x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Firms in retail and hospitality sectors expand in Emirates

Companies across the UAE are investing heavily to take advantage of the increasingly bright outlook for the retail and hospitality sector

Grosvenor House has opened its second tower as it aims to capitalise on the recovery in the hospitality market. Randi Sokoloff / The National
Grosvenor House has opened its second tower as it aims to capitalise on the recovery in the hospitality market. Randi Sokoloff / The National

Companies across the UAE are increasing their investments in the retail and hospitality sectors, banking on strong growth, despite the pessimism in much of Europe and the US.

Gaucho, the upmarket steak chain based in London, is the latest company to show its confidence in the future. It plans to launch restaurants in Dubai this year and in Abu Dhabi next year, followed by as many as 10 further outlets across the Middle East and North Africa.

The restaurant joins a host of retailers and hoteliers expanding across the UAE and the Middle East.

"There's a lot more potential here and there's a lot more demand here," said Ryan Hattingh, the international operations director at Gaucho.

"It's becoming more discerning, the people here tend to have more cash and they want something different and of quality, whereas in Europe it's a bit stagnant."

Grosvenor House, the five-star luxury hotel in Dubai Marina, has now opened its second tower, doubling its size at a time when there is an abundance of supply in the emirate.

As many as 8,000 rooms became available in Dubai last year. Despite that occupancy has increased this year because of rising numbers of free-spending tourists.

The party has extended to Abu Dhabi, which has seen record numbers of visitors this year.

Having originally opened its first tower in 2005, Grosvenor is banking on the continued recovery in the hospitality market and is investing early to rapidly benefit from the upward trend.

"I'm sure there are more openings coming along," said Pam Wilby, the complex general manager of Grosvenor House Dubai and Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa.

"Times are tough, there's so many thousands of rooms, but its the edge on service, it's like a boutique hotel in this [new] tower."

The second 45-storey tower has 206 premium rooms and suites, five villas and 216 residence apartments.

Right across the retail and hospitality spectrum, companies are investing and betting on a growing market in the UAE.

Geant, Lulu, Carrefour and Al Maya are all rolling out new supermarkets and local convenience stores on the back of strong sales growth this year. At the luxury end, Chalhoub Group, which has partnerships with retailers such as Chanel, Fendi and Saks Fifth Avenue, intends to open more than 40 stores in Abu Dhabi over the next two years.

Subway and McDonald's both plan to increase their store count and Cravia, which is the parent company of Zaatar W Zeit, Cinnabon and Seattle's Best Coffee, plans to open nearly 200 outlets in the Middle East and North Africa over five years.

Mr Hattingh said Gaucho would invest from US$5 million (Dh18.3m) to $8m in each new store across the region.

"I am hoping to go to Doha, to Turkey, Istanbul and we were looking at Cairo and potentially Bahrain but we'll see what happens," he said.

Gaucho has 15 restaurants in the UK and opened its first outside the country in Beirut last year as it looks to focus on the Middle East region.

Its Dubai restaurant will open next month in the Dubai International Financial Centre.