Sunday, January 28, 2007

Gulf Business puts hospitality sector under spotlight

In a major revelation, the 2006 survey shows that a total of 41,936 hotel rooms and suites (apartments, chalets and villas are excluded) are either under construction or definitely confirmed, most to open by 2009 at the latest.

Launched on the eve of Arabian Travel Market 2006, this is the eighth annual survey of luxury hotel chains conducted by the magazine that reaches the most influential decision-makers in the region. The latest survey reveals that there is a 62 per cent increase in the number of hotel rooms over last year's total of 25,888, and more than three times the 2004 total of 13,746, which was also the highest number on record at the time.

The top spot in this year's Gulf Business ranking goes for the second consecutive year to the French hospitality giant, Accor, with 15 upcoming hotels and 5,734 new rooms and suites announced to come online during 2006 till 2008. The second spot in the coveted Gulf Business ranking goes to a new chain, Bavaria Hotels International (4,700 new rooms), which, despite boasting German funding and a head office address in Munich, is developing all its initial properties in the GCC, out of a busy regional office in Dubai.

Among the projects announced by Bavaria are the two largest hotels in the history of the Gulf: the Bavaria Executive Suites in Dubai and Doha, boasting 2,100 and 2,200 suites, respectively, together with five-star hotel amenities. Close on the heels of Bavaria are Rotana (4,212 new rooms), Mövenpick (3,128 new rooms), Rezidor SAS (2,288) and Starwood (2,045 new rooms).

The extensive Gulf Business survey ranks 43 regional and international hotel chains, with details on the number of hotels announced, new rooms committed to be added latest by 2009, the brands under which the announced rooms will be launched and the year in which they are expected to come online.

A key trend that has emerged in this year's Gulf Business ranking is the increasing diversification of the chains with new product types. While upscale brands like Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Rosewood and Fairmont are consolidating their regional base, several major chains are expanding into the mid-market, with new properties under Accor's three-star Ibis brand, as well as Express by Holiday Inn, Centro by Rotana and Tulip Inn from Golden Tulip representing the vanguard of a new movement, likely to have a major impact in next year's Gulf Business survey.