Hotel operators grow their footprint across UAE

International hotel operators are increasing their presence across the UAE.

At the Arabian Travel Market yesterday, chains including Hilton and Anantara announced plans for Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the Western Region.

Hilton Worldwide said at the travel show that it would manage a Saadiyat Island property owned by Bin Otaiba Investment Group.

The 366-room Hilton Abu Dhabi Saadiyat Island Resort is expected to open in 2015.

“By the time we open on Saadiyat Island it will be nearing completion and that’s important from a business perspective,” said Rudi Jagersbacher, the company’s regional president.

He added that Hilton was unconcerned at room rate dips in the capital.

"When we enter a hotel, we are here for 25 to 30 years, and dips happen and we have to deal with it," he said.

Hilton Worldwide has 68 properties in the Middle East and Africa, out of 4,100 worldwide, and 67 more in the pipeline that are expected to come on stream in the next four years. That is 7 per cent of its worldwide pipeline.

Abu Dhabi, positioning itself as a cultural destination, is building the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, a performing arts centre, and the National Museum on Saadiyat Island.

“It also represents a springboard to launch our future plans as we seek to increase investment across a greater number of projects and add further weight and value to our growing Abu Dhabi portfolio,” said Khalaf bin Ahmad Al Otaiba, the chairman of Bin Otaiba Investment Group.

Last year, the master planner of the island, Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), sold the land to the group.

Spread over 91,000 square metres, the project was expected to cost Dh800 million, according to an announcement last August.

The Bin Otaiba group owns the Hilton Sharjah, the Embassy Suites Hotel in Sharjah and the Millennium Hotel Abu Dhabi.

Hilton will also introduce its midscale Hilton Garden Inn brand with the developer Majid Al Futtaim Properties with a 370-room property at Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, next year.

Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas also released 10 ultra-luxury villas in Liwa, close to its existing Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort. A stay there costs Dh6,000 per night and includes three meals.

Aimed at creating a destination in itself, luxury properties such as this within Al Gharbia are in line with Tourism and Cultural Authority of Abu Dhabi’s plans to diversify the emirate’s offerings.

“We need to attract more people to Abu Dhabi, and we need them to stay longer,” said Mubarak Al Nuaimi, the promotions and overseas offices director at TCA.

The Dubai hotel management company Gloria Hotels and Resorts will also expand in the capital with a four-star, 156-room downtown property scheduled to open by year-end.

It will aim for a corporate clientele with 75 per cent occupancy in the first year, said Freddy Farid, the area general manager for Gloria.

The capital will soon have a Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Residences Emirates Pearl in the Ras Al Akhdar district in the heart of the city.

Emirates Pearl for Development and Investment, a private developer that is a joint venture between Atlas Telecom and TDIC, will be developing the new hotel with 368 rooms and 60 serviced apartments.

This is in addition to its Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek within Dubai Health Care City with 464 rooms and 405 apartments besides Hyatt Regency Riyadh and Hyatt Regency Makkah in Saudi Arabia.

India’s Taj Group will also expand its portfolio in the region with a 296-room Taj Dubai in the Downtown area this year.

Even Rocco Forte, the London luxury hotel operator which exited its Abu Dhabi property last summer, has not given up on the UAE, according to Richard Power, the communications manager and a partner at Rocco Forte. The company plans to regain a Middle East presence next year with the opening of a property in Jeddah with 146 hotel rooms and 94 apartments.

Across Rocco Forte’s 10 properties in Europe, room and restaurant sales to Middle East visitors rose 29 per cent last year to US$20 million. That represents 8 per cent of the company’s total sales.

FRHI Hotels and Resorts will open a Swissôtel in Al Jaddaf area, close to Dubai Health Care City, in three years. Owned by Abu Dhabi’s Aabar developers, it will have 280 rooms. FRHI operates luxury and upscale brands such as Raffles and Fairmont, and has a Fairmont under construction in Abu Dhabi.

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