x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Al Barsha haven for the budget conscious

Property prices attract companies to open accommodation under their low-rates brands.

Rotana's Centro hotel at Al Barsha offers loyalty programmes to guests.
Rotana's Centro hotel at Al Barsha offers loyalty programmes to guests.

The Al Barsha area, where a room can easily be found for less than US$100 (Dh367) a night, is becoming a budget accommodation centre in "new Dubai" as hotel companies take advantage of its location and cheaper land prices. Rotana became the latest company to open an economy lodging at the southern end of the Sheikh Zayed Road this week as it launched its Centro hotel, its first under the brand in Dubai. "Barsha is not a prime area," said Arnaud Andrieu, the vice president at CB Richard Ellis Hotels Middle East.

"Therefore, at the time of project study and product definition, developers were able to acquire cheaper land in this area of Dubai and diversify the Dubai hotel room pipeline. "Moreover, seeing the ? development in this community, a five-star hotel in this area would not have made any sense as there is no value for a five-star guest to stay [there], except at Mall of the Emirates." There is a luxury Kempinski hotel connected to the mall and a high-end Pullman property due to open this year that also has direct access to the shopping centre. But the other accommodation in the surrounding area is largely focused on the budget segment.

A 378-room Citymax budget hotel opened recently in the area. Existing budget properties nearby include two Ibis hotels. There is also a vast number of rooms in the area designed for longer-term guests, including the Grand Belle Vue, Ramee and Layia Oak hotel apartments. Layia Hospitality last month opened the Opal Living Courts hotel apartments in Al Barsha. The Ramada Chelsea Hotel Al Barsha opened in May.

"Barsha is a new area developing more and more, basically around the Mall of the Emirates hub," said Omer Kaddouri, the chief operating officer at Rotana. "It's one of the newer areas to develop and there's still a whole vast empty expanse of land. It's growing out around the mall. "Its proximity to the business areas Media City and Internet City, as well as the metro, make Al Barsha particularly convenient. Investors realised there was what they saw to be a saturation of five-star hotels in Dubai."

But Mr Kaddouri said he thought there was enough business for all the properties. "Business travel and accommodation for the budget-conscious executive is increasingly important," he said. "We feel that the three-star budget is an underserved segment." Mr Kaddouri said being part of the Rotana chain would help the new Centro compete as it could generate business through the network and loyalty programmes.

Such hotels would also act as a "magnet" to attract a wider range of travellers to the emirate, which has long been associated with expensive hotels and was priced out of many people's budgets, he said. "Dubai has become more affordable for people around the world," said Mr Kaddouri. "Dubai is no longer a city only for the rich." The Abu Dhabi-based hotel management company plans to have 25 Centro hotels across the region within five years. The first Centro hotel opened on Yas Island in October and a hotel under the brand is expected to open at Sharjah International Airport in November.

The company has plans to open another hotel under the brand on Airport Road in the capital, and one at the Capital Centre development. @Email:rbundhun@thenational.ae