Expansion plans for Safir International


Kuwaiti brand Safir International Hotel Management is riding on the crest of a wave having increased its profits over budget by 40 per cent last year, and with plans to double its portfolio within the next two-and-a-half years.

The 25-year-old company currently has 17 properties in Kuwait, Syria, Algeria, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Qatar and Iraq and, under the direction of new CEO Helmut Meckelburg, who came on board last September after 10 years with India’s Taj Group, expansion is very much on the cards.

A management agreement has recently been signed for the 158-room, five-star Safir Al Shami Hotel in Aleppo, Syria, a new hotel is due to open shortly in Salalah, Oman, there are four contracts under negotiation in Algeria and the company is also actively seeking further moves into the African market with its eye on properties in Nigeria and Angola.

Meckelburg said: “We were not affected by the recession, in fact we improved our profit over net budget by 40 per cent. There are a number of reasons for this.

“Firstly all the hotels performed very well. Also in September we opened a new 350-room hotel in Kerbala, Iraq. This is a shrine location with some security issues so other companies don’t want to go there, the result was that we opened at 90 per cent occupancy and have run at very high or full occupancy ever since.

“In December we opened a new hotel in Kuwait. It was supposed to launch  in 2010  but we opened earlier in time for the GCC summit with full occupancy which, again, has continued.”

He added that the company’s experience of operating a shrine hotel in Damascus had given it experience in security issues and task forces were sent in from Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and head office to help get the Kerbala property up and running.

Meckelburg added: “Since I have joined the company, we have been reviewing the strategy in the properties we are seeking. They have to be the right number of rooms, the right property in the right location. We  look at operational performance from the beginning on and naturally like to have hotels in locations where  supply and demand promise excellent returns to our owners. We are also focusing to manage hotels in key cities of the region, especially in Abu Dhabi and Dubai

“We are looking at being in other areas where the demand is strong particularly in African key countries, we aim to double our number of hotels in the Mena region in the next two-and-a-half years, we are currently mainly a four-star brand but we are also beginning to move into the five-star segment.”

And the company is also expecting growth in other areas. Meckelburg confirmed that there are plans to launch a budget brand in key cities in the Mena region by the third quarter of the year as well as tentative plans for an entry into the European market with a completely different brand which would still be under Safir International Hotel Management.