Potential joint investments will cover multiple sectors, including logistics and infrastructure. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan

Dubai: Lebanon is one ‘tough market’ – but the hotel operator Rotana doesn’t want to give up on that country just yet.

“If you look at how different cities across the world are performing, Lebanon is difficult,” said Guy Hutchinson, President and CEO at Rotana Hotel Management Corporation. “Paris is running at 50 per cent occupancy, Rome is at 45 per cent and Lebanon is recovering like everywhere else.”

Video: Ahmed Ramzan | Editing: Sonia Shah | Reporting: Nivetha Dayanand

Rotana has two hotels in Lebanon and according to its chief, they are “doing well”. “Hotels in Lebanon had a good Eid and we are looking to a good summer,” said Hutchinson. “We look forward to seeing Lebanon continue to recover the same as everywhere else in the region.”

Lebanon has been contending with a full-blown financial meltdown since late 2019. Residents lost access to most of their deposits; remittances that are a mainstay of the economy dried up; the currency collapsed; and inflation soared to triple-digits, tipping more than half the population of a middle-income country into poverty. In March 2020, the government announced it would default on $30 billion of foreign debt to conserve what remained of the central bank’s reserves for imports of food, fuel and medicine.

Hutchinson made it clear that Rotana has no intentions of dropping out of some non-performing markets or exiting from any of the existing contracts.

Expansion plays

Rotana is seeing a lot of buzz in Middle East’s hospitality sector, with Saudi Arabia and Egypt are emerging as strong competitors to established markets. “We are seeing a lot of activity in the UAE, Qatar and across the region,” said Hutchinson. “But no doubt, two centres which are emerging are Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

“Dubai in particular at the end of Q1-2022 posted the highest performing numbers of any hotel market in the world. However, we’re seeing a lot of activity in the hotel development community in Saudi and Egypt, and that will perhaps be our focus areas.”

Rotana currently operates 70 hotels in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Turkey. The UAE-based company has 42 upcoming projects, including 10 in the next three years. “Significant” hotel signings and new agreements will take place in Manama, Bahrain and Jubail in Saudi Arabia, alongside further expansion in the UAE, Qatar and Turkey.

There is a new project in Qatar that includes the management of Residences by Rotana. In Egypt, there will be a property in New Cairo, along with Rotana hotel in Alamein on the North Coast.

District 2020 ambitions

Currently, Rotana has no projects in District 2020, but Hutchinson hinted he is is open for business. “Never say never. We would absolutely consider it if the right opportunity came up.”

Edge by Rotana
Rotana has launched the Edge by Rotana as a collection of independent hotels that retain their branding and connect with Rotana’s management and commercial systems. Eyeing global expansion, the launch will create a platform for Rotana to tap into additional international markets.

“Edge is for owners and developers who don’t want to transition to a typical management structure,” said Hutchinson. “It’s a brand that will recognize the individual characteristics, the individual naming of a property, and allow all those developers to plug that property into the power of a brand, cost-effectively and efficiently.

“And they take full advantage of distribution, revenue, loyalty programs and management to really accelerate the performance of their hotels.”