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Middle eastern promise

Kathi Everden reports on what's new in the area

THE NEW BUZZ in middle east hospitality is budget - a swathe of low-cost hotels are creeping across the region and offering corporate travellers a relief from swingeing rates and sky-high hospitality bills. modestly-starred properties have always existed, but the difference now is that it's the major names launching their economy models to cater for these lean times.

The most recent entrant is EasyHotel, launched in Dubai in August and typically hitting the market with a ultra-low room rate - starting at £17 but already on the rise and with extra charges for most things, such as £5 for a TV remote-control.

Premier Inn, has already established a key presence in Dubai, with three hotels, and plans to expand to Abu Dhabi and other emirates as well as in Qatar, and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.

According to Premier Inn managing director Darroch Crawford, the model for Gulf properties is basically similar to that in the UK, with a few added extras. "bathrooms provide bath, shower and bidet, while rooms have 32" flatscreen TVs, a safe and a fridge," he says.

Rates this autumn are from £55, compared to £36 to £42.50 for any of the five Ibis properties in the city, while Holiday Inn express is charging from £44.50, inclusive of breakfast but adding £17 for wi-fi connectivity.

Other options include the new Citymax brand in Dubai, whose initial 378-room Al Barsha property was joined by a second in Bur Dubai in October, with an opening rate of £25.50, room only, inclusive of tax and service charge, and a third in Sharjah by the end of the year.

In addition, Rotana has launched its budget brand, Centro Hotels, with properties in Barsha in Dubai, and on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi - rates from £47 - aiming for a network of 25 within four years, with Sharjah opening by year end and hotels under construction at Abu Dhabi National exhibition centre, in Riyadh, and Al Khobar.

Ibis, with hotels in Dubai, Muscat, Kuwait and Amman, is opening in Bahrain, Ras Al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi and Fujairah, while Holiday Inn Express is launching in Bahrain next year, in addition to its four Dubai properties, and Park Inn by Radisson is adding hotels in Dubai, Makkah and Riyadh to its existing network in Muscat, Al Khobar and Abu Dhabi.

MÖVENPICK ADDS TO PORTFOLIO

The opening of the 396-room Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel in Dubai this October marks the first of four Mövenpick properties that will debut in the emirate within the next seven months, including the central 216- room Mövenpick Hotel Deira and two resorts on the Palm Jumeirah.

Located adjacent to the Ibn Battuta shopping mall and its new metro station, the hotel is positioned in what management is calling 'New Dubai', offering convenient access to the Jebel Ali Free Zone, media city and Internet city, the almost-completed Al Maktoum International Airport and the upcoming Dubai World central logistics and exhibition centres.

Opening rate is £118.50 plus 10 per cent tax and 10 per cent service, and current offers include three-for-two nights, and 40 per cent discounts on bookings of four or more nights.

Hotel facilities include three executive floors, Indian, Italian and Chinese restaurants, fitness centre, 16 meetings suites and three ballrooms catering for up to 250 guests, as well as a shuttle service to the Oceana Beach Club on Palm Jumeirah.

According to Mövenpick business development director, Guy Epsom, the selling point for the property is that it encompasses all facilities without being a 'cookie-cutter' corporate hotel. "our USP is that we are part of the destination, offering the atmosphere associated with Ibn Battuta, a famed 14th century Arab traveller," he says.

Doubletree by Hilton makes its debut in the Gulf this winter when a 126-room property opens in the central business district of Ras Al Khaimah. Facilities include wi-fi, a fitness centre, a rooftop pool, an all-day diner, two meeting rooms, a business centre and beach access at the Hilton Ras Al Khaimah resort.

The hotel is launching with rates from £138, including breakfast and taxes. Hilton Worldwide has taken over the management of the Dead Sea King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre in Jordan prior to construction of the adjacent Hilton Dead Sea resort & Spa, scheduled to open in 2014, as well as three other hotels in the kingdom.

A second Ibis hotel opened in October in the Sharq district of Kuwait city, offering rates from £53 per night. Rooms include either twin or double beds, a desk, a flatscreen TV and satellite channels, high-speed internet connection, a safety deposit box, shower and hair dryers. There's also an all-day restaurant and a fitness centre.

The first Pullman hotel has opened in Dubai, a 24-storey tower with 481 rooms linked to both the metro and the mall of the emirates. Key features include 94 suites, standard rooms of 56sq m or more, rain showers, high-speed internet connectivity, two restaurants, a bar and lounge, two indoor pools and a lap pool, relaxation garden, plus a dedicated meetings floor with 800sq m of space in nine rooms and pre-function areas.