Ahmed Khorshed, regional sales & marketing, Retaj Hotels & Hospitality Ahmed Khorshed, regional sales & marketing, Retaj Hotels & Hospitality

Qatari hotel brand Retaj Hotels & Hospitality has revealed ambitious plans to expand to 20 hotels across the Middle East region over the next five years.

Retaj Hotels & Hospitality which is owned by a group of five Qatari investors, currently operates four hotels in Doha - Retaj Al Reyyan; Retaj Residence and Retaj Residence-Sharq; and Retaj Al Ghanem.

The hotels operate on Islamic principles, with no alcohol or smoking allowed.

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Ahmed Khorshed, regional sales & marketing, Retaj Hotels & Hospitality said demand for ‘dry’ hotels in Qatar was booming.

“In the beginning it was very hard to predict if there would be demand for creating such a hotel in Doha. But we have found that the demand for ‘Islamic’ hotels is more than at regular hotels. For example the year-to-date occupancy in Doha hotels is 63%, whereas the occupancy at our hotels is 87%.”

Khorshed said most of the business came from the government who preferred to place guests into dry hotels; as well as from sports business. “In Qatar they have a lot of tournaments and get a lot of business from sports. For the coach to put his players into a hotel which is not-alcoholic and not full of smoke it is much more convenient.”

The company recently signed a deal to take over a five-star hotel in front of the Islamic Museum in Doha. The 107-room hotel will open in two months and will be called Retaj Royal. Plans are now in the pipeline to expand the brand across the region, beginning with the UAE and Kuwait in 2012.

“Our plan for the next five years is to reach 20 hotels in the Middle East. We want to open in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah; as well as Egypt, Malaysia, Turkey and Indonesia – any country that can accept the Islamic way of running a hotel.”

Khorshed added that there would be a maximum of two more openings in Doha in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup. “For Doha we are looking to open two more hotels- for example a Retaj Inn which is a budget brand and another residential hotel so we will have a total of seven or eight hotels in Doha.”

As well as hotels, the Khorshed revealed that the company has also launched an F&B sector of the business, with a new cafe brand called Cafe Zone, which he described as a "competitor to Costa Coffee or Starbucks" and a Italian chain concept called Pasta Bisto.

As well as opening a Cafe Zone and Pasta Bisto in every hotel, the outlets will be expanded into mall location with the plan being to open up 20 outlets over the next five years.