x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Rotana targets China market

Abu Dhabi-based Rotana Hotels looks east to expand in China, as the country's economy grows into a ripe market for the homegrown company.

FILE - This Nov. 27, 2009 file photo shows haze clouding the skyline over the forbidden city in Beijing, China. For China, this decade was a time when the massive nation began to reshape the world in both basic and big ways. After spending much of the '80s and '90s with their heads down, retooling their shattered economy, the Chinese started peering beyond the horizon and striding out far beyond their borders. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel, File) *** Local Caption *** NY612_Decades_End_Chinas_Rise.jpg
FILE - This Nov. 27, 2009 file photo shows haze clouding the skyline over the forbidden city in Beijing, China. For China, this decade was a time when the massive nation began to reshape the world in both basic and big ways. After spending much of the '80s and '90s with their heads down, retooling their shattered economy, the Chinese started peering beyond the horizon and striding out far beyond their borders. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel, File) *** Local Caption *** NY612_Decades_End_Chinas_Rise.jpg

Rotana Hotels, based in Abu Dhabi, is mulling opportunities to expand into China, as it aims to tap the country's fast-growing travel market.

The hotel group, which currently has a presence only in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), is the latest in a number of UAE travel companies looking east to expand their businesses.

"China and India are very important for us," said Omer Kaddouri, the chief operating officer of Rotana Hotels. "The domestic travel within those two countries alone is huge and those countries are underserved in terms of all categories of hotels. We're talking to various entities in both areas about hotels."

Rotana has highlighted India as a potential market for its hotels in the past, but the company said it started looking at opportunities in China only "this year".

Having hotels in China would also help Rotana promote its brand in an area that is becoming an increasingly important source of tourists for the UAE.

Jumeirah Group opened a hotel in Shanghai this year and has several under development across the country. Airlines are also expanding their presence, with Etihad Airways planning to launch flights to Chengdu next month, followed by a daily service to Shanghai in March.

"All international operators are competing to be in China," said Chiheb ben Mahmoud, the senior vice president of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, Middle East and Africa. "The needs are tremendous in terms of hotel management and operations."

Outside the travel sector, Aramex, the Dubai logistics and transport company, on Sunday announced a joint venture with China's Sinotrans Air Transportation Development, to capitalise on the demands of the growing economy in China and the growing trade between China and the Middle East.

Several of Rotana's properties in the UAE have been delayed this year, while projects in Syria and Libya have been put on hold amid instability in those countries. But the company is still looking to expand beyond the region.

"Rotana feels now that it is time to have a more global reach," Mr Kaddouri said.

"Our preference would be to have Rotana hotels around where we are, geographically convenient, as our base is in Abu Dhabi. We don't want places too far away because then it becomes a logistical difficulty."

Rotana manages 29 properties in the UAE, including the Centro Al Manhal hotel, which it opened in Abu Dhabi at the beginning of this month.

Mr Kaddouri said expansion in other countries was under discussion, including various locations in Africa, and the company was aiming to sign agreements for properties outside the Mena region within the next year.

"We've even been talking to some people in Europe," he added.

rbundhun@thenational.ae

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