Royal plans for hospitality division

An artist’s impression of the Royal Palace Hotel Apartment, Ajman Corniche

Chandrasekaran K, director for the Royal Group, hospitality division, spoke to Shalu Chandran about up its upcoming plans.

Set to operate 1000 rooms by the end of 2007, have you managed to achieve that target?
We are still on target to open 1,000 rooms, but there has been slight delay in the completion, which is the scenario for most hotel developers opening hotels in the UAE today. But we will see all rooms opening soon. The Ajman Corniche (which we have not named yet) hotel apartments have been delayed a few months and will ready by October 2008.
Our property in Dubai which was supposed to open in November last year will now be open by June. Apart from them, there is the Ajman Sania with 66 keys and another hotel apartments in Ajman near GMC with 74 rooms.

Has the delay affected bookings?
We were very clear that there would be some delay and so never took any bookings. In fact our next property which is ready and even furnished has been held from bookings, because of delay in getting electricity.
How successful has the rebranding into The Royal Group been?
It has been very successful. We have been accepted by the industry as one of the key players in the market. We believe we will strengthen the group’s position when we open our three properties later this year. We plan to have a centralised marketing team and reservation system with toll free numbers.

How does the brand position itself? And what sort of clientele does it seek to attract?
We primarily attract the corporate sector which forms about 60 to 70 per cent of our guests. We are concentrating on the free zone markets like the Hamriya free zone, Ajman free zone and even the Sharjah Airport free zone that has just opened. The tour operators segment is another 20 per cent. Most of these corporate bookings are long term with minimum of 15 days.
We also get bookings from families, primarily from across the GCC. Saudi is one of our key markets, both in the corporate and leisure market.

What kind of occupancy rates have you seen in 2007?
Last year we saw almost 96 per cent occupancies out of which almost 65 per cent were our corporate clients, 20 per cent were tour operators.

With a lot of focus on hotel apartments and four star hotels these days, what are your plans beyond that?
Definitely we do plan to move away from operating only apartments and getting into the hospitality sector. We are actively looking into finalising a deal for Silicon Oasis, which is under construction at the moment. We are also looking at finalising deals in Sharjah, and considering the size, we might move in with a hotel operator.
We are actively pursuing to find a place in Abu Dhabi which has become very difficult today. We are working with real estate agents looking in the city and on their newer developments.