Hotels Starwood signs agreement in Tunisia November 2003 362 Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide have announced the signing of a long-term management agreement with Societé Marhaba-Belvedere to operate a 291-room hotel through its Sheraton brand in Tunisia. The hotel, which was first opened in 1962, has been undergoing a $20 million renovation program and is scheduled for completion by October this year. Situated in the exclusive Belvedere Park overlooking the city of Tunis, the hotel is located within 1.5 kilometers from the city center and five kilometers from the Tunis-Carthage International Airport. Most of the rooms were upgraded and 50 spacious Towers’ rooms were newly added. The hotel has four new restaurants and 1500 square meters of meeting space. The lobby and the reception area have been tripled in size; and a complete fitness and spa center has been opened offering a gym, Jacuzzi, sauna and squash courts; in addition to an indoor and outdoor swimming pool.“We are delighted to be at the forefront of fostering tourism and business in Tunisia. With over 5 million tourists a year, there is no doubt that Tunisia has massive potential in the field of tourism, we’ve been in Tunisia for over 30 years; and were the first international hotel operator in Hammamet with the opening of Sheraton Hammamet back in 1971. This agreement is yet another sign of our commitment to the development and operation of hotels in Tunisia,” says Philippe Cassis, senior vice-president director of operations for Starwood in Africa & Middle East.“With its high quality product and configuration, the Sheraton will position the hotel at the top end of the market and well within the category of Tunisia’s most upscale hotels,” says Hichem Driss, owner of Societé Marhaba-Belvedere. “Our interest in the Sheraton brand reflects our interest in premium standards as we seek to drive the country forward. Starwood brands clearly set those standards through their tremendous brand value and market penetration”.Tunisia ‘s tertiary sector (services) accounts for over 50 per cent of the Gross National Product. Tourism tops the services sector, with over five million tourists a year (from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and countries of the Maghreb). The expanding tourist industry has become the country’s first “export” activity, as its revenues cover over 60 per cent of Tunisia’s trade deficit.