Hotelier Sir Rocco Forte is to expand his presence in the Middle East after signing a deal to open a new property in Saudi Arabia, his second in the region. Sunday Times

The hotel boss has agreed a contract to manage a new hotel in Jeddah on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed Al Issa, a Saudi Arabian businessman. The hotel is scheduled to open in 2010, and will follow The Rocco Forte Collection’s first Middle Eastern property, due to open in Abu Dhabi next year. The Jeddah site will have 159 rooms in two towers and include 50 serviced apartments.

Forte said a presence in the region would help to promote his European hotels to the Arab market. He added that group trading remained buoyant with like-for-like sales growth of 5.5%. Forte would continue to look for European sites in Paris, Madrid, Milan and Moscow. 'It’s been very difficult [to find sites] in Europe as property prices have been extremely high and it’s been difficult to cut a deal that makes commercial sense,' he said.