Accor, one of the world's largest hotel companies, is expanding in Abu Dhabi with a focus on budget and mid-market lodging, despite the recent decline in room rates and occupancy levels. The French company has one hotel, a Novotel, in Abu Dhabi. But it is set to open a further five hotels in the emirate within the next two years, including its budget Ibis brand and two more mid-market Novotel hotels. A luxury Sofitel property will open at the end of this year, and the company hopes to expand further.
"Five hotels is not the end of our plans for Abu Dhabi," said Charlie Langlais, the chief operating officer for Accor Hospitality Middle East, Africa, Indian Ocean and the Caribbean Islands. "We see great potential for development. It is true that there are lots of hotel brands coming up, but Abu Dhabi is a market where the supply has not been as developed if you compare it to somewhere like Dubai. Demand is also increasing."
Mr Langlais said much of the development in the capital had been focused on five-star hotels. "We believe very strongly in the development of mid-scale and economy segments over here." Hotel occupancy levels declined 27.1 per cent to 56.5 per cent in Abu Dhabi last month compared with the same period last year, according to data from the hotel research firm STR Global. The average daily rate for a room was also down to US$286.80 (Dh1,053.42), a decline of 18.3 per cent. The number of hotel rooms in Abu Dhabi increased to 17,500 by the end of last year from 12,800 at the beginning of the year.
Philippe Baretaud, the director of development at Accor Middle East, said the company was also keen to have a Sofitel hotel on Saadiyat Island. "We are adamant to have the brand represented as a representation of French luxury and especially with the Louvre [due to open on Saadiyat Island in 2012] it makes sense." A survey of 1,100 tourists conducted by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) in the last three months of last year found that 60 per cent were visiting the emirate for the first time. Eighty-seven per cent said they would consider returning.
The study, released yesterday, showed the average visitor stay was seven days, and eight days for those visiting friends and relatives. Business visitors stayed nine days on average and those involved with meetings, conference and exhibition activities stayed five days. About 30 per cent visited the emirate after hearing about it from a friend, 23 per cent had been to the UAE before, while 15 per cent said they had visited the region before and wanted to discover another destination. Other findings were that 45 per cent bought clothes, while 24 per cent took home locally produced date products.