Business booming for Le Meridien in Dubai

The management team at the new Al Sondos Suites.

Business in Dubai is better than ever, according to Russel Sharpe, senior vice president sales and marketing, Le Meridien Middle East and West Asia, as occupancy regularly hits 100 per cent in available rooms over the normally quiet summer period.

The luxury hotel operator Le Meridien has the largest room stock in the city under one flag, and has just added to its portfolio with the opening of Al Sondos Suites by Le Meridien - the group's first all-suite property - as well as the resumption of management of the Abu Dhabi Grand.

For a while, it looked as if events of last year would leave hotels with an unrecoverable loss of business, but Sharpe says that Le Meridien reacted swiftly, refocusing attempts on tourism sectors that were not as badly affected.

"MICE business - meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions - normally makes up 60 per cent of our business, but the sector is suffering without a doubt. It is evident that this will be the case for the rest of 2002, so we concentrated on achieving business growth in other areas," said Sharpe.

"Many hotels groups have been accused of being slow to recognise trends - and of being even slower to react - but we have shown that a flexible approach can really affect the bottom-line result in both the short- and the long-term."

Principally, this involved focusing on the GCC, since regional travel this summer is on the rise. Backing this strategy is Naif Zureikat, general manager of Al Sondos Suites by Le Meridien, where occupancy is already more than 60 per cent - a notable achievement for a newly opened property.

"There has been a tremendous demand for our product from the GCC and we have made a conscious effort to target our marketing strategy to appeal to these countries - and that is beginning to pay off," said Zureikat.

"While longer-term corporate business is a target for us as well, it became clear at the end of last year that business in this sector had not picked up enough to sustain us in isolation.

"Our director of sales and marketing, Osama Mariam, undertook a 21-day GCC sales blitz a few weeks after Le Meridien took over management of the property, and we have attracted repeat business from this sector that should see us achieve overall occupancy of 70 per cent at year end."

With Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa and Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, the luxury hotel group manages two hotels by the sea. This gives the flag a combined stock of more than 711 rooms - 20 per cent of the total beachfront rooms in Dubai - giving it a position of strength on the coveted kilometres of Jumeirah beach.

As a result, the group has registered strong business in the traditionally leaner summer months, and this year is no different.

In the month of June, occupancies were hitting the high 80s, with full occupancy at times.