‘It’s a crime to take business and do it badly’

Of the new properties coming up in Dubai, the biggest buzz is around the three InterContinental group properties in Festival City. KEITH J FERNANDEZ finds out what you can expect
Meyer (left) and Pertl: ready for a May soft opening

NOW that Dubai has lost its InterContinental in a change of management, which took effect October 1, the buzz about the new property at Dubai Festival City (DFC) has become louder than ever.

The new InterContinental will actually be a complex of three properties: the InterContinental Hotel DFC, the Crowne Plaza DFC and the InterContinental Residences DFC.
“After 31 years, we’re proud to have a contemporary hotel with all the add-ons the modern traveller is looking for,” agrees Tom Meyer, area general manager, InterContinental Hotels Group, DFC. “What we’re trying to do here is bridge the gap between the corporate and leisure market, we have a great location for both, and great business facilities for leisure travellers and great leisure facilities for business travellers.”
The properties are sited two kilometres from Dubai International Airport and is part of the 1600-acre city-within-a-city DFC complex.
The InterContinental Hotel is being built at a cost of more than Dh600 million on the north-west peninsula of the 15-berth Festival Marina. It will feature 501 rooms and suites, a 4,500 sqm convention centre and about eight F&B outlets, a 700-sqm spa and wellness facility with 12 treatment rooms, a 25m transparent-bottom lap pool 15m above ground and more. Several rooms will have creek or harbour views.
The hotel will also manage an additional 212 InterContinental Residences, stylish hi-rise apartments with stunning waterfront views. From studios to three-bedroom apartments, these will be rented on yearly leases and will give tenants access to the hotel and DFC’s world-class leisure, retail and entertainment facilities. The Crowne Plaza DFC, meanwhile, is set to have 316 rooms and suites catering to business travellers, and is being built at a cost of Dh250 million.
Additionally, DFC will feature three other hotels, a golf course, a 2.6-million-sq-ft giant mall, Festival Centre with more than 400 shops and 90 F&B outlets, and 20,000 residences by 2010.
“The beauty of the new properties is being able to feed every market segment,” says Christian Pertl, director of sales and marketing, InterContinental Hotels Group, DFC. “Obviously we will make a very big statement to the MICE market with the convention centre, and the sheer number of rooms available with the hotels.” Pertl, who was formerly in the congress city of Vienna, says he wants to drive the congress business to Dubai.
The new hotels are set for a soft opening in May, and Meyer says he’s hoping for occupancies of between 30 and 35 per cent over the summer, to make sure the hotels get it right. “It’s a crime to take business and do it badly,” says Meyer, when asked about the need for a soft opening at all, in a city where hotels are constantly booked out.
Adds Pertl, “We’ve missed most operators’ 2007 summer brochures, but we want to be ready for winter. We want to build good relationships with tour operators and agents, and will start the sales process soon.”
Meyer says hotels that want to start with high occupancies are making a classic mistake: a short time spent getting familiar with the hotel – and the team of 1200 people – will pay off in the end. “With a soft opening, you can make sure there’s nothing but believers out there,” he says, adding that immediately following Ramadan 2007, the hotel will see 100 per cent occupancies, ‘guaranteed’.
That isn’t the only way this team is approaching the business differently: in terms of source markets, too, while they will concentrate on such traditional markets as the UK and Germany, Pertl says they will also develop new markets. “Russia is a strong focus for the group – we opened a global sales office there one and a half years ago, and we are also keen on India, Pakistan and Iran. These are countries that people tend to not go after,” he says.
Additionally, the hotels will target China and Japan, the US and the burgeoning cruise market, keeping in mind the needs of each different market along the way. Says Meyer, “The Japanese are more interested in Ramadan and the cultural aspect, for instance, but the Chinese feel they have one of the oldest cultures in the world, so they want to look at new developments and malls.”
The group is well poised to leverage existing strengths in the Chinese market: already a major hiring market, the group’s properties across the country all help build the brand.