Changing the face of hospitality for a nation is a tall order, according to Hannes Yaghi, general manager of Le Meridien in Kuwait, but it is possible with focused and flexible strategy - most notably on price.
The former Ritz Hotel Kuwait (which will be rebranded as Le Meridien Kuwait after substantial refurbishment) opened on January 1, under its new management with rates of KD45.
Yaghi explained: “We believe these rates to be realistic for the marketplace. We must have been doing something right, as we have hit 100 per cent occupancy consistently since opening.
“Operating in a small but competitive marketplace means it is essential to maintain an element of flexibility - and a hotelier’s principal tool is price.
“We are not afraid to be aggressive and want the freedom to really service our target markets and you don’t get that freedom unless you are prepared to be flexible.”
As well as price, Yaghi believes the luxury hotel group is also being aggressive through targeted development. He said: “By the end of 2005, Le Meridien will have a “basket” of hotels: these may be small properties by some standards, as most have fewer than 100 rooms, but the combined portfolio will service every sector in Kuwait.
“We see them as multiple luxury properties to attract multiple segments of business. We don’t feel the need to build large properties for the sake of appearance; we would rather see a Le Meridien flag in each key sector of the city, and know these properties are operating to capacity.”
The refurbishment of Le Meridien Kuwait is one of five new projects over three years in the country, totalling almost 450 rooms. The second property to be added to the group’s portfolio is Le Meridien Safat, which is scheduled to open towards the end of the year, and is the group’s first regional Art+Tech property.
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