ROME- One of Rome’s most iconic treasures, the Westin Excelsior hotel, has been sold for €222m to a Qatari hotel group that already owns two big luxury hotels in Italy.
Excelsior became a symbol of Italian elegance and opulence in the 1960s when it became synonymous with the film La Dolce Vita and a hotspot for celebrities
Imperial Suite in the Westin Excelsior hotel in Rome
The Excelsior opened on Via Veneto in 1906 but became a symbol of Italian elegance and opulence in the 1960s, when it became synonymous with Federico Fellini’s landmark film La Dolce Vita and a hotspot for celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who were often photographed by paparazzi exiting the glamorous hotel.
The hotel was sold to Qatar’s Katara Hospitality by US-based Starwood Hotel & Resorts, which will continue to manage the historic hotel. Katara said the property would undergo a “complete transformation of all rooms”, including improvement of its common areas.
A scene from Federico Fellini’s landmark film La Dolce Vita
In Italy, the hotel was described in some media reports as a piece of national history which was now being bought up by wealthy foreign interests.
The Qatari group has also snapped up Milan’s Excelsior Hotel Gallia, which has been renovated by architect Marco Piva, and Rome’s InterContinental De La Ville hotel. According to its website, the group is controlled by Qatar Holding LLC, a global investment house that was established in 2006 and founded by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.
In June, Katara’s chairman, Sheikh Nawaf Bin Jassim Bin Jabor Al Thani, told the Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore that the group wanted to continue to invest in Italy and that its budget “had no ceiling”.
“We mostly look at iconic luxury properties so Italy presents amazing opportunities,” he told the paper.
Francesco Galietti, an analyst with Policy Sonar, said that, like the royal Qatar family’s purchase of fashion house Valentino, this “trophy asset” added to Qatar’s influence in Italy, both as a gas supplier and large investor. More important than its property deals, Galietti predicted that Qatar’s role as an energy supplier would give it some leverage over how a newly discovered “supergiant” gas field off Egypt’s shore, which is controlled by Italy’s state-owned Eni, would be used in Egypt.
The company owns more than 30 properties – roughly 8,000 rooms – with seven hotels in Qatar and more than a dozen properties in Europe.
As in the cruise ship industry, Italy is considered a European hub for many luxury hotel groups who see it as a favourite destination for wealthy tourists from Asia.