By Shweta Jain

Dubai: The Rezidor Hotel Group is eyeing the Dubai and Abu Dhabi markets to launch its designer hotel brand, Hotel Missoni, in collaboration with the Italian fashion house Missoni, according to the group’s president and chief executive.

Missoni Hotel Edinburgh
Missoni Hotel Edinburgh

“We are looking at Dubai, Abu Dhabi and also Doha to launch Hotel Missoni. These are all the cities that can take a Missoni in the Middle East. I don’t say we will be signing one, but that’s at least the plan for now,” Kurt Ritter told Gulf News in an exclusive interview.

Asked if Rezidor was in talks for a hotel in the UAE, Ritter said: “I think he [Missoni] is talking to one or two potential owners here.

“The interest is there. Of course, we are speaking to many [potential owners] but from speaking to signing is a long way. It took longer than anticipated for us to create that brand.”

Dubai is already the site of the world’s first Armani Hotel developed by Emaar Properties.

The Brussels, Belgium-based hotels company opened its first Hotel Missoni in the region, and second globally, in Kuwait on March 1.

Growth target

The hotel, which has an average room rate of around 115 Kuwaiti dinars per night, is targeting “40 per cent occupancy” in the first year of operations, according to Ritter. The company opened its first Hotel Missoni in Edinburgh in 2009. Meanwhile, Rezidor is looking to open three more Missoni properties, which are currently under construction, over the next three years — in Oman (due to open in 2013); Antalya (to open in 2013), followed by Brazil (to open in 2014).

“We plan to open probably a couple of Hotel Missonis a year. This is an opportunistic brand,” Ritter said.

The Middle East currently accounts for around 18 per cent of Rezidor’s global revenues, Ritter told Gulf News, with Africa, Russia and CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) as the company’s main growth markets. “These are really the emerging markets. But I don’t call the Middle East an emerging market. It’s a developing market,” he said.

Asked about projected revenue for 2011 from the Middle East, Ritter said: “To give a prediction for the year, with the ongoing turmoil, is very difficult right now. But having said that we would have anticipated at least a 10 per cent growth in the region over last year.”

With 26 hotels in the region at present, Rezidor has a pipeline of 15 hotels — signed contracts under construction, according to Ritter. He said: “Some of these hotels will open this year. Our aim is to open around five hotels every year. Don’t forget we are a late-comer in the Middle East.”

Asked if the company expected any future projects to be delayed or cancelled, Ritter said: “Rezidor has a pipeline of over 100 hotels today. There will probably be a 10 per cent wash,” indicating not all may materialise.

“But there will also probably be 20-30 per cent conversion on top of this in our hotels,” he added.

Globally, Rezidor, which has brands like Radisson Blu, Park Inn, Regent and Country Inn in its portfolio, has about 325 hotels operating with a little over 420 (including the signed projects) planned, Ritter said.

Returning to normality

While Dubai hotels for Rezidor have been running over 90 per cent occupancy, business is gradually getting better for Rezidor in the Middle East overall, according to Ritter.

Commenting on the impact of the region’s turmoil on business, he said: “Our hotels in Bahrain and Libya are doing very badly right now.

“We have a number of properties in Egypt, both leisure and business hotels, and we definitely felt the business going down there.

“But the market is coming back — in the tourism sector we are regaining two to three per cent a week in occupancy and that has been the scenario for the last three to four weeks now. If the growth continues and doesn’t stop for any other reason, in a month or two we should be back to normal,” he added.

While Rezidor’s fastest growing brand at present is Radisson, in the upscale segment of the market, Ritter said he sees the company’s mid-scale hotel brand, Park Inn, occupying the top slot in two years.

“In two years the mid-scale segment will surpass Radisson in growth. That’s because many more cities can take a Park Inn than the Radisson.