The global financial crisis and subsequent downturn in the travel industry have presented an opportunity for some new hotel operators to gain a foothold in the region, says the chief executive and co-owner of an Australian hospitality company.
StayWell Hospitality Group, established just four years ago and little-known outside Australia, last month opened the four-star 400-room Kris Kin hotel in Bur Dubai under its Park Regis brand. The Bur Dubai area is well known for having several independently run, unbranded hotels.
"I think the global financial crisis brought reality to a lot of developers and owners of buildings," said Simon Wan, the chief executive and managing director of StayWell.
"Three years ago, when Dubai was booming, you didn't need to be an expert hotel operator. All you needed to do was open the hotel doors and you would probably get a good occupancy. I think that after the global financial crisis the owners recognised that they would need some help in managing this hotel," he said, referring to the Kris Kin.
StayWell has 24 hotels under development or management, most in Australia. It opened a hotel in Singapore a month ago and plans to open a hotel in Kuala Lumpur next year. It also has a property under development in Morocco. It has two brands: Park Regis; and its three-star Leisure Inn brand.
Mr Wan said the company wanted to use its presence in Dubai to expand in the region.
"Dubai is a logical choice," he said. "Dubai's really the tourism and economic hub of the Middle East so therefore we've been focusing on getting a presence here."
He said StayWell was aiming to have five to 10 hotels in the Middle East in the next five years. The company was in negotiations to manage hotels in Doha, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.
Mr Wan said there was much need for more budget accommodation in Dubai and the company was hoping to bring its economy Leisure Inn brand to the emirate.
"If you look at Dubai, a lot of the focus for development has been on the upmarket segment," he said. "You need to cater for the full range of customers, from luxury to budget backpackers.
"I think in the next few years there will be sustainable tourism growth into Dubai. I think having other operators like us will also broaden the market."