The regional arm of Millennium and Copthorne Hotels (M&C) looks to expand in Saudi Arabia, signing up two new properties, drawn to the increasingly lucrative religious tourism market.
It operates two more hotels in the kingdom in partnership with the Medina-based Taiba Holding Company, which has interests in real estate.
M&C operates the existing 208-room Millennium Taiba Hotel Madinah and the 484-room Millennium Al Aqeeq Hotel Madinah.
It will open the 299-room Grand Millennium Hotel Madinah in 2018 close to the Prophet’s Mosque. M&C also plans to bring the Biltmore brand to Riyadh in 2018 and expand into Mecca next year.
“The agreement is just the start of an extensive expansion within the kingdom and [covers] not only Mecca and Medina but also extends across the kingdom into the northern, southern and western provinces,” said Ali Hamad Alzaabi, M&C’s chief executive for the Middle East and Africa.
The hotel markets in the pilgrimage cities of Mecca and Medina are seasonal but are increasingly lucrative.
Although demand for hotel rooms decline in the weeks leading to Ramadan, it is expected to pick up in the second half of next month, according to a Colliers report this month.
In Mecca, the average daily revenue for hotel rooms is expected to reach US$139, outpacing that in Abu Dhabi, but a drop of 1 per cent from last year. The figure is expected to be $94 in Medina.
The InterContinental Hotels Group is already building its largest Holiday Inn in Mecca with 5,000 rooms, and the first phase is expected to open in December.
M&C said that the 265-room Biltmore Bateen Marina Abu Dhabi, the first outside Los Angeles, has been delayed until 2017.
The group expects to operate one of the biggest hotels in Abu Dhabi. The 677-room Millennium Bab Al Qasr will open near the Corniche in the next three years, along with a 280-room Biltmore Hotel with 50 villas, and 300 serviced apartments on Reem Island.
The company manages the 586-room Grand Millennium Al Wahda hotel, which also has 258 hotel apartments, as well as eight properties in the UAE. M&C is also present in Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Jordan and Iraq.
Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter