The Life: The new area general manager of Anantara talks about the challenges of running a hotel of the standards of Anantara in Abu Dhabi.
Hotel group Anantara finds need to adjust more to Abu Dhabi
Moritz Klein is the new area general manager for Anantara Abu Dhabi, which includes the Desert Islands Resort and Spa, Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort and Eastern Mangroves Hotel and Spa. He talks about the expansion plans of the hotel group, and the challenges facing the industry as a whole.
What do you want to change?
I think we need to adjust more to the Abu Dhabi market. Hotels here are a part of the city and places to visit for the residents. We need to create functions, events, charitable and art-based [events]. Especially at the Eastern Mangroves Hotel and Spa, which has residence complexes on either side. The occupancy rate at Eastern Mangroves is a little bit behind the average of the city and I would like to change [that].
What are Anantara's plans for this year?
We are working on finalising a luxury resort in Qatar later this year. In September, we would open an Anantara in Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. Anantara Sir Bani Yas Al Yamm villas would open in the second quarter of this year on the beach and Anantara Sir Bani Yas Al Sahel Villas would open in the third quarter. There are 30 [units] in each of the projects. These are exclusive upmarket products for short stays. There are no other new projects coming up in Abu Dhabi.
Why the focus on Sir Bani Yas?
We are trying to project it as a midweek conference destination and so we need to have these additional villas for enough room accommodations. There was always a demand on Sir Bani Yas and it was a wish of Abu Dhabi to do something with Sir Bani Yas. It was a matter of prioritising and aligning the sector with market growth. The whole development plan was created by TDIC, which owns the hotels. A direct flight from Bateen airport to Sir Bani Yas Island, which takes around 25 minutes, has helped the occupancy rates.
What are the challenges of operating in Abu Dhabi?
There is an oversupply in the city and that is affecting everybody. There are 25,000 rooms in Abu Dhabi city and more coming. In the last two years the average occupancy rates have deteriorated. In 2012 there was an increase of 9 per cent in room nights generated in Abu Dhabi but occupancy rates declined by 6 per cent - and these are the official figures from the tourism authority, because of the oversupply. Formula One and a couple of major exhibitions in the city drive business, but growth is not enough to sustain the additional rooms that are coming to the city. There is always a big difference in room rates in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and I do not think it would change in the near future. Compared to Abu Dhabi city, room rates in general are 20 to 25 per cent higher in Dubai because of the demand.