International hotel and real estate developer IFA Hotels & Resorts has joined forces with Kuwait-based Tijaria to launch their first-ever vacation club business.
The USD$50million joint venture brings together two significant hospitality forces in the Middle East.
IFA Hotels & Resorts’ global holdings include properties ranging from the cutting-edge YOTEL brand to hotels and mixed-use developments operated by Fairmont, Mövenpick, Four Seasons and Sheraton. Tijaria’s holdings include the stunning Hotel Missioni and Symphony Hotels in Kuwait.
Talal Al-Bahar, chairman and group chief executive, IFA, believes the Club fills a gap in the current market.
He explained: “Aria Vacation Club is the first Middle-Eastern backed vacation club with the capacity to dominate markets in MENA, south-east Asia, Europe and North America.
“We have done our research and have addressed previous barriers to this market.
“We have a number of world-class assets in our stable, a proven executive team in place, the capacity to leverage the region’s most comprehensive consumer finance solution and a well-respected JV partner in Tijaria.
“We are extremely happy that Tijaria has partnered with us on Aria and we hope that it will be the first of many exciting joint ventures between our two companies.”
These fundamentals combined with IFA’s ownership interest in RCI Middle East puts Aria Vacation Club in a position to build the strongest collection of exchange partnerships in MENA and SE Asia and to capitalize on its first-mover advantage in Dubai.
Annually, Dubai attracts approximately 6.4million leisure visitors and boasts year-round occupancy rates of 70 per cent.
These visitors, drawn each year to the city’s stunning beaches, wide variety of attractions, amenities and events, make Dubai an ideal home base to launch a vacation club.
Abdul Fatah Marafie, chairman, Al-Tijaria added: “Timeshare is a USD$14billion global business, of which the Middle East is the smallest contributor at roughly USD$36million.
“When compared to another emerging market – Africa – which represents approximately USD$616million, the room for growth is staggering.
“That makes it an extremely appealing concept to investors looking for new opportunities to expand their global reach.
“Aria fits perfectly within our company mandate for practical and innovative solutions that are flexible enough to meet the changing needs of our customers, yet geographically expansive enough to benefit of all our stakeholders.
“Beyond our shared Kuwaiti roots, we see a great deal of synergy between the strategic goals of our company and those of IFA Hotels & Resorts.
“We view Aria Vacation Club as the first stepping stone in a long and mutually beneficial business relationship,” stated Marafie.
Although starting regionally, Aria intends to have global-appeal while remaining sensitive to the nature of its home market.
Sharia-compliant financing, for instance, will be easily available to qualified members.
Beyond the commercial necessity to deliver solid returns to investors, Aria’s mission is to provide its members with ‘unparalleled vacation experiences that generate a lifetime of cherished memories’.
To deliver on this mission, Aria aims to partner with third party developers who can bring high-quality inventory into the club quickly. Selected third-parties stand to benefit from a number of strategic advantages.
The points-based Aria Vacation Club is expected to begin formal operation in 18 months’ time, when its flagship Dubai property – Kingdom of Sheba – opens on the crescent of the Palm Jumeirah.
Fairmont Zimbali Lodge, another outpost of the IFA portfolio has previously been recognised as Africa’s Leading Sports Resort by the World Travel Awards
Listed on the Kuwait Stock Exchange, IFA Hotels & Resorts is a worldwide leader in the development of mixed-use hotel and residential resort projects as well as luxury leisure services.
The company’s main shareholder is Kuwait-based International Financial Advisors and it currently has a market capitalisation of $US1billion.
With a significant global footprint of premium vacation and residential destinations in place, the current focus of IFA HR is two-fold.
Firstly, to maintain its core businesses in existing markets by delivering superior products to customers; and, secondly, to drive expansion across developed markets by leveraging its YOTEL brand.
In addition, IFA HR will continue to evaluate emerging markets for strategic acquisitions and partnerships that diversify and expand its existing portfolio in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Asia and North America.
To enrich its understanding of the markets in which it operates, IFA HR enters into strategic alliances and joint venture partnerships with leading local companies such as Kingdom Hotel Investments (Saudi Arabia), Istithmar (UAE), United Investments Portugal, RCI (part of Cendant), Tongaat-Hulett Developments (South Africa) and Related (United States).
In 2010, as many of the company’s projects moved from construction to completion, IFA HR created IFA Hotel Investments to provide strategic direction to its operational assets and expand its portfolio within the hospitality industry.
IFA HI encompasses and leads, on a worldwide scale, IFA HR’s operational asset portfolio including its hotels, hotel condominiums, commercial, retail and food and beverage ventures.
IFA Hotel Investments also oversees the IFA Collection, which manages the company’s private residence clubs and vacation ownership products.