CapitaLand’s wholly owned serviced residence business unit, The Ascott Limited (Ascott), continues to extend its footprint in the Middle East to capture a bigger share of the market, by clinching contracts to manage another three properties in Saudi Arabia, including its first in the Islamic holy city of Makkah. The 280-unit Ascott Makkah, 92-unit Ascott Villas Riyadh and 69-unit Spectrums Residence in Jeddah are all slated to open in 2017.
In addition, Ascott is set to open Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh, its first serviced residence in the Kingdom’s capital, as the company affirmed its leadership position in the Middle East with three wins at the recent World Travel Awards, including being named Middle East’s ‘Leading Serviced Apartment Brand’.
Mr Lee Chee Koon, Ascott’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Religious tourism is one of the fastest growing segments in the travel industry. In Saudi Arabia, religious tourism is valued at US$5.68 billion, with 19 million pilgrims having visited Makkah and Madinah in 2015, and this is further expected to reach 30 million by 2025. The strong partnerships we have forged in the Middle East have enabled us to accelerate Ascott’s expansion in the region to tap this growing market. Saudi conglomerate Abdul Samad Al Qurashi has entrusted Ascott to manage six serviced residences, the latest being Ascott Makkah and Spectrums Residence in Jeddah. We will further expand via management contracts in these gateway cities where we will continue to build scale. We aim to double our portfolio in the Middle East to 5,000 units by 2020.”
The latest contracts increase Ascott’s portfolio in the Middle East to more than 2,700 apartment units in 19 properties across 10 cities in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Mr Lee added: “Our partners recognise Ascott’s extensive capabilities in operating serviced residences and our global network of properties. Ascott has presence in eight of the top 10 destinations popular with Muslim travellers – Malaysia, UAE, Turkey, Indonesia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Singapore. We will be able to tap into our network easily to cross-sell our properties catering to this niche market.”
The number of business and leisure travellers visiting the Middle East is also increasing, driven by government measures to diversify the region’s oil-based economy, attract foreign investments, develop tourism and infrastructure, and host large-scale international events such as the Dubai World Expo 2020 and FIFA World Cup 2022. This year, Ascott has added five properties with more than 700 apartment units in the Middle East. It opened Citadines Al Salamah Jeddah, the first Citadines-branded property in the region, Somerset Panorama Muscat and will soon open Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh. Over the next three years, 11 more Ascott properties will come into operation in Dubai in UAE; Istanbul in Turkey; Al Khobar, Jeddah, Makkah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; Muscat and Sohar in Oman.
Mr Tony Soh, Ascott’s Chief Corporate Officer who oversees the company’s business in the Middle East, said: “As the first international branded serviced residence in the holy city of Makkah, Ascott Makkah will set a new benchmark for quality accommodation by marrying the comfort and privacy of an apartment with hotel services in a prime location. We will also offer a new type of serviced residence through Ascott Villas Riyadh, which combines luxuriously furnished villas with Ascott’s award-winning hospitality service, to cater to the growing demand from relocating expatriates, families as well as project groups.”