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Mandarin Oriental's goal in Dubai

Despite its project on the Palm not getting off the ground, the Mandarin Oriental still says it wants to open a hotel in Dubai.

Mandarin Oriental would still like to open a hotel in Dubai, despite construction work on a planned property on reclaimed land near the Palm Jumeirah never getting off the ground.

That hotel would have been the first property in the Middle East for the company, based in Hong Kong.

"We had one project with Nakheel by the Palm and that unfortunately got stopped," said Christoph Mares, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group director of operations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Construction of the property and reclamation of land never started. The property would have been open by now had it gone ahead as planned.

"It was meant to be a wonderful doughnut-shaped hotel there, which would have been half residences, half hotel," Mr Mares said.

Last year, the operator signed up to manage a resort on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island, alongside eight other hotels.

"Opportunistically, we thought 'OK, then we'll go to Abu Dhabi first'," said Mr Mares. The resort is expected to open by early 2014.

The company also has a hotel under development in Doha.

Mr Mares said the company's global growth had started only relatively recently, and it was waiting for the right opportunities.

Still, the operator is keen on having a presence in Dubai, a market in which most of the major hotel brands are already represented. There could be room for two Mandarin Oriental hotels in the emirate, Mr Mares added.

"Dubai is always a target city that we look at," he said. "If there are opportunities that come up, we would be immediately interested and pursue it. We would possibly consider a property in Bahrain, and when it calms down, maybe Egypt, Cairo would be on the agenda. We are actively looking at those areas."

He said the company had not yet expanded through the Middle East, as its competitors including Four Seasons had.

Four years ago, Dubai World, Nakheel's parent company, bought a 73 per cent stake in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York. The hotel was valued at that time at US$340 million (Dh1.24 billion).

Mr Mares said the New York hotel had been one of its best-performing properties.

The company's strategy of not cutting too many jobs had helped its hotels rebound strongly in terms of occupancy and rates in the past year, he said.



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