Ramada signs regional partnership
By Kamleshkumar DesaiRamada International Hotels and Resorts has entered into a major partnership with Canada based Global V Hospitality Inc which will see the development of 80 hotels over five years in the Middle East. The agreement, announced in Dubai, will include hotels in Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, Syria and Tunisia. Global V will have exclusive rights to the Ramada franchise for the Middle East, Daniel U Dannenmann, Ramada International vice president, operations, Europe, Middle East and Africa, told TTN. He said the partnership will see Ramada's presence in the region expand rapidly with Global V set to take over between 10-15 hotels this year itself. Global V, which is headquartered in Toronto and Las Vegas, will base its regional operations in Cairo. Ramada, which currently operates only four hotels in the Gulf - Dubai, Bahrain, Doha and Muscat - is set to step up regional presence with the opening later this year of a property in Kuwait. The hotel in Kuwait will be the region's first five-star Ramada Plaza, signalling the group's move to upgrade its presence. The Kuwait hotel will be a seafront, resort-like, business hotel, Dannenmann said. "It is a new concept in the region," he said. The hotel, which will be the first managed hotel in the Gulf, is being developed as a niche property with just 100 rooms catering to the top end clientele, said Dannenmann. The hotel's three-phase development will see the launch of the rooms in the first phase, one of the Middle East's largest conference hall with a capacity of 3,000-4,000 people the second phase and up to 40 high end suites which will feature their own pools and security offices among other facilities being the final phase. Ramada also plans to upgrade many of its current properties in the region to the five-star Ramada Plaza status starting with Ramada Dubai which will be boosted over the next eight to 12 months. The Doha hotel too is undergoing major renovation which will see the development of a water park, fitness centre, new-look public areas and front of the hotel. Ramada, a division of Marriott International, is the fastest growing brand in the US-based hotels group. From just 24 hotels when Marriott took over, Ramada has expanded to nearly 140 hotels in 20 countries and territories. It is currently expanding rapidly in Europe after taking over two franchises including Treff Hotels of Germany which owned 47 hotels and Jarvis Hotels which operated 56 properties. China is another major area of expansion for Ramada where it has grown to seven upscale properties and the group will underline the importance of the Chinese market by holding its worldwide conference at the Shanghai Ramada Plaza this year. The group is also spreading into south America and recently opened its first resort in Argentina. As part of its global push, Ramada has also recently changed its marketing structure, appointing Richard Oakes in a new position linking sales, marketing and revenue management. Ramada had its first brand presence at this year's ITB in Berlin and plans to have a separate stand at next year's Arabian Travel Market in Dubai next year to underscore its growth in the region. The region's importance for Ramada as well as the parent group, Marriott, will be further underscored when Marriott International's own sales show, Global Pursuits, will be held this summer in Dubai for the first time.