BTN Europe presents an overview of business travel and MICE predictions for this year
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With Dubai currently touted as the ”World City” ABTN paid a visit to the Emirate to have a look at the booming hotel sector. In the first of two reports, ABTN editor Simon Warburton talks to Rotana area vice president Dubai & Northern Territories, Omer Kaddouri.
Rotana currently manages 25 properties throughout the Middle East with an aggressive expansion plan to double the size of the portfolio with a further 35 projects in the pipeline out of which 10 new hotels are to open in 2008.
Such extraordinary growth is reflected in the vast building site that currently resembles the city, the huge projects and infrastructure development such as the overhead rail line and gigantic six-runway airport being constructed. Dubai is a natural hub and magnet for the Middle East sitting at the crossroads of Europe and Asia ” hotels are very much in demand.
Given the extraordinary pace of hotel development in Dubai, can Rotana maintain its growth plans?
I remain very bullish about Dubai. We see that the government works tirelessly to promote Dubai - Sheikh Mohammed wants this place to be world class. There are people who think the bubble will burst, but there are many who believe in it [Dubai].
What are the immediate plans for Rotana in Dubai?
We have nine properties opening, with four this year adding another 1,500 rooms. As we are located in business districts, we can offer four and five star properties to business travellers. Dubai is all about business. People are here to work - and our hotels are well equipped to deal with that. I am working to ensure that wireless connectivity is everywhere for example.
Given the plethora of hotels, are you able to maintain prices?
Prices are still going up in Dubai, believe it or not and we are looking at around a 20% rate increase. We have nearly 60 days a year when we are sold out. That is for the whole of Dubai. At Rotana we will not overcharge - we are a local company from Abu Dhabi and this is our region.
What proportion of your custom is local?
Only 4%-5% of our customers are from the United Arab Emirates. The rest are from Europe, the US and the GCC. [And] the new terminal opening at the airport that Sheikh Mohammed says will open in May, will boost capacity as it has 24 stands for Airbus A380 aircraft.
Are there any negative points with Dubai?
The success has come faster than anticipated. The road infrastructure is definitely not large enough [but] the new bridge here took less than two years to build with 14 lanes. A lot more people are also becoming involved to tackle pollution for example and I would say that we do our bit with the environment. We have an environmental committee.
How do you promote Rotana locally and abroad?
Advertising for Rotana is undertaken by head office and we have just created some new brands [Arjaan and Rayhaan, the latter being a non-alcoholic hotel for example].
We advertise on the radio and on billboards on the way to Abu Dhabi, while we also advertise in MICE magazines worldwide. We also attend ITB and WTM.
How important is the F&B offering to Rotana?
Our proposition is that we consider ourselves to be strong in Food & Beverage. We have anchor Restaurants such as the Blue Elephant in the Al Bustan Rotana and the Teatro in the Towers Rotana for example.
What do the next five years hold for Rotana?
We will be opening 60 properties in the next five years. The quality of the hotels and restaurants in Dubai is phenomenal. Dubai can benchmark itself as among the best in the world. Geographically, we are between Europe and Asia. Money brings people here - it”s a bit like a new world.
Why should the business traveller come to Dubai and Rotana in particular?
Dubai is very safe for the business traveller, while our hotels have ballrooms of up to 3,000 sq m in the Al Bustan property for example. We have a MICE market department here and a lot of our MICE business comes from overseas companies such as BP and Shell. And it”s not just Dubai - there”s a lot happening around Abu Dhabi and the surrounding areas as well.