Melia mulls locations for Sol brand in Middle East

Sixty-year old brand re-launched for millennial segment with ME locations being targeted

Maria Zarraluqui, global development managing director for Melia Hotels International Group.
Maria Zarraluqui, global development managing director for Melia Hotels International Group.

Meliá Hotels International Group is looking to launch its Sol Hotels & Resorts brand in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with Jeddah and Sharjah key locations being considered.

The 60-year old brand Sol brand, which laid the foundations for Meliá Hotels & Resorts, has been relaunched with four sub-brands offering a range of lifestyle propositions.

Sol Hotels is for active holiday travellers and families; Sol Katmandu Park & Resort has on-site Katmandu theme parks; Sol House is a party brand for millennials with music as a core concept; and Sol Beach House is a casual-chic beach experience for guests aged 16+.

Maria Zarraluqui, global development managing director for Meliá Hotels International Group, told Hotelier Middle East: “The brand was quite old, quite tired and a lot of Sol hotels were owned by the group so we realised we had two options; either we go higher and create another concept or we do a real refreshment of the brand and just bring something we think does not exist in the market."

With Meliá, ME by Melia and Innside brands already launched in the Middle East, Meliá Hotels International is looking to debut Sol Hotels & Resorts in Saudi Arabia or Sharjah.

“I think in Saudi Arabia there’s a huge niche for vacations. They have huge families so going abroad is complicated because of the volume of people you’re moving from one place to another.

Zarraluqui claimed that the Sol brand would fill a gap in the leisure market in Saudi Arabia, and would be most suitable in a beach location such as Jeddah.

“The thing is, the location has connectivity and that it’s a place where a lot of people from the surroundings have access to it. If you go to Jeddah there are very nice beaches there so it would be an interesting location, but I would not say no to other locat.”

In the wider Middle East, Zarraluqui cites Sharjah, Bahrain, Dubai and Egypt as potential locations.

“We think Sharjah would be a good area for this brand. There we are actively looking as well. Bahrain; why not? I think those would be the options.

“I would not say no to Dubai either; we have here ME, Meliá, Innside, so we have a gap maybe in the four-star with this and maybe with Grand Meliá with the high end.

“Egypt would be a winning bet, I’m 100% sure. We already have presence in Hurghada and Sharm el Sheikh and we’re actively looking for other projects. The only concern about Egypt is that given the political situation it’s now quite difficult to get financing, so the projects there take longer to be developed.”

Meliá Hotels International Group has a partnership with Starwood Capital Group, which bought a large share of eight of its Sol properties. These are currently being relaunched under the new brand positioning and will open this summer.

The company is developing a Sol House in Vietnam, to open in early 2016. Additionally, in Bali, there are two Sol Houses being developed and one Sol Beach House is up and running already.

Last week, Meliá Hotels International signed two new properties in the GCC – ME Doha and Meliá Downtown Residences Dubai.

ME Doha, scheduled to open in 2017, will be the group’s second hotel in the country.

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