Sonesta seeking success in the Middle East

Nahed Samir, vice president business development Middle East, Sonesta Collection, spoke to CHERYL MANDY about recent developments within the group
A Senator Suite onboard the Sonesta Nile Goddess

What are your expansion plans in the Middle East?
Sonesta International Hotels Corporation is committed to growth throughout the Middle East.

We recognise the enormous potential for the hospitality industry in this region and seek to establish relationships with hotel owners and developers which will add value to their projects, and to Sonesta’s international collection of fine properties. Sonesta understands that its success in the Middle East will depend entirely on the success of those relationships, both now and in the future.  
Since 1982 when we entered Egypt, Boston based Sonesta has added seven hotels and five cruise ships all operating under the Sonesta flag. Three additional properties are in various stages of development.
Sonesta’s plans for the Middle East, and particularly the Gulf area, include identifying appropriate hotels and resorts to complement its existing operations in Egypt, the United States, Peru, Costa Rica,  Mexico, St Maarten  and Brazil. The areas targeted as most desirable for expansion are Lebanon, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Jordan and Iraq.

What does the new branding of Sonesta achieve?
Sonesta Hotels, Resorts & Nile Cruises is now known as Sonesta Collection, and of which the 28 hotels, resorts and Nile cruise ships will emphasise their unique ability to capture the culture and location at each property. The new website at now has a whole new navigation, customer oriented tools, and great new visuals that captures the new positioning for the company.
This process of re-branding included many forms of market research.  The result is a refreshed logo, a new ad campaign, new standards for marketing materials world wide and a new definition of what it means to be part of the collection.
The repositioning, captured in the new tagline What’s Your Passion?, gives Sonesta the opportunity to communicate to guests about its passion, and that is a philosophy that Food is Art, embracing fresh local ingredients and culinary creativity. A unique design and architecture specific to each hotel’s environment and culture; a museum quality contemporary art collection displayed throughout the hotel collection. 

Can you give us an update on your cruise ships?
The Sonesta Nile Goddess re launched after all cabins, suites, restaurants and public spaces were completely renovated in February this year. The ship features 49 standard cabins, four presidential suites with private terrace and four senator suites. The five deck ship was awarded the certificate of Excellence from the American Bureau of shipping and classified as A 1 river service.
Cabin amenities include private direct-dial telephones, mini bar, music, individual climate control, wireless Internet access, plasma televisions and movies. Bathrooms are equipped with full size bathtubs.
Ship amenities include restaurants and lounges, in-room dining, an elevator, international telephone line and wireless internet access, a meeting room accommodating up to 12 persons plus plasma TV and bar service, jogging track, outdoor swimming pool, spa and fully equipped gym. 
The Sonesta Star Goddess and Sonesta St George I have elevated the standard of service on the Nile and now offer a number of individualised services on these luxurious new ships.  A la carte menus are available to guests upon request, replacing the more traditional dining experience.  Individual tours with an experienced Egyptologist include private transportation and a more personal experience of the antiquities and sites along the river.  While standard shore excursions and buffet meals are still available, this new level of personal service provides a chance to experience Egypt at your own pace and with your personal travel companions.
The two newest ships have redefined luxury with their introduction last summer.  The all suite Star Goddess  features 33 suites and the five deck St George I features 49 cabins and 10 suites. They offer three, four and seven night cruises between Luxor and Aswan.

Most recent launches in the Middle East?
The Sonesta Pharaoh Beach Resort Hurghada, is the collection’s 12th property in Egypt. The 360 room resort will operate under the Sonesta flag, the result of a new management agreement between Sonesta International Hotels Corporation and Sheranco for Tourism Projects. The Resort (previously known as Melia Pharaoh) is a beach front property with a magnificent view of the Red Sea.
Resort amenities include an outdoor swimming pool, a children's pool, an indoor heated pool, on site diving centre, fitness centre, sauna, massage, shopping arcade, bank, hairdresser, two floodlit tennis courts, hockey, golf and soccer pitch. Dining options include three restaurants, an oriental café, a pool bar, beach bar, lounge, amphitheatre and discotheque. Meeting facilities also are available for groups of up to 400 guests.