TBY talks to two industry executives on the significance of the region, expansion plans, and investment trends.
Where does the JW Marriott Marquis brand fit within the wider Marriott group? Why was now chosen as the right time to bring the brand to the Middle East?
RUPPRECHT QUEITSCH JW Marquis is the primary luxury brand for this hotel. The brand is designed for the businessperson who expects everything to work at 100%. However, the hotel is not like a Ritz-Carlton, which usually has a rich environment with original paintings and heavier furniture. The JW Marriott Marquis is more contemporary, with luxury apparent in the service. There are only a handful of Marquis hotels worldwide, but they are usually present as a large hotel in the city center, as well as business and convention hotels. This will be the first Marquis outside the US, and it will be Marriott’s largest hotel outside North America. It will be Dubai’s largest hotel, and will cater to the business community and the meeting community, which is an added feature of Dubai. The convention sector has picked up a lot of business. Meetings are getting larger, and Dubai is starting to be on the radar of large meeting organizers in pharmaceuticals, the automobile industry, and consultancy. The hotel is targeted to open in 4Q2012, while phase II will open a year or two later. We will be opening much of the banquet, restaurant, and bar outlets at the start, with only the facilities in the second tower to come on later.
What is your expansion strategy in the region?
RUDI S.K. JAGERSBACHER We opened nine hotels in 2011 and signed a further 18 properties—so, despite the challenges faced, it was one of our best years yet. During 2012, we have already established two new hotels in Lebanon and a further hotel in Doha, Qatar, with plans to add to our portfolio in Egypt and UAE. The new Conrad Dubai hotel is a key opening for us this year and will bring an outstanding, luxury property with large conference and function offerings to the heart of the buzzing Sheikh Zayed Road area of the city.
What is unique about your space for business and leisure that the hotel is bringing to the market?
RQ Well, for one it is a two-tower inventory with 800 rooms each, meaning we will have 1,600 rooms in total. There are not many hotels where you can house large conventions. For example, we just received a business booking for 700 rooms next year. That is large, and not many hotels can manage such an event all in the same location. We have over 5,000 sqm of banquet facilities, and then we have two ballrooms, the largest being 1,400 sqm with 60-80 meter high ceilings. The hotel will feature nine restaurants and five lounges, a large recreation area, and a large spa. It is important also for the business traveler to relax; today’s businessperson is also a leisure traveler, and today’s leisure traveler is also a businessperson. People are doing business at the beach, and someone who does business all day may go to the beach in the evening. Tourism is very intermingled, and we cater to both segments.
What trends do you foresee in terms of investment?
RJ We see great possibilities for our mid-market brands in a number of markets and from a capital point of view it requires much lower investment. Regarding individual regions, we have enjoyed growth in the UAE as it became something of a safer haven during the recent political turmoil. Currently, Saudi Arabia is our biggest expansion market with 14 hotels in the pipeline and more to come in the future. As previously mentioned, we’re also looking forward to the exciting prospect of exploring opportunities in new and existing markets across Africa. I also predict more success for our loyalty program Hilton Honors. Currently standing at 30 million members worldwide, the program is a proven and trusted advantage for us, as guest members make up an increasing percentage of hotel occupancy and, in turn, the same guests are also customers in the individual food and beverage outlets in our hotels.
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