Growing market for dry hotels

The five star Samaya Hotel Deira recently opened doors to guests. It is the first property in the Samaya Hotels and Resorts portfolio to open in the UAE. Shalu Chandran spoke to the group’s CEO Ghassan Jaber

What are your plans for the region?
We are targeting to open seven hotels - with a total of 1,700 rooms - to be ready in the UAE (Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman) by 2012.

We are a management company and have been fortunate to find the right developers in the UAE and have signed contracts to run all their hotels.
Our first hotel in Deira is a five star. A second property in Sharjah is scheduled to open in March and a third hotel, which is also in Sharjah, will open by mid-2008. We have already acquired land for the remaining four properties, and we are finalising designs and plans. We are looking at the possibilities of opening one hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road, or in the Dubai Marina or even Al Barsha.

What can guests expect to see at the new property?
The Samaya Hotel Deira, overlooks the creek and is just seven kilometres from the Dubai International Airport and nine from Dubai’s financial centre. Targeting business and leisure travellers, the hotel has 176 standard rooms, and 37 suites including a royal suite.  Business travellers can take advantage of our executive floor Samaya Club, with a 24 hour check-in service, business centre services and a private lounge and breakfast room.
We also have four meetings rooms. Guests have three dining options - Staircase, the all day dining bistro, the Iranian restaurant Darya and Creek Café, serving coffee, tea and light snacks.
All our hotels will be dry hotels since we are targeting family and business travellers. Plus we see a growing demand for dry hotels in this region.

What does the brand Samaya represent?
The word Samaya means ‘my horizon’ and we want our guests to  find peace and tranquility when staying with us. The brand represents different categories of service level. The Samaya Grand is our five star brand, the Samaya Plaza is a four star brand and we will also have the Samaya Suites and Residences. So, we are positioned to cater to all sectors of the market.
Our focus is on providing the best service with value for money to our guests. We are a business hotel and don’t have a spa or beach access, but we will provide the right service and the right product.

Why develop in Dubai?
Dubai today has made it mark in the tourism map of the world and right now is facing more demand than supply. There is a lot of investment in the hospitality sector in Dubai because of the potential this place holds.
We have also seen a lot of encouragement from the government.
For the next five years, we are focusing our growth only in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman. We want to accomplish our plans in these markets first. But we do see ourselves growing beyond the UAE into markets like Syria and Lebanon.

Who are your target source markets?
Being a dry hotel and located at Deira, we expect to see a lot of family business from the GCC countries and at the same time from the local markets in Abu Dhabi and the other emirates.
With facilities for business meetings, we also expect to see some business travellers, and will target the meetings and conventions from commercial and corporate companies. We will also work with agents to bring in business travellers from Europe.

What are the major challenges you are facing?
Traditionally the region has always favoured the international hotel groups rather than the local hotel companies. This trend has changed today. We have invested more in our personnel by providing the right training and ensuring that we have the right person for the job.