As you can imagine, the grand, glitzy hotels across the UAE cost quite a few dirhams to build. But finding out how much they actually cost is a job for Vida Hattingh, who is a director at MLC International Consulting, whose team of quantity surveyors tot up the price of building hotels.
Which hotels have you been involved with?
I came out in 2001 [from South Africa] for the Madinat Jumeirah and since then we have done so many projects. We have worked with Park Hyatt and the St Regis on Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi. We have got a big portfolio of different projects that really specialise in leisure and hotel development.
What does a quantity surveyor actually do?
We take all the different elements that are involved in the project. We put together costs for the front areas of the hotel, the back of house areas. We take that and put costs to it. We know the level of finish for three, four and five-star hotels. We actually look at those costs right from the beginning and make it easy for the client to see how much they are spending.
So right from the start the developer knows how much the hotel will cost?
The client knows what his overall spending is going to be: infrastructure costs, operational costs, complete building costs. We try to come in with the architects. For the One & Only Royal Mirage [and] the Park Hyatt, we came in with [the architects] right from the beginning. We put a costing against the brief.
Surely the developers have done this all before and know how much previous hotels have cost. Why do they need you?
These guys do not always have the knowledge base. We have done pricing for so many clients and different hotel groups that we know how to apply the numbers to the ratios. Our knowledge of the industry is huge. We do not always have to be on the other side. We can work together and we can be a valuable partner of the development team.
Working on the Madinat must have been a big project.
It was very, very particular in that we got the best price. We made sure they got value for money, worked out completely on the design and the quality.
What is the typical cost of building a five-star hotel such as that?
The hotels are so varied. Your costs differ from different types of buildings.
But you look at everything involved in the hotel?
We will cost the palm trees, the plants supplied to give it a tropical feel. We look at the finish in the bedrooms, the finish on the walls. We put all those elements in. The client understands usually from the beginning what they want.
The hotels market is generally deemed to be well served now in the UAE and there are not too many projects in the pipeline, so where are you looking for business now?
We are looking at the retail market. To do retail would be fairly easy. To do refurbishment of hotels would [also] be fairly easy. Refurbishment is an opportunity for us and something that we are investigating. All hotels have a certain eight to nine-year cycle. It's definitely something we can get into.
* Rory Jones
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