x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Premier Inn plans Gulf expansion

UK's largest hotel brand plans to expand aggressively in the Gulf through its partnership with Emirates Group and have up to 50 hotels in the Middle East in the next decade.

Premier Inn, the UK's largest hotel brand, plans to expand aggressively in the Gulf through its partnership with Emirates Group and have up to 50 hotels in the Middle East in the next decade. The budget hotel group, which is owned by the UK hospitality company Whitbread, yesterday opened a Dh100 million (US$27.2m) three-star hotel at Dubai International Airport, its third hotel in the city.

It started work a month ago on a Premier Inn next to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, which is due to open in September 2011. Hotels are also planned for Doha, Riyadh, Jeddah and Muscat. "The Middle East has prided itself on magnificent and iconic hotels, but they've kind of priced themselves out of a wider market," said Darroch Crawford, the managing director of Premier Inn Middle East.

"If Dubai is going to achieve its growth targets, it needs to be able to attract a much wider range of customers. I think it used to lose out on events, conferences, trade shows, incentive groups, sporting events, because it didn't have affordable accommodation. "I think that now that it has got affordable accommodation, it's a big benefit to the country." Dubai aims to attract 15 million visitors by 2015, about double last year's total. Ian Michael, the professor of marketing at Zayed University, said that Dubai was starting to broaden its appeal as the market matured. "A destination has to include variety in its product mix, from the Burj Al Arab right down to the budgets like the Premier Inn, Holiday Inn Express and easyHotel."

Premier Inn owns and operates 580 hotels in the UK. In the GCC, Emirates and Premier Inn fund the development of the hotels, which will be run by Premier. "We began to realise about three or four years ago that there was going to be a point where we couldn't grow any more in the UK, and so the decision was taken to take the brand international," said Mr Crawford. "The Middle East was selected as the first opportunity to do that, closely followed by India. We opened our first hotel in India a month ago in Bangalore." Premier Inn plans to open 80 hotels in the next 10 years in India.

Within the UAE, Premier Inn and Emirates have land in Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah and Umm al Qaiwain, and they plan to build another hotel in Abu Dhabi, but would wait for the economic climate to improve before moving forward with these projects. "We've land-banked some land for the future when the economy picks up again, and when capital is more readily available. It was a challenge last year," said Mr Crawford.

@Email:rbundhun@thenational.ae