Abu Dhabi-based Rotana Hotel Management Group is aiming to have a portfolio of 70 hotels by 2012, up from its current 42 hotels. The company is also looking to invest outside of the Middle East in an expansion drive worth $800m.

“We cannot expand anymore in Middle East cities, so we are planning to pick two or three places outside the region and deploy our energy in certain areas,” says Selim el-Zeyr, president and chief executive officer of Rotana.

For the time being, Saudi Arabia remains the biggest market for opportunities for the hotel group. The company has five agreements throughout the country with one hotel in Riyadh due to begin construction soon.

“We are late to go to Saudi Arabia, but it is the market to be in, it has huge potential,” says El-Zeyr.

According to El-Zeyr, the uprisings in the region have had differing levels of impact on the company. Rotana has hotels in all of the countries that have been affected. Projects worth $250m in Bahrain and a $200m project in Libya have stalled and occupancy and rates have declined elsewhere.

 “Our projects have not stopped, but they are moving at a slower pace. We hope things go back to normal,” says El-Zeyr.