If one hotel company has “global aspirations” in the Middle East this year it is IFA Hotels & Resorts. In the last six months the firm has expanded its portfolio into Asia by acquiring 24.9 percent of Bangkok-based luxury condominium developer Raimon Land. Following the firm’s listing last year on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange IFA is also bolstering its presence in Namibia through a strategic partnership, which will see it manage four hotels in the country.
The group is also looking to grow further in Africa, Asia and the Indian Ocean. Breaking Travel News caught up with their IFA Hotels & Resorts chief Werner Berger to ask him about the challenges ahead:
BTN: Where will the smart money be investing in 2007?
Berger: The smart money will be focusing on innovative products designed to move the hotel and hospitality industry forward, such as fractional ownership products like Fairmont Heritage Place, Kingdom of Sheba. It is a perfect example of modifying traditional concepts to meet the needs of 21st century customers.
BTN: What has led you to expand in Namibia and in the UK?
Berger: We are continually seeking emerging tourism markets, and with no internationally branded hotel operators in the country, topped with its natural tourism offering, Namibia perfectly fits our investment profile as an emerging destination.
As the tourism industry in Namibia and many other areas in Africa grows, it promises to be increasingly desirable to both the European and South African markets.
Our flagship European office was opened in London because many of our current customers reside in the UK, and a number of our future projects will be designed to match the international UK investor’s needs. The office will also lead and manage our existing European projects.
BTN: How is the market for fractional ownership products shaping up?
Berger: Fractional Ownership and the Private Residence Club concepts are amongst the fastest growing sectors, with the number of identified resorts offering these products worldwide increasing by 39% in 2006 to 249. Annual sales volume in that same year increased to $1.65 billion.
BTN: “Global aspirations” was the theme of the AHIC conference. Is this a fitting title?
Berger: Yes, the home grown brands such as Jumeirah and Rotana, have proven that they can provide international service offerings of the highest calibre. It is only natural for companies such as these to expand into other markets and capitalise on the solid foundations of operations that have been developed locally.
BTN: You are the largest investor on Palm Jumeirah. How is that going?
Berger: Our investments there continue to appreciate. We are more than 90 percent sold out on all our projects, not including our most recent launch Kingdom of Sheba. To date, we have sold approx 40 percent of those residential units.
We are also in the process of finalising everything that’s needed to handover our first residential developments on the Palm - The Palm Residence (Al Nabat & Al Haseer), which form two of the shoreline apartments and will be managed by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.
BTN: What can we expect from IFA in the future - going forwards?
Berger: You will see us begin to really focus on the development of larger, more fully integrated mixed use resorts, whether that be in an urban or leisure capacity.