TRUE TO ITS ROOTS

Abu Dhabi 2020 | CULTURE, TOURISM & ENTERTAINMENT | VIP INTERVIEW

Rotana's local market expertise and ability to grow and adapt in line with the changing market dynamics has set it apart in an incredibly competitive market.

How would you situate the Rotana brand within the broader Emirati hospitality landscape?
Rotana started in 1992 and currently has a portfolio of 112 properties, with 65 operational and the others currently under development. Rotana started as an Abu Dhabi brand and has grown to be present in 22 cities spread across 13 countries with an international and cosmopolitan client base. Our mindset as a local brand that thinks globally is reflected not only in our presence, but also in the way we operate and the standards we employ. Our philosophy is to be conscious of our roots, which lie in Middle Eastern hospitality. Rotana was formed after two friends and business associates, one of whom is an Emirati businessman, came together to create something unique but still true to the local environment. This spirit helps us avoid any pressure to compromise on our local, intimate feel as we grow. This is the cornerstone of our success and a defining factor of our future growth strategy.

How have market tastes evolved in the Gulf in the last few decades, and how do these evolutions influence your business strategy?
The local community has become more mature and better travelled, which has brought about a change in taste and approach to hospitality. There are now more two- and three-star offerings in the region in order to meet a demand for something other than ultra-luxurious offerings. As the market evolves, we now welcome more international tourists into our hotels across the region, and the number of travelers from China and India has grown substantially. The government and industry have been working together to cater to these new travelers.

What are some of the biggest pressures to the bottom line in Abu Dhabi's hotel sector?
Increased pressure on room rates as a result of new supply will be a significant challenge for hoteliers in the region. In the GCC alone, an additional 58,000 keys are expected to enter markets this year. With this, hotel operators in the region will be under real pressure to take measures that will maintain profits margins in their properties throughout the year.

What have been the net effects of the reduction in municipal and tourist fees in Abu Dhabi, and the introduction of the VAT on the hotel sector?
Initiatives from the government aimed at making Abu Dhabi a more competitive destination are always a positive step. It is too soon to clearly identify the impacts of Abu Dhabi's latest policies on reducing tourist fees and introducing VAT due to their recent nature. 2019, however, saw a succession of events and exhibitions that have brought in many guests. The loosening of visa restrictions and other initiatives aimed at making the city more competitive demonstrate the government's commitment to attracting more tourists to the Emirate. We can say these changes will have only a positive impact. Additionally, these changes do create a positive buzz, and that helps us to tell a story about positive evolution. That alone can be extremely impactful for our business.

What policy recommendations do you have for the government to improve conditions in the industry?
The Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) has been working hard to position Abu Dhabi as a new hub for major global events. There has been an impressive focus on developing events with short- and medium-term impact, like the Special Olympics and Expo 2020. Some of these larger events help to fill the hospitality offering while also providing great exposure to the Emirate and the city. Another highlight is the new airport; the project has been going on for quite some time, but considering the current market situation, it is still a relevant factor. It is all about making the destination more exciting. It is also worth highlighting Al Ain, which is an absolutely beautiful spot.