Hotel business bounces back in Sharm El Sheikh

Occupancy levels return to normal as tourists return to Egypt’s coast

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By  Sarah Campbell Published  February 7, 2006

It may be the low season in Sharm El Sheikh, but it is definitely not quiet. The Red Sea resort, which was the target of three terrorist bomb attacks in July, has seen a steady return to normal business levels over the past six months. “We have rebounded quickly from the incidents, just as London did,” Karim El Ghazzawi, general manager, Grand Rotana Resort & Spa Sharm El Sheikh, told Hotelier Middle East. “Egypt has always enjoyed a place in the world of tourism, and the government was quick to react with advertising campaigns and airplane subsidies to counter the losses. Business has recuperated, and as of November hotels were enjoying occupancies of over 75%,” he said. The Grand Rotana felt the effects of the July 23 attacks perhaps more strongly than other properties in Sharm El Sheikh. The five-star resort soft opened on August 6, two weeks after the incident. “We were unfortunate with the timing of our opening,” El Ghazzawi admitted. “The main challenge was that we were a hotel and a brand that was not famous in Egypt and we did not have a rapport with the tour operators. Basically, the tour operators continued to support the hotels they already had relationships with,” he added. Opening to a low occupancy and a market-wide instability led to further challenges, especially with regards to staff moral. “We guaranteed staff their service charge for the whole of 2005, so basically they received double salary until the end of December,” El Ghazzawi explained. Starting the New Year, and El Ghazzawi is confident for the year ahead. He forecasts that the hotel will average 55% occupancy for 2006, with an average room rate of US $75. Already, the hotel recorded an average occupancy for January of 58%, and seems well on track to achieve its year-end goals. January is traditionally the quietest month at the Red Sea resort, while in June, July and August hotels can expect to record average occupancies in the high 90s. El Ghazzawi’s optimism for 2006 is echoed across Sharm El Sheikh. The Red Sea resort is a popular vacation destination with European travellers. The international airport receives up to 60 charter flights a day, and already has 120 hotels in operation, with an additional 80 new hotels set to open up in the years ahead. The Grand Rotana Resort & Spa Sharm El Sheikh is the first spa resort in the Rotana portfolio. The resort offers 559 rooms and suites, including 54 Club Rotana rooms, Rotana executive rooms and nine private villas with four and five bedrooms each and a private swimming pool. The spa, set to open in spring of this year, will offer ten treatment rooms, hammam, Cleopatra bath and aromatherapy treatments. Grand Rotana is set to be the upscale brand in the UAE-based chain’s collection, which currently includes 21 properties across the Middle East.

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