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Rotana moves ahead with African expansion

The Abu Dhabi-based Rotana hotel brand plans to open a spate of new hotels across sub-Saharan Africa.

The Abu Dhabi-based Rotana hotel brand plans to open a spate of new hotels across sub-Saharan Africa.

Rotana manages a portfolio of 85 properties across the Middle East and North Africa, including more than 30 hotels in the UAE.

The company recently announced a new hotel for Saadiyat Island, which is due to open in 2015, and it has several currently under construction in the region, including two in Doha, one in Jordan, one in Al Ain, and one in Iraq.

"Our expansion plans have not stopped," said Selim El Zyr, Rotana's president and chief executive. "We are still moving ahead with finding new opportunities in the Middle East and outside the Middle East."

Africa is the company's immediate target, he added.

The company is looking at several countries in central and southern Africa, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Angola. "These are promising markets," said Mr El Zyr.

"These countries are becoming more and more stable now and they have a lot of resources. Oil, coal, uranium, all kinds of natural resources. They are the future, in my opinion. This is a continent that is underserved in terms of hospitality."

Mr El Zyr said the company hopes to sign a couple of agreements this year and it has contacts in almost all of the countries it is interested in. "We are in negotiations in many of these countries. I don't know which one will materialise first," he added.

Rotana was founded in 1992 and opened its first property, the Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi, a year later. But business in its home emirate has been tough of late because of the increased competition.

"I don't think Abu Dhabi is going to make budget this year," said Mr El Zyr. "We are getting a good fair share of the occupancy but obviously rates are lower than Dubai due to competition and the number of rooms that are on the market."

Dubai, on the other hand, is the company's best market and is "well above budget".

Other GCC countries doing well include Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Bahrain is doing better than expected but still "not so great", according to Mr El Zyr.

The most sluggish markets are Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

"These countries have been affected by the Arab Spring," he said.

"In Lebanon, Syria and so on there is no [change]. In Lebanon we are not where we should be but we are OK. In Syria we are [not doing well]."



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