In a sea of mid-range lodgings and hotel apartments in Al Barsha, Dubai, a Dh400 million (US$108.9m) hotel with a cruise ship theme was launched yesterday, but not all was smooth sailing.
The Grand Excelsior hotel was aspiring to be a five-star property, but it has opened with a four-star rating from the Government on its door, as it continues to make the changes necessary to achieve the higher rating.
The hotel, which is owned by the Mohammad Omar Bin Haider Group, has 230 rooms and suites. Designed in the "style of a classic, opulent cruise ship", its lobby has been decked out with gold-coloured finishings.
"Due to the fact that we were already ready to open and we had commitments to guests, the deal was we would be licensed as a four-star and once we complete that list [of requirements], we would be upgraded to five," said Wahid Attalla, the vice president of B&G, the Egyptian hotel operator that is managing the Grand Excelsior.
Other hotels in the UAE have failed to meet their desired rating because of the stringent criteria set by Dubai's and Abu Dhabi's tourism authorities' classification systems.
"For example, you need to have the light switches next to the bed controlling everything in the room, including the bathroom," said Mr Attalla. "Each country is different. Dubai's drive for quality for everything is usually in the highest standards of the world."
The hotel is currently working its way through the rooms to add the light switches.
Other changes to be made include adding amenities such as a hypoallergenic pillow available in the room.
"Sometimes you just overlook things or engineers overlook things," Mr Attalla said.
He hopes the hotel will be upgraded to a five-star status in about a month.
The Mohammed Omar Bin Haider Group owns hotels in the UAE including the Sheraton Deira, Holiday Inn Sharjah, and the Dhow Palace hotel in Bur Dubai.
B&G manages eight properties in Egypt as well as the Royal Club on the Palm Jumeirah.
Mr Attalla said its properties in Egypt had yet to see a pickup in business since this summer's political unrest.
Most of its hotels were on the Red Sea and still had occupancy levels as low as 15 to 25 per cent, he said.
Occupancy and room rates have increased in Dubai this year, despite the fact that there are now more hotels in the emirate, helped by affordability and a greater range of accommodation compared to a few years ago.
Average rates increased by 2.4 per cent in the first seven months of the year to Dh814 from Dh795 during the same period last year. Occupancy increased to 82 per cent compared to 78 per cent last year.