Swiss-Belhotel International (SBI) has signed a deal to open the Swiss-Belhotel Al Aziziya Makkah in Saudi Arabia by 2018, the first to open in the holy city.

Owned by Cardamom International Property Management LLC, the upscale four-star hotel will feature 525 rooms and will be located near the Al-Masjid Al-Haram in Al Aziziya, a thriving tourism district, according to Hotelier Middle East.

The hotel is expected to be ready for opening by the second quarter of next year.

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Swiss-Belhotel International senior vice president operations and development for the Middle East, Africa and India Laurent A. Voivenel, said: “Saudi Arabia is a key development market for us and we are proud to debut in the Holy City of Makkah with this outstanding project.”

Saudi Arabia currently has the most hotel rooms under construction in the Middle East and North Africa, with 36,742 keys in 85 projects.

Nawaf bin Mansour bin Saleh Al Sharif, owner of Cardamom International Property Management, added: “The steady growth of religious tourism in Makkah is fuelling demand for high-quality hotels in the city.

“Swiss-Belhotel Al Aziziya Makkah is a very significant project for us and we are pleased to partner with Swiss-Belhotel International that is a globally successful company and well equipped to meet the needs of the Saudi hotel sector in accordance with the best international standards.”

Makkah is one of the biggest hotel markets in the Kingdom, with 27,000 rooms, followed by Riyadh with 11,000 and Jeddah with 9,400 rooms respectively.