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Kempinski launches Shaza brand

Kempinski is to develop more than 20 lifestyle Shaza Hotels over the next eight years in gateway cities around the region.

Kempinski is to develop more than 20 lifestyle Shaza Hotels over the next eight years in gateway cities around the region. Christopher Hartley, chief executive officer of Shaza Hotels, laid out the company’s plans to open the first of the hotels in Dubai, Cairo, Abu Dhabi and Beirut by 2008, in an announcement at ATM.

The brand will capitalise on the continued growth of intra-regional travel, particularly targeting the leisure and family market but also appealing to business travellers, according to Hartley.

“Shaza Hotels is a brand whose concept, timing and positioning are ideally suited to the emerging travel patterns we are witnessing in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA),” he said.

“This region requires five-star hospitality that is authentic; a hotel experience that is genuine to aspirations of this market, but which does not compromise on quality and service levels,” Hartley added.

In order to achieve this authentic Arabic experience, the Shaza Hotels design concept will combine traditional architectural designs, muted colours and natural materials with more contemporary elements. Each property will have hammam-influenced spa facilities and the restaurants will offer an array of regional cuisines. In keeping with the traditional values of the Middle East region, the properties will not serve alcohol.

“This will be a home-grown brand designed to reflect the local traditions and values of the region, offering a genuine Arabic experience to guests and respecting the local traditions,” explained Hartley. “We are hoping to appeal to a more sophisticated group of travellers and we believe that being a dry hotel will not dilute the business from this market segment.”

Financial backing will come from a specially created, Sharia-compliant investment vehicle launched by Guidance Financial Group. US $500 million in capital is being raised for an acquisition and development fund and, according to Dr Mohamad Hammour, the group’s chairman, the concept is already receiving a great deal of interest from real estate developers, hospitality players and other strategic investors in the GCC.

“At the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference we received a number of pledges — the majority of the fund is already covered. The concept has also already attracted tremendous interest among developers who have expressed a desire to have their hotel projects managed by Shaza Hotels,” said Hammour.

The new Shaza brand is intended to compliment, rather than compete with, Kempinski’s other properties and the parent group will provide the management expertise behind the venture. In the long term, however, the intention is for Shaza to become an independent entity and possibly expand beyond the MENA region.

“Looking at the success that home-grown Asian brands such as Shangri-La have had, we believe there will be great demand for this type of Arabic luxury lifestyle product and once Shaza is established in the region we may perhaps decide to export the brand to areas such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia and Indonesia,” said Hartley.

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