UAE, KSA to be Coral’s focus

The new villas at Dubai’s Coral Boutique Hotel, Al Barsha

SHARJAH-BASED Coral International Hotels is set to launch a slew of exotic resorts around the UAE and in South Africa in line with a stated target of 25 properties by 2009, a senior official told TTN.

“Coral has big plans for many beautiful resorts which will be launched in Sharjah, Ajman in Ras Al Khaimah [in the UAE] and in South Africa. We have some beautiful projects taking shape in Oman and different parts of the Middle East as well,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Faisal Al Qassimi, chairman & CEO, Manafa, and vice-chairman, Coral International Hotels, Resorts & Spas.
Also on the plan are more hotels in Saudi Arabia. “We already have a property in Dammam in Saudi Arabia and we are contemplating three or four more in Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah, all of the strategic cities.”
In a joint venture with Reef Real Estate Company, Coral recently launched a new brand, Corp Executive Hotels, comprising three- and four-star hotels aimed at business people, while its core Coral brand serves the five-star boutique market. “Plans are also underway for a new product which is a two- or three-star property, more like a budget hotel in the near future. What’s wonderful is each of these brands has its own distinct personality and hence caters to different segments of the market,” he said.
He said the company would reach, if not exceed, its stated target by 2008 or early 2009. The group now has eight properties.
Despite interests in South Africa, the group is looking further afield in the Middle East first. “We have had talks in Syria, Morocco in Egypt. We have properties in, as land, in these places, including the Dead Sea. The nature of the business that we are in, it takes at least two to three years from the concept stage to construction to operating the hotel. So this is why we are very bullish in saying we expect 25 hotels by the end of 2008 or early 2009.” Asia is also on the company’s plans, he said, but only once regional opportunities have been pursued.
The group position itself as an alcohol-free brand, a position that Sheikh Faisal said will not change. “Our USP is being a dry company. This is what we are good at and what makes us truly distinctive, this is what we want to sell,” he said. “While we fulfill our commercial objectives, we are conscious of our responsibility towards the community. Our strategy is to cater to families and offer them a safe and healthy environment.”
On whether the group would carry the policy into new markets, he said alcohol-free hotels fit the increasing global demand for detoxifying, healthy products. “Detox holidays are big no matter which part of the world you are. I believe there is a space for everybody in the market, this is our strategy and those who like us will come to us.”