EVEN as Accor is on track to become the largest hotel group in Middle East, with a portfolio expected to swell from 18 to 58 hotels by the end of 2009, hotel officials admit that the suddenly booming budget market could be stiff competition for the group’s Ibis brand.
The introduction of Whitbread’s Premier Travel Inn product into the UAE, said the group’s Middle East managing director Christopher Landais, would directly compete with Accor’s brands. “(Premier) will probably be Accor’s toughest competitor for our economy brand of hotels,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of a press conference.
Premier has announced a partnership with the Emirates Group.
The number of new Accor properties set to open over the next 36 months will increase total capacity from 3,527 to 16,239 keys, representing a growth of 360 per cent in three years across the GCC, Levant and Yemen. The growth plan incorporates 16 new property contracts currently under final contract negotiation. Together with 18 existing properties and 24 hotels currently under construction, this takes their product portfolio to 58 hotels by 2009.
Accor will be introducing the first Suitehotel to the region, the latest addition to its portfolio. The mid-scale chain offers large room spaces that can be rearranged according to guests’ needs or privatised for meetings with sliding doors. Suitehotels are intended for customers looking for hotels that have more space, promise comfort, foster independence and provide the essentials for conducting business at fair prices.
Says Landais, “Our objective is to be the leading hotel group in the region to offer a truly diversified portfolio of hotel brands. With the support of our regional partners and investors, we are delighted to announce the commitment of major new projects over the next three years across the Sofitel, Novotel, Ibis, Mercure and Suite hotel brands.”
The announcement comes after a significant year for the company which signed contracts for 15 hotel projects in the Middle East between January 2005 and January 2006, including the Sofitel Old Town Dubai, Sofitel Thalassa Palm Jumeirah, Mercure Grand Hotel and Residence Jumierah Lake, Novotel City of Arabia, Dubai, the Mercure Grand Residence Aziziah, Makkah, and the eagerly-awaited $650 million 1240-unit Zam Zam Grand Suites (Sofitel brand) in Makkah which is expected to launch in September 2006.
Commenting on the business economy Ibis brand and its expansion in the Middle East, Landais said, “The domestic and intra-regional travel markets are untapped at the present time. This will undoubtedly be a strong growing market over the next five years, and there is the additional benefit of this market sector being less susceptible to economic fluctuations. Through its concept and various products, Ibis targets a key market need in the region, which other international groups have ignored until now.”
by Jonna Simon
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