Abu Dhabi-based Rotana Hotelshas signed two agreements to manage new hotels in Lebanon, including a 150-room, four-star hotel on the Beirut-Damascus road, and a 170-room hotel in the Raouche district of Beirut. The hotels, which are owned by two separate groups of French investors, are due to open in December 2003 and late 2004 respectively. The group is also finalising plans for a 36-suite extension to its existing hotel, the 168-room Genifor Rotana in Beirut. ‘There is a huge amount of inter-regional travel to Lebanon at the moment, particularly from regional hubs like Dubai and Kuwait,’ says regional operations director Thomas Gertz. ‘The quality of the industry in Beirut is very high – it’s a very old tourism machine.’

Rotana in August signed an agreement with a Syrian developer to manage a 110-suite hotel in the Mezzeh district of Damascus, its first hotel in the country, and has also signed a memorandum of understanding with a Qatari investor to manage a hotel in Doha (MEED 2:8:03).

Sheraton brand holder Starwood Hotels & Resortsof the US has announced the signing of a long-term management agreement with Tunisia’s Societe Marhaba-Belvedereto operate a 291-room hotel under the Sheraton brand in Belvedere Park in Tunis. The hotel, which was first built in 1962, is undergoing a $20 million renovation programme, including a 50-room expansion of the main hotel building. In Morocco, Starwood is planning to open in March 2004 the 178-room Amphitrite Palace hotel in Skhirat on the Atlantic coast. The $40 million hotel was built by the UK’s Britannic Hotels.

Swiss-based Moevenpick, in which Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Hotel Investment Grouphas a controlling stake, has plans to open five new hotels in the Middle East in the next three years. Two of these, located in Jeddah and El-Obour in Egypt, are scheduled to open next year, while other hotels are due to open at a later date in Al-Khobar, Ramallah and the UAE, where Moevenpick has the management contract for the Pearl Hotel being built in Dubai Media City.

Prince Alwaleed is understood to be negotiating with the Egyptian government over the acquisition of two state-owned five-star hotels, the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan and the Old Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor. The government decided to privatise the loss-making properties after a five-year downturn in the local tourism sector. Negotiations are also understood to be under way over a management contract for two hotels in Libya and Yemen, which will be operated by Moevenpick(MEED 14:2:03).

US-based Marriott International, which recently opened the JW Marriott hotel in Mirage City, Cairo, is concentrating its expansion efforts on Egypt. ‘We closed October with [percentage] occupancy levels in the high 80s,’ says a hotel representative. ‘Egypt is very much back on the map. In terms of visitor numbers, this summer it was at record levels.’ The group is planning to open a new hotel in Sharm el-Sheikh in early 2004.

www.meed.com/tourism