HWI eyes Middle East for expansion

With a strong portfolio of brands, H World International is looking to grow its global presence, expanding Chinese brand Ji into the Middle East while also building its European brands such as Steigenberger

H World International is planning an expansion of its brands across the Middle East. Among the brands looking to grow are the midscale Ji flag, as well as the luxury Steigenberger brand.

HWI was established by H World in February 2024, with the renaming of the group’s European division, previously known as Deutsche Hospitality. The China-based, US-listed H World bought Deutsche in 2019, giving it a presence in Europe as well as a larger stable of brands across more market segments. Now, the group plans to use HWI to help accelerate the growth of all its brands internationally. From the European stable there are a mix of familiar brands headed by Steigenberger, while selected brands from the Chinese parent group are also being primed for expansion internationally.

Growing in Dubai

The CEO of HWI, Oliver Bonke, recently spoke to Middle Eastern media, saying that Dubai and Saudi Arabia are key target markets for the international expansion of the midscale Ji brand. Each country, he reckons, could have space for at least 10 Ji hotels, and he is looking for a suitable development partner.

Ji is already a well established brand in China, with around 2,000 hotels, and started its international growth in 2019, opening a first outpost in Singapore. H World has established a modular design for the brand, which allows for quick updating of room interiors, which have been split into five component parts. In China, this means room refurbishments can be completed in just a matter of hours.

HWI is also looking to grow other brands in the Middle East. In Dubai, for example it already has an IntercityHotel on the Jaddaf Waterfront, which launched in 2021 and is one of six hotels from the brand across the Middle East. In February 2024 a further IntercityHotel opened in Muscat, one of four across Oman. Further afield, it is developing an IntercityHotel in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Growing Steigenberger

The Steigenberger luxury brand is also on the march, with Dubai a key target for an opening. The group previously had a Steigenberger hotel in Dubai, but this closed and was reflagged during the pandemic period. Currently, there are Steigenberger hotels and resorts open in Doha, and across Egypt, HWI has no less than 15 properties. In early 2024, a further resort was signed in Egypt, with HWI planning to open Steignenberger Saint Catherine in 2025. Steigenberger has also moved into Asia, with projects including Steigenberger Liyang Changzhou, and Steigenberger Hotel Xian Qujiang.

Also expanding is HWI’s Zleep economy brand, which was originally developed in Scandinavia and is now growing across Europe. Currently there are 18 Sleep hotels across Europe, and in April 2024, the group signed a 138 room hotel in Lucerne, its fourth in development in Switzerland, joining pipeline properties in Lausanne, Zurich and Bern. Also in the pipeline are hotels at Frankfurt airport, Hamburg, Leipzig and Glostrup.