Swiss-belhotel International Hotels and Resorts is more than doubling its property portfolio worldwide, with a major focus on further growth in the Middle East.
Earlier this month, the Hong Kong-based group signed four new hotels in the region comprising two properties in Oman, and the firms debut in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Speaking to Hotelier Middle East at Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, chairman and president Gavin Faull said the group was eyeing more opportunities in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Egypt.
“[Worldwide] I’m operating 40 hotels and have another 50 being built, which will more than double our hotel portfolio over the next two and a half years,” said president and chairman Gavin Faull
“We’ve been here [in the Middle East] for four or five years and it’s slowly getting going. It’s not easy as in the middle of it all came the global financial crisis but the Middle East is going to be a big market for us.
“I’m probably looking at 10 to 20 projects in Saudi Arabia this week. Of course I’m not going to take them all but the opportunities are huge… We’d like to sign four or five ideally but we just need to find the right project that fits our style," he added.
Magdi Samman, regional director of operations and development in the Middle East revealed further details on the group's regional expansion plans: “We’re being approached in Riyadh city centre; it’s amazing because the trend at this point in time is really converging with our policy and direction. They want to go midscale, business hotels.
“For us [the objective] is not to go for the masses and the numbers – it’s not a numerical exercise. Obviously the big cities are priority – Jeddah, Dammam, Riyadh - and we’ve also been approached for a resort in the mountains in Taif,” he continued.
“That’s Saudi Arabia, but we’re looking at the Mediterranean as well – Lebanon, and quite frankly I have to tell you we’re on standby for Egypt big time. It’s just a matter of a few months. After the elections we’re expecting stability and I’m sure everything’s going to go back.”
The operator has already been approached by investors on the Red Sea but has its heart set on opening in Cairo first, according to Samman.
“It’s early days for Swiss-belhotel in the Middle East but it’s a very refreshing start," said Majdi.