When you think of hotels in Dubai, images of luxury and opulence immediately spring to mind.
But the top-ranking Dubai hotel, according to TripAdvisor, could not be further from that gold-plated picture.
Nestled down a side street, halfway between Dubai Mall and Business Bay metro stations, the Leva Hotel shares its building, the Mazaya Centre, with a small mall that was first constructed in 1999.
Leva is still something of a secret, with the owner saying he often has to put a sign out on the street letting people know that the utilitarian building is actually a hotel.
“There is a major overload of luxury hotels in Dubai. It just keeps happening with one luxury property after another,” said JS Anand, the owner of the four-star property.
“There is definitely still a gap in the market in terms of affordability.
“You still can’t find enough three and four-star hotels in Dubai.”
The 178-room hotel was awarded the Traveller’s Choice 2021 award by TripAdvisor and is the No 1 Dubai property on the travel website.
This was down to a number of factors, Mr Anand said. Chief among them was a desire among tourists to spend less on the hotel they were staying at and more on what they were doing during the day.
The cost of a room starts at Dh290 per night, on booking.com, which is a far cry from the average daily rate for a room in Dubai of more than Dh890 - according to the latest figures from hospitality analysts STR.
“The market in Dubai has started to change in recent years, there’s no doubt about it,” said Mr Anand.
“Traditionally, hotels in Dubai have been about glamour in fancy buildings with a focus on how they are made.
“But that’s started to change because the mindset of tourists is changing as well.”
He said modern tourists were more likely to put the emphasis on affordability than going all out on luxury.
“The type of guests we have here do not pull up in chauffeur-driven cars,” he said.
“They are more likely to be in a taxi or just off the metro. You won’t find hardcore luxury travellers visiting us.
“What you will find are guests who are putting the emphasis on experience.”
Guests at the Leva Hotel are more interested in going to the nearby Dubai Mall than lounging around in the lap of luxury, he added.
“That’s the question we get asked more than any other by guests: 'How do we get to Dubai Mall from here?'” said Mr Anand.
“We also run a shuttle bus twice a day free of charge for our guests.
“The bus takes them to Kite Beach and La Mer.”
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Mr Anand believes his property’s location is another factor behind its success, despite being in one of the city’s older buildings.
“We are so close to Dubai Mall and we have City Walk right behind us as well,” he said.
“The further you go up the Sheikh Zayed Road towards the World Trade Centre, the more expensive the hotels become.
“But our guests love the flexibility they have of being in such a great location here.”
He said the Mazaya Centre and the surrounding area were untapped gems. Its interior is in stark contrast to its exterior, with a large, modern atrium and new furnishings.
“The building was first built in 1999 and was mixed use with apartments, offices and a mall,” he said.
“The mall is still there but we took over one half of the building when we opened in late 2018.
“There is still so much potential here, especially given its location, that hasn’t been realised yet.”
There is another Leva property in Dubai, with the brand managing serviced apartments in Furjan.
Business is healthy at the property, as you would possibly expect from a hotel with such a high ranking on TripAdvisor.
The occupancy level is currently at 90 per cent, with most of the visitors coming from Europe, he added.