Rotana rolls out five new UAE properties

TTN spoke to Selim El Zyr, President and CEO, Rotana Hotels, about its new properties.
A mock-up room at the Amwaj Rotana Resort

Can you elaborate on the opening of your properties in Dubai for 2008?
Rotana Hotels currently operates more hotels in Dubai and the northern emirates than any other single operator and the scheduled openings, which are five, will only increase the company’s stronghold further. In 2008, we will be opening seven new properties.

The Rose Rotana in a 72 floor tower structure, 333 metres high with 480 rooms, suites and penthouses will be the world’s tallest all suites hotel when it opens in April this year.
The property will boast the most up to date technology, a variety of food and beverage venues, meeting rooms, business facilities, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, outdoor swimming pool, sauna and steam room. Rose Rotana Suites will be within walking distance of the Financial City, the Convention Centre and the Exhibition Halls.
The second Dubai property, scheduled to open in April as well, is Rotana’s first resort in Dubai, Amwaj Rotana Resort. Located on Jumeirah beach, the resort will be part of the new Jumeirah Beach Residence complex and is a significant move into the resort arena for Rotana Hotels in Dubai.
The property will consist of 301 deluxe rooms and suites, a ballroom and meeting rooms plus fitness facilities.
In May Rotana will open Media Rotana, a four star plus deluxe hotel located at the heart of Dubai’s business hub. This will offer 467 rooms and suites, a vast array of food and beverage venues and flexible, state of the art meeting rooms and business services.
The second quarter of 2008 will also see the completion of Al Sufouh property which will offer 167 one, two and three bedroom suites equipped with the latest in room technology.
Finally, the last quarter of 2008 will see the opening of The Cove Rotana Resort & Spa. The property will be located on an idyllic water inlet on the Ras Al Khaimah beachfront overlooking the Arabian Gulf. Surrounded by rugged mountains, scenic hot springs and dunes, The Cove Rotana Resort & Spa features Nubian style architecture, oriental themes and Arabic motifs. The new five star resort will comprise 175 rooms, a private 600 metre beach, a variety of dining options, meeting and conference facilities plus a fully equipped spa.

What is the corporate vision for Rotana Hotels in the next five years?
Rotana’s strategic aim to have a property located in every key city in the Middle East and this goal is being steadily achieved through careful long-term planning and timely action. Our vision is to be the leading and preferred hospitality management company operating hotels, suites and resorts, within the Middle East.
We currently have a portfolio of 60 properties in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt, Amman, Oman and Syria, out of which 24 are already in operation.  As long as we are able to manage our growth in an efficient way then we will take further properties. In addition, we have committed to have 25 Centro properties within the coming 5 years.
Our priority is to have a property in the main cities in Saudi Arabia and in Cairo. We are currently negotiating several other projects but we are keen on taking the ones that would guarantee a healthy return to the owners and those would add value to our brand. But we welcome any other appropriate opportunity in the remaining Arab states. As long as we are able to manage our growth in an efficient way then we will take further properties as we are extremely cautious on expanding strategically and efficiently.

What is the strategy for conference/meeting part of the business?
The MICE business is an increasing segment throughout our properties and destinations in the Middle East. The approximate current percentage of MICE business is 12 per cent in Egypt, 14 per cent in Abu Dhabi and 25 per cent in Dubai.
MICE Business relies not only on the property’s offering but also on the destination itself. In Egypt, we are forecasting or in fact working on increasing the MICE business within the coming two years to 20 per cent.
Sharm El Sheikh is emerging as a conference paradise and our five star luxurious resorts, the Grand Rotana Resort & Spa boasts some of the most hi-tech modern facilities.
In Abu Dhabi, the increase will be very significant; up to 30 per cent and this is due to the initiatives taken by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority to promote the destination for MICE. Hosting important exhibitions such as GIBTM assists hugely in the overall tourism development taking place and plays a major role in nurturing further growth in this sector.
In Dubai & Northern Emirates, Rotana has over 90 conference rooms with over 14,000.00 sqm2 of meeting space. This segment is tremendously increasing and the destination is certainly playing a big role in this increase, which is encouraging us to further focus on this segment. 

Where is there concern for overbuilding and where is there new untapped potential for hotel development in the Middle East and Africa?
Tourism in the Middle East enjoyed an unprecedented boom in the last three years. Hotels in the Gulf countries had significant increase in occupancy and average room rate. Hotels in the Levant are re-bouncing despite the challenges and the events that followed September 11 have encouraged regional tourism.
With regards to the untapped potential, Rotana launched in December 2005 Centro by Rotana which is developed to meet the demands of the new generation of travellers, who seeks both finesse and functionality at reasonable rates. Centro is coming at a time that will ideally position it for continuous long term development, strong operating performance and sustainable growth well in to the future and as mentioned previously, we have committed to have 25 Centro properties within the coming five years.

What is the progress made on the Centro brand?
Our first Centro property will open in the first quarter of 2009 and we have a five year plan to open 25 properties across the Middle East. And as the name suggests, the location of choice for a Centro property is at the heart of a business or commercial district, primarily in the major cities across the region.
The nine projects which we have already announced and which are due to open in 2009 and in 2010 are situated in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Oman.

The Zen Spa is your own brand – what sets it apart?
Our Zen Spa at Rotana facilities reflect the five star status of our hotel. Extensive thought and attention to detail has created an environment with a unique ambience. It is not just our facilities that differentiate us from other five- star Spas in the region but also our unique Zen service delivery and guest experience provided by our Spa team. Our Zen concept derives from Holistic Asian philosophies with an added contemporary twist.
We are expanding at a phenomenal rate and because of this our resources are well focused on what our future clientele will be seeking. Based on our experience spas are becoming far more in the Middle East which, when coupled with what our clients say, has led us to begin introducing them into our properties. 
The first two spas that opened are; at the Grand Rotana Resort & Spa, Sharm El Sheikh and at the Beach Rotana Hotel & Towers, Abu Dhabi. Those will be followed by Zen the spa at Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa which will open mid 2008. 
The direction we are going is to include a Spa in each of our five star Resorts and Hotels.

What are the biggest issues you face on the operations side of the business and what are you doing to address these issues?
The main challenge is to find staff, as we will need about 15,000 team members over the next five years. Rotana Hotels currently has 6,000 employees and by 2010 the company will be increasing it’s manning by 150 per cent, which makes the approximate total number of employees 15,000. Rotana Hotels is looking at recruiting 8,300 employees, out of which are 27 general managers, 330 department heads, 390 managers, 685 supervisors and 6600 employees. The traditional markets in emerging countries such as India are simply drying up because of the availability of jobs locally and global competition.