Core values to be maintained in strategic expansion
Brand: Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
Spokesperson: David B Crowl, vice president, sales and marketing, Europe, Middle East and Africa
Plans for 2007?
We are soon to open our fourth property in Egypt, at Alexandria, about the second quarter of 2007, and it looks set to exceed all expectations from a financial standpoint. The property has 120 rooms and the quality of the building is unlike any other in the city.
Internationally, we open a hotel in Florence towards the end of next year, where we have taken two 15th century buildings, a convent and a residence of old nobility and are converting them into a hotel.
We only came to the Middle East in 2000, with our first property the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at First Residence and we have since steadily opened seven properties. Four Seasons is a relatively young brand in the region as compared to several others and it is encouraging to see the level of brand awareness we have achieved in a short time.
Steady but careful growth is our priority and we have long term plans for the region. We do not have a goal for a set number of properties, our development philosophy is more strategic. We would like to be in all the major capitals of the region and are already working on hotels in Bahrain (at the Amwaj Islands), Beirut, a second property in Doha, Kuwait, and Jeddah. We are committed to the Middle East, the brand has gained traction. Intra-regional growth is a particularly important area for us. When you look at Damascus, for example, it hasn’t garnered tremendous demand from Europe, but it has been very successful in terms of intra-regional tourism. In 2006, this area increased between 20 and 25 per cent.
More encouraging is how the region is for outbound business, which is also improving substantially. People are more comfortable with international travel now more than ever before since 9-11.
Will privatisation lead to breakneck expansion?
We are still in the process, the deal was announced a month ago, and taking over a $4 billion company takes a lot of time. Isadore Sharp continues to be chairman and chief executive in the medium term, but both Prince Al Waleed bin Talal and Bill Gates are very astute businesspeople, and they understand the core values of the brand, that its culture must be preserved. The aim is to grow our current portfolio from 72 hotels to 100 in ten years, with a focus on small to medium size high-performance leisure hotels in strategic destinations.
New source markets
Certainly we look to India and China, but also Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe.