Lebanese who used to be regular patrons of the famous Summerland Hotel reminisce with joy the days they spent at the luxurious coastal resort during and after the Civil War. The hotel was closed for several years for restoration and maintenance work until new management took over the premises.
With the planned opening of the new Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort in September, Lebanese will be able to enjoy the old venue with a contemporary taste and some attractive new features.
“The entire Summerland has been rebirthed,” Dagmar Symes, general manager of Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort told The Daily Star in an exclusive interview.
“We changed the structure and the look and feel, but we kept some key features with which locals have emotional ties, such as the waterfall and sandy beach,” she said.
The new $500 million project is owned by the Societe Generale d’Enreprises Touristiques, a Saudi-Lebanese joint venture, and managed by Kempinski, Europe’s oldest luxury hotel group.
Kempinski Hotels currently operates 75 five-star hotels and residences in 30 countries. First launched in Germany, Kempinski has extended its portfolio to other parts of Europe and to the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The special charm of each hotel reflects its cultural environment.
“Likewise, the new Summerland reflects the Lebanese culture while representing Kempinski in its true nature as an international European brand,” Symes said.
Symes explained that Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort has succeeded in selling all of its 583 cabins for $90,000 each, adding that new owners also pay annual fees for maintenance work. “We already sold all our cabin units and buyers are Lebanese locals and expats.”
She also explained that the new project also includes residential apartments that are separate from the hotel and resort. “The sizes of these apartments range between 110 and 441 square meters and the price of one square meter ranges between $18,000 and $20,500,” she said. “We sold around one third of the apartments so far,” she added.
Symes said room prices will track the luxury hotel market. “Our prices will be hovering around rates set by our competitors in the Lebanese market such as Le Grey, Phoenicia Hotel, Four Seasons and Movenpick,” she said. “We will be also offering special rates at the beginning to encourage clients to come and try the new Kempinski Summerland.”
Symes said that the hotel, which is scheduled to open in September, aims at being a wedding destination as well. “We have a huge ballroom and an outside venue for weddings and we already have a lot of wedding bookings for this year,” she said.
Hotels in Lebanon have been tremendously impacted by travel advisories issued in previous years by Gulf countries whose citizens once constituted the main market for Lebanon’s hotel industry. But Symes believes that Kempinski Summerland will be able to sustain its business in Lebanon despite the current complicated situation.
“For us it is less of a hassle to sustain business because we have the resort part which is purely domestic,” she said.
Also, Symes said that Kempinski Summerland is focusing on markets other than Gulf Cooperation Council states, such as Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Iran. “We are also focusing on the international market such as Russia in addition to Ghana and Brazil where Lebanese expats reside,” she said. “We always have to diversify our market in a healthy way; we cannot focus our business on the GCC only,” she added.
Symes believes that the main challenge facing Lebanon’s hospitality sector is the country’s image abroad. “The perception of the country disrupts the well-being of the hospitality industry,” she said.
“All hospitality professionals must work on promoting a positive image of the country abroad.”
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