Accor's new kids on the Dubai block

Accor will open two new hotels at the World Trade Centre in Dubai. Jonna Simon spoke to Ignace Bauwens, general manager of the Accor Hotels World Trade Centre - Dubai.
The new Ibis hotel at the DWTC.

Q: Accor is opening not just one, but two hotels at the World Trade Centre in Dubai. Can you explain the reason behind both the Novotel Hotel and the Ibis Hotel?

A: Within Accor we have from one-star to five-star hotel brands. When we did a feasibility study of the Dubai market, we found that most hotels were five-star. There are some economy hotels on the Desira side of the city, which are not up to international standards.

When we discussed with Dubai World Trade Centre, the owners, about hotels at the complex, we emphasised this lack of four-star upper mid-scale hotels and the absence of international economy business hotels.

Our hotel brand, Novotel, is an upper mid-scale four-star hotel and Ibis ids the first international economy business hotel in the Middle East.

Looking at other large conference centres, for instance in Berlin, there is also an Ibis connected to this complex. Our research shows that many people travelling often, going to trade fairs and exhibitions, do not necessarily want a five-star hotel, they are more interested in a good economy business hotel.

Q: As the first hotels in the new complex, I expect the forthcoming IMF 2003 World Bank Conference will be the first major event in which the hotels will participate?

A: Yes, we will have to be up and running and ready for the conference. The question at present with the Middle East situation is that we do not know, what the World Bank will decide to do, but we will be ready. This is our challenge and our job and we will be ready to welcome the IMF delegates to Dubai.

Q: Though it is appreciated that there will be extra demand for rooms at IMF 2003, many people are suggesting that after that event, there will be too many hotels in Dubai - with many more planned and some nearly finished. Could you give me your views on this aspect?

A: Accor has found the niche within the huge competition on the hospitality market of Dubai with the four-star upper mid-scale Novotel and the economy business hotel, Ibis.

We are working very closely' with the Dubai World Trade Centre at fairs and exhibitions to fill the exhibition halls here. Being on the spot at the convention centre without delegates even needing to take a taxi is a plus. Delegates can stay in their rooms until a few minutes before the show starts and not be late. We are working with the Dubai World Trade Centre under one umbrella

Q: Does being a member of the Accor worldwide hotel chain play an important role in helping to fill the two properties?

A: Ibis has 650 hotels around the globe and Novotel has around 370 properties, the target for 2005 is to have 500 Novotels worldwide.

We have the Accor Worldwide Reservations system called TARS to which all hotels are linked, so we can book with each other, which is very important. Do not forget Accor today has 4,000 hotels around the world.

We can also avail of the Actor Conference Network, which consists of ten properties attached to convention centres and we are the 11th member. We network continuously with each other. The Accor Conference Network's annual meeting will take place in April this year in Frankfurt and we shall attend for the first time.

Q: Looking at the two hotels, will you be selling them as a pair or promoting them individually?

A: It will be a combination. We have two brands, so we have to market them individually, but there will be synergy. There will be one reservations team for both hotels and one sales team selling both hotels. The two brands have distinct differences, so they have to be promoted individually, but there will be synergy between not just the two hotels, but also with Sofitel in Dubai.

Q: Do you believe residents of Dubai will frequent your restaurants?

A: Yes, I hope so, as I believe diners will be surprised to see what we can offer, not only pricewise but also from a cuisine viewpoint. The offers in our bars and restaurants will be of international standard with live cooking stations and a pasta area, where we make our own pasta and we also have a multi-storey car park.

Q: Accor is expanding at an incredible rate - how many hotels does the group operate worldwide? And in the Middle East?

A: A few weeks ago we received the news that Accor now operates 4,000 hotels around the world. In The Middle East we currently have 20 hotels. With the two new hotels Accor will have 1.050 rooms in Dubai alone.

Q: Does Accor have further plans for more hotels in this region?

A: Yes, there are further plans for more hotels in the region, but apart from the two hotels on The Palm 1, which has already been announced, the further plans have not yet been finalised.