Accor announces hotel expansion plan in Middle East

ABU DHABI, April 19 (Reuters) - French hospitality group Accor ACCP.PA said on Sunday it plans to more than triple the number of its hotels in the Middle East, with a focus on the budget and mid-income sectors.

This month Accor posted a 9.6 percent drop in first-quarter sales and announced deeper cuts to its renovation budget, as worsening business conditions hurt demand for its top-end and mid-range hotels.

But the group, which operates Sofitel, Novotel and Ibis, is looking to increase its hotels in the Middle East to 24 by 2011 and 65 by 2013 from 19 at present, Philippe Baretaud, director of development for the Middle East told Reuters on the sidelines of at a property conference in the United Arab Emirates.

He said the group would focus on Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar, but also saw emerging markets for the hotel industry in Oman, Jordan and Syria.

“We are developing hotel chains in every country of the Middle East. There’s going to be a focus on upscale, mid-scale and budget developments in Saudi for the next coming years,” said Baretaud.

“We see Syria being of interest because they are pursuing opening up of the country and they have been (safe) against the global negative liquidity crisis.”

Baretaud said the group would likely strike a deal by the end of 2010 to build a Sofitel luxury hotel in Damascus. Accor will open the first Ibis hotel in Jordan by the end of this year.

(Reporting by Tamara Walid; Editing by David Cowell)

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