Le Meridien ends year on high note


Luxury hotel group Le Meridien says all its four properties in the UAE have performed extremely well, with occupancies averaging above 80 per cent cumulatively for the last quarter of 2001.

"On many days, individual properties sold out at 100 per cent," said Russel Sharpe, senior vice president, Le Meridien Middle East and West Asia.

"Room rates too, have been commendable, with the average rate for the last 12 weeks of the year above Dh600 ($163). This is below the average of the same period in 2000 - but only just."

The group operates four hotels in the UAE, three in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi. A fifth property, the Le Meridien Alaqah Beach Resort in Fujairah is on schedule to open later this year.

"We continue to look at new opportunities throughout the Emirates. For example, we believe that Ras Al Khaimah has great potential as a leisure destination," said Sharpe.

"In Dubai, our Le Meridien Dubai hotel (near Dubai International Airport), is always looking for ways to better service and one particular niche area is restaurant offerings. Last year, the hotel launched the Forte Village dining area with a variety of restaurant offerings from Thai to Italian and more.

"Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa too has been adding to its restaurants with the opening of a new Italian outlet called Ossigeno which has been a great success. So too has the opening of Ciro's at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi."

Sharpe said the past six months had been busy for the group with Juergen Bartels taking over as the chief executive officer and many senior management positions being announced, including the naming of Sami Zogbhi as managing director for the Middle East and West Asia region.

"We have yet to release year end results, but in the main, the position is looking favourable particularly in the light of the global challenges catapulted by September 11 that have faced all industries least not the tourism and hospitality sector," he said.

"When the attacks of September 11 fell on us, we were already in the process of launching autumn promotions in the region.

"Every year, for example, we launch Le Meridien Winter Passport special rates in all Le Meridien hotels worldwide, including the Middle East and West Asia region.

"Winter Passports has again been a success but we did launch another rate especially for regional properties which we called 342 - basically buy two nights and get the third free! This simple promotion has been a tremendous success and we have extended the offering until March 31.

"We believe that 342, Winter Passport, supported by the aggressive drive by regional tourism authorities, particularly Dubai's DTCM has helped sustain a very good winter season for both inbound traffic and for inter-market food and beverage and leisure business."

Sharpe said Le Meridien was "always on the lookout for new properties" in the Middle East and the group has had discussions on potential properties in Oman and the UAE's smaller emirates.

"In addition to our new hotel in Fujairah, we have Luxor ready to go and have recently soft-opened Le Royal Meridien Nile Tower in Cairo - another boutique property opens at the City Stars Heliopolis complex there in late 2002," he said.

"Elsewhere, we signed a management agreement for a new hotel and golf resort in Kathmandu last month and have ongoing development plans in India. "Overall, the Middle East and West Asia remain key areas of development for us."

Sharpe said the prognosis remained good for the industry in the Middle East and the September 11 events had "not affected our commitment to the Middle East region or our plans to develop Le Meridien as a global leader in the hospitality industry".