Q and A: Kevork Deldelian, COO, Millennium and Copthorne Hotels MEA

Piers Brown By Piers Brown
Uploaded 18 June 2017

When and where is the first Agarwood branded hotel opening?

We have entered into an agreement with Al Madina Hotels & Resorts, the hospitality arm of Al Madina Real Estate Company, to develop the Group's Agarwood hotel brand in Oman, UAE. This is the global debut for the brand and will be opening in the first quarter of 2018.

What is the ethos behind the eco-hotel brand?

Agarwood Hotels is a unique lifestyle brand created for the Middle East, combining modern design sensibilities with innovative and intelligent eco-friendly features whilst providing comfort and style. Agarwood is named after the wood that produces oud, a scent used in local homes and perfumes.

Why did Millennium and Copthorne choose Oman as the first location for Agarwood?

The UAE region is maturing as a destination, and we've noticed a change in consumer travel trends. There's still opportunity in the five, four and three star market, but lots of space for brands like Agarwood in between. We see Oman as an ideal destination for eco-tourism and conducted lots of research and workshops with our clients, partners, platforms and agencies.

What can the traveller expect from Agarwood Oman?

Agarwood will be an exclusive 286 key sustainable design resort encompassing a hotel, villas and apartments, all set in beautiful natural surroundings. The resort will include an all-day speciality restaurant serving fresh produce, a wellness spa, business centre, kids' club, retail outlets and ballroom. Agarwood will attract the more sophisticated traveller, who's less driven by rate - the younger traveller who's more informed, and knows what they want from their stay with us. From a hotel developer and investor perspective, we haven't taken a master-development resort approach - there are less brand standards and more running costs due to our commitment to sustainability.

Studio M hybrid hotel

In addition, Millennium & Copthorne will be launching its new budget boutique Studio M hotel concept in the Al Hail district along the Sultan Qaboos Highway in Muscat, Oman.

The 302 key property, due to open in 2018 will combine a chic minimalist design, contemporary functionality and fuss free technology to cater for the new generation of independent travellers and those travellers who are "young at heart".

As well as Oman, Millennium & Copthorne plans to extend the Studio M footprint across a number of key urban locations across the GCC.

Ali Hamad Lakhraim Alzaabi, president, Millennium & Copthorne MEA said: "We are not only delighted to strengthen our presence in Oman but we are even more delighted to extend our relationship with our trusted partners in Al Madina Real Estate.

"The signing will make us one of the largest hotel operators in the Sultanate and we believe that the major tourism and infrastructure projects will support our hotel developments in Oman."

The signings add to a rapidly growing portfolio that includes the recently opened Millennium Executive Apartments Muscat and the Millennium Hotel Mussanah. and both projects play a key part in the company's wider strategic plan that includes the introduction of Grand Millennium & Copthorne hotel brands to Muscat later this year.

Writers comment: "It's fun, doing a business, doing good and making money out of it" said Barry Sternlicht, Starwood Capital CEO recently, and the trend towards eco-hotel development continues with Millennium and Copthorne joining his 1 hotel and IHG's Even hotels' brands with a focus on sustainability. It appears only a matter of time when the other hotel groups follow suit with eco-hotel brands that have true meaning for guests, than those other recently launched hotel brands that already seem less memorable and lost in the hotel guest's psyche. It is too early to say whether hotel developers and investors will continue to baulk at the additional build and running costs of eco-hotels until there's clearer signs of REVPAR outperformance versus mainstream hotel brands.

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