DUBAI’S hotel market has for long been dominated by opulent five-star establishments – carrying a price tag to match – that many experts questioned the decision of the Accor group to open a branch of its Ibis economy brand in Sheikh Zayed Road.
Now, less than a year after the opening of the 210-room Ibis World Trade Centre, the European hotel group’s strategy has been more than vindicated.
From day one, occupancy rates have been markedly ahead of the industry average and the graph has just kept climbing – peaking at 98 per cent in February and averaging 92 per cent for the first quarter of 2004.
“We believed that the time was ripe for a quality budget hotel that delivered comfort, simplicity, and practicality,” said Ignace Bauwens, general manager of Ibis World Trade Centre and neighbouring Accor Novotel property. “The global trend is more cost-effective business travel and we’ve now shown that this is equally true of Dubai, despite the preponderance of five-star establishments.”
Accor has developed a deserved reputation as an astute reader of market trends, as it has demonstrated with the Ibis debut in Dubai. Since being establish 20 years ago, French-headquartered Accor has grown from a handful of hotels to being one of the biggest in the world, with more than 4,000 properties in 90 countries, as well as travel agencies and restaurants.
Its Ibis concept of excellent service and quality at highly affordable rates may be new to the Middle East but is a proven winner in the rest of the world. Ibis has been one the big success stories in Accor’s brand portfolio that also includes Sofitel, Novotel, Suitehotel, Mercure, Etap, and Formule 1 as well as Red Roof Inns, Studio 6 and Motel 6 in the USA and Canada only. Properties in the vacation and leisure sector include Coralia Resorts and Thalassa International.
“Ibis is now one of the world’s leading budget hotel networks, selling more than 14 million room-nights a year through roughly 600 properties. Its success is built on a formula of simplicity, efficiency, user-friendliness, and warmth of welcome,” added Bauwens. “At Ibis World Trade Centre, we adhere to exactly these principles and standards and we have shown that they are as popular and welcome here as they are elsewhere in the world.”
The Ibis product differs from conventional budget hotels by offering business guests extras such as 24-hour reception, comfortable rooms with a working desk, bathroom, satellite television, and a range of food beverage concepts. Breakfast is served from 4am until noon, a buffet is available from 6pm to 10pm and snack meals are on offer round-the-clock.
“We have managed to maintain our position at the cutting-edge of the economy market by constantly reviewing what we do and how we can do it,” said Bauwens. “The key to our success lies in the way we have answered the eternal question ‘How can we improve our product without increasing our cost?’ The product is built on three complementary building blocks – customer involvement, multi-skilled teams, and ergonomic layout. For example, hotels are designed in a way that makes it easier for customers to make their choices and for staff teams to do their work.
“Sceptics questioned if the Middle East was really ready for an economy hotel, but if we had not been convinced that this is the growth segment of the future, we would not have ventured out. There is a market for a quality room at a better price as our occupancy figures show.
Even in Dubai, the business sector is becoming increasingly conscious of cost-effectiveness and Ibis offers a classic opportunity to contain accommodation budgets without compromising on quality, especially with our convenient location right next to the Trade Centre – ideal for the conference and exhibition delegates who comprise the bulk of our traffic.”