LAYIA Hospitality will be opening four properties this year, according to managing partner Daniel Hajjar.
Three of these will be traded under the Living Courts brand – Crystal Living Courts, in Al Barsha, which opened in February, the Topaz Living Courts near the Mall of the Emirates, opening late May, and Ruby Living Courts in Sharjah, opening end December.
The group, which manages hotels and serviced apartments, will also have a hotel and residence “up to a five star level” off Sheikh Zayed Road called the Layia Oak Hotel Apartments TECOM, due to open in August this year.
Four additional properties are expected to open in 2009, and the group is in final negotiations for another seven with planned openings around 2010.
“We are trying to project a different image within the hospitality industry,” Hajjar said. “The difference we want to offer is the sense that we are people that are professional, young, committed, confident and natural,” he said.
“We are people that are extremely respectful towards all they are dealing with, from the dishwasher to the high ranking minister, for us we approach everyone in exactly the same way.”
Their casual approach sporting open neck shirts supports this. “We do not need to hide behind a tie to show people we are professional,” said Hajjar.
Yet , he added, “We are extremely ambitious. We have big plans, but at the same time our feet are on the ground. We are going to take it very slowly – opportunities are great where we are so it is not going to be such a battle to find properties - but we want to make sure we take the right properties that could add value to the brand and ensure a good investment return to the owners.”
“We want to select our owners to make sure they understand our business – we are not looking for investors that want to catch the boom in the industry. We want people that are committed to the hotel industry, not people looking to make a quick buck.”
Hajar said the group had already secured four openings this year and will have four next year. “These are contracts that have been signed, sealed and construction has started.” All of these properties are in the UAE.
Within Layia there are three distinct brands. Under the Layia name will be properties of four and five star ratings, hotels, hotel apartments or serviced villas. The second brand of properties is the Living Courts brand of furnished apartments, purely for residential living but equipped with basic services such as help with luggage, a stocked fridge on arrival, so offering a service better than apartments but less than a hotel.
The third brand will be three star budget hotels. “I think the future is going to lie here - this is where most of the cities in the region are in most need.” At present the group is talking with various owners and operators, and they are looking at franchising too. “We are exploring all opportunities and avenues at his stage before making any final decisions, but we will definitely have a three star brand probably by 2009.”
by Cheryl Mandy
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