCityHotels in key destinations in the region.

Buijs, who attended the recently concluded AHIC 2011, added: 'I am at the show as a pupil, learning about this market. There are opportunities and we surely want to be here. I can imagine we will have an announcement to make by next year but today we are still analysing the different possibilities. Dubai is a very interesting market but there are many hotels, so the key would be location.

'While other hotels are opening their 50th property, we will be opening our first, so it has to be a landmark property,' he added.

The company also announced plans to invest €100 million ($140 million) in its current portfolio; €30 million ($42 million) will be used for renovation and rebuilding programmes in the Steigenberger Graf Zeppelin in Stuttgart and the Steigenberger Parkhotel in Düsseldorf while €23 million ($32 million) will be invested in the renovation of the flagship Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof in Frankfurt.

'We have very high brand awareness in Europe and it makes sense to expand to those cities where this market travels to including Paris, London, Barcelona, Milan, Rome and Amsterdam, a Steingenberger property in these cities will generate more business.

'We also look for opportunities in new markets like Africa and huge markets like China,' added Buijs.

2010 was a healthy year for the group, with average room occupation seeing an increase of 3.4 per cent, taking it to 63.3 per cent while revpar saw an increase of 14.4 per cent.

'Of course our properties in Egypt suffered, while the country underwent a revolution. Egypt is currently seeing occupancies at around 55 per cent while, prior to the revolution, we were at 95 per cent,' said Buijs. 'Looking ahead, it looks promising, the hotels are there, tour operators are selling again and our biggest markets, Germany, Russia and the UK, are moving again.'

He added that the Steigenberger brand tends to be very individualistic reflecting the local market with hotels that are unique, landmark properties while Intercity offers airport hotels.

'Our unique feature is that a Steigenberger is always in a great location. We offer a very high-level of gastronomical offerings with Michelin-star restaurants. Every Steigenberger has its own identity while with Intercity, we have a more standardised mid-range,' he concluded.