Following the regional business template


YEAR 2003
How the chain performed in the Middle East: Recent marketing push from Le Meridien has concentrated on regional business, and this will be the template for activities over the forthcoming months, according to Sami Zoghbi, Managing Director of Middle  East and West Asia. With the opening of a new resort on the East Coast, Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort, we have seen a much greater percentage of regional business than we had dared hope for, he adds.

Strategy adopted to face up to the downturn in global economy: Part of Le Meridien's 2003 strategy was to see an increase in cross-selling between the properties, says Zoghbi, and adds that Le Meridien's regional strategy has stayed the same - and mirrors the growth plans of the group as a whole.

YEAR 2004
Expansion plans: Le Meridien's on schedule to double the number of hotels, which could see 40 hotels in the Middle East and India region under the chain's management by the end of 2004. The Middle East is developing in leaps and bounds and Le Meridien intends to keep it that way. While development in Dubai has been key to the group's activities, with the addition of Al Sondos Suites by Le Meridien - a new product type - to its portfolio, Zoghbi points out that a major push in Kuwait is on the cards for this year and 2004. A January 1, 2003 management takeover of the established Ritz Kuwait Hotel (now Le Meridien Kuwait) is the first step in a three-year development in the country, which will see six new projects over three years, totalling almost 500 rooms plus the country's first ever convention centre. We see the three-year development in Kuwait as kick-starting a new era of pioneering development which is will play a leading role in changing the face of the country's hospitality infrastructure, adds Zoghbi.

Strategy in the face of competition: We are in this business to benefit the bottom line for our owners and ourselves, says Zoghbi. For far too long, five-star hotels in the region have traded rooms at low prices in an attempt to win traffic in a relatively under-developed market. But with the constant upgrading of facilities and service levels, these rooms should be sold at a premium rate, as they would anywhere else in the world. We will trade at a level that befits our product - and the market - so that we see the best possible return on investment, explains Zoghbi. Further, the group is negotiating to manage further hotels in the UAE, as well as adding Uzbekistan, Riyadh, Doha, and Hyderabad to its portfolio in the near future.