Building on Middle East success


The year 2001 was a significant one for Six Continents Hotels in the Middle East.

The largest international hotel operator in the region emerged with a new identity while continuing to expand and rejuvenate its chain of Inter-Continental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn properties across the region.

By the end of the year, the company - formerly Bass Hotels & Resorts - had 60 properties under management in the region, with another nine under development - seven of these are to open this year - and many more in the pipeline.

The hotel group says it offers something to every business or leisure traveller in the region, and every conference and incentive organiser, from the convenience of 20 Holiday Inn locations to the distinctive Crowne Plaza properties, and the pre-eminent business address that is the Inter-Continental hotels and resorts.

In one of last year's milestones, the company opened the region's first new Crowne Plaza resort on Egypt's Red Sea Riviera.

The Crowne Plaza Resort Sharm El Sheikh made an immediate impact, creating a Moroccan village experience for tourists and business conference delegates.

Overlooking El Pacha Bay, it gives magnificent views of the renowned Far Garden coral reef, and offers 329 deluxe rooms, as well as three and four bedroom chalets designed for optimal comfort and convenience.

"The Crowne Plaza Resort Sharm El Sheikh is the perfect example of our commitment to setting new standards in facilities, and service, for business and leisure travellers, and for conference and leisure travellers, in this region," said Denis Johnson, appointed by the company at the start of the year as vice president, sales & marketing, Middle East and Africa.

Another Crowne Plaza landmark emerged in Petra, with one of the Middle East's most spectacular tourist attractions and archaeological sites providing a dramatic backdrop for brand's arrival in the Hashemite Kingdom.

The launch of the Crowne Plaza Resort Petra, rebranded from the former Petra Forum Hotel, followed a multi-million dollar renovation programme spanning almost three years.

One of its biggest assets are 31 completely renovated and re-opened 'Hillside Chalets', tucked into the Petra rockface and overlooking the main entrance to the site.

Holiday Inn has been an ever present in the Middle East since the brand's first hotel in the region opened in Oman's tropical oasis resort of Salalah back in 1977.

Last year saw the emergence of the new Holiday Inn Resort Amphoras at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, as well as two more new Holiday Inn hotels in Saudi Arabia - making it eight in total in the Kingdom - as well the Holiday Inn Bur Dubai, the city's second.

"The events of September 11, and the current uncertainty that prevailed, had a negative effect on the Middle East travel industry as a whole," said Johnson.

"However, Six Continents Hotels' commitment to the Middle East has not been diminished.

"We believe in the region's future as a major travel destination, we're confident of a full recovery, and are continuing with a significant development programme which is introducing new Inter-Continental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn properties across the Middle East."

Even before its doors opened for business last September, the Holiday Inn Bur Dubai had collected an international design award and more accolades have quickly followed.

Already strong in Saudi Arabia, the Holiday Inn presence broke new ground in the Kingdom, with the nine-storey Hafr Albatin Holiday Inn opening on a prime city centre site at the crossroads between Kuwait, Amman and Baghdad.

Shortly afterwards, the Al Khobar Holiday Inn opened on Saudi's East Coast between Khobar, Dhahran and Dammam, offering 106 rooms and suites, including 23 executive lounge rooms, as well as wedding, meeting and banqueting facilities for up to 1500 people.

Six Continents also revealed stunning changes at some of its leading Inter-Continental properties.

As the result of a major renovation, the Hotel Inter-Continental Muscat was transformed from a business hotel by the beach into a resort hotel in the city.

A few miles away, and a few months later, the magnificent Al Bustan Palace Inter-Continental Hotel followed suit.

A major refurbishment programme has enhanced its widely acknowledged high standards with the injection of contemporary world class design and hospitality expertise to create new benchmarks in aesthetics, accommodation, service and leisure activities.