You’ve just revealed plans to open nine new hotels in the UAE before 2020 – why does the UAE remain an area of development focus for Rotana?
The UAE and specifically Abu Dhabi is our home town, this is where Rotana started and here is where we have our largest inventory of properties and rooms. With the development both cities are enjoying, there is a need for more rooms and more hotels, specifically in Dubai; hence, we have signed several management agreements to fulfil this need. We are very optimistic about the outlook for the UAE tourism sector. Although the market environment continues to remain challenging at the moment, we see many positive trends and developments that could yet propel hospitality growth in the region in the years ahead – such as increased infrastructure spending by the government, continuing rise in intra-regional travel percentage, and the rapid growth of MICE tourism.
In Abu Dhabi alone we have 3,728 rooms with 1,325 under development. While in Dubai, we currently have 4,283 rooms with 2,256 under development. This excludes Al Ain and the Northern Emirates.
What role does Dubai staging the Expo 2020 play in your decision to open more properties in the UAE?
Named the world’s number one destination for hotels by TripAdvisor, Dubai seems poised to achieve projected tourism revenues of USD 7.5 billion in 2016.
Dubai’s Tourism Vision for 2020, which expresses its ambition to become the world’s most visited city, together with its successful bid to host the Expo 2020, has given a further boost to the city’s vibrant hospitality industry, which is expected to increase its capacity to 160,000 by 2020.
As a brand that spans the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe and with properties that welcome guests from every corner of the planet, Rotana understands the importance of such connections and looks forward to playing our part in hosting the visitors that the event is sure to attract.
The benefits go well beyond promoting the city for the duration of the event. According to a report from Oxford Economics, Expo 2020 will attract in excess of 25 million tourists and generate estimated revenues of US$37 billion. More than 277,000 new jobs are expected to be created, 85,000 of which will be in neighbouring countries – and there is every expectation that many of those will lead to permanent opportunities in an expanded post-expo economy. More immediately, hosting Expo 2020 will see something approaching US$4 billion invested in infrastructure, including an immediate acceleration of the Dubai Metro’s Red Line between Jebel Ali and Dubai World Central.
Perhaps more importantly, though, Expo 2020 is recognition of what the United Arab Emirates and Dubai in particular now represent: a place where the world meets and where the biggest, boldest visions come to life in front of our eyes.
For us at Rotana, it means that we have the opportunity to welcome a whole new generation of visitors to the region and to join in the spirit of the expo by demonstrating the fullest extent of our hospitality. While Expo 2020 will help everyone in the country, the Gulf and the wider Middle East to embrace the possibilities of the future, we hope we can also underline that the modernity of the region is also based on the very best of local traditions. That begins with our timeless hospitality.
How strong is the UK market in terms of business to your UAE properties – which ones are popular with the UK market and why?
The diversity of the UAE in its offering as a business and tourism hub means that there is something to appeal to everyone travelling to the region. As a holiday destination, the popularity of the Emirates, in particular and Abu Dhabi, is predicted to increase year on year. As such, with the influx of new visitors from both the corporate and leisure markets, we are pleased to witness a steady growth in UK guests visiting our hotels and resorts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The UK is emerging into a key tourist feeder market to the UAE and Rotana is stepping up its marketing activities in the UK to tap into outbound British travellers and promote the Rotana brands in the UK market, whilst positioning the UAE as a top leisure and business tourism destination among the local populace.
The UAE continues to climb up the popularity charts for tourists from the UK, who account for a growing share of total visitor arrivals in the Emirates and who have been assuming greater prominence within the region’s evolving travel and tourism landscape. It is important to note that the UK happens to be one of the top source markets for Rotana, with tourist inflow from the country making up as much as 19% of our business, and in 2015 we welcomed more than 550,000 guests from the UK.
What’s your business development strategy for the UK market and how has the Rotana black cab campaign helped drive more business to your properties?
The UK is a key market for Rotana and one that we continuously focus on devising integrated sales and marketing campaigns through our UK global sales office, travel agent engagement, building brand awareness through media and PR outreach and taking a presence at travel trade shows such as World Travel Market and Business Travel Show.
We will continue strengthening our presence in the UK across all channels developing brand awareness campaigns and strategies, such as our promotional activity with London’s black cabs which we believe has put our brand in front of an important audience.
When might we see a Rotana hotel in the UK, as per your global expansion intentions?
I am pleased to say we are making strong headway towards reaching our vision of 100 hotels by 2020. The UK is top of our list of countries where we are keen to launch the Rotana brand. Should we develop a presence, I believe our affordable lifestyle brand – Centro Hotels by Rotana – is a concept that would fit perfectly into the market.
What new hotels will you open in 2016 and where and what else do you have planned this year that the UK market should know about?
We kick started the year with the openings of Dalga Residences in Istanbul, Turkey and our second five-star hotel in Doha, Qatar – City Centre Rotana and the long waited five-star hotel in Bahrain, Manama – Downtown Rotana, adding a combined 697 keys to the group’s existing inventory of 13,296 rooms. We are continuing our ambitious expansion with the opening of a further 13 properties across the remainder of 2016.
Upcoming Rotana properties set to open within the first half of the year include Centro Capital Doha (April 1st 2016); Kin Plaza Arjaan by Rotana, Kinshasa (Q2 2016) – marking Rotana’s entry into the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Amman Rotana in Jordan (Q2 2016)— Rotana’s second Jordanian property featuring 412 rooms and suites and world-class facilities; Vazo Residences by Rotana (Q2 2016), Turkey – located on the Asian side of Istanbul; two luxury properties in Saudi Arabia— Rosh Rayhaan (Q2 2016) in Riyadh and Centro Shaheen (Q2 2016) in Jeddah— both located minutes away from the country’s high-end shopping districts and business centres. These hotels will add a further 1,364 rooms to Rotana’s inventory.
Rotana’s end-of-the-year plans include the opening of four new properties in the region in Q4 – 2016, including Erbil Arjaan by Rotana in Iraq and three new properties in Saudi Arabia— Centro Waha and Centro Olaya in Riyadh’s business district as well as the four-star Centro Corniche in Al Khobar that offers luxury long-term stay for business travellers and families alike.