Sir Rocco Forte speaking at ATM
Speaking during at the ILTM Ultratravel Forum at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2011, Sir Rocco Forte defined the Middle East as one of the key luxury travel markets worldwide and predicted considerable long-term potential for growth in this sector.
Founder of Rocco Forte Hotels, Sir Rocco first visited the region in 1978 for the opening of the International Hotel at the Dubai Airport as part of the former Forte Hotels group.
“The city has changed enormously, there is fantastic architecture and some amazing buildings,” he said. “Some hotels have a Disneyworld feel and others are more sophisticated, but one enormous difference is that compared to Europe and the US, staffing levels are much higher and you can afford to enhance the service levels.”
With the first Rocco Forte Collection hotel opening in Abu Dhabi this summer, Sir Rocco revealed plans for four additional properties - in Jeddah, Marrakech, Cairo and Luxor – and a strategy for further expansion.
“The Middle East is a huge source for luxury travellers, and represents our fourth biggest market at Rocco Forte Collection,” he said. “One of the reasons I am expanding here is to bring more awareness of our hotels in Europe, and also to offer a European option for luxury travellers in the region – we are the only true European brand at the top end and different from the US brands.”
In the pipeline are revamps of two historic hotels in Egypt – the Shepherd Hotel in Cairo and the recently announced refurbishment of The Luxor Hotel, built in 1880 by John Cook, son of travel pioneer Thomas Cook.
“There has been a temporary hiatus in tourism in the region due to the recent events, but in the longer term, this is a wonderful area for luxury travel with potential to develop the product,” said Sir Rocco.