Premier Inn to cash in on Abu Dhabi's travellers

Premier Inn, the UK's largest hotel brand, has announced plans to launch a more than Dh120 million hotel at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Premier Inn, the UK's largest hotel brand, has announced plans to launch a more than Dh120 million (US$32.6m) hotel at Abu Dhabi International Airport, with the number of passengers using the airport surging this year.

The 300-room hotel is expected to open in 2012. The property is part of the budget operator's plans to have 50 hotels in the Middle East in the next 10 years.

"There's a real demand for hotel accommodation at the airport and it's something that the airport has lacked for some time," said Darroch Crawford, the managing director of Premier Inn Middle East, a joint venture between Premier Inn and Emirates Airline.

A small 40-room hotel at Terminal 1 is all the accommodation now available at the airport.

"They have decided that since the primary market will be for transit passengers they should find a brand that offers affordable accommodation," said Mr Crawford.

Premier Inn is part of Whitbread, which also owns the coffee chain Costa. It has another hotel under development at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre's Capital Centre, due to open next September.

The hotel at the airport is to be located opposite Terminal 3. A Dh24.9 billion expansion programme is taking place at the airport, which includes the development of a new passenger terminal.

Huraiz al Mur bin Huraiz, the chief commercial officer of Abu Dhabi Airports Company, said the three-star hotel was appropriate for the demands of middle-income travellers.

"Long term we have plans in place for probably a four or five-star hotel as well, possibly close to where we are building the new terminal."

Rates and occupancy levels at Abu Dhabi hotels have fallen sharply this year because of an increase in supply. Thousands more rooms are under development in the capital.

"There is a concern at the moment and that's why we're very pleased that the two locations we've got are very strong," said Mr Crawford. "I think that the secret now of success in the hospitality business generally in the region is to be in the right location. If you're not in the right location it can be a real challenge."

But he added Premier Inn had no plans to launch further hotels in Abu Dhabi in the near future unless an exceptional opportunity arose.

The company is planning to open a hotel in Doha in 2012 and is now examining opportunities in Saudi Arabia. Premier Inn has three hotels in Dubai, including its property at Dubai International Airport, which opened early this year.

Its plans in the region have been slowed by the worldwide financial crisis, including one hotel planned for Dubai at Al Jadaf.

Premier Inn this year bought the developer Emaar MGF out of a joint venture agreement it had to develop the brand in India.

There are about 580 hotels under the brand and more than 42,000 rooms across the UK and Ireland.