AJMAN // Hotels in Ajman have until Sunday to apply for classification in the emirate’s first official ratings system.
Until now hotels were licensed by the municipality, which assessed them based on building rules, rather than standards such as amenities, room sizes, disabled access, furniture quality and extras such as health clubs.
But when the Ajman Government set up its Tourism Development Department last year, one of its first moves was to draw up a rating system to give tourists a clearer idea of what its hotels had to offer.
The classification system is based on the one used in Abu Dhabi since 2009.
After Sunday, hotels will have between six and 12 months to meet the new standards.
“Existing hotels will have to make some changes,” said Mounir Attia, the authority’s head of hotel classifications. “For example, right now there are no disabled access rooms in Ajman and that will have to change.”
Sheikha Al Nuaimi, director of tourism development and marketing, said the hotels had all been positive about the changes and eager to meet the new standards.
“Closing down is not an option,” Ms Al Nuaimi said. “We won’t let them go out of business. We will try to help them make it through this criteria in the time frame.”
She said Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, the Crown Prince of Ajman, had explained that some hotels might need to close temporarily to make the necessary changes, rather than shut permanently.
Ms Attia said that so far, “hotels have been making sure they meet every criteria”.
Next year a Fairmont hotel is due to open in Ajman, although Sultan Al Nuaimi, the acting director of tourism licensing and standards, said it was not only big brands that were welcome in the emirate as it developed.
“You can’t say a private company based in the UAE can’t open here,” Mr Al Nuaimi said. “Whoever is compliant with our standards can apply, although of course, it is good for us to have the big brands as well.”
The Ajman Kempinski on the Corniche, which opened 15 years ago, was the first 5-star hotel to open in the emirate, and remains its biggest name. It was the chain’s first hotel in the UAE.
Ulrich Eckhardt, the Middle East and Africa president for Kempinski, has lived in Ajman and watched the hotel grow over the years.
“I think the classification system is good, so as not to mislead the customers from a pricing point of view,” Mr Eckhardt said.
He admitted, however, there could be a confusing amount of variation, even between hotels classed as “5 star”.
Despite looming competition from hotels such as the Fairmont, Mr Eckhardt welcomed the lift it would bring to tourism as a whole.
“More hotels will really mean Ajman is getting on the map. It is refreshing. Yes, the Kempinski will feel the opening of the hotels but it will lift the overall quality.”
However, the key to Ajman’s development will not be its hotels but its attractions, said Ms Al Nuaimi. “People only come to a destination for its attractions, and then they choose their hotel,” she said.
Renovation of the Ajman Museum, a former fort, and highlighting attractions such as the Ajman Stud and the camel racecourse are part of the emirate’s bid to enhance its attractions.
Ajman is also planning to develop adventure tourism in its more remote areas, such as Manama and Masfout near the Oman border, where the mountainous terrain and caves make it suitable for a different kind of tourism, and an even broader audience.