by Lisa Grimaldi | September 01, 2004
An overseas hotel chain that has been off-limits to U.S. groups for nearly 20 years is now courting U.S. incentives.
    Prior to this year, planners could not use Malta-based Corinthia Hotel Group, as it would have been in violation of U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctions against conducting business with firms that had ties to, or were owned by, the country of Libya. Corinthia Hotels, although owned by a Maltese family, is known to have Libyan investors.
    But this past April, the U.S. government reversed the sanctions affecting commerce with the North African nation. As a consequence, the 22-property chain, with a number of four- and five-star hotels in cities including Antwerp, Budapest, Lisbon, Malta, Prague and St. Petersburg, is eyeing a potentially lucrative new market.
    “We’ll spend the rest of this year getting to know the U.S. market,” says Geoff Andrew, Corinthia’s Malta-based group director of sales and marketing.“These are early days; we are just putting our feet into the market.”
    Andrew expects at least 10 Corinthia properties will prove to be of interest to incentive planners. Preparatory to marketing them, the chain has become a hospitality partner of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based site-selection firm HelmsBriscoe.
    “In 2005, we will really kick in in earnest, with a lot of sales trips to companies and incentive firms,” said Andrew. “Our goal is to eventually have our own office and personnel in the United States.”