Ajman set for first Starwood hotel

Starwood group opens its first property in Ajman in the luxury brand as the emirate tries to step up its revenues from the tourism sector.

Pool. The 205-room luxury Ajman Saray opens on the Ajman corniche on Saturday. Neil Scott Corder / Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide
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Ajman is set to get its first Starwood hotel as the emirate builds up its hospitality sector.

The 205-room luxury Ajman Saray opens on the Ajman corniche onSaturday.

“Ajman is still not a very known destination,” said Michele Frignani, general manager of Ajman Saray. “But it has pristine beaches, is close to the Sharjah and Dubai airports, and a free zone that is expanding rapidly.”

The group is collaborating with Ajman’s tourism board to focus more on the destination.

With a starting room rate of Dh950 per room a night, the resort is targeting the leisure market, which is expected to constitute about 65 per cent of the hotel’s guests. With 1,000 square metres of meeting space and a 480-square-metre ballroom, the hotel is also aiming for the corporate sector.

The top countries for overseas tourists are expected to be Russia, Germany and the United Kingdom, Mr Frignani said.

“But weekend escapers from the neighbouring emirates and domestic tourists will form a majority of the guests,” he added. The Luxury Collection is among the upscale brands of the New York-listed Starwood group, along with St Regis. The Connecticut-based company has 1,517 hotels worldwide, of which 23 are in the UAE, including Ajman Saray, according to the group’s website. There are three Luxury Collection hotels in the UAE, of which two are in Dubai. The group has eight hotels in the pipeline across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah by 2016.

The first year’s occupancy rate at the Ajman property is expected to be above 50 per cent.

The new property will employ 350 people across 19 nationalities.

“By attracting affluent international travellers, we expect Ajman Saray to set the benchmark for luxury hospitality in the region and to also contribute positively to the GDP and economic health of Ajman,” said Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid, Crown Prince and chairman of the Executive Council of Ajman, in a statement.

The Starwood group is among a handful of hospitality companies that are expanding their presence in the emirate. Early last year, the Dubai-based Hospitality Management Holdings opened its flagship property 254-room Ajman Palace.

The overall contribution of hotels and restaurants to Ajman’s economy is, however, negligible.

In the latest figures available, from the 2013 annual report that the emirate’s Department of Economic Development released last month, the sector constituted2.3 per cent of Ajman’s economy in 2012, or Dh348 million. The figure has been growing annually at 4.3 per cent between 2010 and 2012.

In 2011, Ajman had 27 hotels accounting for a little more than 2,000 rooms and employing about 1,000 people, the report said.

In the latest statistics available, the emirate hosted 602,033 guests in 2012, a number that grew at 48 per cent annually. The hotel occupancy rate was 55 per cent, a growth of four percentage points.

The average room rate dropped to Dh218 a day in 2012 from Dh274 in 2009. This led to the increase in occupancy rates and pushed up hotel revenues by 10 per cent to Dh123m in 2012, the report said.

Russia and the Baltic states were the top countries of origin for tourists to the emirate followed by Europe, the report said. Domestic tourists comprised 7 per cent of the guest numbers.

ssahoo@thenational.ae