How would you describe your unique investment environment?
ABDULLAH AL ABDOOLI At the moment, there is a diverse portfolio of hotels, hospitality, and leisure assets in Al Marjan. We have ambitious growth figures, one of those being 8,000 total keys across Al Marjan. So far, we have around 1,500 operational hotel rooms between three hotels: Hilton Double Tree, Rixos Bab Al Nahr, and Al Marjan Island Resort and Spa, which is managed by Accor. That figure, by itself, is already very impressive, considering that we have been operational for only two years. An example of investor confidence is the Hilton Double Tree. Only one year after its opening in January 2014, Hilton decided to open another piece of land to develop an additional 240 hotel keys in order to reach 700, meaning a 44% increase in just one year. No international brand will undergo this expansion unless it is sure about the destination in which it is investing. International brands believe they have to be early birds in the Al Marjan development before someone else catches it.
MOHAMMED SULTAN AL QADI Eco-themed, mixed-use properties are ideal because Ras Al Khaimah has not previously had high-quality buildings, gated communities, or mixed-used developments. So we decided to build hotels, malls, high-class villas, and medium-class apartments. The only difficulty we had was during the financial crisis. Looking ahead, we hope that the domestic real estate sector will continue to improve. In Ras Al Khaimah, we have a different topography from the rest of the UAE because we have the mountains, sea, and sand dunes. We are also close to Dubai, just 45 minutes away. All this adds value. Also, we have a well-established free trade zone authority that is attracting many investors. All this encourages us to pursue new projects. Anantara Resort and Spa is already announced and under design, hopefully to be completed by the end of 2018. We will also have another hotel coming online and are currently in the process of finalizing that. We are also planning to have a huge mixed-use project in this area. In 2016 we developed the concept; since then we have been establishing the details and tendering. There will be two hotels, a mall, beautiful residential apartments, and villas, and along the beach there will be a vibrant promenade lined with al fresco F&B outlets, retail, and entertainment zones.
How are you attracting foreign investment to Al Marjan Island?
AAA We have our own simple and clear strategy for attracting investors. We are transparent in everything we do and say in order to enable investors to make sound decisions. We adopt this transparent strategy toward potential investors so that they know exactly what the rate of return is. However, we also believe we need to drive the market ourselves, and for this reason, also develop our own products. This way, we can also lead by example. We have a good business model that can make investors trust us; they can visit our projects and feel confident about Ras Al Khaimah as a whole. The strategy is simple; we create value for existing investors, and they demonstrate this generated revenue value to other potential investors. The strategy we are working with is the best, and we are focusing more on roadshows in China, Russia, and Europe, so we are seeking investors from those areas to enhance existing ones. Currently, on Al Marjan Island, we have different types of investors. We have investors from the UAE, the GCC, India, Pakistan, the UK, and the Czech Republic, among others. We would like to enhance this mix and show them the long-term investment opportunities we have.
What trends have you identified that will affect your approach to future projects?
MSAQ Ras Al Khaimah is a rapidly growing tourist destination, which is why we need to increase the number of hotels. I wish I had started hotels eight years ago. Another factor is that high-end homes are at the point of saturation. Mid–market houses are in demand now. There is demand in the high-end market, but people want beachfront properties. The majority would like to have an affordable apartment or villa, so that is what we are now taking into consideration. People are also looking for quality shops in the area that add to the destination, like Tim Hortons, Starbucks, and so on. It adds value to our projects.