By  on April 8, 2010

PARIS — Luxury titan Bernard Arnault is expanding his role as innkeeper.

Signaling an additional path of expansion, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton said Thursday it would open Cheval Blanc-branded hotels in Oman and Aswan, Egypt, as it launches a new business activity, LVMH Hotel Management.

Named after the famous vineyard LVMH controls, the new hotels are already under construction in partnership with Samih Sawiris, chairman and founder of Egyptian property firm Orascom Development Holding AG. They are slated to open in 2012, in collaboration with Jean-Michel Gathy of Denniston International Architects.

Each hotel will boast 30 to 40 suites — along with luxury boutiques and spas under other LVMH-owned banners. The Oman project, on a small island in the Indian Ocean, will boast 32 private villas, each larger than 5,000 square feet and with its own beach and swimming pool.

Group Arnault, a holding of Arnault, LVMH’s chairman and chief executive officer, opened the first Cheval Blanc hotel in the French ski resort Courchevel in 2006. Today, it boasts a Givenchy spa, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior boutiques, and has enjoyed occupancy rates in excess of 90 percent despite room rates that start at 1,450 euros, or $1,938 at current exchange, during high season.

LVMH does not plan to own future Cheval Blanc hotels, but simply collect fees for management contracts. Under the business model, the French firm “maintains complete control over the concept, distribution, brand and image” of the hotels, including recruitment of staff, “while minimizing capital commitment,” the company said, noting “other projects are currently under study in exceptional destinations.”

The luxury firm cited “considerable demand” from its clients for luxurious resort experiences.

Last week, LVMH appointed architects for the revamp of La Samaritaine, the department shuttered store that will be reborn as a retail-to-housing complex and include a hotel. However, it has yet to reveal who will be involved in managing and operating the hotel, the LVMH spokeswoman noted.

A growing list of fashion and luxury players has entered the hotel business in recent years under various business models, including Versace, Missoni, Moschino and Bulgari, which has opened two hotels with Marriott International Inc. Giorgio Armani’s first hotel is slated to open in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa tower on April 21.

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