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March 6, 2013

The Kid Gets in the Hotel Business

By Chris Boyle

Lobby at Damac Towers by Paramount

Lobby at Damac Towers by Paramount

The Kid Stays in the Picture is the autobiographical movie about legendary Paramount studios head Robert Evans, whose tenure gave us Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Rosemary’s Baby, Love Story, The Godfather, Serpico, The Great Gatsby and many more.

Ghassan Aridi is a well known leading player in Middle East tourism. His Marta Consulting directs governments on tourism strategy while Alpha Tours is a top destination management company.

Paramount is now part of media giant Viacom, and Aridi had a vision, bringing together the entertainment industry and the hospitality industry. “Hotels were all looking the same,” he told me during an interview at ITB in Berlin. “We wanted to come up with something out of the box.”

After two years of negotiation, he got his wish, a license from Viacom to create Paramount Hotels & Resorts. The company is headquartered in Dubai with offices in Los Angeles.

According to Vice Chairman Rabih Aridi, two projects are under way and ten more are in the pipeline. Likely destinations include Moscow, London, Brazil, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica.

Hotels will be five star but will have a heavy dose of film fun from restaurants themed after movies to having the Paramount library of movies available to guests. Naturally conferences and incentives will be a big part of the target. Aridi said the hotels will provide guests an experience with “the glamour of Hollywood.”

Growth will be through management contracts. A 650-room property will grace the beach in Hainan Island, China, while a Dubai project will mark the first hotel by Damac, one of the region’s top developers of residential real estate. Four towers will include a 540-key hotel and 1,400 residential units. Ground has recently been broken on both projects, and target opening is in about two years.

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