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Abu Dhabi's Dusit Thani hotel, located on Muroor Road, had its official opening on Monday. The Thai brand expects to grow in the Emirates as the market remains upbeat on tourism numbers following expansion of airlines and infrastructure investment. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
Abu Dhabi's Dusit Thani hotel, located on Muroor Road, had its official opening on Monday. The Thai brand expects to grow in the Emirates as the market remains upbeat on tourism numbers following expansion of airlines and infrastructure investment. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National

Dusit Thani hopes to increase UAE presence

Thai hotel group Dusit International is expecting to increase its presence in the UAE as the market remains upbeat on tourism numbers following expansion of airlines and infrastructure investment.

Dusit International plans to add more hotels in the UAE as it follows in the slipstream of the region's big airlines.

"We mirror in many respects what airlines industries are doing," said David Shackleton, the chief operating officer at the Bangkok-based hotel chain. "When we see huge investments by Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways in the region in their capacity, it is natural for hotels to follow on." He was in the capital on Monday for the official launch of Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi.

The hotel chain expects to open two properties under the dusitD2 Hotels and Resorts brand in Dubai. Four more, including another Dusit Thani and Dusit Devarana, may come to Dubai within seven years, said Andrew Shaw, Dusit International's regional director of development for Middle East.

While one of these six projects is expected be a conversion hotel, the rest would be new projects.

But Dusit has no immediate plans to add more properties in the capital. Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority said last year that it was being selective in the issuance of new hotel permits.

"The market will absorb the current supply, and now is probably a good time to start signing deals [for properties] which will open in three years' time," Mr Shaw said, referring to Abu Dhabi.

As of the end of August, Abu Dhabi had 84 hotels with about 19,500 rooms, and 25 in the pipeline, which would add about 1,400 more rooms to the market, according to STR Global.

In the capital, the hotel is eyeing the meetings and conference sector to drive its business.

"We expect to get 20 to 25 per cent of our business from meetings and conferences," Mr Shackleton said.

Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi, which comes with 402 rooms besides 132 serviced apartments, expects 60 per cent occupancy for the first year of operations with an average room rate of Dh600. Its conference centre can accommodate 2,000 guests.

For the first year of operations it is expecting a 60 per cent occupancy, and average room rates at Dh600.

"Abu Dhabi is a destination in the making," said Chiheb Ben Mahmoud, the head of hotel advisory at Jones Lang LaSalle, Middle East and Africa region.

"All the stakeholders are, however, confident because all the ingredients are there for a successful and great destination, or more precisely a great bundle of micro-destinations, in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE and major power centre of the region."

With Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline entering more codeshare agreements with overseas airlines, the hospitality market expects more tourists to visit the UAE.

"First it was Singapore, then Bangkok and now it's Dubai that's the hub of the world," said Thierry Douin, Dusit International's regional vice president for Middle East and Africa.

The investment in infrastructure and marketing of Dubai as a destination is part of a long-term plan, say analysts.

"The foundations have been laid several years ago," Mr Ben Mahmoud said. "The current infrastructure, that had been decided in 2005 and 2006 comes as a support to the Dubai tourism engine."

Dusit International had a more cautious approach to expansion in the UAE compared to other international hotel chains.

Dusit entered the Middle East with its Dusit Thani Dubai hotel in 2001. Its serviced apartment unit opened Pearl Coast Premier Hotel Apartments in Dubai in 2007, followed by Dusit Residence Dubai Marina in 2008.

Five of the hotels in Dusit International's pipeline are in China followed by two in the United States. Its property in Kenya, which would mark its first foray into Africa, would be open in the first quarter of next year. Also planned are a property in Turkey and serviced apartments in Doha.

ssahoo@thenational.ae

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