Accor identifies Mideast as top expansion target


FRENCH hotel group Accor is pushing its mid-range and budget brands to expand in new markets, including Dubai.

The Middle East will be among the group’s top markets when the current phase of expansion is completed, according to a report.
Accor will build 28 new hotels in the region in the next three to four years and half of them will be in Dubai alone, CEO Gilles Pelisson told media during a recent UAE visit. This is in line with aims to have 70 to 75 hotels in operation in the Middle East in the coming years.
“The Middle East, particularly the UAE, is becoming a showcase for our brands and it is critical to expand,” he said, quoted in a Gulf News report. At present Accor operates just three hotels in Dubai.
Investment for six hotels is coming from Majid Al Futtaim Group, while two are being built by UAE group Al Ali Property Investments for Hotel & Resorts.
Eighteen of the 28 hotels under construction in the region are in the middle and budget categories, and Pelisson expects these will play a big role in increasing the group’s Middle East presence. “In the hotel business you have a lot of five-star competitors, economy and three and four-star products are far less developed by international competitors,” he said.
The company's brand portfolio includes Sofitel, Mercure, Suitehotel, Accor Thalassa, Novotel, Ibis, Formule 1, Red Roof Inn and Etap. It recently announced a deal with the Indian subsidiary of property giant Emaar to build 100 Formule 1 budget hotels in India in 10 years at an investment of $300 million.
Pelisson also said 100 hotels are planned in China and 35 are under construction.

Meanwhile, Accor Middle East will open its first hotel in Pakistan this year, when the Mercure Grand Hotel Karachi Airport begins taking guests. Located in the Civil Aviation Security Zone, it is five minutes away from the Jinnah International Airport Terminal. The first phase, opening April 1, consists of 120 rooms and two suites, with an all day dining restaurant, coffee shop, swimming pool with pool bar. Phase II will open shortly afterwards and will consist of an additional 55 superior rooms, all on ground level with balconies and direct garden access, multiple seminar and convention facilities as well as a complete fitness centre. 
Christophe Landais, managing director of Accor Middle East said, “Accor Middle East is delighted to have been chosen to manage this attractive and dynamic project which will provide at least some relief to the significant hotel room demand situation in Karachi. We intend to significantly grow our portfolio of hotels in this dynamic country.” The group expects to open the Sofitel Karachi in Clifton in late 2009.