Skift Take

Expanding in a pandemic is a bold move unto itself. But Dubai-based Leva Hotels' plans to operate hotels in the U.S. are doubly courageous — and its success or failure will be closely watched back in the Middle East.

While many companies are putting big moves on hold due to the global pandemic, one hotelier is staying busy. Dubai-based Leva Hotels is expanding to the United States by partnering with Vackma LLC, in a move announced earlier this month.

The deal comes as Leva looks at expansion in several different parts of the globe. The move occurs at a time when the hotel industry continues to grapple with the coronavirus, forcing some brands to even have layoffs.

“We are proud to launch the LEVA brand in USA partnering with a prestigious group such as VACKMA. The tie-up is part of our strategic growth plan and steadfast vision and, demonstrates the resilience of our brand despite the recent industry challenges. We look forward to a successful collaboration with VACKMA to expand LEVA Hotels in the US,” JS Anand, Leva’s founder and chief executive officer, said.

Vackma will operate mid-level, three and four-star hotels under the Leva brand.

“We are delighted to partner with LEVA Hotels that holds great potential for growth. We are confident it will serve as a refreshing choice, offering superior brand standards and exceptional management options to hotel owners, with flexible terms tailored for diverse market segments. At VACKMA we help bridge the gap between owner’s vision and today’s market needs and LEVA is a perfect fit in our scheme,” Vackma founder and CEO Anton Muller said.

The companies did not specify which U.S. cities they may be eyeing.

The move is a rarity, as few Middle Eastern hotel brands come to the U.S., said Richie Karaburun, a clinical assistant professor at the New York University’s School of Professional Studies at the Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality. He said the opposite is more likely, with American brands like Marriott, Hilton, and Ritz Carlton looking to grow their footprints in the Middle East.

In the U.S., the current JW Marriot Essex House in New York City used to be under Jumeirah, a hotel chain based in Dubai, from 2006 to 2012.

Now, the question is whether Leva’s move to the U.S. is a sign that other Middle Eastern hospitality companies will follow.

Karaburun said that the success of a chain depends on marketing, and creating brand awareness.

“It all depends on the marketing, and knowing both culture and seeing the emotional connection, finding the connection between the U.S. customers and the brand,” he said.

One brand that he mentioned as seemingly doing well is Marmara, based in Turkey, which currently operates two hotels in New York City, on the Upper East Side and on Park Avenue.

Leva Hotels executives were not immediately available for comment.


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Tags: coronavirus, hospitality, middle east

Photo credit: Skyline of Dubai. Dubai-based Leva Hotels is expanding into America, which could be a sign of the future. Trey Ratcliff / Visual Hunt

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