|By Abdul Basit, Khaleej Times, Dubai,
United Arab EmiratesMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 01, 2012--DUBAI -- The world's top hotel management companies look very optimistic for their business growth in the Middle East and Africa region, or MEA, and said they will continue to invest in the region.
Talking about their regional plans in the next 18 month at a panel discussion at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, they said the first quarter performance shows encouraging signs. Four top global brands said that in the next couple of years, they are planning to boost number of keys by around 80,000 new rooms in the MEA region.
Hilton Worldwide president for Middle East and Africa Rudi Jagersbacher said the brand is planning to add 600,000 rooms globally, with around 30,000 in the region.
Marriott International president and managing director for Middle East and Africa Alex Kyriakidis claimed the company has 645,000 rooms at the moment and will add 150,000 rooms globally, with 11,600 in the pipeline for MEA.
Accor managing director for Middle East and Egypt Christophe Landais said there is a plan to increase the number of rooms by 26,000 in the next three years in MEA.
IHG CEO for Asia, Middle East and Africa Jan Smits said 180,000 rooms are in the pipeline globally while there are 12,000 keys at various stages in MEA. Marriott's Kyriakidis said the brand is looking at opportunities on two platforms: joint venture and autograph collection. "We will continue investment in MEA with our partners and our way of approach makes sense for both," he added.
Smits from IHG said the brand's focus is on asset line and it will continue investing in assets and working in joint ventures. Talking about relations between property owners and operators they agreed that transparency is very important between both the partners and there is no issue of balance of power. "Its about relation, trust and you have to deliver as a brand," Smith added. They agreed that there is no issue with regard to transparency and there is 100 per cent of it at the end of the day, they said.
Another panel discussion on "Succeeding in MEA and Beyond' talked about the most important markets in the region. Orascom Development Holdings chairman Samih Sawiris and The Rezidor Hotel Group's Kurt Ritter showed their optimism in the growth of the region on successful completion of the first quarter. Ritter said for the region, "its New York in Dubai as you have everything and it's a city which is integrating when you talk about Tokyo, London, Paris and other top and successful cities in the world.
Cities around the emirate has learned a lot from it and it is very difficult to catch-up Dubai for them in near future, they added. Another panel discussion entitled "Finance Forum -- Investors and Bankers Talk Shop" discussed about what bankers and financiers are looking for.
National Bank of Abu Dhabi senior manager at project and structured finance Oliver Ebner said liquidity increased for local lenders, and foreign banks have their own problems back home and because of that, some foreign banks are less active in the market. Local banks are benefiting in this situation, he added. Majid Al Futtaim Properties executive managing director for hotels Salman A. Haider said a hotel is generally a long-term investment and it gives returns.
(c)2012 the Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
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