The Ritz-Carlton is planning to double its portfolio in the Middle East within the next two years due to the strong demand for its brand," Pascal Duchauffour, Area Vice-President and General Manager, The Ritz-Carlton, told Emirates Business.
In addition, the hotel company is also planning to extend its business to both Macau and Shenzhen, while Hong Kong and Shanghai will soon see new hotels in the cities. In Macau, the hotel is to be part of the Macau Studio City in the Cotai, and is only expected to start operations by next year.
According to a company statement, Mark Lettenbichler, vice president and area general manager for Ritz-Carlton said last year “while we are saddened to see the departure of The Ritz-Carlton in Central, we are very excited about our new locations planned for the region. Both Kowloon and Macau, will offer The Ritz-Carlton brand an even greater visibility as it continues to expand its portfolio in Asia.” The Ritz-Carlton currently operates 11 hotels and resorts in the region with 14 hotels currently under development within Asia Pacific.
“Although the decision to redevelop the hotel was a difficult one, we are very happy we will continue our relationship and open a new luxurious Ritz-Carlton in Macau Studio City,” said Ambrose Cheung, Co-CEO of Macau Studio City and executive director of Lai Sun Development Limited. The 256-room hotel will be located on Macau’s Cotai Strip to include casino, entertainment, studio, retail, dining and nightlife.
The future destinations for the hotel being considered include Oman, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon and the Northern Emirates. "New hotels are under construction in the capital cities of Asia, North America and Europe, including Toronto and Abu Dhabi. Hotels are also planned in island retreats in the Caribbean, St. Lucia and Turks and Caicos," Duchauffour said.
He said that in Asia, The Ritz-Carlton Reserve Resort in Krabi, Thailand, The Ritz-Carlton hotels in Sanya, Guangzhou, Beijing, and Tokyo opened recently. "Hong Kong and Shanghai will see the second Ritz Carlton hotels. New hotels are also coming up in new locations such as Shenzhen and Macau in China, and Bangalore in India," he said.
The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Centre, has 341 rooms and is scheduled to open in June. Duchauffour added that "guests in the luxury tier are more interested in experiential holidays. They want to be more engaged in the local culture and be involved in activities that go beyond the traditional hotel or resort stay."
"We do not have any hotels opening in the Middle East in 2010, but from 2011 onwards, we will see two Ritz-Carlton hotels in Abu Dhabi, one in Cairo and one in Riyadh joining the group. The four hotels will have an estimated 800 rooms."
On a broader scale, within the next 36 months, The Ritz-Carlton will open 30 hotels, 17 Ritz-Carlton Residences, four Ritz-Carlton Clubs and four serviced apartments at several locations around the world, with much activity planned in Asia Pacific and the Middle East," he added.
With regards to the fallout of the economic downturn, Duchauffour said that the Middle East countries are still seeing growth in both the tourist and corporate travel sectors. "We have contingency plans in place to reduce our operating costs, but the most important thing to note is that our guests’ experience at The Ritz-Carlton hotels will never be compromised. This is one of many values we will adhere to through any economic climate," he said. "The Ritz-Carlton hotels are planning to offer value-added services, packages and amenities instead of flat discounts or rebates."
Furthermore, The Ritz-Carlton, according to Duchauffour, is working closely with multiple travel partners and destination marketing firms to promote both The Ritz-Carlton hotels as well as their destinations, the report added. "In this global slowdown, more than ever, public relations play an important role in elevating awareness of The Ritz-Carlton hotels’ facilities and services, and to maintain the high perception level of the luxury brand."
When asked about the manpower crunch that the hospitality sector is facing, Duchauffour, who started his career at The Ritz-Carlton as a bell man in San Francisco, said the company has a “strong focus in growing, educating and training our staff to ensure that they are ready for career growth. We see many capable individuals who have started as line staff and have grown through the ranks." "Our employees may not have the level of wealth, or be from the same educational background as our guests, but they have the same values,” he added.