WTM Preview Now InterCon plans four more properties November 2003 356 The Al Ain InterContinental. InterContinental Hotels Group is reinforcing its position as the largest hotel operator in the Middle East by forging ahead with plans for more new properties in countries across the Middle East region. Currently operating 33 InterContinental, 12 Crowne Plaza and 19 Holiday Inn hotels in the region, the company will be opening four new properties inside the next 18 months.Opening later this year, the InterContinental Abu Soma Resort Red Sea has a prime location between the Red Sea resorts of Sataga and hurghada, and boasts a private beach, shopping arcade, a variety of sports and fitness facilities and horse riding stables.Next year, new InterContinental and Holiday Inn hotels will open as part of Citystars Heliopolis Cairo, a $600 million development combining shopping, entertainment, office and residential facilities in the Egyptian capital.In addition to the three new hotels taking shape in Egypt, InterContinental Hotels Group will also be opening a new InterContinental hotel in Aqaba, Jordan next year while a 420room Holiday Inn resort will open on Jordan’s Dead Sea in early 2006.“All the major hotel chains have a presence in this region, although we are still by far the largest hotel operator here,” said Chris Moloney, chief operating officer, InterContinental Hotels Group, Middle East and Africa.“Our intention is to continue to expand, both in the countries where we already have a presence, and in other emerging markets. The fact that we have such a major presence, and are able to offer three very distinct hotel brands, each catering to guests with different requirements, and budgets, give us a strong market advantage. We’re building on that by introducing new service initiatives, and continually looking at ways to farther enhance the quality of service we deliver. All this demonstrates our confidence in the region.”Denis Johnson, the company’s vice president, sales and marketing, said: “Current estimates are that, as far as the Middle East hotel industry as a whole is concerned, there are more than 200 new hotel projects under way or at the planning stage.“Figures supplied by the World Tourism Organisation show that during normal times tourism to the Middle East has one of the fastest growth rates in the world.“Along with Egypt’s all-round appeal, you only have to consider the historical and natural attractions of Jordan, the relatively untouched beauty of Oman, the continual dynamic growth of Dubai or the sophisticated Mediterranean atmosphere of Lebanon, to realise the potential that this region has. Of course, all this means that the hotel industry here is becoming increasingly competitive, and we’re all having to do more to make our hotels, and our brands, stand out.”Saudi Arabia is another key market in InterContinental Hotels Group’s regional development plans. The company manages 21 InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotels and resorts in the Kingdom, and is planning more new developments at key locations.“We already have a major presence in Saudi, and we are seeking more new development opportunities in the country, while also continually looking to enhance the quality of service at our existing properties there,” said Moloney. In the last 18 months, InterContinental Hotels Group has reinforced its Saudi presence by opening its first resort hotel in the Kingdom, at Half Moon Bay, as well as the Eastern Province’s first new up-market hotel in 20 years, the Al Ahsa InterContinental Hotel.Added to the ongoing hotel development, InterContinental Hotels Group has reinforced its commitment to the Middle East by investing in a centred reservations hub in Dubai.