Major expansion ahead for Ritz-Carlton

Poolside at the new Sharq Village, Doha

The Ritz-Carlton expects to have a worldwide portfolio of nearly 95 hotels by 2010, including 35 properties in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

“That is a growth rate of almost 50 per cent,” the brand’s Bob Kharazmi, senior vice-president, international – corporate office, told TTN. The group currently has 62 properties operational.
Asia is perhaps the group’s strongest market, with new hotels just having opened in Beijing and Tokyo, and several properties under construction in China and Hong Kong. “So the growth in Asia is very strong followed by the Middle East and then Europe. And we go from 62 to 95 hotels plus 25 residences, clubs and serviced apartments mostly international. In the Middle East, we we are looking at Kuwait, Jordan, Beirut and Cairo,” he said. The brand’s second hotel in Bahrain has also just been announced.
Asked about Saudi Arabia, Kharazmi said the country is ripe with opportunity. “It is a market we are looking at. There are some incredible projects going on in Saudi Arabia like the King Abdullah Economic City, so we are looking at those opportunities.”
In the Americas, new hotels are planned for Rancho Mirage in California, Charlotte in North Carolina and residences in New York, Leicester, Dallas, South Beach and Chicago.
In terms of investments, the Ritz-Carlton has spent more than $360 million on renovations in 2006 and is looking at the same amount in 2007. “We are very keen to ensure that all 62 hotels are all renovated and keep them up to date. Clearly we are also keen that our hotels reflect the cities they are in and thus connect to the customer,” Kharazmi said. “We have 35000 staff serving our guest sand we try to make sure no matter how much we grow, the principles, the core values still remain the same.”
With the tremendous market buzz about the brand’s Sharq Village in Doha, the Ritz-Carlton has moved away from simply serving up classical elegance. Asked if we could expect more such properties – the hotel recreates an authentic Qatari village – Kharazmi said that it was an option that the brand would consider, but without departing from its core philosophy of providing luxury service. “Our mission is to be casual, elegant, speak the place, be relevant to the market and clearly stick tot the core values, stick to what we are good at – our service.”