Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has merged his hotel holdings in the Middle East under the newly formed Kingdom Hotel Investment Group (KHI), which will control over $1,000 million of property assets in the region. The new company owns 10 hotels operated by the Swiss hotel group Moevenpickand Toronto-based Four SeasonsHotels & Resorts, two companies in which Prince Alwaleed is a major shareholder. The other main shareholder in KHI is Sheikh Mohammed bin Issa al-Jaber.
The majority of KHI's assets are recently opened hotels such as the El-Gouna Moevenpick in Egypt, or properties due for completion in the next 24 months. Hotels scheduled to open this year include the Moevenpick Hotel in Beirut, the Four Seasons Resort in Sharm el-Sheikh and the Four Seasons Hotel in Amman. Other projects under construction include Four Seasons hotels in Cairo, Beirut, Damascus and Doha, and the Moevenpick Tripoli in Libya.
'KHI's operating philosophy is to aggressively expand its existing portfolio and position itself for a potential public offering in the next three to five years,' says Sarmad Zok, a former employee of the Kingdom Holding Companywho was appointed chief executive officer and managing director of KHI at its first annual general meeting in late March. 'We are currently looking at a number of opportunities in the Gulf region and North Africa, and we are placing emphasis on acquiring hotels that have opened or are just about to do so.'
Bucking the international trend, the local travel market has been relatively buoyant since the beginning of the year. Hotels in Cairo and Beirut have reported high occupancy levels as visitors from GCC states have avoided travel to the US and Europe, opting instead for holidays within the region. The real estate sector has reflected this shift. Of the 24 Four Seasons hotels and resorts under construction, nine are in the Middle East.
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