Keeping up the Brands
How the chain performed in the Middle East: After the Iraq war, booking came back because the corporate market reacted very well and postponed business trips, meetings and conferences took place, says Philippe Cassis, senior vice-president and director of operations Africa and Middle East, Starwood Hotels and Resorts.
The leisure, although more sensitive, came back aggressively during the summer with significant traffic from the Middle East market. In Egypt, for instance, around 3/4 million tourists, (743,304), visited the country in August 2003, an increase of 29.5 per cent compared to August 2002. Total room nights also increased by 121 per cent to reach 4.3 million. In Cairo, Sheraton Cairo Hotel and Towers closed the month of August with 100 per cent occupancy versus 88.2 per cent in 2002; and El-Gezirah Sheraton closed at 98.5 per cent occupancy versus 94.2 per cent in 2002. On the Red Sea, Sheraton Miramar Resort in El-Gouna closed August at 93.3 per cent occupancy versus 52.3 per cent in 2002; and Sheraton Sharm closed at 91.5 per cent occupancy versus 86.8 per cent in 2002. For UAE hotels, we managed to maintain a good occupancy level of 65 per cent year round comparing to 67 per cent in 2002 with an increase in the average rate for 2003 by 13 per cent, informs Ahmed Baki, area director of marketing for Starwood Hotels in the UAE.
Strategy adopted to face up to the downturn in global economy: We put together a contingency plan addressing number of issues to quickly react operationally, and minimise the impact and to anticipate how to reactivate our business, by using our collective experience over the years in similar crisis. We also put together a post-war marketing contingency plan which we launched once the war was over. We have adopted a pro-active approach based on market analysis and previous similar experiences.
Expansion plans: We are interested in identifying new growth opportunities which make sense to us as operators and to owners. We’re not interested in mass growth. Our objective is to also introduce new brands such as Westin, Four Points by Sheraton and The Luxury Collection and we have been following this through.
Among our new brand hotels is The Luxury Collection: L’Amphitrite Palace in Skhirat, Morocco. Set to open in July this year, L’Amphitrite Palace, will be a world class 178 rooms and suites hotel with luxurious facilities including a 1,500 sq. meters spa and thalassotherapy, two swimming pools, a 320 sq m villa with separate entrance and direct access to the beach, as well as a $20 million International Conference Center Mohammed VI in a separate complex, 500 meters from the hotel. Strategy in the face of competition: We have created Area roles for general managers to manage multiple properties within the region.