Eight of the region’s gateway destinations will be servicing the mid-scale lodging sector with an international brand choice by 2012, according to Action Hotels, a subsidiary of Kuwait’s Action Group Holdings. The company’s chairman, Sheikh Mubarak Abdullah Al Mubarak Al Sabah confirms that nine, mid-scale properties flying international flags will join the three already open in Salmiya, Kuwait (2008), Muscat, Oman (2009) and Amman, Jordan (2009). “This year, Sharq, Kuwait and Manama, the capital of Bahrain, are set to see two ibis flags join the mid-scale lodging offering with a 160-room hotel and 304-room mixed-accomodation tower, respectively,” says Sheikh Mubarak. The Manama property is just opposite the Kingdom’s burgeoning Al Seef commercial and shopping district and includes suites and apartments. Meanwhile in international markets, Action Hotels has developed the Ibis Glen Waverly in Melbourne, Australia (2007), and has also confirmed the imminent signing of a 250-room Novotel in Brisbane (2011). According to Sheikh Mubarak, the economy hotel sector led the global hospitality development by six percentage points in the year 2009. He cites the WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council) research that suggests that the Middle East tourism sector, for both business and leisure travel, grew by nine per cent (in 2009), as global markets remained on a sharp decline. “Our regional strategy is to cement a leading position in the economy hotel segment,” he said. “We are ahead of the race. The ibis, Holiday Inn and Novotel flags sit perfectly in this lodging gap for business travellers and tourists who ‘travel differently’ and want a comfortable room and personable proactive service at true value rates.” According to World Tourism Organisation (WTO)* the economic climate substantially drove demand for economy hotels by as much as 16 per cent in 2009. Sheikh Mubarak indicates that with economy air travel to the Middle East up some 13 per cent, demand for good, price-effective, service-efficient lodging is vibrant. “Business class air travel has experienced at least a six percent down turn, in the past year. Meanwhile, intra-regional travel is also growing, and this accounts for more than 70 per cent of the room occupancy in Dubai and Bahrain, for example,” notes Sheikh Mubarak. “Action Hotels is focussed on the development of a global portfolio of landmark, affordable hotels of a build that is a notch above the tier guidelines. We look to service niche corporate and tourism traffic in gateway locations within cities, strategic sectors, and primary tourist destinations.” He confirms that by 2012, Action Hotels will have a portfolio of 14 mid-scale hotels flying the Ibis, Novotel, Holiday Inn and Staybridge flags, in partnership with the global hotel operators Accor and IHG. Sheikh Mubarak is scheduled to take part in a plenary session at this year’s Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC 2010, May 1-3 2010 in Dubai). He will discuss just how to successfully tap into the regional hospitality market, using the mid-tier success of Action Hotel’s as an example.