Planning ahead and consolidating contracts in 2006

The year 2005 provided yet another 12 months full of hotel openings, new project announcements and the unveiling of a new brand or two. While the Middle East traditionally sets its sights high, the region is now also looking at the mid-tier market as one worthy of development.

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By  Sarah Campbell Published  January 4, 2006

|~|Danat-openingL.jpg|~||~|The year 2005 provided yet another 12 months full of hotel openings, new project announcements and the unveiling of a new brand or two. While the Middle East traditionally sets its sights high, the region is now also looking at the mid-tier market as one worthy of development. Marriott International introduced its mid-tier Courtyard brand to Dubai in February. Marriott boasts that the brand is ‘designed by business travellers for business travellers’, and the property at the Green Community certainly proved a hit early in the year, enjoying immediate success on opening, although business tailed off towards year end. Other big announcements in the budget market included InterContinental Hotels Group’s unveiling of its Express by Holiday Inn concept for the Middle East at Arabian Travel Market in May. The company aims to open 25-30 three-star properties across the Middle East in the next five years. More recently, and regional chain Rotana jumped on the three-star bandwagon in December with the launch of its Centro brand. The concept behind the brand is to provide accommodation for budget-conscious travellers across the region, with an average cost of US $70-$80 per room. Rotana plans to open 25 Centro properties within the next five years, with agreements already secured for three properties to open in the UAE – two in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi. Taking budget accommodation to the extreme, and August saw the London opening of the first ever easyHotel. Owned by budget service stalwart the easyGroup, easyHotels are to be introduced to cities across the world, and the Middle East is to be no exception. Watch out for an orange hotel opening near you. From no star to five star, Grosvenor House West Marina Beach by Le Meridien opened in June, bringing in a new level of luxury to the Dubai Marina project. Meanwhile, regional chains also notched up a number of new openings. Sharjah-based Coral International opened several new properties in Dubai and Ajman, while Rotana continued to expand, as both the Al Murooj Rotana and Villa Rotana opened their doors on Sheikh Zayed Road. However, despite a growing number of hotel rooms entering the market, Dubai is still not saturated and getting a room during peak season is still a challenge. While 2006 looks to be a relatively quite year in terms of new openings (currently the Rotana Rose Suites, Amwaj Rotana and a new Accor property are slated to open), 2007 and 2008 will be awash with ribbon-cutting ceremonies as properties open up The Palm, Jumeirah; Dubai Festival City and Burj Dubai. Which means that, for 2006, hoteliers need to concentrate on building guest loyalty, refining their product and fine tuning service levels if they are to keep their key accounts in bed for the years to come.||**||

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