The St Regis hotel on Saadiyat Island may have missed opening in time for the Formula One Grand Prix, but its developer is confident it will be open in time for the Volvo Ocean Race.
Finishing touches being applied to St Regis hotel
More than a month after officials said the St Regis hotel on Saadiyat Island was to open, the doors are still closed to the public and an army of labourers remains on the site finishing off grounds, fitting lights, working on signs and polishing surfaces.
It was an ambitious task to try to complete the sprawling luxury property - which has 377 rooms, five swimming pools, a 3,000- square-metre ballroom and seven restaurants and bars - in time for the Formula One Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi last month. But its developer is confident the resort will be ready by the end of this month for Abu Dhabi's next big international sporting event, the Volvo Ocean Race.
"[We have] been working on the finishing touches of the resort to ensure it reflects the St Regis legacy and brand promise," said Denis O'Connor, the executive director of operations at Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC).
"The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort is the official host hotel for Volvo Ocean Race during its Abu Dhabi stopover," he said, which means that many of the people associated with the event will be accommodated there. "The resort will open by the end of December in time for the first public activity."
In October, TDIC said the hotel was on track to receive its first paying guests on November 7.
Starwood Hotels and Resorts, the company running the hotel, believes it will succeed because of its picturesque beach location.
"I believe Saadiyat Island will offer something very new and exciting to Abu Dhabi," said John Pelling, the general manger of the St Regis hotel.
"Our main markets for rooms will be from the UK, Germany and GCC. In our food and beverage venues, we expect the domestic Abu Dhabi residents to enjoy our offerings - something new and hopefully refreshing in this marketplace."
The hotel will eventually have about 700 employees.
There are also residential elements to the property. Handing over of the 32 St Regis-branded villas to buyers will start in the first quarter of next year, TDIC said. There are also 259 St Regis apartments, available only to lease, and those will begin to become available next month.
Development on the island as a whole has been slower than originally anticipated.
Work on the major museums - the Louvre, the Zayed National Museum and the Guggenheim - has been delayed. TDIC also said it had slowed the roll-out of other hotels on the island. The cost originally projected for the entire Saadiyat Island master plan was US$27 billion (Dh99.17bn).
The Saadiyat Beach golf course opened last year, and the Monte Carlo Beach Club opened in September.
The Dh1bn Park Hyatt, the first hotel to open on the island, opened at the beginning of last month.
"With all the new hotels coming in, now we can market to the leisure visitors," said Thierry Bertin, the vice president of worldwide sales for Hyatt South West Asia. "It's a competitive environment [in Abu Dhabi]. It's going to take some years for the demand to grow to feed the supply."
At the Park Hyatt on Saadiyat, "we have already tourism coming from Germany, from Russia, from China, and from the region", he said. Hyatt is also opening its Capital Gate hotel in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.