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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Luxury hotels now ahead of pre-financial crisis level

Ari Rabinovitch

Published 10/07/2014 | 02:30

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GROWTH: Hilton Worldwide opened a new hotel in Jerusalem

The luxury hotel sector has almost recovered to the level it was at before the global financial crisis, said Hilton Worldwide's global head of luxury and lifestyle brands, which include Conrad and Waldorf Astoria.

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John Vanderslice, in Jerusalem to mark the opening of a $150 million (€110m) Waldorf Astoria, said banks are again showing interest in financing high-end hotels.

"Occupancies are back. Rates are back as well. Almost to that (pre-crisis) level," Vanderslice said of the luxury hotel sector in an interview with Reuters.

He said that after a slow period, "banks are more interested in hotels, especially at the higher end now".

The Middle East was one of the strong markets for Hilton's luxury brands during the economic slowdown, Vanderslice said, benefiting from an increase in airline routes and a shift in travel patterns from North African countries affected by the Arab Spring unrest to the Middle East.

The main investor in the Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria, which took six years to build, is the family of Paul Reichmann, a top commercial real estate developer from Canada who died last year. It was built on the site of the Palace hotel, close to the walled Old City.

One of its notable features is a retractable glass ceiling above the atrium lobby that allows the hotel's Jewish guests to observe the autumn Sukkot holiday when meals are meant to be eaten beneath a open roof where the sky can be seen.

Tourism, which currently accounts for 3pc of the economy, has dipped during periods of geopolitical instability but Vanderslice said he was not worried about possible issues. "We're a global company. We see things up and down," he said. "It always comes back. Experiences may change but at the end of the day it will be very strong."

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