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Elaf propels upward Kingdom's travel sector
By Querubin J. Minas Saudi Gazette
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 16 - 09 - 2009

Saudi Arabia's hotel industry will witness massive expansion over the next couple of years in line with the government's multi-pronged initiative to boost tourism revenues in the Kingdom.
Corollary to that, the Elaf Group of Companies, a pioneering company in the Saudi Arabian travel, tourism and hotel industry, has unveiled ambitious plans to build another four five-star hotels in the Kingdom within three years.
The move is considered by industry analysts as a clear indication that the Saudi economy is already out of the woods, corroborating an earlier observation of the Riyadh-based Jadwa Investment that the “worst is over” for the Saudi economy.
Ziyad Bin Mahfouz, president, Elaf Group of Companies, made the announcement Sunday when he invited the local media on a guided tour of its newly-opened five-star Elaf Jeddah Hotel situated at the Red Sea Mall.
The hotel, in operation for barely a month, has already drawn the increasing interest of suave tourists and travelers for its cosmopolitan ambience tempered with the classical embellishments.
Elaf Jeddah Hotel has 156 rooms in various classifications with prices ranging from SR700 to SR2,500 per night.
According to Ehab A. Eid, Elaf Group general manager for business development and marketing, the interior furnishings and decorations alone of the new hotel cost SR75 million. He noted that a multi-purpose function hall that has a 150-seating capacity is currently under construction as well as a spa center and children's playground. A garden to give the hotel a touch of green environment is also planned, he added.
The self-effacing Bin Mahfouz revealed that the Group will launch four new five-star hotels in the next three years - two more in Jeddah and one each in Makkah and Madina. He added that the Elaf Group, which at present has 15 hotels, plans to “double” the number in the short term.
Elaf Group is a fully-integrated organization providing a comprehensive portfolio of hotel, travel, tourism, Haj and Umrah services. Ranked as one of the top 100 corporations in the Kingdom, the Group is renowned for its extensive experience and expertise in the industry. It also constantly upgrades its leisure tourist and recreational segment.
The Elaf Group president underlines its continuous commitment to play a key role in the growth of the Kingdom's tourism sector, noting that plans are afoot to implement several new projects.
“Our further involvement in the hotel industry operations complements our aim of significantly contributing to the growth of tourism in the Kingdom, which we will realize through superior and innovative services. Through our professional yet friendly and personal approach, the hotel's guests will be exposed to an environment which allows them to relax and reenergize,” Bin Mahfouz said.
Moreover, he said the “Kingdom remains a significant growth market and an important consolidating force in the region's hotel industry.”
“Makkah and Jeddah particularly stand out as the top growth markets in the Middle East, having registered the best revenue rates per room in the entire region. As such, we are fully committed to support the growth of the Kingdom's hospitality sector by delivering a fresh supply of hotel rooms to address the growing demand and open opportunities for further growth,” he added.
The Group has disclosed earlier some 982 hotel rooms will be available by the end of this year, while over 2,400 rooms under construction will be completed within the next three years.
The Group will manage the Elaf Almashaer Hotel in Makkah, which will have a total of 304 rooms, and the Elaf Al Sud in Mahbas Al Jin, which will have a total capacity of 850 rooms.
In Jeddah, aside from the new Elaf Jeddah Hotel, the Group also manages the Galleria in Tahliya Street, which will have 400 rooms, and the Elaf Alhuda Hotel in Madina which will have 237 rooms.
“We are committed to implement ambitious plans that will complement the Saudi government's strategies to further encourage domestic tourism and enhance the overall travel sector, especially since Saudi Arabia is witnessing a boom in its travel and tourism industry,” Bin Mahfouz stressed.
The Kingdom's hotel sector is witnessing a remarkable growth due to significant surge in religious tourism, which according to recent reports has achieved an astonishing 30 percent growth in the first quarter of 2009 alone.
Saudi Arabia is expected to generate a total of SR13 billion during the current Umrah season, a key figure that will help strengthen the Kingdom's status as one of the top tourist destinations and a leading hotel market in the Middle East.
Elaf Group has particularly prepared for the new Umrah season that started in February 2009, noting a considerable growth trend of around 3.5 million pilgrims are expected to visit the Kingdom in the current Umrah season.
Religious tourism in the Kingdom generates around $7 billion annually, according to recent reports, while the government has allocated a total of $38 billion in tourism infrastructure and transport systems, including a high-speed railway system that will link Jeddah, Makkah and Madina – three key travel destinations in the Kingdom.
The tourism sector generates billions of dollars in revenue and provides jobs for more than 342,000 people in areas related to hotels, resorts, furnished apartments, cafes, travel agencies, transportation and entertainment.
Earlier reports also said that religious tourism accounts for some two-thirds of all earnings in the international tourism sector and one-third of domestic tourism revenue. It also helps to make Saudi Arabia the top destination in the Middle East in terms of international tourist arrivals.
Elaf Group is a subsidiary of Saudi Economic Development Company (SEDCO) - a leading private wealth management organization that conducts its business according to Shariah laws. SEDCO has allocated SR1.25 billion investment to develop various hospitality and tourism projects in the Kingdom. __

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